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Recognizing 100 CEOs & C-level Executives

Shelli Brunswick

Chief Operating Officer

Space Foundation

Location: Colorado Springs, CO

Founded: 1983

Industry: Space Foundation

Shelli Brunswick’s decorated career started when she entered the U.S. Air Force as a high school graduate and continued during 29 years as a space acquisition and program management leader and congressional liaison. Now she continues to build on that success in her leadership role at the Space Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 1983. The organization offers a gateway to education, information and collaboration for space exploration and space-inspired industries.

After serving 12 years as an enlisted airman, Brunswick was promoted to space program management officer, which allowed her to learn about the potential of space technology and the promise it held for the future. She pursued her MBA at the University of Phoenix by attending night classes and became a professor of space acquisition management for the Defense Acquisition University, a U.S. Air Force policy expert and, eventually, congressional liaison to the U.S. House of Representatives.

After decades in those rewarding roles, Brunswick joined the Space Foundation in 2015 as the chief operating officer. She leads Space Foundation’s collaborations with commercial, government and educational organizations to increase opportunity and access to the space industry for all people. She is a sought-after global speaker and panel moderator and gives interviews at more than 100 venues each year to advance space technology innovations for the future of humanity and the planet.

Brunswick prioritizes inclusion of underserved groups, a belief that stems from the values instilled in her while she was in the military. She has a passion for serving beyond herself by sharing her journey, giving back to the space community and contributing to the development of the next-generation workforce.

“Successful leaders today must have the ability to inspire, be authentic and express gratitude,” Brunswick said. “These attributes are essential to creating a culture of innovation, engagement and collaboration, which are necessary for companies to thrive in the rapidly changing world we live in today. By embracing these attributes, leaders can foster an environment where employees are empowered to succeed and where the company can achieve its goals and objectives.”

Brunswick has participated in the following organizations: America’s Future Series; Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce & EDC; Global Policy, Diplomacy and Sustainability; Lifeboat Foundation; Manufacturer’s Edge; New York University School for Professional Services; Space Tourism Society Africa; United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs; Women’s Global Gathering at Space Symposium; and Women in Aerospace Foundation.

“Shelli is deeply committed to advocating for lifelong learning for all people, and that applies to her own life as well,” her team said.

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My most exciting story would have to be my experience giving the commencement speech at my alma mater, Colorado State University-Pueblo. As I stood at the podium, gazing out at the gathering of bright minds and eager spirits, I was completely overcome by nostalgia, deja vu, and thankfulness. The whole experience is tied to my growing love for mentorship. As I’ve progressed throughout my career, my priorities have shifted to a focus on others and a deep desire to guide them into the kind of success that has brought me joy throughout my career. Simply put: Young minds are the future, and that’s a future worth feeding.


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