Alumni Blog

WMU Aviation Flight Science Alumni Thomas VanHowe

VanHowe You Get Things Done! Lessons Learned and Applied by Thomas VanHowe

Posted by Tom Thinnes on

When things don't go well, Thomas VanHowe is a testimony to the song lyrics "Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again." VanHowe, raised in Eminem's home territory of Macomb Township northwest of Detroit, learned those lessons rather well if his resume is any indication. After his WMU graduation with a degree in aviation flight science in 2015, VanHowe stayed in the air as a flight instructor at the Oakland County International Airport, eventually landing at SkyWest Airlines.

Magnificently Managing an Airport: Sarah Pagano’s Aviation Management and Operations Success

Posted by Tom Thinnes on

Sarah Pagano kind of grew up near the airport that serves her home community of Midland, Mich., and today she is its "Top Gun" as manager.  But she took a maverick-like path to get there -- an initial dive into a career in health care, a maneuver that made her a later-in-life nontraditional student, and a safe landing on her goal via an innovative knowledge-delivery system.

WMU Aviation Flight Science Alumni Alex Toger

Take Offs and Touchdowns with Alex Toger – Flying High as a College of Aviation Alumni and Current Endeavor Air Pilot

Posted by Tom Thinnes on

Alex Toger is the epitome of "Once a WMU College of Aviation ambassador, always one," even though the higher-education chapter of his life is years in the rear-view mirror.  Being one of the program's "welcomers" and "introducers," the December 2017 recipient of a degree in aviation flight science says the ambassadorial experience taught him "how to deal with and answer questions that might not always have the desired response while giving tours and sit-downs."

WMU Aviation Flight Science Alumni Chris Desmond in Alaska

From Sun ‘n Fun to Air in Alaska – Chris Desmond’s Aviation Aspirations Continue to Soar

Posted by Tom Thinnes on

Raised in Winter Haven, Fla., and learning all things aviation in nearby Lakeland, Chris Desmond never liked the cold. So naturally he would head north to Western Michigan University to pursue his degree and advanced training in aviation. And, of course, go even farther north to Alaska to begin his career. Five years later, he's still there and plans to stay. It's not that Desmond, a 2015 graduate of Winter Haven High School, missed the climate aspects of any geography class he ever took. Alaska's rugged, magnificent beauty and unmatched environment have warmed his psyche and tempered his body's response to chilly temperatures. For a pilot, there is a lot of unique and sensational flying up there. So, in effect, what cold?

WMU Aviation Technical Operations Alumni Christopher Myrick

Maintaining Aviation Excellence – Christopher Myrick Purposely Picks A Career in Aviation Technical Operations

Posted by Tom Thinnes on
Christopher Myrick can offer salient advice to young folks who bury their faces in a video game or cell phone when on a family vacation by car. They might be missing some valued and career-shaping experiences. Just ask the 2014 graduate of Lincoln High School in Ypsilanti, Mich. "Growing up," Myrick says, "I would constantly be driven past the Detroit metro airport to see my grandmother in Detroit. I remember always looking up and seeing the planes fly over (interstate highway) I-94 to land. They were so big and it always fascinated me."
WMU Aviation Management and Operations Alumni Philip Kroll

Aviation Management leads to Philip Kroll’s One Constant – Change is Part of the Journey

Posted by Tom Thinnes on

Philip Kroll's life experiences fly in the face of author Thomas Wolfe's premise in his novel "You Can't Go Home Again." Not so for Kroll, a 2010 graduate of the WMU College of Aviation with a degree in aviation management and operations.  He has -- in effect -- come "home" as the assistant director of the Battle Creek Executive Airport at Kellogg Field, which is also the home base of the College of Aviation.  And he returned to his career's genesis with some impressive credentials. 

Love Aviation Style: Katie Vena and Aaron Mohnke Take Off and Tie the Knot!

Posted by Tom Thinnes on

Pilot-spouses Katie and Aaron Mohnke (pronounced Monk) might assess their aviation careers so far as being "the best of times and the worst of times" -- with a majority emphasis on the former.  Since their graduation from the WMU College of Aviation with degrees in aviation flight science in 2016 and 2015, respectively, there has been a period or two when they wore the same airline uniform; but other times -- including right now -- they have been flying for different enterprises. 

WMU Aviation Management and Operations Alumni Mitchell Carr

Aviation Management and Operations Alumnus Mitchell Carr Cruising in His Career

Posted by Tom Thinnes on

Even when facing discouraging times, advises Mitchell Carr, who earned his degree in aviation management and operations in the spring of 2020, and when wondering whether "it was worth it," that is all part of the process and that "your time is coming."  Carr says he tells prospective aviators to "just believe in yourself and that light at the end of the tunnel will shine when the time is right.  Just keep going."  Carr believes words from renowned Virginia preacher Bishop T. D. Jakes backs him up:  "One of the tests of greatness is your ability to survive frustration." 

WMU Aviation Flight Science Alumni Joel Webley and Family

Joel Webley’s Words of Aviation Wisdom

Posted by Tom Thinnes on

"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."

WMU Aviation Flight Science Alumni Griffin Norton

Aviate’s Path Leads Griffin to Air Wisconsin- He Gets it Done!

Posted by Tom Thinnes on

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. 

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