Even though he started in the welding trade, Nate Lisak has forged himself a productive and rewarding career as a "Tech-Ops" instructor for the WMU (Western Michigan University) College of Aviation. Almost since he received his degree in aviation technology operations in the spring of 2017, Lisak has learned that it's easy to teach such courses as reciprocating aircraft systems and avionics because he's been a "Tech-Op' himself.
When it comes to the nuts and bolts of how the WMU College of Aviation works, the head wrench is Tracey Kauppila. She has been part of the Western Michigan University community since September of 1995 when she began a five-year stint in the institution's Department of Human Resources as a compensation coordinator. That lead to three years as an executive assistant in the Office of the Provost and Vice president for Academic Affairs. She's held the same position in the aviation program since 2004. Prior to Western, her resume includes positions in the University of Michigan's law library and in the Department of Anesthesiology at the University's medical center.
"My advice to students is to get engaged," he says. "Engagement means going beyond passive participation and, instead, make yourself actively present in ways that enhance your student experience. Join a student organization. Participate in special events and projects. The connections you'll make and the people you'll meet will be invaluable in giving you access to more opportunities. You'll find more enjoyment in your journey and have a deeper connection to the industry."
No matter what your passions or personal interests are, it can be valuable to step back -- or step away -- to gain some perspectives and a clearer view of future possibilities. Just ask Griffin Norton, a WMU (Western Michigan University) magna-cum-laude graduate in 2019 in aviation flight science and now a first officer for Air Wisconsin, one of United Airlines' premier regional air-carrier subsidiaries and Aviate partners.
Many are the reasons for why prospective students choose the Western Michigan University College of Aviation, and then double-down reflecting on the wisdom of that decision. Olivia Arnold, a sophomore who hails from the northwest Indiana, less-than-2,000-person hamlet of Wheatfield, possesses many of those reasons, plus this unique reaffirmation: her affinity for the wild blue yonder has been accentuated by greens -- golfing greens to be exact. Why is this so for the double major in aviation flight science and aviation management and operations? Click through for the story!
In the Tom Whittles clan, the aviation acorn does not fall too far from the tree. But it can still take flight. Now wearing the uniform of Delta Air Lines, Whittles is the third generation in his family to make beautiful machines overcome the laws of gravity. His grandfather was a member of "the Greatest Generation," serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Grandpa's son and Tom's dad -- Jim Whittles -- has been part of the WMU College of Aviation faculty for 20-plus years and is currently a lead flight instructor.
When Troy Kinnunen refers to the Western Michigan University College of Aviation as being like a big family, he knows what he is talking about. The senior from Michigan's Upper Peninsula has an immediate family numbering 17, which includes a twin sister, plus more than 60 nieces and nephews. Now that would make for an enormous dinner table for the Thanksgiving celebration. Also part of the make-up of Kinnunen, an aviation flight science major, is that he can claim membership in another big family -- the U. S. Marine Corps -- because once a Marine, always a Marine.
Even though Adaora Osolu's high school diploma was awarded way back in 2019, the junior in the WMU College of Aviation already fits the classic definition of "Renaissance Man" -- a multi-talented person who has wide interests. Except that she's a "Renaissance Woman."
Growing up in Calumet City, Ill., at the southwestern edge of Lake Michigan in what is referred to as "Chicagoland," Ed Florek was the youngster who took apart the mechanical alarm clock or the family's lawn mower to learn what made them tick. As a 2020 graduate of the WMU College of Aviation with a degree in aviation technical operations, Florek is one of the first WMU students to take advantage of the AAR Eagle Pathway Program.
Raised in a southwest suburb of Chicago as a childhood aviation junkie, there was a pretty good chance Luis Jaime would pursue an aviation career at a collegiate program based "just down the road" in Southwest Michigan. But what sealed the deal for Jaime was one of his two summer camp experiences at the Western Michigan University College of Aviation's location near Battle Creek.