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Aviation Junior Defines What It Means to Be a Student Athlete

Aviation Junior Defines What It Means to Be a Student Athlete

Aviation Management junior Andjela Jovanovic does not like to let time idly pass her by. Time to spare is simply better spent trying something new or exploring one of her current interests on a deeper level.

It was this desire to learn more, do more and experience more that has defined her time at OU, not only as a triple major, but also as a student athlete and member of the OU Rowing team.

“I really try to think about and consider everything I do,” Jovanovic said. “I don’t like to just do something and not devote myself to it.”

A Passion for Aviation

Jovanovic’s interest in aviation began when she was 12, when she and her mom were researching high schools to determine which one she would attend.

Andjela in Serbia“In Serbia, there are high schools that are professionally oriented, and one of those was the Aviation Academy,” she said. “I was looking through the programs and everything the school offered, and my passion and desire for aviation started there.”

She was most drawn to a program that focused on security in aviation.

“Aviation is so important for the whole world, and the security aspect is even more important,” she said. “Without it, aviation would not be possible.”

After spending two years at the Aviation Academy, Jovanovic earned a scholarship to the attend the United World College in China for her final two years of high school. There, her interests expanded to include international studies. She began to see how interconnected international aviation and international relations were.

It was also where she first learned of the University of Oklahoma.

“I knew OU was one of the few universities that offered aviation as an undergraduate major,” she said. “Plus, the community of UWC graduates at OU is really big, which was nice.”

Jovanovic quickly felt at home in OU’s Aviation Management program. The logistics, planning and attention to detail needed to ensure not only the security of an airport, but also the safety of the passengers, the crew and the aircraft immediately resonated with her.

“The more I get to interact with aviation, airplanes, how airports function, international organizations, air traffic control — every new thing makes me love the industry more,” she said.

After establishing a solid foundation in her aviation coursework, Jovanovic began looking for another component to add to her educational portfolio. Her experiences at United World College led her to pursue an International Security Studies minor. As her interests continued to dovetail during her sophomore year, she began working on a second bachelor’s degree in International Business/Information Management Systems.

“Security ties into international business,” she said. “I feel it gives me another perspective on security in the industry. Since aviation is so technology-oriented, it’s important to be aware of cybersecurity.”

As she was finishing the work on her minor, Jovanovic decided to continue working toward earning a third bachelor’s degree in International Studies.

“Whenever I talk to people, I often get questions about how these degrees relate to each other,” she said. “In my head, they do. Security, databases, technology, information, analysis, intelligence — aviation wraps around all of those areas.”

Becoming a Student Athlete

"If you have good athletes, that’s great, but if we have good student athletes who are also performing excellently in an academic environment, that elevates the team."

Jovanovic’s drive to excel in her studies has always been matched by her drive to be active. While riding a bus to campus from Lloyd Noble Center, she saw an ad that would open up a new challenge.

“I found out about the rowing team during my freshman year,” she said. “I had never thought of rowing before. I wanted an activity that had a team and sports environment.”

Although the technique of rowing was easy for Jovanovic to pick up, she soon found rowing competitively to be the most intellectually and physically challenging sport she had ever tried.

“I used to ask myself, ‘Why am I doing this? I didn’t come to OU to row or be a D-1 athlete,’” she said. “I just wanted to pursue my studies and get some physical activity on the side. But as I went through the months, I realized that rowing helped me to maintain my self control and be motivated and focused. My determination and perseverance never allowed me to stop.”

Jovanovic rowed in a crew of eight last year before switching to a four-person craft this season.

“I sit in the front and set the pace for how fast we will be rowing,” she said. “It’s very rewarding knowing you were able to push yourself through the pain and finish a race and know that you didn’t do it alone.”

Jovanovic was recognized for her efforts as a student athlete earlier this year when she was named as one of 14 OU students to receive the 2022 Dr. Gerald Lage Academic Achievement Award, the Big 12 Conference's highest academic distinction, not only for her efforts with the team, but for maintaining a 3.95 GPA as a triple major.

“I had no idea the award was coming,” she said. “It means a lot because it shows that all the hard work I’m putting in is paying off and being recognized. If you have good athletes, that’s great, but if we have good student athletes who are also performing excellently in an academic environment, that elevates the team.”

The Sky’s the Limit

Andjela by FountainJovanovic is already looking forward to life after graduation. She currently serves as a research assistant for the FAA Center of Excellence for Technical Training and Human Performance, where she works hands-on with data and analytics.

“I started by participating in one of the studies they were conducting and providing feedback,” she said. “I was asked if I would like to continue helping with the projects. It helps me to understand the development of the aviation industry.”

She will also start an internship with Southwest Airlines this summer as a quality assurance intern within Southwest University.

“I’ll be making sure the training is maintaining the quality expected by the airline,” she said. “It goes hand in hand with what I’m doing with the FAA Center of Excellence. I’m really excited about it. It will be my first opportunity to work in the industry with a great company.”

Jovanovic is currently scheduled to graduate on time in spring 2023 with three bachelor’s degrees to her credit. She will also start working on a master’s degree in International Security Studies this fall as part of the College of International Studies accelerated master’s program. She plans to complete work on that degree in spring 2024.

After that, Jovanovich is looking forward to returning to Europe to start her career in earnest.

“I’m looking into working with the European Aviation Safety Agency,” she said. “Or possibly returning to Belgrade and working at the airport, or with other aviation authorities back home, and working my way up to bigger aviation agencies and companies that are security oriented.

For more information about undergraduate programs in aviation, visit the School of Aviation Studies website. To learn more about online degree programs for working adults, visit the College of Professional and Continuing Studies at pacs.ou.edu/degrees.

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Myk Mahaffey

Michael Mahaffey holds degrees in journalism and psychology. He is a writer and editor with more than a decade of experience writing for print and digital publications, including award-winning coverage of the rodeo industry. In his spare time, he writes fiction, in addition to tinkering with graphic design and photography.