School of Aviation Studies Launches New Leadership Program

School of Aviation Studies Launches New Leadership Program

Bradley Burgess is a 2020 Aviation Management – Flying graduate, a Certified Flight Instructor for the School of Aviation Studies and an advisor to the Col. Kenneth R. Carson Aviation Leadership Program.

In Spring 2020, a group of recent OU Aviation graduates set out to build a program for current Aviation students to better prepare themselves to enter the aviation industry. The idea was born because, as we began our transition into the post-graduation world, we noticed a big difference between being a college student and a working professional.

With this in mind, we began to design a program that would help to bridge this gap of being a college student and an aviation professional. Through the help of School of Aviation Studies Professional Development Program Manager April Millaway and 2020 Aviation program graduates Brennan Jackson, Victoria Croney and myself, the program came to life during the Fall 2020 semester.

The goals for program centered around academic and professional growth of the student through workshops, speaker events and mentorship. When deciding on a name for this program, one person was frequently mentioned as the perfect fit — Kenneth R. Carson, the previous director of the School of Aviation Studies and retired United States Air Force Colonel. Carson was a dedicated leader of the OU Aviation program from 2008 until his retirement in 2019. He influenced many OU Aviation graduates with his strong, yet humble leadership qualities. Thus, the Col. Kenneth R. Carson Aviation Leadership Program was born.

Leadership Program logoAs the Fall semester began, we opened our first application window in search of high-achieving individuals to join this inaugural class. We wanted dedicated and hardworking students to help us grow the program from an idea to reality. We had many applicants apply, and each applicant underwent a rigorous application process that included a written application and interview. The applicants were required to submit letters of recommendation, a resume and two essays. We reviewed each application in search of students who displayed positive leadership potential and dedication to the activities they were already involved in. Each applicant then went through a formal interview process where alumni helped the team review the applicants. With the input of our alumni advisors in mind, we selected six current students to be inducted as the first members of the Col. Kenneth R. Carson Aviation Leadership Program.

The inaugural members of the Leadership Program each bring their own set of unique skills to the table and have built a diverse inaugural class. The group is made up of three sophomores, one junior and two seniors who represent each of the Aviation degree tracks at OU.

Our three sophomore members are Allix Huggan, Jack Crawford and Ryan McNamara. Allix Huggan is a Professional Pilot major from Moore, Oklahoma. Her career plans include flying for an airline and joining the United States Air Force Reserves. Jack Crawford is an Aviation Management  Non-Flying major from Hickory Creek, Texas. His future career plans include working in the operations department at a commercial airline or becoming an accident investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Ryan McNamara is a Professional Pilot major from San Diego. His future career plans include teaching as a flight instructor at OU and flying international routes for the airlines.

Nicholas Guerrero, our junior class member, is an Aviation Management  Flying major from Prosper, Texas. His future career plans are to become a flight instructor and fly for a major airline.

Our seniors are Elizabeth Phillips and Sara Hoffman. Elizabeth Phillips is an Aviation Management  Non-Flying major from Norman, Oklahoma. Her future career plans include working as an airport operations officer or airport manager. Sara Hoffman is a Professional Pilot major from Boerne, Texas. Her future career plans include working at OU as a flight instructor to gain hours and then applying for the Destination 225 Southwest Airlines program.

With this group of high achieving students selected, we set out to begin our Fall programming for 2020.

We began our Fall events in October 2020 with our first new member kickoff event, where we welcomed all of our members and went over our goals for the program. Our alumni that helped in the selection process joined once again to welcome our new members and congratulate them on their selection.

When we started this program, there was a clear goal in mind, which centered around better preparing OU Aviation graduates for the industry.

Our first program event was led by Hank Laakman (Class of 1968), who was a United States Air Force Pilot and retired Boeing Program Manager. Laakman led a workshop focused on building resume writing skills and how to get selected from your resume in a competitive environment. He explained from a manager’s point of view what tactics can be used to make it past the initial review stages and on to the interview pile.

This workshop set the scene for our November program event, which involved an interview workshop led by Jeff Tyrcha. He emphasized the importance of interview techniques, such as the STAR method of question answering, and how to stand out when answering questions. Then, the members had their own chance to participate in a one-on-one interview workshop. The workshops began with alumni acting as an interview panel asking questions targeted at the member’s resume and potential questions for their selected field. Then, the alumni and program mentors helped debrief the interviewees, giving feedback on areas in which they excelled and where they should focus their attention. This event tied in both workshops from the Fall semester, building the members’ job application skills. The semester ended with a formal inauguration and celebration of their achievements as the first member class of the Col. Kenneth R. Carson Aviation Leadership Program.

Looking forward to the Spring 2021 and beyond, we hope to host more workshops and events for our program members. Applications just closed for more members to join us for the Spring semester, and we anticipate welcome around five new members for Spring 2021. We plan to host a LinkedIn workshop, business networking luncheon, industry speaker and teambuilding event during the semester. Each one of these workshops and events will focus on further building the members’ skills for the professional world.

We also plan to add a mentorship program, where we pair an alumnus with a student member in the program. This will allow the student members the ability to learn from someone who is currently working in their field of interest. We hope these mentorships can lead to industry connections and industry experience for the program members. Another great way for OU alumni to become involved in this wonderful program and attend the events to benefit their own career is helping us host workshops and speaking events, where the students can learn about the industry and build their own skills.

When we started this program, there was a clear goal in mind, which centered around better preparing OU Aviation graduates for the industry. We have already seen positive change in our current members, and we hope this program can grow into another reason that OU leads the university aviation training industry. If you are interested in helping us with this mission or attending some of our events to learn more, please contact one of our graduate advisors — Bradley Burgess at, Victoria Croney at or Brennan Jackson at

Learn more about the OU Extended Campus School of Aviation Studies, or return to the Crimson Flyer Newsletter.

Bradley Burgess

Bradley Burgess is a Certified Flight Instructor for the School of Aviation Studies. He graduated in 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in Aviation and is one of three graduate advisors for the Col. Kenneth R. Carson Aviation Leadership Program.