Shelli Brunswick: Serving the Underserved Groups while Developing the Next-Gen Workforce
Shelli Brunswick
Shelli Brunswick

Education provides wings to one’s imagination, nurtures them, and builds them into refined individuals and seasoned professionals. Many dedicated educational leaders have devoted themselves into providing excellent educational facilities to the students, so that they can learn and grow effectively.

Several female leaders have made a mark in the education sector. They have played the role of a beacon of hope and enlightenment to many. They have uplifted the education sector with their dedicated efforts and have always focused on the overall development of the learners.

An influential female leader of the US education sector is Shelli Brunswick, the COO of Space Foundation. She brings a broad perspective and deep vision of the global space ecosystem. She is an ardent advocate of space technology innovation and entrepreneurship.

A Stellar Career

Ms Shelli’s impressive career spans across three phases. First, she graduated from high school and joined the US Air Force, where she was given the opportunity to immerse herself in other cultures when she was stationed in Turkey and Germany. Through the Air Force tuition assistance program, Ms Shelli was able to serve her country during the day and earn her bachelor’s degree at night at the University of Southern Colorado-Pueblo.

She served the US Air Force as an enlisted airman for 12 years before being promoted to a space acquisition officer. During this time, the space industry was only accessible to the military and civil agencies like NASA. For 12 years, Ms Shelli had the tremendous opportunity to explore the early stages of the space program, which encompassed ground stations, launch vehicles, and satellites, while also earning her master’s degree in the evening at the University of Phoenix and completing Air War College via correspondence.

Eventually she opted for her dream job-serving as a congressional liaison to the US House of Representatives on Capitol Hill. For five years, she was chartered with working through the ins and outs of policy, budget, and appropriations. Over a 29-year career in the US Air Force, Ms Shelli gained a firm foundation for the importance of advocacy and outreach, essential to developing the skill set to become a strong candidate for senior leadership positions.

Space Foundation and the launch of the Center for Innovation and Education marks her latest phase, which may be the most important ever because of the size of the market opportunity and the lives being positively impacted by this vital work.

Taking Inspiration

Ms Shelli states that the combination of her own personal journey, a commitment to lifelong learning, and a deeply rooted philosophy to service before self has fuelled her passion for education. She was inspired by mentors, champions, and advocates in her life, starting with her mother, the military, and a vast network of people that she collaborates with throughout the world in her work at Space Foundation.

Ms Shelli states, “It is always difficult to single out one role model during my formative years—among the greats of Eleanor Roosevelt, Jane Goodall, and others—but I would say my mother was the most important influence in my early years; she set the bar for a life of possibilities and no limits, and I am forever grateful.”

Leading Space Foundation Dynamically

Ms Shelli expresses “I serve as Chief Operating Officer at Space Foundation, a non-profit advocate organization founded in 1983, offering a gateway to trusted information, lifelong education, and seamless collaboration for space exploration and space-to-earth industries that define the global space ecosystem.”

Driven by a partnership model, the company operates three divisions that unite the entire spectrum of stakeholders across the global space ecosystem—business, government, education, and local communities—through paid services and supported by corporate membership, sponsorship, fundraising, and grants:

  • Symposium 365 is the premier source for media and events, including the world-renowned Space Symposium and The Space Report.
  • Center for Innovation and Education is a lifelong learning provider, offering workforce development and economic opportunity.
  • Global Alliance facilitates collaboration around the world for open dialogues and joint programs.

Opinions about Interactive Education

Sharing her thoughts about interactive education, Ms Shelli states, “Since the onset of the pandemic, interactive, online educational content has extended our ability to reach more people in the farthest corners of the Earth about the opportunities to engage in the global space ecosystem through our Symposium 365 Digital Platform, Center for Innovation and Education, and Space Foundation Discovery Center.”

She believes that working and schooling from home has also diversified learning to be more accepting of multimodal approaches for consuming information, retaining knowledge, and developing skill. For example, Space Foundation is keen on immersive, hands-on learning, so transferring those lessons to teachers, parents, families, and students to guide experiences at home and in their classrooms has been accelerated through interactive, online curriculum available through webcasts and free downloads.

Challenges Faced by Education Leaders

As per Ms Shelli, at the highest level, education leaders are challenged with keeping pace with the rapidly evolving job and career requirements needed to fill the workforce shortage and skills deficit in industries such as the global space ecosystem.

She believes that important steps are being taken to address these changes and encourage lifelong learning, including:

  • School systems partnering with third-party organizations
  • Sponsorships and scholarships for aspiring young professionals
  • Hands-on and immersive learning and 21st century essential skills for real-world preparation
  • Teacher professional development to integrate space and technology-based curriculum into daily classrooms

Making Impact and Winning Laurels

Ms Shelli’s dedicated endeavours have won her many accolades. Throughout her celebrated career, she has achieved many noteworthy recognitions. She was recently honoured with the Global Technology Leadership Award for 2021 by WomenTech Network following the Diversity and Inclusion and Role Model Award for 2020. “I credit the mentors and role models that stood before me and those that opened doors and guided me throughout my career journey,” shares Ms Shelli.

She has also been selected or appointed to leadership and advisory roles with United Nations Space4Women; WomenTech Network; Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ICESCO); and many other organizations and associations.

Furthermore, Ms Shelli has been associated with World Business Angels Investment Forum (WBAF) Global Women Leaders Committee (GWLC); New York University, Global Policy Insights – Global Policy, Diplomacy and Sustainability (GPODS) Fellowship program; Global Policy Insights – Quad Forum; Space Tourism Society Africa; and many more.

Precious Advice

While addressing the emerging educators, Ms Shelli states that the best way to step into the field of education is to never step out of it. It is essential to embrace education as a lifelong journey.

She shares, “First and foremost, you must believe there are no limits to what you can contribute and accomplish in education for yourself and others. In the global space ecosystem specifically, the educational opportunities are endless for STEM and non-STEM

talent.” “Beyond scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians, the space industry needs artists, designers, business administrators, project managers, entrepreneurs, inventors, and so much more,” adds Ms Shelli.

Ms Shelli encourages the emerging educators of tomorrow not to be afraid to reach out for exploratory meetings with educators and domain experts. She encourages them to identify peers, mentors, champions, and advocates that can guide them through their career.

The Journey Ahead

Ms Shelli states that the awareness of opportunities in the global space ecosystem made a significant leap in 2021, and now the company is faced with its greatest challenge: how to bring Space Foundation’s programs to the people that need them most?

She believes that the answer lies in creating an endowment at Space Foundation that can provide the core principles of its Workforce Development Roadmap: 1) Awareness, 2) Access, 3) Training, 4) Networking, and 5) Mentorship to student from pre-K university, entrepreneurs, businesses, and professionals—especially those in underserved groups.

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