REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center Executive Director Dr. Juanita M. Christensen’s leadership philosophy can be summed up in two words: servant leader.
Christensen is not just Warfighter-focused, but workforce-focused, an approach that meshes well with the Army’s new number one priority – people.
“I truly enjoy what I do as an engineer. It is a challenge every day, but the mission for defense of our country is worth it,” Christensen said. “I enjoy being a positive influence to the mission and to the workforce. I especially enjoy every opportunity I have to serve and mentor others, both men and women, and to see them achieve their visions and goals. To be even a small part of that is very rewarding.”
The East St. Louis, Illinois native’s mother once told her, “Do not let your environment define who you are.” Growing up surrounded by high crime and unemployment rates, not to mention a heavy gang presence, Christensen heeded her mother’s advice.
Upon the recommendation of her high school counselor, who noted her academic strength in math and science, Christensen decided to pursue a degree in engineering, enrolling at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. But even in college, the odds were stacked against her. Professors balked at the idea of a black female in their engineering program. One even told her he did not understand why she was in his class. It was, sadly, only the beginning of people questioning her place in a profession largely dominated by white males.
Rather than giving up, Christensen reached out, tutoring others in the math disciplines, a way of not only validating her presence in the program, but of paying it forward.
“It was my mother’s continued encouragement and God’s favor which kept me focused to completion,” Christensen said.
She graduated from the University of Illinois in 1985 with a degree in computer engineering – the first of her seven siblings to complete college. Her education, however, did not stop there as she went on to receive a master’s in management of information systems and computer resources from Webster University, and a doctorate in management with emphasis on organizational leadership from University of Phoenix.
From her first job out of college as an electronics engineer for Boeing, to where she sits today, a member of the Senior Executive Service, who has risen through the ranks of Army leadership, and leads an organization of 12,000-plus people, Christensen is the perfect example of the power of persistence, no matter the pushback.
“I took each opportunity in stride,” Christensen said. “Even when others told me not to expect too much, I would reply that I serve a great big God. Nothing was too hard for him.
“I have a windowsill plaque in my office with the motto that I live by, ‘God doesn’t give you what you can handle, God helps you handle what you are given.’ The pushbacks I received caused me to reach out to others more from a facilitation and mentoring perspective. I want to pay it back in my own way, and encourage others to push forward and achieve their goals.”
The CCDC Aviation & Missile Center, formerly known as the Aviation & Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC), is part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, which conducts responsive research, development and life cycle engineering to deliver the aviation and missile capabilities the Army depends on to ensure victory on the battlefield today and tomorrow. Through collaboration across the command's core technical competencies, CCDC leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation's wars and come home safely. CCDC is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.