About Alumni


Where are they now? A look at alumni


Danielle Rosales came to Embry-Riddle prepared to make her dreams come true – and she certainly did! Her current position with Space Tango, a micro gravity research and manufacturing company, allows her to share her passion for space as a Marketing and Sales Associate.

Left to right: Space Tango TangoLab Payload Manager, Gentry Barnett, NASA Astronaut Charlie Carmada (STS-114), Danielle, ERAU Alumna and Higher Orbits CEO Michelle Lucas

We recently asked Danielle to share her experiences at Embry-Riddle, as well as advice for prospective students. Here’s what she had to say:

  1. When and how did you find yourself interested in space? It all began with a visit to the NASA Goddard Visitor Center. My mom, born and raised in the Caribbean, thought it would be a great trip for my brothers and me, as well as herself. She personally grew up without access to anything space-related. Now living 10 minutes away from this center, Mom wanted to take advantage of every museum within our reach. I think I was maybe 6 or 7 at the time, but from the moment I walked into the center and through the Rocket Garden, I was absolutely amazed. It was then that I learned that the sky is not the limit. I’ve been in love with space since then.
  2. How did you land your job at Space Tango? The Communication and Humanities Department hosted an alumni panel for current students to learn about the flexibility of a Communication degree. I made it a mission to personally connect with panel participant Michelle Lucas, founder and President of Higher Orbits. After a few emails, she offered me a position on her advisory board. It was from there that we kept in contact. A little less than a year later, Michelle informed my advisor, Professor Masters of an internship opportunity in Lexington, Kentucky with a “little start-up.” Finding communication internship opportunities in aerospace was a challenge, so I didn’t hesitate to accept it. 
  3. What about Space Tango made the job a good fit for you? Space Tango is a ‘good’ fit because I get to work in the space industry, but it’s also a perfect fit because of its mission. Space Tango aims to utilize space for applications here on Earth. All of the work they do, that I do, is focused on using space research to propel us forward while improving life on Earth.
  4. Why did you choose to attend ERAU? I was living in Japan at the time and didn’t have the opportunity to tour colleges like most students so I relied completely on reviews and the website. Embry-Riddle’s alumni base is what really sealed the deal for me.
  5. Favorite campus memory? My favorite memories are with my CSA (Caribbean Students’ Association) family. I served as the president for a year, but beyond the leadership opportunity, I connected with people that believed in one another and our dreams.
  6. People on campus who supported you? Connections with alumni? Bear with me here because it’s going to feel like a shout-out, but it’s well deserved. I worked for the Dean of Students and I’m still in touch with them. Dean Kollar, Dean Hall, Dean Maddox, Dean Bell, Ms. Kristy, and Ms. Susan –  yes all of them –  kept me on top of my game at Embry-Riddle. They encouraged me to embrace challenges and to find a reason to smile even during the hardest of times. Numerous professors from the Communication Department truly shaped me into the confident young woman that I am today. They were not only welcoming, but they were direct. They offered guidance and firm criticism that allowed me to advance my skills beyond the coursework. I also have to recognize Dr. Nancy Lawrence and Mr. Hunt, Director of Diversity and Inclusion. The two of them are always the first ones to give back to the community; a trait I’m happy to say I’ve adopted myself. 
  7. Cool things you did at ERAU that probably wouldn’t have at other schools? I don’t know what other schools have had NASA’s SOFIA visit their campus but I know that if I didn’t go to Embry-Riddle I may never have seen it for myself!
  8. Advice to current or prospective ERAU students? Don’t be afraid of new interests and opportunities that may come your way, and for the ones you do embrace – give them your all! You never know where it’s going to take you. Whether it’s a class project that turns into research that you can present at a conference or leading a student organization that encourages you to start a non-profit, you will only grow based on the experiences you get lost in.
Students, Faculty and Staff, take a tour of the modified 747 SOFIA – Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, at Daytona International Speedway, October 4, 2017. (Embry-Riddle/David Massey)

And she’s only just begun! Danielle earned a master’s degree this spring and is continuing to follow her own advice: Have fun! Be safe! Learn something!

Because They Care: Alumni Causes

The students, faculty and alumni of ERAU share a passion for everything aviation, aerospace and STEM. Some have turned their passion to support of worthwhile causes. Whether in an effort to engage more females in fields that are traditionally male-dominated, to encourage all young people who share this passion to prepare for success, or raising money to help support education, our alumni are working hard to improve the industry and the world.

Michelle Lucas attended the Daytona Beach and earned a bachelor’s in communication. She spent ten years working for NASA, primarily in International Space Station (ISS) Flight Control Operations Planning and as an Astronaut Instructor in the Daily Operations Group. Now she heads up the non-profit organization she founded, Higher Orbits. Their mission is “to excite students of all ages about STEM/STEAM and working to fulfill their dreams and ambitions while also building teamwork, leadership, and communication skills.” The “Go For Launch” program brings speakers and hands-on projects to classrooms to expose students to the excitement and opportunities spaceflight offers. Culminating in a capstone project, students have a chance to have their experiments selected for a trip to space! The website features past winners, a blog and a shop with fun space-themed goodies.

Michelle Lucas, class of ’00, in front of the College of Arts & Sciences, Daytona Beach campus

She earned the university’s Eagle Entrepreneur Alumni Award in 2019.

