Four Eagles Named to National Fellowship Class, Bound for Industry Internships

Daytona Beach Campus students Benjamin Carter, Jesika Geliga-Torres and Nichole Fajardo
Daytona Beach Campus students Benjamin Carter, Jesika Geliga-Torres and Nichole Fajardo have been named Patti Grace Smith Fellows and will participate in paid internships with leading aerospace engineering companies. (Photo: Embry-Riddle/Connor McShane)

Four Aerospace Engineering students from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University have been selected to receive 2024 Patti Grace Smith Fellowships, guaranteeing them paid internships at leading institutions, professional mentorship and grants of $2,500 or more.

Of 29 total undergraduates selected for the Patti Grace Fellowship, four recipients study at Embry-Riddle, which tied the university with the University of Maryland and Georgia Institute of Technology for the most students selected for this distinction.

Prescott Campus Aerospace Engineering major Chanel Davis
Prescott Campus Aerospace Engineering major Chanel Davis has been named a 2024 Patti Grace Smith Fellow and will intern at BryceTech. (Photo: Embry-Riddle/Connor McShane)

Chanel Davis, Aerospace Engineering sophomore

Internship: BryceTech

Chanel Davis has always been fascinated by math, science and space exploration, but it wasn’t until watching the film “Hidden Figures” that Davis was inspired by the story of Katherine Johnson’s contributions to NASA.

“Her story resonated with me deeply,” Davis said. “It showed me the immense possibilities within the aerospace industry and inspired me to follow a similar path.”

Davis dreams of becoming either a flight test engineer or a research and development engineer after graduation.

“These roles align perfectly with my passion for aerospace technology and innovation,” she said. “This will allow me to contribute directly to the advancement of aviation and space exploration.”

In addition to her studies, Davis is also a member of the Prescott Campus Rocket Development Lab, serves as a member-at-large for Delta Phi Epsilon, is vice president of the National Society of Black Engineers, participates in the Black Student Union and is a member of the Black Sheep Rugby team.

Jesika Geliga-Torres, Aerospace Engineering senior

Internship: Lockheed Martin

Jesika Geliga-Torres credits her success to the support and guidance she received from Embry-Riddle faculty and mentors.

“All the mentors and professors who have helped me along the way have been instrumental in shaping my academic and professional journey,” Geliga-Torres said. “I am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.”

As a native of Puerto Rico, Geliga-Torres strongly believes that her cultural heritage is integral to who she is.

“Growing up in Puerto Rico, I was always inspired by the possibility of exploring unknown worlds,” she said. “I was captivated by space exploration and aviation, so the idea of contributing to advancements in these fields has been a driving force behind my pursuit of Aerospace Engineering.”

Geliga-Torres is involved in undergraduate research at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus with the Space Trajectories and Applications Research (STAR) group, where she seeks to develop a comprehensive framework in augmented reality that simplifies astrodynamics concepts to make them accessible to wider audiences.

Benjamin Carter, Aerospace Engineering junior

Internship: Northrop Grumman

From the moment Benjamin Carter stepped onto the Daytona Beach Campus, he knew that Embry-Riddle was where he wanted to be.

“The campus is top-notch,” Carter said, citing Embry-Riddle’s state-of-the-art laboratories as his primary draw. “I felt ready to take on new challenges, which would make me into a great contender for the industry.”

For Carter, being named a Patti Grace Smith Fellow is an honor that has filled him with confidence as he looks to his future in engineering.

“I am on the right track,” Carter said. “This honor encourages me to believe that in spite of being an African American male, I will have a successful career in the aerospace industry. Having so many people of various races and backgrounds support and recognize this achievement encourages me to keep working hard.”

In addition to being an Aerospace Engineering major, Carter holds a private pilot license with an instrument rating and is currently working toward a commercial pilot license.

Nichole Fajardo, Aerospace Engineering sophomore

Internship: Redwire

For Nichole Fajardo, the Patti Grace Smith Fellowship will allow her to make a difference in a community that wants to change the aerospace industry from within.

“As a Latina and woman of color, I want to be able to exemplify that representation matters,” said Fajardo. “Supporting minorities in STEM is critical for future generations.”

Fajardo’s internship with Redwire will help prepare her for the industry and broaden her engineering capabilities.

“Redwire works with so many different sectors of the aerospace industry, so I am looking forward to this broad exposure,” she said. “I hope to focus on the coding and design aspects of different positions to enhance my skills as an engineer.”

Fajardo speaks three languages (Spanish, French and English) and is Colombian, with both of her parents originating from Cali, Colombia.

Diversity in Aerospace

Established in 2020, the Patti Grace Smith Fellowship was established to mitigate the effects of systemic discrimination in the recruitment, selection, training, promotion and recognition of Black students in the aerospace industry.

“We couldn’t be more excited to inaugurate this next class of bright, motivated, future leaders of aerospace,” said Tiffany Russell Lockett, co-founder of the fellowship, in a recent press release. “Selected students showed strong drive across multiple disciplines, academic rigor and a commitment to bettering their communities.”

Although Black people make up 13.6% of the U.S. population, they only comprise 5.27% of the aerospace engineering workforce — a disparity that the Patti Grace Smith Fellowship seeks to remedy.

“This fellowship validates my dedication and potential within the aerospace field,” said Davis. “It empowers me and reinforces my sense of belonging in pursuing my ambitions.”

For more on previous student accomplishments, visit Embry-Riddle’s Office of Prestigious Awards and Fellowships.

Posted In: Aviation | Engineering | Institutional News