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Dolly Alm discusses her experiences as a NASA astronaut in Bentley Hall on Oct. 21, 2021, in Athens, Ohio.

Dolly Alm’s NASA experience inspires students

Dolly Alm, a senior studying organizational behavior, hosted a workshop Thursday showcasing her experiences with the student leadership certificate program and how it led to a project with NASA. 

Alm, who returned to college in her 30s to pursue a degree in organizational psychology, has always dreamed of working for NASA. During her time at Ohio University, she has formulated her courses to reach that dream, obtaining the strategic leadership certificate, a program offered at OU that aims to increase leadership potential in students.

With the experience gained in the classes, Alm partook in a work development program for NASA in the fall and in the spring of last year. While Alm at the time did not have the proper credentials to undergo an official internship at NASA, she found the program offered her a great deal of experience. 

Alm described how the courses, led by professor Kim Jordan, guided her toward the work development program.

“In the very first class of the certificate — which is mandatory — which is the leadership onboarding, you basically work on self-awareness, the different types of leadership and you do this professional development,” Alm said. “And I had always wanted to apply for an internship with NASA, (but) I didn't meet the requirements to apply. I just put it on the shelf, thinking, ‘Maybe once I finish my schooling, maybe I'll be a little bit closer.’ When I took this class, she (Jordan) taught us about setting goals and how you might have a larger goal, and you set up smaller goals, and you work your way to that. And through that process of going through writing this and self-discovery, I started Googling things. I found these workforce development programs that would give me … a step in the direction of a NASA internship that would give me the leadership skills I needed to be able to apply.”

Due to her completion of those workforce development programs, NASA invited Alm to a launch, which occurred in Florida last weekend. At the launch, Alm was able to meet the mission team and work with other students to propose business plans. 

On Thursday, Alm discussed her experiences through an event titled “SLC+EAP-Mgt Presents: Dolly Alm Aims for NASA.” The event was held in Bentley Hall from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. with a virtual component offered due to COVID-19. 

Alm delivered a speech at the event detailing her journey as a non-traditional student who had a dream she held onto tightly. She shared her experiences at OU through the programs she attended as well as her time at the recent launch. 

Alm said the goal of her presentation was to hopefully inspire students to acquire similar skills through the strategic leadership program regardless of their major or their professional field of choice. 

“I'm hoping that they'll learn about possible opportunities if they're interested and the benefit of strategic leadership across any profession,” Alm said. “It's just one of those core skills that will benefit you no matter what job you have in the future.”

Nathaniel Kroah, a senior studying international business and business analytics, attended the event. Kroah is in a class with Alm and was intrigued to know details of her process as well as the launch. 

Kroah said Alm’s presentation showcased the possibilities for various majors to participate in science-based fields. 

“I always assumed (a) NASA internship would be very engineering-based and science-based, but hearing how she was able to apply a lot of business ideas and her own majors into the program was really interesting,” Kroah said. “It was really interesting to see that, to maybe look into other scientific areas or areas that are maybe more social entrepreneurial, to see how business can be implemented.”

Lake Hoard, an early admissions program recruiter involved in recruiting people to the strategic leadership program, assisted in organizing the event. Hoard said the skills taught through the program are essential to all students.

“Strategic leadership is critical in any career you choose,” Hoard said. “I’m trying to actually make it known to these undergrads that they have a way and, if they embrace the opportunity, they have a way, a path that will lead them to have these skills. When I was an undergrad, I didn't really think about it. I think that if someone would have pushed me to try and grow my leadership skills, I would be way ahead of how I am today.”

Alm emphasized she is grateful for the opportunities presented to her thus far and is hopeful for how they will effect her future. 

“I am super excited about the whole process,” Alm said. “I am so eternally grateful for everyone, every professor that helped me get to the point where I am today. I'm a shy person, I'm introverted and you just have to seek out these experiences. You have to be willing to put yourself out there. They supported me through the process, and I'm so glad that I took that step. I'm not sure that I would have on my own without this program or without the professors.”


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