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Obama nominates Ohio State’s Sullivan for assistant secretary of commerce

Joe Podelco / Lantern photo editor

President Barack Obama nominated Kathy Sullivan, director of OSU’s Battelle Center for Mathematics and Science Education Policy, for an assistant secretary of commerce position, one of 41 presidential nominations sent to the Senate Wednesday for confirmation.

Obama nominated Sullivan for the position of assistant secretary of commerce for observation and prediction on Dec. 2 after an interview process that began in early 2010.

The position involves observing oceanic and atmospheric patterns, forecasting future patterns and overseeing the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The National Weather Service and National Ocean Service are two of the agencies that make up NOAA.

Sullivan said it will be a “24/7, 365” job, but is excited for the challenge.

“There’s some big contentious issues and challenging budget problems, but it’s still worth doing,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan was the first American woman to walk in space as a member of three NASA space shuttle missions, has served as president and CEO of COSI and has been serving as a director of the Battelle Center for the last four years.

The center emphasizes the need for improved education in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Sullivan said her career has gone back and forth from oceanography and atmosphere to science education, and “this position is just the next phase” of her work, not a career move, she said.

“You have to bloom where you’re planted,” Sullivan said. “You just have to do what you have to do at that time.”

Charles Wise, director of the John Glenn School of Public Affairs, said Sullivan will be missed.

“She’s been an excellent asset,” Wise said. “She’s been a key part of our effort to raise the profile of science and technology education, for developing new methods and for providing information.”

Program manager of the Battelle Center Courtney Heppner, who has worked with Sullivan for the last two years, said Sullivan is “irreplaceable,” but the center will continue in their efforts to educate.

“I have so much respect for her. She’s a brilliant woman,” Heppner said. “I’ve never been around someone so smart and creative.”

Sullivan will return to NOAA after serving as chief scientist from 1993-96. She will be on a fixed senior executive salary between $150,000-$155,000, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Wise said Sullivan will continue to be “a resource in informing the university about broader issues” and “a part of a very significant network.”

Representatives of NOAA declined to comment, and said they are “letting the [confirmation] process play out.”

Sullivan hopes the Senate will complete the confirmation process by the third week of February, but said that is a “wildly optimistic timeline.” 

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