Aerospace Summit Highlights the Diverse Faces of the Industry

Event brings aviation professionals from underrepresented groups to campus for conversation and guidance

Student leaders, faculty members, panelists and UND keynote speaker Eric Poole stand on the Memorial Union Staircase at the Faces of Industry Summit on Oct. 11. Photo by Arjun Jagada/UND Aerospace.

By Mackinney Supola

In the spring of 2020, two UND students saw a need, had an idea, and set about making their idea a reality. Meridath Jackson and Sophia Jensen attended the annual Women in Aviation conference in 2020, and upon their return to Grand Forks, they realized there was a need for a similar gathering at UND.

And from their idea, the Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences’ Faces of the Industry Summit was born. The first Faces of the Industry event took place earlier this spring, and the second took place on October 11. “This day will help students, faculty and other attendees understand the importance of diversity and how we can come together to make the industry stronger. “Jackson said.

Faces of Industry is a one-day event organized and run by students. At the event, aviation professionals from underrepresented groups share their experiences and advice on an industry that lacks diversity. The purpose of the event is to celebrate the differences between people in the industry and spark a conversation about the changes that need to happen.

While Jackson and Jensen created the event, they produced it with the help of others. Student leaders from Women in Aviation, the Latino Pilots Association, the National Gay Pilots Association, the Professional Asian Pilots Association and the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals came together to organize and facilitate the event. Key student leaders include Angelica Joven, Maxwell McKoy, Harley Jiang, Charlie Williams, Jordon Gyapong, and Jimena Carreon.

The day included three question-and-answer sessions as well as a closing keynote from keynote speaker Eric Poole, captain of JetBlue and the airline’s Newark base chief pilot. Panel members included pilots from Delta, United and Endeavour, the CEO of Women in Aviation, a US Air Force captain and many others.

Over 300 students attended in person and even more saw the speakers online.

Moderator Maxwell McKoy leads panelists (left to right) Allison Mckay, Claudia Zapata, Brian Gambino, Ryutaro Yoshihara and Eric Hendrick at the Faces of Industry Summit on October 11. Photo by Arjun Jagada/UND Aerospace.

Leader in aviation

The first panel focused on leadership in aviation, highlighting successful leaders in their fields. These people shared their insights into what makes a good leader. For example, Claudia Zapata, vice president of the Latino Pilots Association, said “a leader’s greatest asset is compassion.” Women in Aviation CEO Allison McKay spoke about her life and career, stressing that “you don’t always have to be the loudest person in the room, but when safety is a concern, you need to find your voice. .”

All six people agreed with the statement of Eric Hendrick, Director of Pilot Outreach, Recruitment and Selection for Delta Airlines, that “the plane doesn’t care about your gender, race or of your political affiliation”.

The second panel focused on women in the industry and featured female aviators from multiple generations. Experience levels ranged from a senior airline pilot to one of UND’s flight instructors, a recent college graduate. These women were invited to share their views on topics such as sexism in the cockpit and how to balance family and career.

Lisa Kemp, Horizon Air’s captain on the Q400, explained how to deal with comments such as “you’re flying good for a girl,” and how she incorporated strategies to stop these microaggressions into the incident management course. crew resources she teaches.

Jacquelyn Emery, a certified flight instructor at UND, spoke of being one of the few women in her classes as well as among her CFI colleagues. “We need other women to make employees feel comfortable, whether you need a tampon or a role model or someone to talk to so you don’t feel so bad about yourself. comfortable,” she said. said.

Moderators Grace Heron and Meridath Jackson lead panelists (left to right) Lisa Kemp, Karen Ruth, Lisa Ruedy, Tina Anderson and Jacquelyn Emery at the Faces of the Industry Summit on October 11. Photo by Arjun Jagada/UND Aerospace.

Excellence Award

Following the second panel, the awards were presented at an awards ceremony. The Advocacy Award was presented to Meridath Jackson and Sophia Jensen, commending their creation of the event. Associate Dean and UND Professor Elizabeth Bjerke received the Bridge Award, recognizing her work in helping Jensen and Jackson make Faces of the Industry a reality.

And the Legacy Award went to Sue McGrath, United Airlines’ senior recruiter for hiring Aviate and pilots. (Aviate is United’s career development program for pilots, offering aspiring and established pilots the most direct path to a United flight deck.) Several students praised Sue’s compassion for students. of the UND and said she always had their best interests in mind.

The third and final panel focused on all angles of the industry and highlighted areas of aviation beyond the pilot path. In this panel, there was a representative of the Executive Jet Division of Embraer, the Brazilian company which is today the third manufacturer of commercial aircraft in the world; the senior vice president of the National Business Aviation Association; a United Airlines A320 instructor; and more.

These individuals encouraged the public to remain open to all possibilities in their careers. “Sometimes you just have to walk into the room and be the representation you’ve never seen; but sometimes you have to act,” said Laura Acevedo, panelist and captain of the United States Air Force, when talking about her own career.

Eric Poole, JetBlue captain and Newark Air Force Base chief pilot, delivers the keynote address for UND’s Faces of the Industry summit on Oct. 11. Photo by Arjun Jagada/UND Aerospace.

Flight plan for the future

The day ended with an inspiring message from keynote speaker, Eric Poole. A UND alum, Poole shared his life journey, including the story of being born in a small village in Korea and being adopted by a family in Minneapolis. Poole also reflected on his experiences as a minority in the aviation industry.

While attending UND on an athletic scholarship, Poole was first introduced to the world of aviation. He decided to pursue his licenses and qualifications at UND and was hired as a flight instructor shortly after completing his training.

Poole was one of six people hired out of 110 applicants. He spoke of the years he spent as a naval officer before finding his home with JetBlue, where he earned his captain’s stripes in two years. Poole led the JetBlue Pathway program to give UND students a path to fly for JetBlue.

Faces of Industry was made possible through the hard work of student leaders, faculty, and panelists. Organizers say the event will continue to grow, and the next one is scheduled for fall 2023.

“My hope for the future of this event is to inspire members of our industry to be more inclusive of the different perspectives created by a diverse environment,” said student leader Angelica Joven.

Mackinney Supola

About the Author:

A certified flight instructor, Mackinney Supola is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in commercial aviation and a bachelor’s degree in communications at UND. She is currently a marketing intern in the dean’s office of the university’s Odegard School of Aerospace Science.

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