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.
Aviation came into Hayes' direct focus as a junior in high school in the fall of 2015 when he enrolled in the aviation-exploration course offered by the Calhoun County Career Center's Battle Creek campus. The seed had earlier been planted that spring. "I took a tour of the technical-based school," he says. "I was excited about all of the components that the aviation course -- the aviation industry for that matter -- had to offer."
For a young man who hails from Marine City, Mich., and intends to join a branch of the military, it seems there would be only one logical choice. Not for Patrick Senger, a fifth-year major in aviation technical operations in the WMU College of Aviation. Instead of humming the notes that accompany "From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli," he'll be doing the same for "Off we go, into the wild blue yonder."
Bielat says that, as his years at Portage Central High School were coming to an end in the spring of 2016, Western was the only college to which he applied and the primary reason for that is its College of Aviation, which is close to his Kalamazoo-area home. "It's one of the top flight schools in the country and it all sounded like the perfect opportunity."
Fraternities and sororities often feature "legacy" pledges -- meaning if Dad was a Sigma Sigma or Mom was a Nu Nu, so is an offspring almost automatically. While it was never "automatic," Brooke Semler puts the concept of legacy membership to shame. The College of Aviation junior is a fourth-generation Western Michigan University Bronco. Her parents hang Western diplomas on their wall. So do a set of grandparents. And even "Great Grandma."