As a sailor, Zach Orfin mastered his way through and on top of the water. As a College of Aviation student, he's soared amidst the clouds far above the solid ground. There appears to be a third medium in his future -- space, the Final Frontier, in the words of Capt. James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise.
"Western was in that perfect spot for me," he says. "It's just far enough where I could get the experience of going away for school, while still being close enough to easily go home if I needed to. Plus, when I went on a tour of WMU, I fell in love with the campus in Kalamazoo and with the aviation facilities in Battle Creek. That pretty much made my decision."
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times -- and WMU College of Aviation alumna Heather Cooper has experienced her industry's "worst" twice. Now a United Airlines captain piloting the largest of aircraft, she survived the panic after "9-11" and, like the rest of the world, is pondering the future of the planet amid the personal, cultural and financial ravages of Covid 19.
There are some amazing aviation genes in the genealogy of Alysse Matteson, a third-year student in the Western Michigan University College of Aviation.
- Grandfather Richard Matteson was a radio operator aboard a B-17, the four-engine Flying Fortress that pounded the heck out of German military and industrial targets during World War II.
- Grandmother Geraldine Matteson was a secretary for William T. Piper -- yes, that Piper.
- Dad Dave Matteson served as an air-traffic controller in the U. S. Army.
- A cousin, Scott Maisch, performs similar duties to keep the skies over Chicago safe.
It's one thing to choose to attend Western Michigan University if you hail from Saginaw, Ypsilanti, Ishpeming or some other home-state community. It's another to make a cross-country leap, say from Carlsbad, Calif. Meet Ryan Sewell, a WMU College of Aviation graduate who is not only now a SkyWest Airlines flight officer based at Detroit Metro Airport but also a dead ringer for David Grohl, a Nirvana alumnus and founder of the Foo Fighters.
If anybody can be defined as a legacy enrollee in the WMU aviation program, it's Michael Coldagelli. His grandfather, Paul Harding, is a member of the Western class of 1954. After his military service, Harding ended up as the executive vice president of marketing for -- where else -- Western Airlines, which, with its hub in Salt Lake City, functioned from 1925 to 1987 before it merged with Delta Air Lines. Originally from New Berlin, Wis., Coldagelli is double majoring in aviation flight science and aviation management and operations.
Dr. Gail Rouscher has been at the College of Aviation since 2008 instructing such courses as introduction to airframes and systems, maintenance practices, aircraft structures, advanced structures and materials, and aircraft systems for pilots. Not only does she bring academic credentials to her classes, but also the professional and practical aspects of what she teaches. Raised in Macomb County's Clinton Township, a northern suburb of metropolitan Detroit, Rouscher needs a large wall in her home to showcase the four diplomas she has earned -- an associate's in applied science (production technology) from Kellogg Community College (2004), a bachelor's in management and organizational development from Spring Arbor University (2007), a master's from Spring Arbor (2009) in organizational management, and her doctorate in educational leadership in higher education from Western Michigan in 2018.
The Facebook folks, who have garnered their share of the wrong kind of publicity in recent years, should connect with the family of Amanda Charlton for a testimonial about the tech giant's true mission -- the sharing of good and valued information. That's the reason Charlton, raised in Spring Branch, Texas, which is part of metropolitan San Antonio, ended up pursuing higher education way up north in a place called Kalamazoo, Mich.
"I was lucky to get a job with NGA as an aeronautical analyst shortly after graduation," Karen says. "Like most people, I had never heard of NGA until I attended the Women in Aviation International's annual conference in 2012 in Dallas. I handed over my resume, had an interview during the conference, and started work a few months later." The NGA employs 14,500 people at more than 120 locations in the United States and around the world. Kropornicki, a 2011 graduate of the WMU College of Aviation with degrees in aviation flight science and aviation management and operations (with a business minor), is based in the fabled English city of London.