Austin College President Steven P. O’Day announces the 2023 Austin College Posey Leadership Award recipient is Sylvia Acevedo, a former NASA engineer, an executive with tech giants, and an advocate for educational equality. She will receive her award after her presentation to students, faculty, and community guests on April 13 at 11 a.m. in the Clifford J. Grum Sanctuary of Wynne Chapel at Austin College. The event is open to the public at no charge.
Acevedo began her innovative career at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where her work actually did require a rocket scientist. More than prepared for the task, she was a member of two missions at NASA, the mission of Voyager 2’s Flyby of the planet Jupiter and the initial program phase of the Solar Polar/Solar Probe Mission, renamed Parker Solar Probe Mission, which is now circling the sun.
She then moved into executive leadership roles in the field of technology. She earned promotions for her ability to lead organizations to higher levels of performance. She made her mark in the U.S. and global markets at tech giants such as Apple, Dell, Autodesk, and IBM. She also was a co-founder of REBA Technologies, a tech software company that was acquired.
Acevedo comes with many other avenues of work and service behind her. In 2010, she was appointed by President Barack Obama as chair of the White House Initiative for Educational Excellence for Hispanics in Early Childhood. Most recently, Acevedo served as a board member and chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of the USA.
A former Girl Scout herself, she facilitated the largest badge rollout in the organization’s history, introducing more than 100 new programs in technology, engineering, and robotics, among others.
Millions of girls in rural, urban, and suburban communities across America earned valuable skills in cybersecurity, automotive engineering, entrepreneurship, coding, robotics, and leadership. In her last full year as Girl Scout CEO in 2019, across America girls got their start in technology by earning over 1 million STEM badges, 180,000 of them in cybersecurity.
Acevedo is a founding member of the Ann Richards School For Young Women Leaders in Austin, Texas, and is recognized for her influence in her varied careers. She was listed on the Forbes “Top 50 Women in Tech” and was the 2018 Cybersecurity Person of the Year. Latino Leaders Magazine named her among the “100 Most Influential Latinas,” and she has received the Ohtli Award, the Mexican government’s highest honor for a non-citizen.
The Austin College honoree is the author of Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist, which details Sylvia’s personal journey from the dirt streets of Las Cruces, New Mexico, to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the top executive tiers of Apple, Dell, IBM, and other U.S. technology leaders.
The Austin College Posey Leadership Award
The Austin College Leadership Award was launched in 2005 and its first honoree was named in 2006. Made possible through the generosity of Sally and Lee Posey of Dallas, the award name was amended upon Lee’s death in 2008 to add Posey to the title.
The Austin College Posey Leadership Award honors an outstanding individual who has demonstrated the principles of servant leadership by taking a courageous stand on a public policy issue that advances a humanitarian or educational purpose; or serving the youth of a state, nation, or international community to improve the quality of health, educational, or community services; or by creating opportunities for young people that help them enhance their educational experience and move to a new level of service to society.
In 2021, the College’s Posey Leadership Award was re-launched as the Austin College Posey Leader-In-Residence Series to allow continued and deeper student engagement with the honored leader. In addition to the keynote address and award presentation in the spring that had become the tradition, the Posey Leader-In-Residence now meets virtually with students and faculty throughout the academic year to explore multiple topics and build connections.
As Acevedo joins the campus community virtually, she will have the opportunity to share her expertise on a variety of topics, including Careers in Engineering, Women in STEM, Servant Leadership Across Organizations, and The Power of the Nonprofit.
Acevedo earned her bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from New Mexico State University and a master’s degree in systems engineering from Stanford University –and was one of the first Hispanic students, male or female, to do so.