Alumnus Tim Bailey is the Executive Director of the annual Yuri’s Night celebration. According to the Yuri’s Night website, the mission is: to use the excitement and inspiration of space as a catalyst for educating and developing the next generation of explorers. We fulfill this mission through a commitment to:

  • empowering leaders: in making a difference, pursuing their dreams, and inspiring others to do the same.
  • building communities: working shoulder to shoulder on visionary projects, overcoming barriers and finding common ground.
  • bridging cultures: be they geographic, social or technical, we are all learning to speak each other’s languages.
  • encouraging science literacy: bringing people hands-on experiences and passionate storytelling to explore their physical world and nurture their love of learning.
  • promoting a sustainable and peaceful future: sharing “the Overview Effect”with all people, inspiring them to take ownership of our home planet and the future of humanity.

Yuri’s Night, named for Yuri Gagarin, the first human to venture into space in 1961, is celebrated at parties and events around the world each year, including at Kennedy Space Center. Tim’s passion for space is reflected in the many jobs he holds in addition to his role in Yuri’s night, including Flight Director at Zero-G Corporation where he helps passengers manage the challenges of weightlessness. Check out their website below – they do pretty cool stuff!

There are many ways the alumni of ERAU give back, through mentorship, co-ops and internships for students and, of course scholarship. See a sampling of what they’re up to here, it’s a pretty impressive bunch!

Thanks, ERAU!

#Adrenaline Rush

Embry-Riddle graduates include astronauts, US Air Force Thunderbirds, experimental test pilots, and aerobatic performers. It’s clear ERAU alumni are as fearless as they are focused. And they like to play as hard as they work!

Alain Aguayo’s passion for aviation is clear.

As a flight instructor at the Daytona Beach campus, he earned high scores at Rate My Professors dot com, where his students cite his thorough approach to training – tough but clear, caring and respected, 10/10 would take again!

He came to ERAU in 2006 and earned two degrees – in aeronautical science (flight) and in aerospace and occupational safety. A combination that serves him well as an aerobatic performance pilot. He won his first competition at the US National Aerobatic Championships 2017.

He visited the WIKD-FM radio station last year to share his experiences, and you can listen to the podcast here. He talks about his aircraft, the experimental Giles 202, with the alumni association on campus in this Facebook interview. He discusses Eagle Sport Aviation, the group that got him started, safety procedures and special considerations involved in aerobatic flying.

But you’ll get the full adrenaline rush on his YouTube channel where you can see him in action over the beaches of Florida. Check it out here.

Curt Bartholomew feeds his need for adventure in competitive swooping. If you’re not familiar, it starts out like this:

And then turns into something much more, check out the video here:

His love of jumping out of perfectly good airplanes began on campus with the Sky Diving Club while he was studying Aeronautics at ERAU’s Daytona Beach campus. He’s worked as a videographer for Skydive DeLand and now owns his own company, Team Alter Ego Fastrax where he’s an instructor helping others to master the art of swooping  as well as canopy piloting, freeflying, BASE jumping, coaching,  ground launching, and more. You can see more of Curt’s swooping on YouTube – including this breathtaking video that will get your adrenaline pumping! For Curt, like many aviators, the passion for jumping out pf aircraft runs in the family, his wife Jeannie is also an accomplished swooper and instructor for the company and boasts a long list of accolades.   

Where are they now? BAE

As a student blogger, Maryam Gracias shared her experiences interning for the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) and for Delta, her study abroad research experience in Cuba, her love of travel and her studies as a spaceflight operations major. Why did she choose Embry-Riddle? “Because of my passion for flight and the great networking opportunities Riddle provides!”

Her hard work and networking opportunities paid off and she now works for BAE Systems, “a global defense, aerospace and security company employing around 88,200 people worldwide. Wide-ranging products and services cover air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, security, information technology, and support services.” She serves as a systems engineer on the F-35 Fleet and she’s pursuing a master’s degree in systems engineering through Embry-Riddle’s Online campus. Studying online allows her to pursue an advanced degree while working full time. 

In many ways she is a typical ERAU student: ambitious, adventurous, smart and passionate about life and aviation. Originally from Dubai, she moved to Florida where she graduated high school with the highest honors and played professional tennis. She earned a Brook Owens Scholarship and completed three internships while at the Daytona Beach campus. She also served as an O-Team member welcoming all new students to campus, and in the Women’s Ambassador Program to serve as a mentor to new female students at ERAU.

Her minor courses of study in flight, aviation safety and human factors incorporated her love of flying and offered the safety expertise that attracted employers. At Delta, she worked as a flight safety intern. And while her occupation is focused on engineering, she has not lost her love of flight. Check out her social media ten-day challenge images!

Who is the challenger Kim Szathmary? She’s a professor at Embry-Riddle! She has a PhD in Business Administration, a commercial pilot’s license and CFI (certified flight instructor license) and teaches Human Factors in Aviation Safety and Safety Program Management at the Daytona Beach campus. She’s also the faculty advisor for the Spaceflight Sciences Policy and Operations Club, their motto: Ad Astra Per Aspera or “Through hardships to the stars!”

Keep dreaming big, Maryam!


Embry-Riddle’s reputation for leading the aviation and aerospace industry is recognized worldwide. There’s also a lot of creative talent among Riddle alumni, and some gifted grads are garnering a good deal of attention on social media. If you’re looking for interesting sites to follow, check these out – featuring photography, inspiration and laughs!

