Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA)

Vision Statement

Diversity Drives Discovery


USRA seeks to reflect the increasingly diverse workforce in the space-related sciences by promoting awareness, understanding, and appreciation of diversity throughout the organization and beyond. USRA values diversity, equity, and inclusion as this increases the quality of the workforce and brings diverse opinions, life experiences, and points of view to the decision making process.

The purpose of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) Committee is to:

  • Develop, recommend, plan, and implement initiatives that support DEIA at USRA
  • Strengthen the sensitivity of all employees to diverse races, cultures, ethnicities, nationalities, lifestyles, genders, and ages
  • Serve in an advisory role in areas such as diversity and equity in recruiting, hiring, and promoting
  • Promote opportunities for underrepresented groups to apply to and onboard at USRA
  • Increase understanding of working within a diverse workforce, to include managing a diverse workforce


The President and CEO of USRA appointed the chair of the DEIA Committee and, together with the Vice President Human Resources and the chair, selected the 14 members from a pool of self-nominated employees to represent the Institutes and Programs across the organization.


The DEIA Committee shall meet formally once per month. In addition, informal “pop-up” meetings may be called on short notice to discuss a particular topic or topics.

DEIA initiatives are formulated and discussed by the committee. Members can then edit descriptions in a series of google docs. Once an initiative is complete, the DEIA Committee Chair submits it to the USRA President and Vice President of HR for discussion and approval.

The DEIA Committee Chair shall present a summary of DEIA activities and initiatives at the USRA Directors’ Meetings.

The DEIA Committee will communicate the initiatives via the USRA monthly newsletter and possible emails to all staff from the USRA President and the Vice President of HR.

"So many organizations seem to struggle when it comes to improving diversity in leadership. In my experience, unless and until diversity becomes a routine consideration in hiring and promotion decisions, little is likely to change. The best leaders recognize the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion to the organization and reflect that in their actions."

"USRA is a champion of diversity, fostering a culture where differences are embraced and celebrated, not merely tolerated. Our belief in the strength of diverse talent and different cultures fuels our organization’s success.

Through our dedicated DEIA committee, we drive impactful initiatives that address systemic inequalities and promote collaboration among various cultures. This creates a sense of belonging and empowerment within our organization.

As a leader I am proud… proud of heading an organization that not only values DEIA but also integrates it into everyday practices."

Committee Members

Elena Einstein

Dr. Elena Einstein
Chair, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Committee

Manoj Agrawal

Manoj Agrawal
Senior Data Scientist, NAMS

DEI committee member Carlene Campbell

Carlene Campbell
Executive Assistant to the President and Chief Executive Officer, USRA

Dr. Suraiya Farukhi

Dr. Suraiya Farukhi
Director, Communications, Office of the President

Denisse Garza

Denisse Garza
Senior Manager, Intern Program

Dr. Haiquan (Heidi) Guo

Dr. Haiquan (Heidi) Guo
Senior Scientist, GEARS

Eric Hammond

Eric Hammond
Director, Government Relations

photo of Elyssa Jasso, USRA, DEIA member

Elyssa Jasso
Technical Librarian, LPI

Dr. Sumant Jha

Dr. Sumant Jha

photo of Dr. Douglass Mach

Dr. Douglas Mach
Scientist, STI

Bill Reach

Dr. Bill Reach
Director of Science Mission Operations, USRA


DEIA Initiatives

Initiative 1 – USRA staff consider adding Personal Gender Pronouns to their e-mail signature

DEIA Committee Members: Elena Einstein, Ryan Hendricks, Ed Rivera-Valentin

Approved 8/25/2020

Status: Complete

More Initiative 1 info
initiative 1 gender pronouns graphic
  • Including your Personal Gender Pronouns in your email signature helps to normalize and de-stigmatize non-binary gender pronouns;
  • Gender is not always reflected or cued by someone’s outward appearance;
  • Including Personal Gender Pronouns in email signatures ensure we respect everyone’s identity;
  • Announced in Jeff Isaacson’s 22 Sep 2020 email to all USRA staff;
  • Summarized in Oct 2020 USRA newsletter;
  • Presentation by Joan Schmelz at the Nov 2020 USRA Directors meeting.
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Initiative 2 – USRA hosts a Career Expo exhibit booth at the 2020 National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP) virtual conference (5-8 Nov)

