Many a Bronco aviator, with WMU diploma still fresh in hand, takes the career path to Apogee Air based at Oakland International Airport near Detroit. Two of the latest to trade in their Brown and Gold for Apogee colors are Austin Harper and Pascal Paffhausen.
Matt Bila knows a "Mickey Mouse operation" when he sees one because he's been part of one, and there is nothing goofy about how it functions effectively. Blending a stint at the Walt Disney Co. with what he learned as a student ambassador for the WMU College of Aviation, Bila says, prepped him perfectly for his career in the industry he loves.
Recognizing the 2023 Excellence in Diversity Award recipient, Lornna Ruble, and the newest members of the College of Aviation Hall of Honor: Ingrid Hairston and the 1998 National Championship Sky Bronco Team.
Rebekah Hainline believes in not only paying it forward but also paying it backward. The Battle Creek native has parlayed a two-year stint as a certified flight instructor (CFI) for the WMU College of Aviation into her selection as a first officer for Allegiant Air through its career-pathway Accelerate program. Not bad for a person whose family had no links to the aviation industry other than regular attendance at Field of Flight air shows that have entertained her Southwest Michigan home community for decades. Plus, her travels through higher education in pursuit of a degree in aviation flight science awarded in the summer of 2021 encountered as much turbulence as it did smooth sailing.
If change is good for the soul, these are the best of times for Aaron Jones. The spring 2010 graduate of the College of Aviation recently swapped captain's uniforms, ending a nearly 10-year stint with Republic Airways and changing into the colors of Spirit Airlines. "Growing up, I always had an interest in anything that moved," he says. "Trains, planes, cars, boats." Trips to the airport to begin a vacation were just as exciting as the destination. While the rest of the family watched a brother play T-ball, Jones preferred to check out the planes overhead.
Most College of Aviation alumni praise the roles that instructors played in guiding them to successful careers, but Arvin Sierra cites a different species of advisor among his hierarchy of heroes. On the payroll of Kalitta Air since his 2019 graduation from WMU with a degree in aviation management and operations, Sierra lists as his special person Sharon Van Dyken, the college's director of academic advising. "She helped me plan throughout my years at WMU," Sierra says. "Even when I was in a low time during my academic years and other advisers seemed to doubt my ability to succeed, she never gave up on me. I never wanted to let her down. She always believed I could complete a semester with full credit hours." Sierra now wants to pay forward that kind of confidence in those who choose to follow his career path.
Kevin Stolarski is now in "The Major Leagues" as an aviation technician for United Airlines, but like any good baseball player, he expanded his skills and knowledge during stints in "the minors." A December 2017 graduate of the WMU College of Aviation with a degree in aviation maintenance technology, Stolarski jumped right into the workforce after earning his A&P (Airframe and Powerplant) certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration, joining the SkyWest Airlines team at Chicago's O'Hare International airport -- one of the regional operation's 11 hubs in North America.
Garrett Williams is at the point in his aviation pathway where hundreds of WMU College of Aviation alumni launched their professional careers. Williams, a 2022 graduate with a degree in aviation flight science, has recently joined the college's squadron of certified flight instructors, admitting that he doesn't have "any experience teaching, yet I have only been a flight instructor for 8 months, I am looking forward to continue teaching."
Almost a quarter of a century after leaving Western Michigan University as a Lee Honors College graduate with a degree in aviation flight science, Eric Johnson is still in a learning model. Like almost every newly minted college alumnus with the ink still wet on his diploma, Johnson figured either he knew it all, or at least he was close.
While working her way through the WMU College of Aviation, Ashley Lucas admits that she had almost no time for the extra-curriculars that would have helped launch her career with the thrust of a turbo jet. Now Operations Manager for the Gerald Ford International Airport Authority in Grand Rapids, the spring of 2011 alumna of the WMU program has been making up for her lost opportunity by providing it to those who are following in her career path.