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Former NASA astronaut joins Mizzou Engineering staff

Steven Nagel (center) meets with students at the Diversity Barbecue Sept. 1.

There are not many people who can say they’ve seen the entire world, and fewer who can say they’ve seen the world from space. However, one of the new faces in the University of Missouri College of Engineering’s Student Services Department can make that claim.

Steven Nagel has joined MU Engineering as a retention specialist in Student Services and will eventually also serve as an instructor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department. Relocating to Columbia, Mo., from Houston after a 30-plus year career with NASA, Nagel, a retired Air Force colonel, said he hopes to use his position to work with students, interacting, motivating and, in the future, teaching.

“I help with student retention,” Nagel said, “but I’ll also be working with several of the student groups and organizations.”

Nagel’s background is in mechanical and aerospace engineering, but he said he looks forward to interacting with students in any of the engineering fields.

The idea of working at a university was encouraged with the experiences from former NASA colleagues who had done the same and found working at a university rewarding. The decision to come to Mizzou was a fairly easy one.

“The connection [to Mizzou] was with Linda [Godwin, his wife and new MU professor of physics],” he said.

An Illinois native, Nagel said he is also excited about being back in the Midwest, as is Godwin, who earned her master’s degree and doctorate from MU.

“I saw this position as a great opportunity to work with the university and be in the Midwest,” he said.

Nagel joined NASA’s astronaut program just before the beginning of the space shuttle program. He served on four shuttle missions aboard the shuttles Discovery (1985), Challenger (1985), Atlantis (1991) and Columbia (1993), serving as pilot on Challenger and commander for Atlantis and Columbia.

He retired from NASA last spring, saying he wanted to retire around the same time as the end of the space shuttle program.

Nagel and Godwin have two daughters, Whitney, 22, and Lauren, who is in sixth grade.