Alumni Blog

WMU Aviation Management and Operations Alumnus Will Walles

From Geology to Aviation Business – William Walles Crafts a Career with United Airlines

Posted by Tom Thinnes on

William Walles, a 2019 alumnus of the College of Aviation, is living proof that switching majors is not a step that could be in the wrong direction for a student. He came to the Western Michigan campus in Kalamazoo as a geology major until frank chats with peers enrolled in the university's aviation program gave him a different perspective about a career path. The Texas native has quickly learned that young folks bitten by the travel bug could do worse in making a career choice than taking a look at what the aviation industry has to offer. 

WMU Aviation Alumni Hunter Hayes, Scott Warner, and Kasmin Katz

Budding with Broncos – FreeFlight Systems Flourishes with WMU Aviation and Business Grads

Posted by Tom Thinnes on

FreeFlight Systems' headquarters near Dallas is not -- not -- the home of the WMU Alumni Club of Texas.  It just seems that way.  The innovative aviation enterprise, which is still not a quarter of a century old, signs the paychecks of at least three brown-and-gold-wearing Broncos: Scott Warner, Hunter Hayes and Kasmin Katz. 

WMU Aviation Management and Operations Alumnus Matt Bila

From Behind the Scenes at Disney to the Front Lines of Corporate Aviation - Matt Bila is No Stranger to the Wild World of Aviation Management

Posted by Tom Thinnes on

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. 

2023 Aviation Recognition Award Winners

2023 Aviation Recognition Awards Recap - the Power of Three

Posted by Tom Thinnes on

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.

WMU Aviation Flight Science Alumna Rebekah Hainline

It’s the Mainline for Hainline – Rebekah Pursues the Path with Allegiant Air

Posted by Tom Thinnes on

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. 

WMU Aviation Flight Science Alumni Aaron Jones

Rising from Republic Airways and Soaring with Spirit Airlines: Aaron Jones Climbs Higher

Posted by Tom Thinnes on

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.


Two photos side by side of Arvin Sierra and a group of his colleagues.

Cruising with Kalitta Air – Arvin Sierra Climbs High within the Aviation Management World

Posted by Tom Thinnes on

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. 

WMU Aviation Technical Operations Alumni Kevin Stolarski

Keeping Up with Kevin: Stolarski’s Rise to the Main Line World of Aviation Technical Operations

Posted by Tom Thinnes on

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. 

WMU Aviation Flight Science Alumni Garrett Williams

Geared Up and Getting it Done: Garrett Williams Climbs into His First Aviation Job – Flight Instructing at WMU

Posted by Tom Thinnes on

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."