Dean Chang has announced that Sunita Williams, a former NASA astronaut and record breaker for achievements in space, will address SEAS undergraduates and graduates on Columbia Engineering’s Class Day.

Astronaut Sunita Williams will give the keynote speech at Columbia Engineering’s Class Day on May 16, according to an email sent to students by Dean Chang on Thursday evening. The full text of the email can be found below.

After receiving a BS in Physical Science from the Naval Academy in 1987, Williams entered the Navy, where she was assigned to Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 8 and eventually became a naval officer. Williams was selected as a NASA astronaut in 1998 and began training shortly after at the Johnson Space Center. She served on two space missions—Expedition 14/15 and Expedition 32/33—and in 2012, she became the second woman to serve as a commander of the International Space Station. Currently, Williams is working with Boeing and SpaceX to develop their commercial crew vehicles, and she was part of Boeing’s first mission flight to the International Space Station in 2018.

Over the course of her career, Sunita Williams has broken numerous records for athletic achievements in space. Williams was the former record holder for most spacewalks completed by a woman and most spacewalk time for a woman, accruing over 3000 flight hours in 30 different aircraft types. Additionally, she became the first person to run a marathon in space in April 2007 and the first person to run a triathlon in space in September 2012.

Columbia Engineering’s Class Day will take place on Monday, May 16. Sunita Williams will be the first in-person Columbia Engineering Class Day speaker since 2019, when Bloomberg CTO Shawn Edwards (BS’90, MS’95) spoke at the 2019 Class Day event.

Email sent to students by Dean Chang on Thursday, April 21 at 7:33 pm:

Dear Columbia Community, 

This year’s SEAS Class Day speaker for the Class of 2022 has been announced! NASA astronaut Sunita Williams will address our undergraduate and graduate students on May 16, 2022. 

Sunita is an incredibly accomplished and inspiring figure. She has accrued more than 3,000 flight hours in 30 different aircraft types and is the former record holder for most spacewalks by a woman and more spacewalk time for a woman. She was also the second woman ever to serve as commander of the International Space Station. 

You can read more about Sunita here. I know our students are very excited to hear from Sunita. 


Shih-Fu Chang

Interim Dean

Sunita Williams via Columbia Engineering