Press Release

Brooke Owens Fellowship Welcomes New Leadership to Executive Team

By SpaceRef Editor
June 19, 2020
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The Brooke Owens Fellowship – the award-winning, non-profit program that provides paid internships and executive mentorship to exceptional undergraduate women and gender minorities in aerospace – is announcing changes to its executive leadership team.  In recognition of the value of inclusion and the talented women and gender minorities who are ready to lead, co-founder Lori Garver has decided to step back from her day-to-day responsibilities as a member of the executive team in order to make room for women of color to have a seat at the boardroom table. The Fellowship’s larger and more diverse executive board will help the organization continue to evolve and improve as it seeks to provide opportunities and growth for communities that have been dramatically underrepresented in the aerospace industry.

Since its founding in 2016, the program has been run by its three co-founders: Lori Garver, the CEO of Earthrise Alliance and the former Deputy Administrator of NASA (2009 – 2013); Cassie Lee, the Advanced Programs Lead for Weather and Remote Sensing at Lockheed Martin Space; and Will Pomerantz, the Vice President for Special Projects at Virgin Orbit. In four years, the program has provided more than 150 extraordinary undergraduate students with challenging internships at the nation’s leading aerospace institutions, executive-level mentorship, and has developed a cohort that is already energizing and adding value to the aerospace field.

In an industry that is now  80% male and 84% white, the “Brookies,” as they are known, have to date been 0% male and 64% white — a dramatic shift from the current workforce demographic. But that progress is not enough. The Brooke Owens Fellowship is committed to driving even more progress in reaching, recruiting, including, and promoting underrepresented communities.

Reflecting on her decision to pass the torch to more diverse leaders on the executive team, Garver states that “creating the Brooke Owens Fellowship with Cassie and Will has been perhaps the most fulfilling experience I have had in an incredibly fulfilling career, and I will remain committed to this program, these goals, and all Brookies forever. The positive response to the Fellowship from those hosting and mentoring these young leaders has been overwhelming and I will always be grateful for such tremendous support. Having this community backing allows me to step back and make room for those whose voices too often go unheard in our industry, particularly on executive teams. Caroline, Diana, and Kayla are incredible leaders and true pillars of our community, and I’m confident that they will bring new ideas that help carry this program to even greater heights. Having benefited from being provided leadership opportunities earlier in my career – and having been frustrated by a few leaders who stuck around too long – I look forward to watching the Fellowship soar even higher with this new team.”

Joining Cassie Lee and Will Pomerantz on the organization’s executive board are:

Diana Trujillo. Trujillo is an aerospace engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where she currently serves as the Robotic Arm System domain lead for the Mars Perseverance mission, slated to launch next month. Born and raised in Colombia, Trujillo immigrated to the United States at the age of 17 to pursue her dream of working for NASA. She enrolled in English as a Second Language courses, holding down full-time jobs as a housekeeper and a fast-food service worker to support her studies in community college and later the University of Florida and University of Maryland. After graduating, she worked on the Cygnus International Space Station resupply vehicle before joining JPL. Outside of her work at JPL, Trujillo is also a board member of the Columbia Memorial Space Center and of the Children’s Center at Caltech. She is also a passionate advocate for diversity in STEM, having pushed for more inclusion of the Latinx community in venues ranging from the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics to the educational program Plaza Sésamo (Sesame Street).  A personal friend of Brooke Owens, the namesake of this Fellowship, Trujillo has been involved in the program from its earliest days as a leader, mentor, coach, and selection committee member.

Caroline Juang. Juang is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. Just this week, she was awarded a three-year NASA grant that will fund her Ph.D. research to study and model wildfires in the western United States using satellite data and other big datasets. She was also honored this past year as a Future Space Leader and as a finalist for the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship. Juang received her Bachelor’s degree in Earth and Planetary Sciences from Harvard University, where she also held leadership positions in the Harvard Environmental Action Committee and the Harvard College Crunch Magazine. After internships with the Space Studies Board of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum; and the Joint US-China Collaboration on Clean Energy, Caroline was selected as a member of the inaugural class of Brooke Owens Fellows. As a Brookie, Juang worked at Bryce Space and Technology, conducting and presenting research on SmallSat market trends, which was published as Smallsats by the Numbers 2018. She also assisted the Business Development team with proposals, research, and the 2017 Start-Up Space report. Juang has served in many different mentorship, outreach, editor, and design roles as an alumna of the Fellowship – including creating the program’s logo in 2017.

Kayla Watson. Watson is a System Reliability Engineer at Amazon Prime Air. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Ohio State University. As an undergraduate, Watson was honored with the Morrill Scholar’s Distinction Full Academic Scholarship and with the Minority Engineering Program’s Freshman Excellence Award. While serving as President of the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP), Watson led an effort to develop “UAV Safety City,” a low-cost, low-regulatory-footprint UAV testing facility in the state of Ohio. She also worked as a researcher for the Battelle Center for Science, Engineering, and Public Policy, developing commercial space public policy recommendations and analysis. After interning at General Electric Aviation, Watson was selected as a member of the Brooke Owens Fellowship Class of 2018. As a Brookie, Watson worked at Amazon Prime Air, continuing directly into her full-time position at the firm. Watson has served in many different roles as an alumna of the Fellowship – including as a mentor, a member of the selection committee, and as the community’s main liaison with industry associations and affinity groups such as the National Society of Black Engineers and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.

In addition to this leadership transition, the Fellowship is developing additional plans and projects to continue its relentless quest for diversity and inclusion in aerospace. In addition to further evolution of the Fellowship itself, the organization anticipates working in partnership with, and in support of, other projects within the industry that are designed to foster support and provide concrete opportunities for more women and minorities in aerospace. As one such effort, the Fellowship is proud to support the new Aerospace Leadership Program for Black Scholars program announced today by Virgin Galactic and its sister companies.

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ABOUT THE BROOKE OWENS FELLOWSHIP

The Brooke Owens Fellowship is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to providing career opportunities and both personal and professional growth for communities that have for too long been dramatically underrepresented in the aerospace industry. The program offers paid, meaningful jobs at the nation’s leading aerospace institutions; executive-level mentorship from astronauts, CEOs, and more; and a community of supportive peers and industry leaders to an annual class of approximately 40 Fellows. Brooke Owens Fellows are selected for their talent, their experience to date, their commitment to service, and their creativity; women and gender-minority undergraduates of all disciplines and from all types of college and university are eligible to apply. Since the program’s founding in 2016 — shortly after the death of the program’s namesake, beloved aerospace industry professional D. Brooke Owens — the Brooke Owens Fellowship has been awarded to 154 deserving students from six countries. The program is the recipient of the American Astronautical Society’s Patti Grace Smith Award, the Space Frontier Foundation’s Stakeholder Expansion Award, and both the Readers’ Choice and the Editors’ Choice for the Unsung Hero of the Year Award from the SpaceNews Awards for Excellence & Innovation 2019.

SpaceRef staff editor.