A Graduate Fellowship through GW’s Space Policy Institute Propelled Alumna into Rewarding Career

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we caught up with Laura Delgado Lopez, MA ’11, a senior policy analyst at NASA.

September 6, 2023

Laura Delgado Lopez headshot

GW: Tell us about what you are doing now and why it matters to you?

LDL: I was just awarded an International Affairs Fellowship by the Council on Foreign Relations and will be on sabbatical from NASA starting in September. I will spend the next year as a visiting fellow conducting research on Latin American space partnerships at the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Americas Program. This is an issue area I started studying when I was at the Elliott School. With the support of the faculty, I turned my capstone paper, which focused on Sino-Latin American space cooperation, into a peer-reviewed paper which was published in the journal Space Policy. The work experience I have gained in the 10 years since this was published has not only convinced me of the timeliness of revisiting and expanding this work but also prepared me to do this in a meaningful way.

GW: What drew you to the Elliott School for your graduate studies?

LDL: Washington, DC is where I discovered space policy. After an undergraduate internship on the Hill and the conversations that followed from networking events and panels, folks kept pointing me to the Space Policy Institute at the Elliott School. I had applied to several (too many!) graduate programs as I figured out my next steps, but kept coming back to Elliott School both for the global reputation of the program and my connection to the city. The news I had been awarded an SPI Northrop Grumman Fellowship to help pay for my graduate studies made it possible for me to attend GW, so the final decision was an easy one.

GW: How did the Elliott School influence your professional choices and successes?

LDL: The two years I spent at the Elliott School were instrumental for me to get caught up on the major issues in space policy, while learning the tools to put these in the context of broader international science and technology policy dynamics and developments. Thanks to the fellowship, I was fortunate that I could focus on my academic work full time, and could start to build my expertise and name in the community by, for instance, turning school assignments into conference papers. The choices I made following graduate school were very much influenced by not only this early work but also, and predominantly, the people I met through the program. The faculty, the guest lecturers, and even my classmates all gave me insights into career paths across the space community. They – now colleagues and friends – still serve as incredibly helpful sounding boards as I consider professional opportunities.

GW: What would you say to current GW and Elliott School students who want to make a positive difference in the world?

LDL: Take every opportunity you can to learn – that extra class, that paper or book that someone recommends, that special project. Enjoy the opportunity to delve deeply into the issues you care about while you are in school. You have a degree of freedom to ask questions and have candid conversations as part of your learning that can dramatically shape what you do next. From my own experience and observing that of my peers, I know that what comes next in your professional career can be life-changing, but it's hard to predict, so be present in your learning – don’t just think about getting through the test or next assignment. Also, you may be surprised by how much impact you can have, in your discipline and in your community, so taking advantage of opportunities – and affording the same to others whenever possible – can make a difference.