DEIA Committee: Kennda Lynch & Sha’Rell Webb

Approved 10/19/2020

Status: Complete

More Initiative 2 info
initiative 2 National Society of Black Physicists graphic
  • Kennda Lynch (LPI), Sha’Rell Web (LPI), Jennifer Becerra (NASA Intern Program), Melissa Corning (AFRL Scholars), and Taifa Simpson (NASA NPP) staffed the USRA exhibit booth at the virtual conference;
  • Kennda Lynch presented an invited talk in the Earth and Planetary Systems Track of the conference;
  • Leslie Proudfit (SOFIA) created the meeting graphic;
  • Joan Schmelz wrote the summary for the Dec 2020 USRA Newsletter;
  • Kennda Lynch wrote the Lessons Learned summary with the input from all who participated in the booth;
  • Presentation by Joan Schmelz at the Mar 2021 USRA Directors meeting;
  • Under construction: a plan to leverage this experience and lay the groundwork for future recruitment at similar conferences (NSBE, SACNAS, SHPE, SWE, etc.).
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Initiative 3 – USRA sets standards and uses templates for new employee introductions and promotion announcements

DEIA Committee members: Elena Einstein and Angie Quaranta

Approved 11/19/2020

Status: Complete

More Initiative 3 info
Initiative 3 intro and announcements graphic

New Employee Introductions:

  • Elena Einstein drafted an employee introduction template that HR can include with the 90-day checklist – the set of instructions sent to hiring managers;
  • Angie Quaranta submitted it to HR and shepherded it through the vetting process;
  • Presentation by Joan Schmelz at the Mar 2021 USRA Directors meeting.

Promotion Announcements:

  • Promotion announcements will become a regular part of USRA corporate life;
  • USRA will adapt the model that Jeff Isaacson uses when he announces promotions at the VP and Director level;
  • The Executive Leadership Team will set new corporate policy by determining what management level will make the promotion announcement and how widely that announcement with be distributed within USRA.
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Initiative 4 – USRA begins a mentoring program for underrepresented minority students

DEIA Committee members: Zaheer Ali

Approved 12/10/2020

Status: Complete

More Initiative 4 info
initiative 4 mentoring program graphic
  • USRA partnered with PeopleGrove on a one-year, mentoring pilot program;
  • DEIA committee members volunteered for this program: Zaheer (SOFIA), Assaf (GESTAR), Elena (NAMS), Rosa (GEARS), Falguni (STI), and Carlene (HQ);
  • Mentors completed training and onboarding;
  • Mentors were connected with mentees;
  • Presentation by Joan Schmelz at the Mar 2021 USRA Directors meeting;
  • Pilot program ended in Dec 2021.
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Initiative 5 – DEIA component of USRA’s public facing web page

DEIA Committee members: Carlene Campbell & Falguni Patadia

Approved 2/2/2021

Status: Ongoing

More Initiative 5 info
initiative 5 usra website graphic
  • Create DEIA content for the USRA public facing web page;
  • Include DEIA photos and bios of committee members;
  • Include DEIA initiatives and status of each;
  • Presentation by Joan Schmelz at the Mar 2021 USRA Directors meeting;
  • Add more content as the work of the DEIA committee continues.
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Initiative 6 – USRA DEIA Speaker Series

DEIA Committee members: Eric Hammond & Ed Rivera-Valentin

Approved 4/6/2021

Status: Ongoing

More Initiative 6 info
initiative 6 speaker series graphic
  • The speaker series includes talks on DEIA topics via Microsoft Teams;
  • Presentation by Joan Schmelz at the Jun 2021 USRA Directors meeting
  • Potential topics include broadening participation in STEM, unconscious biases, anti-racist philosophy, intersectionality, cultural sensitivity, microaggressions, imposter syndrome, stereotype threat, and vulnerability in the workplace.

USRA DEIA Speakers Series Kickoff: Diversity 101
19 Aug 2021
Joan Schmelz (Director of the NASA Postdoctoral Program, Chair of USRA’s DEIA Committee)
Ed Rivera-Valentín (Planetary Scientist at LPI, Member of USRA’s DEIA Committee)
Eric Hammond (Director of Government Relations, Member of USRA’s DEIA Committee)

USRA DEIA Speakers Series: Bold Leadership Actions in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Access
28 Jan 2022
Alicia J. Knoedler (Office of Integrative Activities, National Science Foundation)

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Initiative 7 – USRA Discovery Newsletter Articles on DEIA Topics 

