If you went back in time a few years and peeked in on Magens Orman (B.S. aerospace systems design '14) growing up in Denver, you’d see a little girl mesmerized in front of the TV. On the screen one of three shows would’ve been flickering: “Star Trek,” “The X Files” or “Stargate.”
“I always liked space, anything space related kind of called out to me,” Orman says. “I grew up on those shows — they all featured women in strong science roles. I think that had a big influence on my personality and the way I looked at life.”
But actually choosing a career based on the shows wasn’t immediate. No, her first love was art — that was her major when she enrolled at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
Then one semester she was searching for an elective to take and ran across Introduction to Space.
“To say that I had any scientific aptitude at that point in my life would be a stark exaggeration. I hadn’t taken a math class in four years and I had zero science experience outside of high school. All the same, I gave it a try.”
And what she found when she did try was this: “Once I knew what I wanted to do, the difficulty of the classes required didn’t matter anymore. All of a sudden I understood why the math was important and I understood how it related to me. That was half the battle. After that, it was just a matter of patience and persistence.”
One of her assignments could’ve come straight from one of her favorite TV shows: build a balloon that would float 100,000 feet high to the edge of space and record data.
“In the end, that thing made from foam core board and hot glue and tin foil went to the edge of space and came back with data and photos – much to my shock, it worked.”
And when she perused the pictures and saw the curvature of the blue earth perched amid the blackness of space, she was hooked.
“That was a moment of clarity. It felt like the whole universe pulled back and yelled ‘Why aren’t you doing this with your life?’ It was wildly profound to me that this thing I built from crafting supplies could go to space and function and return. That’s not the kind of thing a person can just ignore.”
Indeed, she didn’t ignore it. Quite the opposite. She embraced it.
“The moment reminded me who I am.”
Who she is today is someone extraordinarily fulfilled. She works as an engineering technician who builds spaceflight products — everything from tiny parts up to full-sized satellites at Sierra Nevada Corporation in Louisville, Colorado.
She says she’s come to realize that space and art aren’t that separate. “There’s a lot of art in building spacecraft. I like to tell everyone that I make hand-crafted satellites. But in all seriousness, I use art as much, if not more, than I use my technical degree.”
Orman is also quick to praise the school that issued that degree. “I have to give MSU Denver credit; it believes in people, sometimes more than people believe in themselves. I made my life there, I met my friends, my mentors and the people I consider my family. I shudder to think where I might be if not for MSU Denver, I know it wouldn’t be here.”
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