To be a Brookie

My Journey to becoming a Brooke Owens Fellow and beyond.

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Dawn Brooke Owens. I never got to meet her, but she is now family.

My journey as a Brooke Owens Fellow starts all the way back to October 11, 2016 when I first learned about the program. I had been scrolling through Twitter most likely in an effort to procrastinate my physics homework, when I came to a tweet from @thespacegal (aka Emily Calandrelli) that announced she would be a mentor for the wonderful Brooke Owens Fellowship. More specifically the tweet said, “want to be my mentee?” At this, my heart started racing and my mind went into overdrive. My answer to that question was a resounding yes, and from that moment on I was determined to become a Brooke Owens Fellow.

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I should probably explain that a large reason why I decided to pursue science communications along with my astronomy studies was because of Emily and other women like her on social media that showed me that scientists come in many shapes and sizes and that we can share science with others to help them gain an appreciation of its importance. So, seeing that there was an opportunity to learn up-close from someone who had influenced me from afar got me very excited.

Anyway, after seeing this tweet the Brooke Owens Fellowship was on my radar. Unfortunately, as time went by and the semester continued to get crazier, the fellowship went to the back of my mind and was put in a box on a shelf….until December 5th, when I saw another tweet from @thespacegal that jolted me back. “I’d love to mentor a budding science communicator. Don’t forget to turn in your applications for this today!” …..shit. I saw this tweet and panicked, because this was an opportunity I did not want to miss out on. So, I ignored all my homework that day and got to work. I whipped out the application and ran to my professors begging for them to write a letter of recommendation while simultaneously apologizing for putting them in such a rush.

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I was lucky–my professors were understanding and I was able to complete all parts of the application just in time and hit submit. I should also put in an honorable mention to by boyfriend, Ike, who in a moment of my own doubt of whether I would be able to finish the application on time gave me the little reminder pep talk I needed to push on. After weeks and weeks of waiting, I finally got the news that I made it to the first round! Next in the process would be a phone interview that would help to determine if I was a good match for the fellowship….basically if I was “brookie” enough. Though the phone interview was supposed to only be 30 minutes, it ended up lasting an hour and that was when I was officially hooked. This was when I realized how much this program meant to the people who had created it and those who knew Brooke. This is when I realized that these were the passionate, caring, daring, inspiring, determined people that I had to be a part of because I wanted to be like them….but even more than that I had gotten a glimpse of Brooke, the woman who inspired this all and I wanted to know more. To be the inspiration for this fellowship….so she must have been one cool person. I was set on learning more about this woman and becoming a part of what the fellowship was doing.

Though I continued to make it through to the final selection process that year, I did not end up making the cut. It was hard to get the news, but there was no other thought in my mind than “okay, I guess I getting in next year.” After I got my rejection, I was then contacted by Cassie, one of the founders. She wrote to me about how excited she was to see that a student from Des Moines had applied and was pursuing aerospace, since she is from the Des Moines area herself. She encouraged me to try applying again the next year.

Last December I found out that I was accepted into the Brooke Owens Fellowship. It was about 15 minutes before I had to get to class, when I got a call from Cassie. She said she wanted to be the one to let me know that I had officially become a Brooke Owens Fellow, and that I would be working at the Museum of Flight in Seattle that summer. At this news, I started jumping up and down, silently screaming “I got in! I got in!” to Ike, while still trying to sound calm and collected in my conversation with Cassie. To me, it felt like I had just found out I won the lottery.

 Brookie bonfire with Christine (BOF’17), Christine (BOF’17), Piper (BOF’17), Shannon (BOF’18), Esther (BOF’18) and me (BOF’18)

Brookie bonfire with Christine (BOF’17), Christine (BOF’17), Piper (BOF’17), Shannon (BOF’18), Esther (BOF’18) and me (BOF’18)