DEIA Committee Members: Bill Reach & Joan Schmelz 

Approved 6/30/21 

Status: Complete 

More Initiative 7 info
USRA Discovery Newsletter Articles on DEI Topics
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Initiative 8 – USRA Social Media Manager

DEIA Committee member: Elena Einstein

Approved 1/31/22

Status: Ongoing

More Initiative 8 info
colorful buttons with social media icons
  • Hire a social media manager to build the USRA brand; 
  • Attract visitors/followers from diverse backgrounds to USRA programs; 
  • Develop and execute a social media strategy; 
  • Presentation by Joan Schmelz at the Jan 2022 USRA Directors meeting. 
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Initiative 9 – Inclusion Infusion

DEIA Committee member: Joan Schmelz

Approved 2/19/22

Status: Ongoing

More Initiative 9 info
graphic showing the word "inclusion" with the "US" in "inclusion" in uppercase and a different color

Inclusion Infusion

These check lists should help infuse DEIA culture throughout USRA as staff members build DEIA awareness, become stronger DEIA allies, and transition to DEIA advocates. During the year, staff should participate in some of the activities below and keep a list with titles and dates. When filling out the annual performance appraisal, copy this list into the Diversity box of the current appraisal tool. 

Performance Appraisal Level 3 Activities: 
Building DEIA awareness (learning, reading, viewing, listening)

  • Attend DEIA seminars and participate in DEIA events at USRA, NASA, etc;
  • Read DEIA blog posts from the diversity committees of your professional organization (AAS, AGU, DPS, AMS, etc.);
  • Attend a lecture or workshop about DEIA topics at a meeting of your professional organization (AAS, AGU, DPS, AMS, etc.);
  • View a Ted Talk on diversity;
  • Listen to DEIA Podcasts: pick one from a recommended list like here or here or just google ‘best podcasts on diversity and inclusion;’

Performance Appraisal Level 4 Activities: 
Becoming a stronger DEIA ally (engaging, contributing, participating)

  • Join a diversity committee or working group at USRA, NASA, or your professional organization (AAS, AGU, DPS, AMS, etc.);
  • Write an article on a DEIA topic of your choice for a diversity blog or newsletter;
  • Invite and escort your supervisor/manager to a DEIA event at NASA or your professional organization (AAS, AGU, DPS, AMS, etc.);
  • Write the DEIA section of a proposal or policy document you are working on;
  • Mentor a student or intern from an underrepresented community;
  • Give a talk at a minority-serving institution;
  • Assist in planning and/or organizing a DEIA event at USRA, NASA, or your professional organization (AAS, AGU, DPS, AMS, etc.);

Performance Appraisal Level 5 Activities: 
Transitioning to a DEIA advocate (leading, managing, guiding)

  • Chair a diversity committee or working group at NASA or your professional organization (AAS, AGU, DPS, AMS, etc.);
  • Start a DEIA committee at USRA, NASA, etc;
  • Give a colloquium on a DEIA topic at USRA, NASA, or a university;
  • Write and publish a peer-reviewed paper on a DEIA topic;
  • Give an invited talk on a DEIA topic at a professional conference;
  • Lead a DEIA-related discussion for your team/department.

Note: This material was presented by Joan Schmelz at the June 2022 USRA Directors meeting.

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Initiative 10 – USRA Booth at SACNAS

DEIA Committee member: Ed Rivera-Valentin

Approval Pending

More Initiative 10 info
SACNAS logo: Advancing Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science
  • USRA would sponsor a booth at SACNAS where it can advertise its many internship programs as well as other employment opportunities
  • Complement LPI attendance at SACNAS where staff have hosted workshops that provide tools for writing competitive internship applications and introduce students to the broad studies in the planetary sciences
  • Staffing: full-time by a member of the USRA communications team and part-time by those from LPI who attend the conference
  • Presentation by Joan Schmelz at the June 2022 USRA Directors meeting.
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Initiative 11 – Unconscious Bias

DEIA Committee member: Bill Reach

Approved 5/24/22

Status: Ongoing

More Initiative 11 info
Two people with laptops sitting across from each other at a table. One person is white and the other is Black. The words "Implicit Bias" appear above the table.
  • Require hiring committees to view short (~5 min) unconscious bias video
  • Implementation: use NASA video shown during the orientation for proposal evaluation panels 
  • Request: HR add viewing this video to the hiring process
  • Presentation by Joan Schmelz at the June 2022 USRA Directors meeting.
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Initiative 12 – DEIA Employee Development Plan Manager/Supervisor Track

DEIA Committee members: Elena Einstein & Joan Schmelz

Approved 3/15/23

Status: Ongoing

More Initiative 12 info
People of various ages and colors helping each other up the corporate ladder

What is an Employee Development Plan: An employee development plan documents the goals, required skill development, and objectives an employee will need to accomplish in order to support continuous improvement and career development. The plan is a collaborative, actionable list of steps that an employee completes with their manager to meet their desired career goals.


