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5 Minutes with Fall 2013's Academic Dean, Astronaut Kathy Thornton

Kathy Thornton, four-time astronaut, speaks to the shipboard community about her journeys into space.

Kathy Thornton is a former NASA astronaut who has logged over 975 hours in space, and an aerospace engineering professor at the University of Virginia.

She’s orbited the world several times over, which has given her perfect experience for her next role, as academic dean of Semester at Sea’s Fall 2013 voyage.

While Thornton was on board the MV Explorer this semester to prepare for her upcoming role in 2013, we found a few minutes to chat with her to find out more about her life in space, how it’s prepared her for her role with Semester at Sea, and what she’s most looking forward to.

Q: You’ll be serving as academic dean for Fall 2013. What will you be doing the next year to prepare? 

I’m currently working on hiring faculty, and preparing for field labs. We are making some great changes throughout the next year, so I’m trying to learn as many lessons as I can before I leave (the MV Explorer). I’ve been shadowing Academic Dean La Vahn Hoh and asking him questions; he’s been very nice in letting me follow him around.


Q: What are some hurdles you think you’ll overcome on your voyage?

We‚Äôve got some great ports, we are adding three more European ports. There’s the challenge of getting some academic time and unity before we embark, which we‚Äôre working on right now.

Q: How do you think the lessons you learned as an astronaut will apply during your time with S.A.S?

One thing that’s very clear when you’re an astronaut is that you are part of a very large team that makes things happen. That’s clear here as well. Everyone has an integral role to play—from the faculty to the crew—and everyone’s role is vital.

Q: What are you most excited for in your upcoming voyage?

Getting off in Ft. Lauderdale and feeling like it went really well! I’m also excited to have the chance to visit some ports in countries that I haven’t been to yet, and I’m excited to visit the countries I have been to, and watch first-time students and see the country through their eyes.


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