Excellence in academia and research arise from a collaboration between outstanding students and faculty in an environment that fosters opportunities to explore interests, gain understanding, and contribute to solutions of important research questions.

In CU Boulder's Ann & H.J. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences, The Smead Program provides excellence in research, academic programming, and personal and professional enrichment for the brightest minds pursuing graduate- and faculty-level research in aerospace engineering.

The Smead Program incubates a well-rounded community for support and collaboration between the Smead Scholars (PhD Candidates), Smead Faculty Fellows, the A. Richard Seebass Chair, the Michael M. Byram Distinguished Visiting Professorship, and the Smead Space Technology Chair. The Smead Program also supports an annual Fall Dinner for Smead Program participants, and a spring Smead Symposium that takes place every year in Vail, Colorado. 

Smead Scholars

Only two of the department's incoming PhD candidates are hand-selected to be Smead Scholars each year. Smead Scholars are selected in part because of their demonstrated leadership and public service qualities, and are nationally-recognized for the excellence of their research and character.

The program makes the pursuit of graduate studies more financially feasible and intellectually captivating by providing incoming students with freedom to determine their preferred line of research through full tuition coverage and a monthly research stipend above the Graduate Research Assistant rate, plus additional annual stipends in years 2-4.

Scholars also receive:

  • Annual Travel Budget for conferences and other relevant scholastic travel:
    • This general travel fund allows Scholars to travel to conferences or workshops that they are presenting at or are of value to their research or studies. Smead Scholars use these funds to attend events large and small. Funds can also be used for professional development opportunities.
  • Access to Senior Leadership in the aerospace community across academia, government, and industry:
    • The Smead Program Director works with the Scholars to craft unique seminars and trainings on and off campus, focused on business and entrepreneurial acumen, communication and presentation skills, career path and well-being, and other areas requested by Scholars. This could mean going off for a private weekened retreat in the mountains with just your fellow Scholars, or receiving trainings from career development professionals from top aerospace companies. These activities occur throughout each academic year.
  • Dedicated Professional Development and Soft Skills Training:
    • Scholars have access to the combined network of the Smead Scholar alumni and Faculty Fellows, who truly span the globe. In addition, the Smead Program Director works with Scholars to set up meetings with visiting speakers and other department guests, and will help arrange meetings for Scholars when they travel.
  • Participation in the Annual Smead Symposium:
    • This two-day Symposium in the heart of the Rocky Mountains convenes the Smead Scholars, Scholar Alumni, Faculty Fellows, and other department faculty involved in The Smead Program with external speakers from academia, industry, and government for a series of research and professional development talks and panels. The Smead Family also joins in. Featured speakers have included astronauts, senior leaders of the Air Force’s hypersonics research program, and executives from companies including Sierra Nevada and Ball Aerospace. The Symposium also includes activies that are just for fun—in the past we’ve gone white water rafting, horseback riding, and ATV’ing. It’s a weekend to share, learn, and de-stress with colleagues.

Faculty Fellows

Up to two tenure-track aerospace department faculty are selected to be Smead Faculty Fellows. These Fellows are chosen for their outstanding research records and mentorship qualities, supporting both groundbreaking science and the Smead Scholars.

The Michael M. Byram Distinguished Visiting Professorship brings an internationally-renowned external researcher to CU Boulder for one to two semesters each year, further amplifying the research impact of our department.

The Smead Scholarship for Graduate Students was established in 2006 to honor the memory of Dr. Harold J. “Joe” Smead (learn more about Dr. Smead in the "About Joe & Ann Smead" link above). 

Original funding for the Smead Scholars Program was provided in 2006 by Joe’s widow, Ann, and Michael Byram, then president of the University of Colorado Foundation, in honor and respect for a man who achieved so much and yet was so modest about his accomplishments and generous philanthropy, including to this very department. To qualify and be selected as a Smead Scholar is a singular and distinguished honor in an individual’s academic career.