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The sky is not the limit

Fulton Schools student organization benefits those pursuing aviation careers in the air and on the ground

by | Dec 8, 2022 | Features, Students

The Women in Aviation chapter at Arizona State University provides opportunities for women to advance their aviation careers through networking opportunities and site visits such as this visit to the American Airlines hangars at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. Photo courtesy of Lauren Ascher

When we think of aviation careers, we naturally think of pilots flying airplanes. But today’s vast aviation industry has a long list of important roles that must be filled before aircraft ever hit the runways or the launchpads.

Everyone from pilots and astronauts to maintenance technicians, engineers, air traffic controllers, flight attendants, airport managers and many supporting roles provide opportunities for productive work.

Women in Aviation, a student organization in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, encourages young women to pursue careers in aviation.

Lauren Ascher, a junior in the aeronautical management and technology (professional flight) program in The Polytechnic School, part of the Fulton Schools, and vice president of the organization, says the group provides its members with frequent networking opportunities.

“We recently did a tour of the American Airlines hangars at Sky Harbor,” Ascher says. “Our members met Sophia Philis-Ortiz, the managing director at American Airlines in Phoenix. Also, their female chief pilot told us about her career and how she got into American Airlines.”

The group also toured the airline’s maintenance facilities and got into the cockpit of an Airbus A320 airplane.

Ascher says her career path was inspired by her older sister, who had a college sorority sister who graduated from ASU’s professional flight program.

“My sister encouraged me to try a discovery flight. She knew I loved to travel and had a need for speed,” Ascher says. “After my first flight over my hometown in Wisconsin, there was no going back. The more I fly and the more people I meet, the more I know I’m in the right place.”

Ascher joined ASU’s Women in Aviation chapter as a first-year student to connect with others in the degree program. That was a challenge because, at the time, classes were conducted online because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Not only did I meet great people, but I made useful connections through our panel events and attending the Women in Aviation International conference,” Ascher says. “I decided to become an officer because I wanted to give back for what Women in Aviation gave me.”

The organization’s networking activities help members connect with not only aviation professionals in the industry but also fellow aviation-minded Sun Devils.

“There is a small percentage of women in the aviation industry and aviation programs at ASU, so the organization creates a space for this smaller demographic,” Ascher says.

In efforts to help increase the number of women in the field, the Women in Aviation leadership team gave a presentation earlier this year to local high school students to promote careers in the aviation industry.

Last year, a panel brought together by the Women in Aviation chapter that involved Southwest Airlines pilots and management enabled Ascher to network with industry members. One connection she made advised her to join the Southwest Airlines Destination 225° pathway program.

“She encouraged me to join the program, which has been a wonderful experience,” Ascher says. “I have also gained so much insight into how the industry runs and how to be more marketable to airlines.”

The Hayward, Wisconsin, native recently finished her flight training at ASU and is seeking employment as a flight instructor. She also hopes to continue her involvement with the Destination 225° program after graduation.

Ascher wants ASU students to know that Women in Aviation is for everyone. Men are welcome to join. 

“If you love aviation and want to connect with others while supporting women at ASU, we’d love to have you,” she says. “We also want to connect with more air traffic control and management students and to have more events catering to them. We aren’t just a group of pilots.”

About The Author

Erik Wirtanen

Erik Wirtanen graduated from Arizona State in 2001 with a BS in Recreation Management and Tourism. He got his start in the communications field as an undergrad with the ASU Athletics Media Relations office. He worked at UC Irvine from 2002 until 2014 in the Department of Athletics and then The Henry Samueli School of Engineering. In August of 2014, Wirtanen joined the communications office at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Media Contact: [email protected] | 480-727-1957 | Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering Communications

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