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Honors and Awards

UMass Amherst Student Amanda Desmond Named a 2022 Brooke Owens Fellow

Nonprofit aerospace program recognizes exceptional undergraduate women and other gender minorities with internships, senior mentorship and a lifelong professional network

AMHERST, Mass. – Amanda Desmond, a junior economics and space science major in the University of Massachusetts Amherst Commonwealth Honors College, has been named one of 51 Brooke Owens Fellows for 2022.

amanda desmond
Amanda Desmond

Desmond, a native of Beverly, Mass., is the first student selected for the program from the University of Massachusetts system. During the summer of 2022, she will spend 12 weeks with Voyager Space Holdings in Denver working directly with the firm’s CEO, Dylan Taylor.

The Brooke Owens Fellowship is a New York-based nonprofit program that recognizes exceptional undergraduate women and other gender minorities with space and aviation internships, senior mentorship, and a lifelong professional network. The fellowship was founded in 2016 to honor the memory of beloved industry pioneer and accomplished pilot D. Brooke Owens, who died from cancer that June at age 35.

“Part of the reason I applied to the fellowship was because I had these two big interests – I've always really had a big passion for space, but also an interest in economics and understanding business, and I never really understood where I would fit in in the aerospace industry,” says Desmond, who initially applied to the fellowship in the fall of 2021. “Upon talking to people and doing some research I found that there's a big need for people who are in non-STEM fields in the aerospace industry because it’s a really huge industry. It's being privatized recently, but even on the publicly-funded side, there is a really big need for people who understand both sides of it – science and business. This is a really great time to be pursuing something like the Brooke Owens Fellowship, so I'm pretty excited about it.”

“I have found that people in the aerospace industry are super-super friendly and really happy to help, and love to talk about space because they love what they do, so I took advantage of that and just started reaching out,” Desmond, says about her unconventional choice of double-majors. “When I started talking to people and I told them my majors they told me, ‘That's awesome, that's a great major to have,’ and it reassured me that I was doing something right.”

Desmond points to her father as helping influence her interest in space.

“I think my dad played a pretty big part of getting me interested in space,” she says. “He didn't work in the space industry or anything like that, but he always encouraged thinking the big things and asking big questions even if there wasn't always an answer, and that’s what led me to being really fascinated by space and really loving it. He gave me a bunch of books and stuff that he had, and we had a telescope when I was growing up, and that really inspired me. Later in high school and when I got to college, I started thinking that maybe there is actually a chance I could make this a career path, and that's when things really picked up, but my dad was definitely a big influence.”

Desmond hopes to use her experience in the fellowship as a catalyst to drive other women and gender minorities at UMass Amherst to apply to become Brooke Owens fellows and explore the aerospace industry as a career.

“I'm really hoping that next year they will get some more applicants from UMass,” she says. “It's a fun industry and really, nothing’s cooler than rocket ships, right?”