Lonnie Marts III
Lonnie is not a typical ERAU student, but his ability to connect and engage those around him has been evident throughout his time as a student – and now on his channels.  Buzzfeed recently published a write-up on Lonnie’s efforts and he’s reached one million plus followers on his TikTok account.

Lonnie’s first passion has been athletics, and he came to the Daytona Campus to compete in track and field. He earned his undergraduate degree in Human Factors Psychology and then went on to earn an MBA through the accelerated program.  His goal of succeeding in the digital world is well underway!

He cleans up nicely!

You can also see Lonnie’s work on his YouTube Channel,  and check out the university video featuring Lonnie.

Lynsey Schroeder

Lynsey began blogging as a student shortly after arriving at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach campus where she studied Engineering Physics. Why did she choose to attend ERAU? She summed it up well: “Its reputation, specialty and community.” In her student blog she shared her passion for science, love of music and experience interning with the SETI Institute where the search for extraterrestrial intelligence is the mission. Spoiler alert! No extraterrestrials were discovered. She also recalls the time National Geographic visited the Daytona Campus to film “Evacuate Earth,” a doomsday scenario with a plan to save the human race. Of course Embry-Riddle was the perfect place to serve as the base for developing the technologies that would carry humans to safety.

 She earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree through the accelerated program.  In 2014, Lynsey was recognized by Aviation Week & Space Technology as one of “Tomorrow’s Emerging Leaders: 20 in their 20s.” Now she works for Raytheon on Arizona where she really can’t tell us too much about her work – we’d need security clearance for that! But she does still share her talent and passion for photography and her photos are truly breathtaking! Her specialty is the night sky over the desert, she’d particularly adept at capturing images of the Milky Way. Her time lapse of the full moon can be viewed on her Facebook page.

Or see more of her work on her website: https://lschroederphoto.com/

Nicole Stott

Embry-Riddle alumna and retired astronaut Nicole Stott can also be found inspiring people online and on campus. An advocate for the arts and STEAM – including art as an important part of STEM studies, the Nicole Stott Art Gallery at the Daytona Beach campus is named in her honor and often features work by students and staff.  

Most recently, she shared advice on managing isolation from her unique experiences spending more than 100 days on the International Space Station. It’s filled with inspiration and includes valuable tips that are particularly relevant now, but it’s also a truly timeless perspective.

Watch it here.

Teacher Appreciation Week – ERAU Style!

When Professor Joanne DeTore observed Teacher Appreciation Week by posting on her wall asking former students to share their current situation, the results were rather amazing, even for Embry-Riddle!

Professor DeTore teaches communication and humanities courses, not always the most popular at a school where the primary focus is rooted in aviation and STEM. The variety of careers, the fond memories and evidence that soft skills are still critical for success in the business world makes for an interesting and inspiring read:

Dr. Detore teaches a literature class featuring monsters and villains.

Among the replies:

GINA: Safety Manager for Allegheny County, PA. Married, 2 little boys (Patrick 15 months and Emmett 1.5 months). I had several classes with you. I liked all of them. I remember speech class the most and doing my “how to” speech on making one of my favorite desserts…strawberry pretzel salad. You were one of my favorite professors at Riddle and I thank you for that.

JEN: Chief engineer at Pratt and Whitney– went on to get MS in engineering and MBA. I had two classes with you, one of them was speech –  I hated public speaking but now I do it all the time! I remember I was so sick the semester I was in that class, with what I would later find out was mono, and I remember you being the one who noticed and told me to get checked out! You were a wonderful professor! I’m glad we stay in touch!

NAILYN: I’m an air traffic controller at Gulfport, MS and truly your class was what got me through the difficulties I faced in my classes for the career I’m in. They helped center me and taught me how to filter frustrations and stress through poetry and just speaking, so thank you for that!

KELLY: I’m the Director of Emergency Management at the University of Houston. I got my masters after leaving ERAU. Been married for 9 years and have a 1 year old son. I remember your speech class so vividly! I did a eulogy for Wiley Coyote and a monologue from Erin Brockovich. Public speaking has always been stressful for me, but your class helped me so much. You also helped me get a job at the campus Writing Center which has served me well. Thank you for all you do!

MIRAKEL: Masters in community social psychology and about to get my masters in social work. Currently in Houston as a client advocate for domestic violence/sexual assault, but have also done crisis intervention and hospital accompaniment. I had a few classes with you, but cross-cultural communication and media relations are probably the ones that stick out to me. I am considered one of the most culturally-sensitive workers in my agency and your class helped set that foundation.

MEGAN: I’m living in Fort Worth TX and working as a kindergarten teacher (going on 3 years). I’m married and have 2 kids (a boy and girl).

JASON: Captain for a regional airline right now working on getting to the mainline. I am one of those Captains that when I make my “welcome aboard” announcement I stand in the front so the passengers can see me. Your class made me a better public speaker and taught me how to effectively communicate to my passengers. I have been told many times by passengers that they enjoy seeing the Captain up front when they make announcements.

GWENDOLYN: Florida Department of Transportation, I’m in the civil engineering field, about to get married and planning to take the first engineering test towards my professional engineering license. I remember it like it was yesterday! And my pirates of the Caribbean thing as well. But the Monster class was my favorite of all!

