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We Would Like You to Meet: Marilee Wheaton

Contributed by WISE Intern Alexandria Chavez

Before we begin I would like to congratulate you on your 2016 Volunteer Service Award, and thank you for your commitment to the Bonita J. Campbell Endowment for Women in Science and Engineering (WISE). When you were contacted about being selected for the award, how did you feel?

When I got the call from Joyclyn Dunham, the Projects and Programs Supervisor for the Oviatt Library, last July, I was so pleased and honored to be selected. It has been such a privilege to work with the talented and dedicated advisory board members that we have serving on the WISE Board.

Marilee Wheaton
Marilee Wheaton

How did you become involved with WISE here at CSUN, and why do you think WISE is important?

My dear friend Sharon Cascadden, who has since passed away, was the person who invited me to attend my first WISE Board meeting. Sharon and I attended CSUN together during the early 80s. In addition, Bonnie Campbell was the person who got me my first engineering job through her industry contacts at Lockheed. I had been waiting tables while going to school. WISE is important, because what was true back in the 80s is still true now; we need to encourage more women to consider careers in STEM fields. I joined SWE (Society of Women Engineers) when I was going to school at CSUN. I served as President of the CSUN SWE student chapter, and then later served as President of the SWE Los Angeles Chapter. I am also active in AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) and INCOSE (International Council on Systems Engineers). Being involved in these societies has helped to grow my team building and leadership skills through the years, and the networking and continuous learning gained from professional societies is also a great benefit.

I would have to agree. Personally, WISE has helped me with all of those skills. I am currently working towards my Bachelors of Science in Manufacturing Engineering. What is some advice you would give to someone like me who is working toward achieving their goals?

My advice would be to be persistent, even stubborn, in working toward your goals, and to not let others guilt you into uncertainty. As women, we need to make the best decisions given the information that we have at hand, and to follow through, and not let others second guess those decisions related to work and family. Mentoring and career development events are important and seeing role models’ achievements, because it shows the many different paths that an individual can take in a STEM field.

Recognition for your contributions is a great feeling. What is your biggest accomplishment and why?

My biggest accomplishment is raising with my husband our twins Alanna and Travis, and seeing the wonderful human beings that they have grown up to be. I am so proud of their accomplishments and the generosity, compassion and empathy that they show.

Congratulations. I can’t imagine that there is any more rewarding work than being a parent. And what about professionally? What accomplishment are you most proud of in that regard?

I am very proud of being recognized as a Fellow in three technical societies, Society of Women Engineers, the International Council for Systems Engineering (INCOSE) and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). A Fellow is the highest member grade and members are nominated and selected through a very rigorous peer process. So being recognized by your peers for accomplishments in your technical domain is a very great honor indeed.

Finally, STEM professionals need a break from work on occasion. With that in mind, what are some of your hobbies?

I love to take cruises with my family and to spend time with them during holidays. I have a US Commemorative Stamp collection and also a Barbie collection.

My younger sister collects Barbie houses and Barbie Dolls as well! Do you think that some readers might consider that to be a surprising choice of collectible for a scientist?  

Like many in my generation, I grew up as a child receiving as gifts and playing with Barbies. As I got older, I was drawn to the beautiful fashion and accessories. I started in my twenties by collecting the Christmas Barbies, but now I probably have almost two hundred! I suspect that some readers may not associate scientists and engineers with a strong fashion sense. For example, sometimes engineers have an incorrect stereotype as being frumpy or nerdy, but of course, many are very fashionable.

Marilee Wheaton attended CSUN from 1978-1982 and holds a Master of Science Degree in Systems Engineering from the University of Southern California (USC). In addition, Marilee is a graduate of the UCLA Executive Program in Management, an adjunct associate professor in the Systems Architecting and Engineering Program at USC, and has served on the Oviatt Library’s WISE Board since 2010. She is currently the Executive Director and General Manager of the Aerospace Institute at The Aerospace Corporation.

Please visit the WISE Website for information about upcoming events and opportunities, and to learn about how you can contribute.