Alumna Saundra Johnson Austin receives College of Engineering's highest honor


By Jennifer Swales

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Civil engineering alumna Saundra Johnson Austin was named one of the 2015 College of Engineering Outstanding Engineering Alumni.

Johnson Austin earned her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Penn State and an executive master of business administration from Notre Dame. Upon graduation from Penn State, she worked for Bechtel Power Corporation in Gaithersburg, Maryland, where she worked in project controls, estimating, and business development.

Throughout her 25 years of experience in corporate America, secondary and postsecondary education, community and workforce development and non-profit organizations, she has had an amazing time leading and collaborating with key stakeholders and end-users to enable education and community transformation.

In 2007, Johnson Austin founded the Charis Consulting Group, LLC in response to the various needs of academic institutions, non-profit organizations, and businesses.

Since 2010, she has served as the senior vice president for operations at NACME, Inc., the largest private provider of engineering scholarships for African American, American Indian, and Latino young adults. NACME was formed in 1974 by a group of corporate executives at the urging of minority leaders, business interests, and the academic community to achieve greater diversity in the field of engineering. In her current role, Saundra supports the president and CEO on key organizational and strategic direction and is responsible for the execution of programs, research, communications, and engineering public policy.

Previously, Johnson Austin was President & CEO of St. Michael’s High School (2008 – 2010), Executive Vice President for the Community Partnership for Lifelong Learning (CPLL) (2005 – 2008), Executive Director of the National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science, Inc. (GEM) (2000 to 2005), and Director of the Minority Engineering Program at Penn State (1994 – 2000).

As a champion for the education of underrepresented minorities in engineering and the sciences, she has published and presented papers at national conferences, to Fortune 500 companies, as well as government agencies throughout the United States. She also served on numerous boards and is a member of various national, regional, and local organizations.

Johnson Austin also holds a lifetime membership to the Penn State Alumni Association and is a member of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Industrial and Professional Advisory Committee.


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Jennifer Swales


Saundra Johnson Austin was named one of the 2015 College of Engineering Outstanding Engineering Alumni.



The Penn State Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, established in 1881, is internationally recognized for excellence in the preparation of undergraduate and graduate engineers through the integration of education, research, and leadership.

Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

212 Sackett Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-1408

Phone: 814-863-3084