NADIA: I took a humanities class with you and did one of my projects on Twilight! I got my bachelors in Aerospace Engineering at ERAU and currently finishing up my masters in Aerospace Engineering in the fall at Purdue University! Your class was one of my favorites. Thank you pushing me to think creatively/differently than what I was used to. I hope all is well with you.

CAMILLE: You were my favorite professor! I am a regional health, safety and environmental manager with DHL Supply Chain. I am married with one little boy, Sam. We live in and love Atlanta, Georgia! I remember your Monsters class well and the speech class with Jen! I did my demonstrative speech on how to make ravioli. I remember doing a Eulogy for my grandpa and not understanding that it was weird because he was and still is very much alive! You helped me get a job at ERLI with Cindy which was probably my favorite job I’ve ever had. As part of my career, I speak at conferences frequently and last year, spoke for an hour on Presentation Skills to a room of 400. I credit a lot of that to you! Thanks for being so awesome!

LAUREN: I remember having you for speech class. You made such a wonderful impression on me! Your enthusiasm and passion were exemplified during class and you made speech so much fun. It was one of my favorite classes. You’re a very easygoing woman and I enjoy talking to you. I can’t thank you enough for being there during a difficult time in my life. As of right now, I am working on my Master’s in Human Factors & Systems Engineering. I’m a Usability and Design student assistant at Riddle and I’m currently looking for a full time position in my career field. Hope we can meet up for coffee, soon! Thanks for being so awesome!

Tony: Professional Ballroom and Latin dancer, and owner of my own dance studio. Your class of public speaking was one of the first classes where I was exposed to performing in front of a large audience while being critiqued…now that’s pretty much what I do for a living. I loved my public speaking class, and really appreciated the tough love at times when needed. Thanks again!

Andreia: Living in Jersey City, NJ. Working for United as a flight attendant ever since graduation. Your class taught me so much about public relations, especially how my company ends up in the media so much. No kids, not married, but I bought a car this year and I’m officially a resident of Hudson County, New Jersey.

Morgan: I’m currently working as a Flight Coordinator for Davinci Jets out of Charlotte, North Carolina. We provide turnkey aircraft management and private charter service. I interact directly with clients and am very thankful for the communications skills I developed in my studies. In addition, I am working on marketing and public relations related tasks, including creation of press releases and photography for various media platforms. Prior to moving back here to Charlotte to be close to family, I was working on my B.S. in Communication, the Head Writing Tutor, and the Marketing Communications Manager for Epic Flight Academy. Though I was only in one of your courses, I truly value the skills I learned and apply them on a daily basis. Thank you!!!

Christopher: I’m a project manager in Marketing at Delta Air Lines in Atlanta. My wife and I are expecting our first child in June! You were one of my favorite professors at ERAU! I enjoyed taking Speech and Cross Cultural Communications from you. I enjoyed learning about the Maori, and it was neat visiting New Zealand after learning about their culture in your class. I also learned more about Asian customs in your class. When I went to Hong Kong back in 2009, somebody handed me their card with both hands just like you said they would! I knew to accept their card with both hands, look it and not put it in my pocket right away. I might have offended that man through ignorance without the guidance I received in your class.
I hope you are doing well! It’s great being able to keep up with you on FB!

Kirsten: I am a business operations specialist at GE Aviation in Cincinnati, OH. I am married with a 15 month-old named Auggie. I have a B.S. & M.S. in Human Factors. I took your speech class in my undergrad curriculum, it has helped so much when I have to speak in front of hundreds of people and executives for work. Thank you so much for being such an encouraging and inspirational mentor!

Paul: I wrote in a journal entry how much I disliked studying engineering, and you suggested I try literature, so I did. Graduated with a BA in literature while working as a firefighter/paramedic, and while I’ve never relied on the degree professionally, every day in the medical field (I’m a nurse now) I’m confronted with the mistaking of training for education. I’m so grateful for the push towards some of the latter.

DESIREE (pictured here): I’m currently the Safety Management Policy and Training Manager for the Air Traffic Organization in the FAA. I started as an en route controller at Memphis Center, became a support specialist in the training dept., then came to HQ as a Safety Inspector, then moved on to work in my current position managing/writing the policy and training surrounding the ATO’s Safety Management System. Somewhere during all that, I obtained my masters from ERAU worldwide.

Now on to you! I hated writing about myself but I did it to set up this next part. You have impacted my life and career more than you know. In school ATC was exciting, challenging and consuming all my thoughts. Your classes were not only enjoyable, but gave me an outlet outside of ATC. I always loved to read, but you introduced me to new perspectives and material. I still recall some of your feedback on my papers when writing. Without your speech class, I would not be where I am today. Every class I teach and every presentation given, I hear the pointers you would give in class. I have great respect for you and your craft. You are an inspiration to working moms everywhere and you are rocking it! I thank you for your support and guidance when I needed it most. Thank you! I know this post is very long but I could honestly write for days about what a wonderful professor you are.

Professor DeTore responds: “I am so humbled by your beautiful response! Thank you so much for that. I feel like I won an Oscar after reading that. When you teach, you hope you make an impact, but you sometimes never know. You have accomplished so much in your career and you have a beautiful family! You are doing a wonderful job balancing career and motherhood. I am so proud of you and so grateful to you for taking time to let me know how you are doing and for those lovely words about my teaching.”

