Canterbury student launches into US aerospace industry with Brooke Owens Fellowship

A University of Canterbury student will be rocketing from her lectures and labs into the American aerospace industry this year after she won a prestigious Brooke Owens Fellowship – the only New Zealander and first person from the Southern Hemisphere to become a fellow.

Jennifer Berry is due to begin her fourth year studying engineering at the University of Canterbury. She is one of 51 (mostly American) undergraduate students earning their places at leading aerospace organisations in the Brooke Owens Fellowship class of 2022. Part of the mentoring fellowship is to intern at an aerospace organisation and Berry will work at Space Capital, in New York City, later this year. Space Capital is an early-stage venture capital firm that invests exclusively in space-based technologies.

The Brooke Owens Fellowship – a non-profit US program recognising exceptional undergraduate women and other gender minorities with space and aviation internships, senior mentorship, and a lifelong professional network – announced its newest, most diverse class of Brooke Owens Fellows today (28 January NZ time).

Berry says it felt “unreal and slightly overwhelming” to discover she would be the first person from Australasia to join the American aerospace fellowship. During her second year at the University of Canterbury, she interned at Rocket Lab’s New Zealand headquarters, sparking her interest in applying for the Brooke Owens fellowship.

“I feel extremely blessed to be able to call myself a ‘Brookie’ alongside incredible women and gender minorities committed to driving two shared missions – to expand our reach into the universe and to disrupt the historical gender imbalance in the aerospace industry. Both these missions go hand-in-hand,” says Berry, who moved from Auckland to Christchurch to study towards her Mechanical Engineering Bachelor of Engineering with Honours degree at the University of Canterbury.

“It is a huge privilege to be in a position to uplift and support other young women and gender minorities in this part of the world with their future applications and in their journeys in the aerospace sector.”

The Class of 2022 marks the sixth class of “Brookie” Fellows who were selected from the Fellowship’s most competitive application year. More than 1000 promising and talented students applied worldwide, coming from Ivy League universities and major international universities.

The 51 Fellows were selected through a fair and competitive application process involving written and creative submissions, interviews with the Fellowship’s leadership team and its close network, and interviews with 36 leading aerospace employers from across multiple sectors in the US aerospace industry. The Fellows were selected based on their commitment to their communities, stand-out creative abilities, record of leadership, incredible talent, and their desire to pursue a career in aerospace.

The Brooke Owens Fellows will each be matched to an executive-level mentor in the aerospace industry who will support and work with the Fellows to help launch their careers. Later this year, the Fellows will start their internships and come together for the annual Brooke Owens Summit in Washington, DC. The Class of 2022 will also become part of the network of 198 Brookie alumnae spanning all aspects of space and aviation including engineering, scientific research, policy, journalism, and entrepreneurship.

About the Brooke Owens Fellowship

The Brooke Owens Fellowship was founded in 2016 to honour the memory of industry pioneer and accomplished pilot D. Brooke Owens, who passed away in June 2016 at age 35, after a hard-fought battle with cancer. The program was co-founded by Lori Garver, the former Deputy Administrator of NASA and now CEO of Earthrise Alliance; Cassie Lee, Advanced Programs Lead for Weather and Remote Sensing at Lockheed Martin Space; and William Pomerantz, the Vice President for Special Projects at Virgin Orbit.

The Brooke Owens Fellowship celebrates its ongoing mission and legacy of disrupting the historical gender imbalance in the aerospace industry by continuing its mission to provide opportunities and access to talented young professionals from historically under-represented groups.

Today, the Brooke Owens Fellowship is led by the Executive Team that includes Caroline Juang, a PhD candidate at Columbia University in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences; Diana Trujillo, an Aerospace Engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Emily Calandrelli, a science communicator and host of Netflix’s Emily’s Wonder Lab; Kayla Watson, a System Reliability Engineer at Amazon Prime Air; and Will Pomerantz, co-founder of the Brooke Owens Fellowship.

Together, the Executive Team led the selection for this year’s Fellows. Reflecting on the latest class, Calandrelli says, “We are thrilled to have our most diverse class yet, continuing our push to bring incredible new talent into the aerospace industry. Aerospace is a challenging field with a global impact and an insatiable demand for talent, and these 51 students represent a vital influx of skill, creativity, passion, and purpose. As a group, this year’s Fellows represent more countries, races and ethnicities, and gender minorities than any previous class. We’re looking forward to watching them make their mark on the aerospace industry.”

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