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June 2020

Education, Inspiration, Scholarships

The Brooke Owens Fellowship Program

28 June, 2020

The Brooke Owens fellowship program is a fellowship and internship program created to honor the memory of space pioneer and pilot Dawn Brooke Owens. It was developed with the aim of inspiring and supporting extraordinary young women and gender minorities who aspire to rock the space industry and become leaders of tomorrow.

“The Brooke Owens Fellowship has provided me with a network, and family, of incredibly accomplished and driven space professionals that are also on a quest to improve the universe, just like me!” – Payton Barnwell, Brookie Class of 2018

The fellowship is open to all women and gender minorities currently pursuing an undergraduate course and is interested in a career in the aerospace industry. Individuals from all ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds and ages can apply to become a fellow.

The best part, it’s for open for any major, so you don’t necessarily have to be pursuing engineering or the sciences. Past Brookies have been students of law, media and even have minored in theatre! What the fellowship is looking for is a change maker! The past fellows have founded clubs, won competitions, published their research and even started charitable campaigns.

Established in 2017, the fellowship has till date has helped 114 fellows land dream internships, get in touch with industry experts and work on projects with world class space companies, all in one summer!

The fellowship works in the following phases. Every applicant is required to submit college transcripts and letters of recommendations. Three essays are required to be submitted, these are based on technical knowledge and the candidate’s personal interest.

The candidate is also asked to give a preference of the host company they would like to be linked to. Ultimately, the matching of the fellow and host company is conducted by the organizers taking into account the application and personal preferences of the selected fellows. On selection in the semifinal round, telephone interviews are conducted by the fellowship committee. In the final round multiple telephone interviews are conducted by the fellowship as well as the host companies.

After the semifinal round and the final shortlist, the class of that particular year is decided. Every Brookie is matched to a host company for a 12 week paid internship. The fellows are also linked to two senior mentors. These are industry experts ranging from astronauts to CEO’s.

When asked how the mentorship helps the Brookies, Dr Anita Sengupta one of the mentors of the fellowship said, “By connecting executives from across the country to the next generation of employees new ideas can be infused into companies and organizations. So I see it as a cross pollination of leadership.”

After the end of the internship, the entire Brooke Owens class meets up in Washington for the ultimate space sisters’ summit. This summit organized by the fellowship includes intense mentoring sessions, Q&A’s and team projects.

Here is a description of being a part of this sisterhood and attending the summit as quoted by Class of 2019 fellow Michelle Lin in her blog:

“There was a soft familiarity amongst everyone, and immediately, it felt like family. Throughout these four days, we were vulnerable to each other. We shared our anger for the system, each relating deeply to stories of gender discrimination. We validated and reaffirmed each other, both professionally and personally.”

Once a Brookie, always a Brookie. By becoming a part of this program, you join a community, a family of sisters who are experiencing all the same things that you are. They cheer for you, not from the sidelines, but from the very next track and you cheer for them too.

“The thing I love most about my fellow Brookies is that they’re genuinely dedicated to helping others – not for clout on social media or for themselves, but for the good of -humanity and the industry” – Karen Rucker, Brooke Owens Class of 2017

As a college student myself, I have heard of many such fellowships, but I have never seen such a supporting and loving group of individuals. From the ways they interact with each other online to the amazing things that they are currently doing it is clear, these women are the future of the space industry.

Written by Savri Gandhi