Awww, that hits right in the feels. Professors can impact our lives in ways we can hardly imagine, whether it’s offering personal support and understanding during a time of struggle, engaging students in areas of study they are not drawn to in order to broaden a skill set or guiding students to internship and career opportunities in their field, their value cannot be overstated.

Filing a New Flight Plan

Kevin Garland arrived at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus as a freshman in fall of 2008, the height of the Great Recession. It’s no surprise he ended up at Embry-Riddle, he’d been attracted to aviation since he was six years old when his grandfather introduced him to Radio Control Aircraft (R/C). Naturally, he chose to major in flight. He also selected minors in air traffic control and unmanned aircraft systems. At that time, unmanned aircraft studies were just being introduced to college curriculum. In fact, Embry-Riddle was the first to offer the major that began accepting students into the program in unmanned aircraft systems science in the fall of 2011, just a year before Kevin’s scheduled graduation. But he saw the opportunity in the rapidly expanding field and modified his plan.

When he started college, he had already achieved much success in the world of R/C having soloed when he was just seven years old. By the time he was a senior, he was ranked 4th in Advanced Class his region and had secured a variety of sponsors to support his competitions nationally. He continued his R/C flying at Embry-Riddles part of the R/C Club with a team made up of students majoring in aerospace engineering, communication and unmanned aircraft. Kevin changed his major to aeronautics, a move that gave him added flexibility for gaining minors.

But he says these competitions are about more than winning, they are also about inspiring young people. As a college student, he enjoyed visiting high schools, like Griffin High in his home state of Georgia, and the kids who attend Youth Masters R/C competition where Kevin helps out each year.

Kevin's niece - keeping the family inspiration going

Kevin’s niece – keeping the family inspiration going

Kevin’s final student blog after graduation relates the plans he has for the future: move back home, finish his certified flight instructor rating to become a flight instructor and build flight time, land a job in air traffic control and keep competing in R/C. But that’s not how the future panned out for Kevin, and he’s happy about that for a number of reasons. Let’s ask him about where life took him and where he is today.

How did you land your job at Latitude Engineering?
After completing my degree at the end of the Summer of 2012 I visited the Embry-Riddle Daytona campus in November to see a few friends. While visiting I stopped and spoke to a few of my past professors. Mr. Ted Beneigh who was one of my UAS professors mentioned about a job in Yuma, AZ working for Latitude Engineering. He gave me their contact information (still have that piece of paper today!) That night I emailed Latitude my resume and the next week I heard from them. They mention I basically met all the criteria and they wanted me to fly out to Yuma the next day to do an in-person interview. The interview went great and when I landed back in Atlanta I got a voicemail saying I had been selected for the job and was going to start the first of the year in 2013. Without the help of Professor Beneigh I may have never found this great opportunity.
What is your position and job duties?
 From 2013 to late 2015 I worked in Yuma, AZ as a contract R&D Test Pilot for the NAVAIR Program flying the Tiger Shark UAV, which is a 500lb 20-foot wing span UAV. For this particular job I tested new software code, new payloads to be used overseas, and testing new parts for the aircraft itself. I have earned more than 900 hours flying this platform over those three years in Yuma, AZ. My contract with that program ended and late 2015 I moved the Commercial Side of UAVs flying for the BNSF FAA Pathfinder Program working with Latitude.  I am currently a Company representative supporting Latitude’s Hybrid Quadcopter Aircraft. This is a VTOL (virtual take-off and landing) aircraft which will be used to support BNSF’s train operations. My roles for this position include doing test flights on the aircraft, teaching new students how to fly the aircraft for BNSF’s operations, and to fix any issues with the aircraft in the field if there is a problem. The FAA Pathfinder project is dealing with BVLOS operations.  Fun fact! Embry-Riddle has purchased Latitude Engineering’s HQ-40 Aircraft.


VTOL - work in progress

VTOL – work in progress

Do other Embry-Riddle alumni work at Latitude?
As of right now no one else from Embry-Riddle works with Latitude Engineering. Alumni are, however working with the same BNSF Pathfinder project working for AUV Flight Services. I am hoping to attract more alumni to Latitude Engineering as it is an awesome company to work for. Where else can you skate board around the office and rip stick around the workbenches?

Are you still competing?
Even with my busy schedule I still compete in aerobatic flying with model aircraft. I still try to make a few competitions each year along with performing airshows at local and regional events.
My main sponsor currently is Futaba / Hobbico. A few other sponsors are Flight Power Batteries, Ohio Model Products, Smart-Fly R/C, B&E Graphix, Spot-On R/C and my newest sponsor is Ready Made R/C.

Do you spend much time flying the old-fashioned way – in the sky?
Flying? I honestly don’t know when I am not flying! I guess when I sleep. I am constantly flying manned and unmanned aircraft along with model aircraft. As for manned flying, I try to get up a few times every month to stay current. I am very fortunate that part of my job is flying manned aircraft for unmanned flight testing. I also have been very fortunate to be able to fly my girlfriend’s family plane which is a Cessna 182. Brenna (my girlfriend) and I have been dating two years now and she enjoys flying as much as I do. I have put on an extra 300 hours since we started dating in their Cessna-182. I say I am very LUCKY! Just last year I completed my Certified Flight Instructor rating and later this year I plan on completing my CFII.

