COMTO Women’s History Month Spotlight: Dawn Tucker-Thomas

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Dawn Tucker-Thomas, University Grants Manager, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology, U.S. Department of Transportation

How did you get your start in the transportation industry? While attending undergraduate school, my first internship opportunity was with the National Aeronautics & Space Administration’s Langley Aerospace Research Summer Scholars Program, where I participated in a study focusing on aircraft-air traffic control integration research. Upon graduating from Hampton University in the early 90s with my B.S. in Airway Science, companies in the transportation industry encountered hiring freezes, downsizing, and layoffs due to economic conditions triggered by a recession. I eventually landed a position with a small minority-owned commuter air carrier, WRA Airlines, headquartered at Richmond International Airport. After being employed with WRA for almost two years, they discontinued providing regional air cargo and passenger travel services. Soon after that, I decided to enter graduate school to broaden my background. Receiving the Dwight D. Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship helped expand my experience and knowledge of surface transportation when I engaged in airport ground access research while pursuing graduate-level education.

Who are some women who’ve inspired you? Several women have inspired me, with the first being my mother, a former Biology teacher who retired from Harrisburg School District in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She also served as the former National Education Association Director for Pennsylvania traveling to various countries studying their education system and representing the United States while attending worldwide teacher conferences. She taught me the value of having a strong work ethic, staying focused no matter the obstacles that come my way, and taking care of myself to help others who are less fortunate. She’s highly respected by her former students and friends and continues to remain active and involved by selflessly giving back to others in the community through programs at her church and with her sorority. My older sister also has been a source of inspiration through her high academic achievements, performance, and intellectual capability in science, technology, engineering, and math. Other women who have inspired me include Vice President Kamala Harris, former First Lady Michelle Obama and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, and Princess Diana to name a few.   

Best advice ever received? Someone once said to me, “when you cease to be challenged, you stop growing.” We must never stop educating ourselves, learning and understanding one another, removing ourselves from our comfort zones, and not allowing setbacks or disappointments to interfere with our purpose in life.

How do you keep up with what’s going on in the world? I often listen to NPR and CNN on SiriusXM to stay updated on world news and events while working remotely and watching the evening news.

What do you do for self-care? How do you make self-care a priority?  Self-care and maintaining an active lifestyle have always been a priority for me from an early age. Since the pandemic, I’ve joined the health club working out 2 to 3 times a week. I monitor my fitness activity, ensuring I maintain a certain number of steps throughout the day and track my health trends using cell phone apps. I also watch my food consumption and water intake, reduce sugar consumption, and ensure I receive at least a minimum of 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. Periodically, taking quick getaways helps me recharge mentally and physically and keeps me motivated to avoid burnout.

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