Step 1: Request a self-assessment (create intake form); could also be a discussion.
Include: interests, skills, goals (short term and long term). Learn about:

  • What skills, career opportunities, technologies interest the individual?
  • Do those skills/interests/goals support the organization's needs and goals?
  • What are the short- and long-term steps to get there?

Step 2: Consider the business needs of the organization.

Step 3: Draft development opportunities with the employee.

  • New Projects & Responsibilities (stretch assignments)
  • Workshops, Classes, Seminars
  • Volunteer opportunities
  • Mentorship & Coaching
  • Reading material
  • Job shadowing, Job Rotations

Step 4: Develop an action plan that is clear and descriptive.

After determining the goals of the organization and the employee, as well as the resources required for employee development, the manager should organize this information into an actionable plan that is clear and descriptive. Develop this plan together with the employee, and make sure they agree on the actions and timeline.


Engineering and science have different paths to management. The engineering path is more formal, with training and even project management classes in college. The science path is less structured, with individuals picking up skills throughout their student and early career days. Here are some suggestions on how to begin developing management skills that can prepare an engineer for their first supervisory position.


  • Volunteer as a sub-lead, in charge of a small team responsible for a part or component of a project.
  • At the entry level, there is plenty of supervision to make sure the work stays on track.
  • With experience, the individual can step up to bigger projects with more responsibility and less supervision.


  • Start volunteering to chair simple, short-term activities like a session at the next professional meeting (AGU, AAS, DPS, AMS, etc.), the colloquium series, or a search committee.
  • Step up to chairing a review panel or a committee of the professional organization.
  • Organize a small conference or an intern program.

The engineering path to management is more project oriented, so a leadership class would complement the acquired skill set. The science path is more people oriented, so a project management class would help prepare individuals for their first supervisory position.

Other disciplines

For other disciplines, USRA presents many opportunities to train for supervisor role. Some of these are listed here, and our example is set up for a future financial manager.

  • Take online leadership course.
  • Read leadership books.
  • Find a mentor.
  • Present Quarterly Review Data.
  • Volunteer on a board/team (internal or external).

Plan Template

Employee Name: Employee Name
Date: Today’s Date
Current Title: Job Title
Current Strengths: List of current strengths
Development Needs: List of current Development Needs
Professional Goals: List of Professional Goals (short term and long term)
Step 1: Timeline for step and actionable steps toward completion of the goal 
Step 2: Timeline for step and actionable steps toward completion of the goal
Step 3: Timeline for step and actionable steps toward completion of the goal
Step 4: Timeline for step and actionable steps toward completion of the goal

Plan Example

Employee Name: EXAMPLE
Date: August 1, 2022
Current Title: Finance Associate
Current Strengths: Detailed oriented, excellent communication technical skills
Development Needs: Improve leadership skills
Professional Goals:

  • Short-term goals: Develop leadership abilities, gain experience, and build relationships. 
  • Long-term goal: Become finance manager.

Step 1:

  • Action: Take online leadership course.
  • Objectives: Learn how to lead employees.
  • Timeline: Complete course by Dec 1 2022.

Step 2:

  • Action: Present Quarterly Review Financial Data.
  • Objectives: Refine research coordination, public speaking, and presentation skills.
  • Timeline: Perform research, draft presentation for the quarterly financial review meeting. Present quarterly beginning Oct 2022.

Step 3:

  • Action: Volunteer on a board/team (Internal or external).
  • Objectives: Learn how to lead projects (including budget review, schedule reviews, and teamwork).
  • Timeline: Identify opportunity by Jan 1 2023 and commit to 1 year.

Step 4:

  • Action: Read leadership books
  • Objectives: Learn leadership fundamentals
  • Timeline: Read one of the assigned readings per month and discuss with your manager.


Indeed Employee Development Plan

Duke Human Resources Professional Development Plan

Discover Who You Are -- And Own It

How to Conduct a Skills Gap Analysis

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