How about your personal life?
During the spring time in 2013 I was out flying R/C aircraft at the local model aircraft field in Yuma, AZ. An older gentleman walked up to me and notice the hat I was wearing was an ERAU hat. He also noticed my airplane had an Embry-Riddle decal on it. He mentioned his granddaughter Brenna was interested in going to college either at ERAU in Prescott or UND. I gave my personal opinion and he wanted my phone and email address for her to contact me. Brenna later emailed me and asked me a few questions about the University. I personally did not know much about the Prescott campus as I went to the Daytona campus, but I answered the questions to the best of my ability. She later mentioned she chose ERAU in Prescott and she was starting in the Fall of 2013. We talked over the phone and via emails for nearly a year till we actually met in person in Spring time of 2014. We really got along as we shared a lot of things together. We have been on many adventures in her parents Cessna 182. We have flown across the country from Yuma, AZ to Atlanta, Georgia several times along with flying to her hometown from Prescott, AZ to Alden, IA. We have also flown into Oshkosh together and Sun N Fun. Other great trips were flying to Telluride, CO, Catalina Island, and to see the Arches in Utah. Even though we graduated from two different campuses we both worked great as a flight crew. She graduated from the Prescott campus back in December of 2015 and she now has a job as a First Officer for Boutique Airlines flying a PC-12.
Words of advice?
I would like to thank my family for supporting me all of these years. My parents always worried about the money we spent on flying r/c aircraft during my years living at home. The hobby is not cheap, but I was very fortunate enough to have my parents help out when I was younger. Today my parents said their investment in my hobby paid off, because I have landed a dream job of mine of flying Unmanned Aircraft. The person I would like to thank the most is my Grandfather. He is the one that introduced me to this hobby and taught me how to fly mode aircraft. Without his help there is no telling what I would be doing as for a career today. Model Aircraft, I feel, is a great starting point for anyone to get into the field of aviation. Let’s put it this way. My first flight in a manned aircraft the Instructor never had to take the controls from take-off to landing. After landing my instructor looked at me and said “are you ready to solo” Of course he was joking, but he could tell the skills I learned from flying r/c aircraft transferred to my manned flying skills.

Kevin and Granddad

Kevin and Granddad

Taking the Scenic Route to the NTSB

When Pete came to Embry-Riddle as a freshman in fall of 2009, his goal after graduation was to be a pilot, a dream he’d had since he was in first grade. But it wasn’t long until he recognized his love of aviation would be better served in a business role, so he changed his major to business administration.

“My internship at Tweed New Haven Regional Airport opened my eyes to this and made me realize flying wasn’t the only way I could be actively, hands-on involved in aviation every day,” he says in his introductory student blog.

He began writing the blog as a sophomore and, by that time, was well on his way to achieving his college graduation goals. He’d began working in Airport Operations at Daytona Beach International Airport almost 30 hours per week. In addition, he earned his Private Pilot’s Certificate, Instrument Rating, made Honor Roll, published a blog and articles for various online outlets, was certified in Aircraft Rescue & Firefighting, and had organized large events including an air show. Pretty impressive stuff – but that was just the beginning.
pete tbird

Prospective students followed Pete’s adventures at RiddleLifeFlorida where he shared his Embry-Riddle experiences of plane spotting, day trips to Disney, and work stories. One of the highlights was working during the Daytona 500 NASCAR races and supporting the United States Air Force Thunderbirds, the more than 250 corporate aircraft that fly in and out during the event, and even celebrities like Fergie.

Fast forward to 2016 and we find Pete about to begin his third year of law school and at the NTSB working as a Law Clerk. How did he get there? Let’s ask him.

The last Riddle blog you wrote was in 2011. Where did life take you from there?

Well, somewhat comically, not three days after graduation from Riddle I began working in my new job at Orlando International Airport. I was given a rare opportunity for someone only 22 years old due to the amount of experience that I had developed to be an Airfield Operations Specialist at one of the largest airports in the world. I still credit my experiences at Embry-Riddle in addition to my work experience for getting me there. It was truly a great experience to be responsible for something as big as Orlando International on a day-to-day basis.

While I was at Orlando, I decided that it would be a good idea to continue my education, so I began working on a Master’s of Science degree in Criminal Justice at the University of Central Florida on a part-time basis. In doing this, and in the work I was doing at the airport, I uncovered an interest in the law, specifically in aviation law. So, I took the LSAT and applied to law schools, ultimately selecting the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University in Arlington, VA. Following my first year of law school, I was lucky enough to do an internship with the Federal Aviation Administration in their Chief Counsel’s office. Following my second year of law school, and presently, I am working in the General Counsel’s office of the National Transportation Safety Board as a law clerk. Then, I will complete my last year of law school, take the Bar exam, and be an attorney working in the aviation industry in some capacity.

How did you choose a grad school?

I started my graduate studies at UCF largely due to its proximity to work, and also because of their criminal justice program that is well respected in the industry. In choosing Scalia Law, I was primarily focused on attending a Top 50 law school in close proximity to Washington, DC and the federal government. Ultimately, that proximity has allowed me to obtain a great deal of exposure with the government and to work/intern there during the school year, while students at many other schools only have the opportunity to participate in internships with the federal government during the summers.

