Bernadette Maisel is a native of Santiago, Chile, but grew up with her adoptive family on Long Island.

Her parents lived in Colorado Springs before Maisel was born 34 years ago, and the onetime New Yorker had the opportunity to visit the Rocky Mountains with them before deciding she wanted to attend college at UCCS.

“It was the best decision I ever made. I met my husband in college,” she said. “I have not looked back since. I love it here.”

Maisel went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in English and never thought 10 years later she would be director of program initiatives for the Space Foundation.

“I started here as a temp,” she said. “I really didn’t know what my niche was when I graduated. I didn’t want to be a teacher. I tried a few things like sales in telecommunications, but I was too nice for sales. I would walk in, they’d say, ‘No,’ and I’d say, ‘Thanks, have a great day!’”

Maisel began at the foundation on a three-month assignment and worked under former foundation president, Chuck Zimkas.

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“He took me under his wing and I’ve grown up through the ranks,” she said.

Maisel started in customer service doing basic administrative work, to include processing registrations for the foundation’s annual symposium.

She moved on from her temp role and was promoted to associate, then manager and finally director of her department before she switched fields entirely in July.

Maisel now works in strategic and international affairs and helps develop programming for the symposium. She also runs the foundation’s New Generation Space Leaders program for those 35 years old or younger who work in the aerospace industry.

“She creates unique and strong connections with customers and colleagues,” said nominator Kelly Shelton. “The impression she makes with her dedication and professionalism makes such an impact that the [lieutenant colonel at the] 22nd Space Operations Squadron, Terrill McCall, selected her in 2015 to serve as an honorary commander. In this role, she has increased public awareness and understanding of Schriever Air Force Base, its missions, people and programs.”

Maisel said even though she’s young, she sees herself as a mentor for younger professionals.

“I was really lucky to have mentors throughout my career and I think that’s extremely important,” she said. “I think that’s the way I was able to leverage where I am now is recognizing the importance of somebody believing in you — having somebody that wants you to do good and succeed and embracing that.”

Maisel said being recognized as a Rising Star validates she is “in the right place and doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”

— Bryan Grossman

What advice would you give your younger self?

Seize every opportunity in front of you because you never know what will be on the other side of the door. And handwritten thank-you notes go a long way!