Since that day when I found out I was a Brookie (an endearing nickname we use to refer to being a Brooke Owens Fellow), my life has been been a whirlwind. I finished my spring semester and drove out to Seattle to live with a host family and intern at the Museum of Flight. I met and befriended my fellow Seattle Brookies–Kayla, Esther, Sophia, Maddie and Shannon (and Brookie alumni Christine, Christine, and Piper). I went to the New Space conference where I had my first experience with valet parking and was able to help represent the Brooke Owens Fellowship when we won the Stakeholder Expansion Award from the Space Frontier Foundation. I hiked to Poo Poo Point to watch paragliders run off a cliff and soar in the air currents with the Seattle Space Gals. I met an astronaut and helped him sign autographs. I sat in the owners box with Cassie as we watched the Seattle Sounds play in a victorious match. I fell from the sky at ~14,000 ft with my friend and fellow Brookie, Esther, when we went skydiving. I taught a group of middle school girls about astronomy and helped them build and launch their own model rockets. I got to visit Blue Origin and see up close the revolutionary rockets they are creating to bring civilians to space. I traveled to Washington DC where I got to meet the rest of the 2018 Brooke Owens Fellows along with the founders, alumni, mentors, astronauts and industry leaders and more. And I got to meet my mentor…Emily Calandrelli.

 Coffee date with my mentor,  Emily Calandrelli (@thespacegal)

Coffee date with my mentor, Emily Calandrelli (@thespacegal)

 Me in front of the space shuttle Discovery at the  Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Me in front of the space shuttle Discovery at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

My summer as a Brooke Owens Fellow is something I will never forget. The list of experiences I have gained from the Brooke Owens Fellowship is infinite, not only in what I have already experienced but also in what is to come as I move forward as an alumni. But, despite all the experiences and opportunities they have given me, the best thing they have given me is an aerospace family. There are so many amazing human beings I have met through this program, and most I call my friends. The fellowship gives us a support network of peers, mentors and allied companies and organizations that will continue to cheer us on as we pursue our aerospace ambitions. Each of us fellows have different stories of how we got to where we are and different ideas about where we want to go next, but that is part of the fun. I will continue on my path in science communications while Kayla becomes an aerospace engineer, Sophia and Maddie work at Blue Origin, and Esther fuses neuroscience with engineering. All of the people I have met through this fellowship have inspired me in a way I didn’t know was possible. They have encouraged me to reach beyond this atmosphere and truly believe that anything is possible.

So you see, being a Brooke Owens Fellow isn’t just about following your dreams, its about giving you dreams you never knew you had. It isn’t just about networking but making lifelong, meaningful connections. It isn’t about mourning the loss of Brooke Owens, its about helping her to live on. And it isn’t just about aerospace…it is about so much more.

The Brooke Owens Fellowship is now excepting applications for 2019 until November 6, 2018.

Apply today!

 Me (BOF’18), Esther (BOF’18), Madie (BOF’18), Kristin (BOF’18) and Sumayya (BOF’17) at the  NewSpace Conference  in Seattle where the Fellowship won the Stakeholder Expansion Award

Me (BOF’18), Esther (BOF’18), Madie (BOF’18), Kristin (BOF’18) and Sumayya (BOF’17) at the NewSpace Conference in Seattle where the Fellowship won the Stakeholder Expansion Award

 Me with Alan Boyle (@b0yle) and Dr, Tanya Harrison (@tanyaofmars) at an after party hosted by  Space Angels  for the NewSpace Conference held in Seattle

Me with Alan Boyle (@b0yle) and Dr, Tanya Harrison (@tanyaofmars) at an after party hosted by Space Angels for the NewSpace Conference held in Seattle

 Taken after Esther and I went skydiving at  Skydive Snohomish

Taken after Esther and I went skydiving at Skydive Snohomish

 Esther and I during our hike with the Seattle Space Gals up to Poo Poo Point

Esther and I during our hike with the Seattle Space Gals up to Poo Poo Point

 Me in front of the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery entrance at  the Museum of Flight  in Seattle, WA where I worked this summer.

Me in front of the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery entrance at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, WA where I worked this summer.

 Instagram story from @thespacegal from the  Brooke Owens Fellowship  Summit in Washington, DC

Instagram story from @thespacegal from the Brooke Owens Fellowship Summit in Washington, DC

Katrina Sletten