How did Embry-Riddle help you prepare for and transition to grad school?

Riddle definitely prepared me for grad school in the way that the professors structured their classes and assigned projects. The Riddle requires students to be strategic in their time management and planning, while also teaching students how to think rationally and logically. These skills are imperative for success in law school. You need to be able to process information quickly and accurately, and you need to be able to budget your time almost perfectly, especially in the first year of law school. Additionally, the Aviation Law course that I took at my law school was more of a review than anything else as a result of the coursework from the College of Business. This allowed me to excel above the other students in that class.

What was your grad school experience like?

It is still ongoing, that is for sure! As most people know, the first year of law school is tough. You are assigned hundreds of pages of reading a night, legal writing projects, and you are also randomly subject to being called on in class to discuss the material (the “Socratic method.”) It really left no free time to do much of anything else. The second year was much easier, and I was able to get involved on the Trial Advocacy Team, continue my internship at the FAA, and even take on a part-time job to make a little money. The third year of law school is more outside the classroom work and less school: I will only have class two days a week this semester and will be working the remaining days. All in all though, the skills I have learned are very helpful and useful, and I appreciate the experience very much.

Did you ever imagine you’d find yourself working for the NTSB?

No, I don’t think so! I was always interested in accident investigations and wanted to take those classes at Riddle, but I was never able to do so unfortunately. I did not think that I would ever be working in a legal capacity for the Board, however, that is for certain. I am enjoying it very much thus far!

What are some of the legal issues specific to aviation?

There are many legal issues in aviation today, probably the most well-known of which involve the air service controversies that have been occurring with foreign carriers such as Emirates and Qatar, and US-flag carriers. Foreign carriers must be permitted by the Department of Transportation to serve destinations in the United States, allowing them to compete with US carriers on the same routes. However, some US carriers have claimed that they cannot compete with these foreign carriers because those carriers are subsidized by their respective country’s governments and subject to those countries’ laxer labor laws, resulting in significantly lower overhead and the ability to charge far cheaper fares.

However, aviation law issues stretch further than one might imagine to include tort litigation (personal injury), enforcement, regulatory concerns, and more. Personally, my favorite area is tort litigation as I love being in the courtroom. Ultimately, I would love to be able to litigate cases involving aircraft crashes in court. The utility of my Embry-Riddle background and technical knowledge is immeasurable when it comes to this type of law.

Do you still spend time flying?

Yes, I try to. The Washington, DC airspace is somewhat tricky, but I have found an airport nearby that has nice rentals and is not too hard to get to. When time permits, I love to fly around and check out the landscape of Virginia.

Are there many ERAU grads working with you?

There are, actually, but not directly in the General Counsel’s office. Many of the investigators went to Embry-Riddle, and, in fact, one of the presidentially-appointed Board Members (Robert Sumwalt) has a Master’s Degree from Embry-Riddle.

Advice for students attracted to Embry-Riddle?

Prospective students? If you have even the slightest interest that you want to work in aviation in any capacity, go to Embry-Riddle. Take it from me. The opportunities that I have had have all been related to my degree from Embry-Riddle. The people you meet will connect you with jobs for the rest of your life. It is worth every penny you spend on your degree to go to Riddle. I would not be where I am today if I did not go to Embry-Riddle. In short, DO IT. The education is fantastic and will prepare you for whatever you choose to do in life. Additionally, going to college in Daytona Beach is an experience that I reminisce about every day, and you will absolutely love it yourself.

Current students? Think outside the box. I came into Riddle with tunnel vision that I wanted to be an airline pilot, but look where my career took me due to one internship. Try a few different things and see what you like. Don’t give up, even when it gets hard. It will all be worth it. Lastly, enjoy every minute of it, because it goes by so fast. But, know that the friends you make at Riddle will be your friends for life. Virtually all of my best friends are people who I met during college.

Students interested in similar careers can contact Pete at  jgreco@gmu.edu

Blasting off into Space Operations

Calvin Baker was one of 750 Embry-Riddle students to earn his diploma this May, and one of the first to earn the Commercial Space Operations bachelor’s. Now he’s off to Virgin Galactic to start his career in Quality and Regulatory Compliance for the organization. He’ll be working with SpaceShipTwo and potentially LauncherOne, his dream job with his dream company in his dream location.

Calvin's graduation cap included his two tassels, one for each degree, and was painted with a silhouette of SpaceShipTwo and his iris (in the style of the Virgin Galactic logo).

Calvin’s graduation cap included his two tassels, one for each degree, and was painted with a silhouette of SpaceShipTwo and his iris (in the style of the Virgin Galactic logo).

How did Calvin land his dream job? Hard work, dedication, making adjustments to meet his goals and participating in internships that provide valuable experience. And he landed not just one, but two internships while a student. We asked Calvin to tell us more about his experiences.

Can you provide some highlights about your internships?
I worked hard to acquire two internships during my time at Embry-Riddle. My first internship took place at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) in Washington, D.C. Interning at AST was by far the best job I have ever had. When I went into work, I was treated as a full-time employee, not an intern. That meant I wasn’t getting coffee; I was helping to evaluate licenses, experimental permits, and safety approvals. I attended weekly meetings about Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites and was even able to attend a quarterly meeting for SpaceX. I would greatly enjoy working at AST after graduation.

