Virgin Galactic expands leadership program for Black students

Virgin Galactic's spaceshiptwo's view from space
Image from Virgin Galactic
Headshot of Greg Rose
by Greg Rose
18 June 2020

Virgin Galactic has announced a new Galactic Unite scholarship, mentoring and fellowship program for Black STEM students with a focus on aerospace. To kick start the program, Virgin Galactic is committing $100,000, which will be added to by further donations and support.

The program is a collective effort between Virgin Galactic, Virgin Orbit, Virgin Hyperloop, The Spaceship Company and the Virgin Galactic Future Astronaut community. It builds on the success of previous and current Galactic Unite scholarship programs and initiatives that have focused on opening career opportunities within the industry to scholars.

Launching in the 2020-2021 school year, the new program is designed to support the next generation of Black leaders, who will power the rapidly-developing aerospace industry and help solve the global challenges in years to come. As a part of this program, selected students will receive scholarship support, mentoring, summer fellowships, and  job opportunities upon graduation. The aspiration is to support Black scholars through the academic pipeline to a successful early career placement opportunity.

George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, said: “I’m incredibly proud of our entire team involved in conceiving this remarkable program.  At Virgin Galactic, part of our mission is to inspire the next generation of engineers, pilots and rocket scientists to pursue careers in the space industry, and we are pleased to see that so many future experts have benefited from our existing Galactic Unite programs.  Through our Galactic Unite initiative, we’ve continued to award scholarships to students throughout the pandemic, and expanding our work to support more Black American STEM scholars is a testament to our team’s ambition to make space truly accessible for all.”

Galactic Unite is Virgin Galactic’s long-standing outreach initiative that is a collaboration between company employees, the Virgin Galactic Future Astronaut community, and Virgin Unite foundation. In 2012, Galactic Unite launched its first program, a perpetual scholarship created in partnership with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), the nation’s largest minority education organisation, to support women pursuing STEM careers.

This was followed by a second program launched in South Africa, designed to support historically disadvantaged Black South African students. This program funded scholars for a three-year term, each receiving the largest annual awards in our scholarship program. The first recipient Rofhiwa Josephine Mukhondo said: “This scholarship gave me the chance to experience a fantastic academic environment and a chance to explore unique new opportunities. I still get goose bumps when I think of how big and great this scholarship program is, and then I have to pinch myself to make sure this is real!”

Thanks to the generous donations of Virgin Galactic Future Astronauts, Galactic scholarship programs have already awarded over $1 million to 90 students all over the world. Presently, half of the scholarship recipients are women, and currently 43% of all recipients represent ethnic minorities, including Black, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian and Pacific Islander. Galactic Unite scholarship recipients are employed across our Virgin space companies, and give back to the program through support and mentorship to STEM students.

The Galactic Unite outreach initiative  is designed to invest in and support future generations, who will power the rapidly developing aerospace industry and solve global challenges in years to come. If you are interested in learning more about the program plans, or becoming a partner to the effort, please contact