As part of its ongoing commitment to promoting STEM academic disciplines, The Aerospace Corporation established the Dr. Wanda M. Austin STEM Scholarship in 2015. Sustained through employee donations, charitable organizations, and estate gifts, the Aerospace STEM Endowment Fund finances the scholarship. Named after Aerospace’s former CEO and president in recognition of her dedicated service and support of STEM education, the scholarship is given to one underrepresented high school student who demonstrates academic excellence and strong leadership skills. The Dr. Wanda M. Austin STEM Scholarship annually awards up to $10,000 a year - renewable for four years - toward college tuition and expenses.
STEM Scholarship Requirements
The scholarship recipients are required to pursue undergraduate studies in a STEM field at a four-year college and maintain a 3.0 grade point average. Winners also receive a paid internship at Aerospace.
To be considered for this invitation-only scholarship, high school contestants are first recommended by their school counselors and principals. They also must write an essay describing their interest in pursuing a STEM career, submit recommendation letters, academic transcripts, and a statement of financial need. After careful consideration of all the submissions, the Aerospace selection committee interviews the top candidates and selects a winner.
Aerospace’s support for the scholarship recipient doesn’t just stop with financial assistance. The recipient is also matched with Aerospace employees who act as academic mentors and life coaches, becoming an important emotional and educational support system for the student as they navigate college life.
Applicants (also known “AeroScholars”) who aren’t chosen for the scholarship are also offered paid summer internships at Aerospace where they get to work in such varied and interesting departments such as the Space Materials Lab, Information and Cyber Security, Software Quality and Analysis, Science and Technology Strategy and Agile Systems Engineering. 2018 is the first year that four AeroScholars were granted internships along with the scholarship recipient.
To welcome 2018’s scholarship recipient, Odinakachukwu "Aka" Amobi and his fellow AeroScholars, Lianne McGinley, associate director of corporate social responsibility, hosted an intimate lunch with CEO Steve Isakowitz on June 27. This was the first time many of the AeroScholars got to meet each other and share their experiences and emotions about embarking on the next chapter of their academic lives.
To get to know each other, they played an ice breaker game in which they created play dough sculptures that represented something important to them. The sculptures were as diverse as each individual student. One person made an airplane that signified his childhood fascination with how planes worked which is what ultimately lead him to pursue a STEM career. Another student created a sculpture of an insect known for survival which represented her ability to adapt to any circumstance while another student sculpted her family, symbolizing the love that drives her to achieve.
Advice for Future Superheroes
Afterwards, Steve joined the group for lunch where he discussed experiences from his own career and shared his insights about being in a STEM field. Steve told the AeroScholars that working at Aerospace felt similar to being a character in a popular movie, “When I first saw Aerospace’s logo, it reminded me of the logo for ‘The Avengers.’ We are also like superheroes, doing amazing things that no one else can do.”
For the Aerospace community, these AeroScholars already exemplify superheroes, overcoming economic challenges and personal hardships to stand on the cusp of a bright future. Aerospace is proud to support this future generation of STEM superstars.
The STEM Scholarship Recipients and AeroScholars:
- Itzel Thomas Sanchez – 2020 STEM Scholarship Recipient
- Ashley Carpenter – 2019 STEM Scholarship Recipient
- Aka Amobi – 2018 STEM Scholarship Recipient
- Charlie Rivas – 2017 STEM Scholarship Recipient
- Heydy Arias – 2016 STEM Scholarship Recipient
- Martha Salazar – 2020 AeroScholar
- Kiera McKenzie – 2019 AeroScholar
- Natalia Salazar – 2018 AeroScholar
- George James – 2018 AeroScholar
- Miguel Tamayo – 2018 AeroScholar
- Julia Rios – 2018 AeroScholar
- Idalia Perez – 2017 STEM AeroScholar
- Aureliano Yepez – 2016 STEM AeroScholar
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