Alumna talks power of connecting

Category:  News
Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 at 6:38 PM
Alumna talks power of connecting by Natalie Wiepert
Photo: Natalie Wiepert

On Oct. 12, Edinboro alumna Dr. Sian Proctor spoke to a full lecture hall in Compton on “The Power to Connect.”

Proctor graduated from Edinboro University in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and has had a diverse career as a scientist, explorer and communicator. 

She was a finalist in 2009 for the NASA Astronaut Program, making it down to the 1 percent of applicants. Even though she didn’t receive the acceptance phone call, she stressed that how you come back from rejection is just as important as seeking opportunity in the first place. 

“Don’t be afraid to dream big,” she said. “You never know when you’ll be the 1 percent.” 

Proctor engaged the audience in discussion about the importance of making connections that lead to opportunity. She posed the question: “Think of an individual you would hire if you were going to start a company. Who would it be?” She gave advice as to how you can become the person someone thinks of when an opportunity arises.

She urged students to take advantage of internships, programs and friendships while at school. 

“You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room; you just have to get the smartest person in the room to like you,” she said. 

She continued: “Edinboro University is where I started making connections that led to opportunity. My education opened up doors for me. You can travel the world and you can do that as a student, so look for those internships [and] apply.” 

Proctor was an education outreach officer while living in the NASA-funded Mars Habitat Simulator in Hawaii, while also running the series, “Meals for Mars.” She discussed how she got a text from a friend that said, “You like food and should apply for this.” 

So, Proctor applied and because of that simple interaction, she spent five months at the habitat creating videos.

At the simulation, she met Kate Greene, who asked Proctor to be her official photographer for Discover Magazine, which then led to one of her photos being published in Time Magazine. 

“The more connections you make with people, the more opportunities you’ll get,” she said. “It’s just this cycle that keeps going and it will take you in directions you cannot even imagine.”

When she graduated from Edinboro, Proctor said she didn’t know what career she wanted to pursue. During an elective class her senior year, she learned how to edit videos. After graduation, she applied for and received a job editing videos for the local news broadcasts, before continuing to grad school.

“It’s okay to not have it all figured out, I certainly didn’t,” she said. “But I can tell you those two years in video editing have paid off in multiple ways — I was able to say, ‘Yeah, I can be a communication officer for this Mars simulation; I’m gonna make videos.’”

She continued: “I pitched myself as someone with a skillset that was unique to what they were looking for. You guys have majors and degrees that you’re going after, but what’s going to be most valuable in your future is your ability to market the skills that you possess.” 

Determination has proven to be key for Proctor; in 2008, she was rejected by the NOAA Teacher at Sea program, but recently reapplied and was accepted. She spent a few weeks this past summer in the Gulf of Alaska studying fisheries. Proctor was also in a Discovery Channel reality show and a PBS series “Genius,” hosted by Stephen Hawking.

When it comes to facing fear and rejection, she had a simple message: “There are actually a lot of things I’m afraid of, but I didn’t let the fear stop me.” 

Proctor brought up several hypothetical scenarios throughout the presentation. She asked people: “Would you travel to Mars?”; “Would you be on reality television?”; “Would you travel the world?”.

The answer choices were A: yes; B: sure, if it pays; or C: no. Each time she asked one of the questions, she asked the audience to consider their own responses as to whether they would open themselves up to the opportunities that she has experienced by show of hand. By the end of the lecture, nearly every person chose answer “A.”

“Don’t talk yourself out of opportunity, don’t be afraid to dream big, push yourself and go for the things you want. The day I became Dr. one can take that away from me.”

Natalie Wiepert is a managing editor (digital) for The Spectator. She can be reached at

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