Sophomore Meredith Hunter earns Brooke Owens Engineering Fellowship

When Meredith Hunter was six-years-old, she wrote her future self a letter saying ‘I hope you become an engineer.’ Now, she is one of 50 out of 1,000 women selected to intern for a prestigious aerospace engineering firm this summer.

Hunter+not+only+enjoys+avionics+from+an+engineering+classroom%2C+but+also+from+the+pilots+position+of+a+plane.

Photo by Meredith Hunter

Hunter not only enjoys avionics from an engineering classroom, but also from the pilot’s position of a plane.

Jaime Svinth, Deputy Life Editor

This year, sophomore Meredith Hunter received the news that she would be selected to be a Brooke Owens Engineering fellow, a prestigious honor that comes with an internship at a top aviation engineering firm and mentorship experience for women and gender minorities. 

The Brooke Owens Fellowship was created in memory of pilot Dawn Brooke Owens and is meant to elevate the skills and leadership abilities of selected participants. Being selected as a Brooke Owens fellow meant that Hunter was chosen as one of 50 out of 1,000 applicants to participate based on her talent, experience, commitment to service, and creativity. For Hunter, it was a puzzle piece in her lifelong dream of becoming an engineer.

“I knew I wanted to be an engineer since I was six,” Hunter said. “There was a letter that I wrote to my future self from when I was in kindergarten that said ‘I hope you become an engineer.’”

Growing up, Hunter fell in love with the idea that the products she could design would be used by real people in the real world. She intently watched her father in his work as a mechanical engineer and had even witnessed the ins and outs of her family’s irrigation company. She reflects that one of the most special things is getting to see sprinklers that her family’s company designed on campus. 

“That’s one of the reasons I want to be an engineer because I want to build something and see it in the world and people using it,” Hunter said. “I know the hard work that’s being put in and to be on that side of it so that’s why I want to be an engineer. “

At Vanderbilt, Hunter hit the ground running by pursuing her mechanical engineering passions. She currently serves as the treasurer for the Society for Engineers, was a member of the Vanderbilt Motorsports club and participates in research on irrigation effects of integrated circuits. During her summers, she has interned for Sandel Avionics as a Software Engineering Intern and as a Tool Room Intern for Hunter Industries. 

While her background mainly focused on avionics, she was unsure about her interest in the aerospace industry, which is the primary industry in which Brooke Owens seeks to provide opportunities. But, after encouragement from her Vanderbilt Career Coach Paresh Patel, friends and family, she decided to submit her application for the fellowship. 

“I submitted my application not knowing if I’d get it. I heard back maybe a month later and I had gotten past that round,” Hunter said. “I was most excited for that news because it was the biggest cuts. I called everyone I could think of when I got past the first round. I was just giddy.”

During the second round of interviews, she spoke to a Brooke Owens representative about her internship goals and interests followed by interviews with select companies that could be potential matches. After interviewing with two firms, she matched with Boeing, where she’ll be working as a Research and Development Intern this upcoming summer. 

“I think it will be good for me to learn hands-on skills that will help me understand what the industry is, because I’ll get to do so many different things for Boeing,” Hunter said. “It will help me narrow down what I want to do going forward, or if I like R&D and stuff like that.”

For Hunter, the mentorship and support network that the Brooke Owens fellowship provides is equally as important as the internship at Boeing that it has provided her. Along with a kick-off summit in Washington D.C., the fellowship gives each intern a Brooke Owens alumni mentor who has also experienced life in the engineering field. 

“I think there can be imposter syndrome in the aerospace industry so they do a lot for that because they connect you to mentors and help you see that there is a path for you and that there is a place for you,” Hunter said. “Building community and having mentors is really important for that. Just getting the Brooke Owens fellowship has boosted my self-confidence a lot about being a woman in this industry.”

Hunter has always been passionate about supporting and empowering women in the engineering space. As her capstone Girl Scout project, she even created a documentary called “Pink Collar Project: Women in Computer Science” about the history of women in computer science. Brooke Owens’ mission to provide valuable experiences for women in the aerospace industry resonates with some of the same sentiments that inspired her project. 

“Encouraging women in places where they’re not as represented is an important issue for me,” Hunter said. “I’m excited for Brooke Owens because it’s continuing that passion.”