Donald James, Senior Fellow

Donald James began his 35-year NASA career at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland as a Presidential Management Intern.  In 1984, he transferred to NASA’s Ames Research Center in Northern California, serving in various positions of increasing responsibility in Public Affairs, Government Relations, and Education.

During his career, James co-led the 1997 Ames open house, attracting a record-breaking quarter-million visitors; served as Ames’ Education Director from 1999 to 2006; developed the first project plan for NASA’s Orion spacecraft in 2006 at the Johnson Space Center; and led NASA’s bid to host the International Space University’s 2009 Summer Program.

James entered the Senior Executive Service in 2014.  In July 2014, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden selected James as Associate Administrator for Education, where he led an Agency-wide effort to leverage NASA’s unique capabilities to advance high-quality STEM Education, through the National Space Grant Program, the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, the Minority University Research and Education Program, and the STEM Education and Accountability Program.  James retired in March 2017.

James is the author of “Manners Will Take You Where Brains and Money Won’t:  Lessons from 35 Years at NASA and Momma’s Wisdom”.  The book merges lessons he learned while at NASA with the timeless wisdom from his mother to help students and early-career professionals navigate their future. James holds a BA in International Relations from the University of Southern California. He was awarded a three-year graduate fellowship from the National Science Foundation to pursue his MA in International Economic Development from the American University.  James also studied economics and history at Cambridge University in England and attended Harvard’s Senior Executive Fellows program. He is the recipient of numerous awards and citations for exemplary service.

Donald was born in Stockton, California but grew up mainly in Sacramento.  He lives with his wife in Pleasanton, California.