My second internship was also in Washington, D.C., this time at the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF). CSF is a trade organization, lobbying for the commercial space industry on Capitol Hill. I spent my summer writing congressional hearing reports and newsletters, graphic design for logos and promotional materials, and analyzing the NTSB findings of the October 2014 Virgin Galactic accident in regards to human factors and zero-fault tolerant systems.

Both internships taught me a lot about the space industry and the Washington, D.C., space culture.

Where are you from originally?
I am originally from Delton, Michigan.

What attracted you to Embry-Riddle?
I visited the Daytona Beach campus twice before beginning my freshman year in August 2010. The first time, I fell in love with the campus. The second time, I just had to see the campus again before attending.

Did you start off as a dual degree student?
As with many students, I started off as an Aerospace Engineer. I came to realize it wasn’t what I wanted to do, so I became a Communication major due to my experiences in comms-related courses. In my senior year, fall 2013, I added Commercial Space Operations (CSO) and extended my stay at Embry-Riddle.

Can you tell us a bit about your choices of Communication and CSO?
I chose the Embry-Riddle Communication degree program specifically because of a single faculty member: Professor M.B. McLatchey in the Humanities & Communication Department. I was a notoriously poor writer in high school, with one instance of me rewriting a paper four or five times to ultimately receive a C. However, after taking a couple courses with Professor McLatchey, something just clicked with me and I became a much better writer and communicator. I went on to take nearly every course she offered. This new found skill was compounded by many other great faculty members in that department such as Steve Master, Dr. Stephen Zeigler, Dr. Rachel Friedman, and Stephen Kampa. If you ever want to truly enjoy your coursework, get a degree in Communication from Embry-Riddle. The faculty is remarkable.

I was drawn to the CSO program because it meant a different way to get involved with space after leaving the Aerospace Engineering program. I was no longer chained to a career of marketing and public relations; I could use the skills gained through CSO, in addition to my communication skills, and enter into the space industry performing launch licensing and operations. I was attracted to CSO because it meant I didn’t have to merely talk about people doing great things in the space industry; I could be one of those people doing great things in the space industry.

Your capstone project Mapping Mars’ Moons (M3) addresses many advantages of resource extraction in space. What do you see as the greatest potential and what may be the greatest risk?

The greatest potential is finding resources with enough monetary value to eclipse the GDP (gross domestic product) of an entire country or even the entire world. In our project, we estimated that just one of the moons of Mars could house resources valued at over $10 quintillion, which is 10 with 18 zeroes behind it. This number was calculated based on the cost to launch the resources from Earth and get them to Martian orbit.

The greatest risk is finding out there are no resources at all or that it will cost infinitely more money to extract, refine, and make use of the resources.

We won’t know for sure until we take the risk to send a mission, manned or unmanned, to find out if all of our estimations are accurate.

What do you see as some of the more important careers that will be in demand in the commercial space industry?

Because the industry is just starting out, still designing all of their satellites/vehicles/etc., everyone wants engineers. However, I believe that will change as the commercial space industry matures. I believe it will reach a point when the commercial space industry mirrors the commercial aviation industry. Imagine when you can go online and reserve your ticket to go to space, set up a payload delivery to the Moon, or order some resources for your spacecraft after takeoff. As the commercial space industry matures, you need people to know how to operate in that environment. You won’t need engineers, you’ll need people who understand all aspects of the space industry, which is where I believe CSO will fit quite nicely.

Who are the most important companies and organizations in the commercial space industry?
There are companies taking part in many different areas of the industry: suborbital-trajectory tourism, reusable orbital launches, telecommunications, and so on. In my opinion, I love what Blue Origin and SpaceX are doing in regards to reusability; however, they are not competitors (yet) because Blue Origin is perfecting reusability for a suborbital vehicle and SpaceX is focusing on orbital launch reusability. In terms of tourism, Virgin Galactic just announced their new vehicle, dubbed Unity. Hopefully they’ll be flying paying customers by 2017. That would be a huge step forward for space tourism.

In other words, there are so many companies trying to make their impact in the commercial space industry, that it’s best to say who the leaders are in each area. I only touched on a few above, but it’s safe to say that I’m rooting for anyone who has a business model that includes space activity.

During your studies at Embry-Riddle, what types of extra-curricular activities did you participate in?
Nearly all of my extra-curricular activities included jobs I had, which I made sure would some how assist my professional career. My jobs included being a technical writer at the Florida NextGen Test Bed, the Communications Manager for the Embry-Riddle EcoCAR team, and now the Student Success Coordinator in the Applied Aviation Sciences Department in the College of Aviation. All of these jobs were related to the University and also taught me an enormous amount of valuable skills that complemented my coursework.

As far as student organizations go, I was momentarily in the surf club despite having no idea how to surf. I spent over two and a half years on the Embry-Riddle EcoCAR team, helping to promote the team to the campus, public, and industry. EcoCAR helped me hone all of my communication skills through weekly and monthly deliverables. Lastly, I enjoyed being a part of the Space Sciences, Policy, and Operations Club (SSPOC), which caters to students from the Commercial Space Operations degree program.

Calvin receiving his degrees from the Dean of the College of Aviation, Dr. Dan Macchiarella.

Calvin receiving his degrees from the Dean of the College of Aviation, Dr. Dan Macchiarella.