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A fellowship program for women in aerospace pays tribute to space industry pioneer Brooke Owens, shown here during a zero-G airplane flight. (Photo courtesy of the Brooke Owens Fellowship Program)

Thirty-six women with a passion for aerospace have been selected to receive the first batch of Brooke Owens Fellowships – paid summer internships at a wide range of institutions across the country.

One of the women, Chelsey Ballarte, will be spending the summer with us at GeekWire.

Others will be joining her in the Seattle area at organizations such as Blue Origin, Planetary Resources, Vulcan Aerospace and the Museum of Flight.

“These women have the potential not only to contribute to the aerospace industry but to lead it,” Lori Garver, a former NASA deputy administrator who is now general manager of the Air Line Pilots Association, said in today’s announcement of the fellowships.

Garver and two other aerospace executives – Virgin Galactic’s Will Pomerantz and Vulcan Aerospace’s Cassie Lee – created the program to pay tribute to Brooke Owens, a space policy expert and pilot who died of cancer last year at the age of 35. Owens’ career included stints at NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, XPRIZE and the White House.

The volunteer-led fellowship program provides internships and mentors for exceptional undergraduate women seeking a career in aviation or space exploration. The organizers say their aim is to create a cohort of industry leaders who can “advance a positive future” and continue Owens’ legacy.

Chelsey Ballarte
Chelsey Ballarte (Via LinkedIn)

Ballarte, a graduating senior at Arizona State University, will be the only fellow doing her internship at a news organization. Her interests in space exploration and science communications intertwined when she became the webmaster for ASU’s chapter of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, or SEDS.

While working toward her degree in journalism and mass communications, Ballarte took on extracurricular roles as a public relations manager for the national SEDS organization as well as editor-in-chief of Her Campus ASU. She’s also a videographer for ASU’s VisLab graphic design studio.

“I believe that everyone can have an appreciation for space and the sciences, if a good communicator can push all the jargon away and explain it in a way they can understand,” Ballarte wrote in her application for the fellowship. “I’ve made it my mission to be the person who does just that.”

Ballarte’s host and internal mentor will be Alan Boyle, GeekWire’s aerospace and science editor. Her external mentor will be Emily Calandrelli, a field correspondent for “Bill Nye Saves the World” who’s also the host and producer of “Xploration Outer Space” as well as a contributing writer for TechCrunch.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Chelsey to the GeekWire team this summer, and support young women as they start their careers in the fields of space, science and technology,” said John Cook, co-founder of GeekWire. “The Brooke Owens Fellowship is a unique program, and we’re excited to participate in the inaugural class.”

The 35 other fellows and their host institutions are:

  • Sumayya Abukhalil (University of Central Florida, Class of 2018), hosted by Orbital ATK.
  • Diana Alsindy (University of California, San Diego, Class of 2017), hosted by Virgin Orbit.
  • Dawn Andrews (Georgia Tech, Class of 2018), hosted by SpaceX.
  • Dahlia Baker (Coe College, Class of 2018), hosted by Planetary Resources.
  • Pau Pineda Bosque (Purdue University, Class of 2018), hosted by Orbital ATK.
  • Roselin Campos (UCLA, Class of 2017), hosted by SSL.
  • Katherine Carroll (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Class of 2019), hosted by Aerospace Corp.
  • Christine Chappelle (MIT, Class of 2019), hosted by Vulcan Aerospace.
  • Jocelyn Clancy (University of Southern California, Class of 2019), hosted by Aerospace Corp.
  • Amy Comeau (Purdue University, Class of 2018), hosted by Bryce Space and Technology.
  • Kaitlin Englebert (University of Colorado, Boulder, Class of 2019), hosted by Museum of Flight.
  • Makiah Eustice (Texas A&M, Class of 2018), hosted by Aerospace Corp.
  • Maggie Goertzen (University of Utah, Class of 2017), hosted by Made in Space.
  • Maryam Gracias (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Class of 2018), hosted by Air Line Pilots Association.
  • Morgan Irons (Duke University, Class of 2017), hosted by Avascent.
  • Caroline Juang (Harvard University, Class of 2017), hosted by Bryce Space and Technology.
  • Karen Kuhlman (Oregon State University, Class of 2018), hosted by Scaled Composites.
  • Hayley Lewis (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Class of 2018), hosted by Mojave Air and Space Port.
  • Ninoshka Llontop Lozano (University of Illinois at Chicago, Class of 2018), hosted by Virgin Orbit.
  • Rachael McKee (Metropolitan State University of Denver, Class of 2018), hosted by Air Line Pilots Association.
  • Maddie Miller (Union College, Class of 2019), hosted by Planet.
  • Golda Nguyen (Georgia Tech, Class of 2017), hosted by Blue Origin.
  • Christine Reilly (University of Colorado, Boulder, Class of 2018), hosted by Virgin Orbit.
  • Karen Rucker (Texas Tech University, Class of 2018), hosted by HawkEye 360.
  • Mady Sargent (University of Kansas, Class of 2019), hosted by Ball Aerospace.
  • Emily Sheffield (Harding University, Class of 2018), hosted by Commercial Spaceflight Federation.
  • Piper Sigrest (MIT, Class of 2018), hosted by Virgin Orbit.
  • Jasmine Q. Smith (Tuskegee University, Class of 2020), hosted by Mojave Air and Space Port.
  • Michaela Spaulding (Iowa State University, Class of 2018), hosted by Generation Orbit.
  • Becca Thoss (University of Southern California, Class of 2018), hosted by Planetary Resources.
  • Amanda Turk (University of Colorado, Boulder, Class of 2017), hosted by Sierra Nevada Corp.
  • Shreya Udupa (Arizona State University, Class of 2017), hosted by Altius Space Machines.
  • Justine Walker (College of Wooster, Class of 2018), hosted by Sierra Nevada Corp.
  • Sasha Warren (Durham University, UK, Class of 2018), hosted by XPRIZE.
  • Taylor Zedosky (University of South Carolina, Class of 2018), hosted by Ball Aerospace.

The Brooke Owens Fellowship Program is operated as a nonprofit initiative under the Future Space Leaders Forum. To learn more, or to donate to the program, visit BrookeOwensFellowship.org.

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