MBA Student's Career Takes Off at NASA

KENNESAW, Ga. (May 10, 2019) — Two-time Kennesaw State University graduate and current Master of Business Administration student Nicholas Tanner Griffin was over the moon when NASA selected him for a prestigious position at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

In April, Griffin joined the NASA Pathways Intern Employment Program as a computer science cooperative within the Information Management Branch of the Office of the Chief Information Officer. Griffin assists in the implementation of an enterprise information architecture that will help NASA LaRC better manage its data, which will improve back-office business processes as well as analytics and reporting.  

“I’ve dreamed of working for NASA since I was a kid,” Griffin says. “It’s something every scholar dreams of; figuring out our place in the universe. NASA is a superhero organization that is heavily engaged in space exploration and Earth preservation. Being here is fulfilling and meaningful to me.”

Tanner Griffin NASA

Originally from Nashville, Ga., Griffin graduated from the Michael J. Coles College of Business in 2016 with a degree in International Business and a minor in Spanish. After speaking with friends involved in the University’s Information Systems and Information Security and Assurance programs, he developed a strong interest in the technological and informational side of business. Griffin began teaching himself the Python programming language and soon enrolled in Coles College’s Master of Science in Information Systems degree program.

“Tanner is motivated and has a passion for learning,” says Dr. Reza Vaezi, Associate Professor of Information Systems, who taught Griffin in the MSIS program. “He is a great self-motivator and initiator. Computer and data science are ever-changing disciplines and, to me, the most important skill one should possess to be successful in these fields is to be a self-learner.”

Griffin quickly found that he had a passion for the field, especially the areas of data science and systems analysis. While earning his MSIS, Griffin landed a systems analysis internship with the Cherokee County government and was then hired by CORL Technologies as a third-party information security risk consultant.

He got his foot in the door at NASA shortly after graduation in 2018, when he moved from Atlanta to Virginia to work as a temporary contracted data science intern on LaRC’s Rapid Application Development team supporting the center’s digital transformation initiative. He learned about the Pathways program near the end of this internship.

“I made as many connections as I could while I was there,” Griffin says. “When I found out about the new position in November, I applied and kept up with those connections. Everyone I knew there was interested in having me stay around, and they all figured I had the skillset to match.”

The Pathways Program only accepts students currently enrolled in or accepted to a degree program, allowing them to explore different career opportunities within NASA. While earning an MBA was always one of Griffin’s goals, the internship’s eligibility requirements sped up his plans. Griffin enrolled in the Coles College WebMBA program in Spring 2019 so that he could take classes online while working at NASA LaRC in Virginia.

Tanner Griffin

Griffin is part of a team that is rethinking how NASA manages information and carries out its business processes. Their projects include data science initiatives, business process automation, managing center data, and replacing paper documents with electronic forms.

“We’re in the works of creating an overarching master data management plan and policy that dictates processes, technology, and people to make us more efficient,” Griffin says. “Just like any organization, NASA has to keep up with the times.”

Griffin’s work in the Pathways program is demanding, but he has not let it get in the way of his education. Daniel Audia, Assistant Director of MBA Programs for Coles College, says Griffin has excelled in the MBA program, and reflects the high quality of Kennesaw State students and graduates.

“With his position at NASA, he’s showing that an education from the Coles College of Business – when combined with personal drive and passion – can (literally) take people to incredible heights,” he says. “We’re extremely proud to have him in our MBA program.”

Griffin will have an opportunity to transition from a Pathways intern to a regular civil servant position at NASA LaRC once he graduates from the MBA program in July of 2020. While he hopes to have a long, exciting career with NASA, he also has other plans, including earning a PhD in data science or information systems, and starting his own business.

Although he is more than content with building a life for himself in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, he envisions himself eventually returning to Georgia when he retires.

“After all, my girlfriend and I want our kids to go to KSU,” he says.

— Patrick Harbin

Photos submitted