Alumni Career Spotlight: James Sulton, III

James speakingJames Sulton, III, Ed.D., is an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University alumnus of the Prescott, AZ and Daytona Beach, FL campuses.  He worked towards an Aerospace Studies undergraduate degree on the Daytona Beach campus and transferred to the Prescott campus to finish his bachelor’s degree, focusing on safety.  He came back to Daytona Beach to complete his master’s degree.  Then, he received his Doctor of Education degree from Pepperdine University, where his dissertation was titled, African-American Women Pilot’s Perceptions of Barriers to Success in Flight-Training and Strategies to Enhance Their Presence.

After he graduated from Pepperdine, he became Principal of Aviation High School, which was a magnet school in Oakland, CA.  Next, James pursued a career in air traffic control.  He is now living in Manassas, VA and working as an Air Traffic Controller.  Currently, he volunteers and assists in different events involving K-12 in the Virginia and Maryland areas.  James and his wife wrote new curriculum, currently used in some Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC schools, to provide new topics surrounding aviation that remains within the guidelines of the core curriculum.  He also co-founded AviationEd, Inc., an organization of aviation and education professionals committed to inspiring the next generation to pursue their career goals through mentorship, educational programs, and experiential learning.

Tell us about your career successes and how each one led to new opportunities.

In 2005, I had a unique opportunity to teach high school math to approximately 100 at-risk teenagers with special needs in Prescott, Arizona. The experience of working with students who were struggling to learn grade level material due to poor foundational knowledge sparked a passion.

I was intrigued by the social challenges that manifested themselves as academic shortcomings in the classroom. “Why were so many of my students struggling?” was a question I continued to ask myself. When I began to meet with the families of my students, I realized the level of needed support stretched far beyond the classroom.

So, in 2006, when Lockheed Martin hired me as a flight service specialist, I enrolled the support of my colleagues and started a volunteer network at a local high school. Lockheed was very supportive of our group as we provided tutoring, organized school events and activities, and partnered with their learning community.

After serving as a flight service specialist for Lockheed and a school board member at Oakland Aviation High School, I took a leap of faith and blended my passion for aviation with that of education and became the principal of Oakland Aviation High School (OAHS).

OAHS primarily served at-risk students – some with special needs – from the neighborhoods of east Oakland. Our academic program satisfied state educational standards in math, science, English, and social science using themes and concepts found within the aviation and aerospace industries while providing avenues for career technical education. In addition, we had unique partnerships with local colleges and community organizations that really enhanced our curriculum.

Today, I work for the FAA as an Air Traffic control Specialist at Potomac Consolidated Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facility in Warrenton, Virginia. I remain connected to local and national aviation educational initiatives with an organization co-founded with my wife Jacqueline, AviationEd, Inc.

How have your educational achievements impacted your career decisions? How did you involvement in school help you achieve your goals?

From attaining bachelor’s and master’s degrees at ERAU to a doctorate in educational leadership, administration and policy from Pepperdine University, my collegiate education had an immeasurable impact on my career decisions.

Equally important to my coursework were the experiences I had as a college student outside of the classroom. Working as a camp counselor and coordinator at ERAU’s Summer Academy, teaching SAT preparation as a teacher at ERAU’s Upward Bound program, and the relationships I built with classmates provided marketable skills that I use every day.

What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?

Without a doubt, my most proud professional accomplishment was ensuring that each of our 40 graduating seniors at OAHS were accepted to college before attaining their high school diploma. With more than 50% of our students being first generation college students and 95% being eligible for free or reduced lunch under the Federal Title I program, I am extremely proud of being part of a team of educators that accomplished this goal.

For young people interested in STEM and aviation education, what advice do you have to help them on a path to success?

For young people interested, and for those that are not, I encourage them to take advantage of every opportunity to learn about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) career fields. In the next 10 years, there will be over 1 million jobs – many high paying – available in the STEM sector. In addition to career fields in the aviation and aerospace industries, STEM career fields provide access to exciting opportunities that are on the cutting edge of innovation.

It is also important to stay encouraged while pursuing your career goals and dreams. If you really want to be involved, do not take “no” for an answer and continue to pursue your destiny regardless of what may be said.

And, be sure to find a mentor as soon as possible. People who are in a position that you admire may have been where you are today. Reach out to people you respect as they may be willing to support you.

Finally, participate in summer and extracurricular programs every year. AviationEd, Inc. organizes a national scholarship search and sponsors at least two students to attend ERAU’s Summer Academy in Daytona Beach. Each year the award winners rave about the experience and many are eager to learn about how they can enroll as students in the university.


Ready, Set, Go…with a Back-up Plan

by Amy Treutel

ATC Tower LabThe Air Traffic Management degree at Embry-Riddle is a very specific one.  Most students go through the program with the intent to become an Air Traffic Controller after graduation.  They know the courses they have to take at Embry-Riddle, and they know what steps they must go through after graduation to apply with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and be on their way to pursuing their dreams.  What seems like a clear cut process can become slightly more complicated as things like budget cuts and increased wait times creep into the picture, however.

This is when it’s important to call upon your back-up plan!  Most students realize that they do have to do something between when they graduate and when they get hired by the FAA as an Air Traffic Control Specialist trainee.  As the hiring panel is only every six months (November and March), there will be a wait time between graduation and when the ball gets going for Air Traffic Control.  In fact, the average wait time for a graduate of the air traffic management degree program to be hired by the FAA is just over a year, but for others that time can stretch into two, sometimes three years.  Almost 80 percent of graduates jump right into the workforce after graduation, whether they are working as a Remote Pilot Operator at Raytheon or in customer service at Staples.  What many students don’t take advantage of, however, is this two to three year gap where they can get started on a career or pursue an advanced degree.

There are so many opportunities for graduates with backgrounds in Air Traffic Control.  It’s not advice you want to hear, but it is solid advice nonetheless: pursue other adventures!  Many air traffic graduates are in the industry right now, waiting to be hired by the FAA but at the same time working in a job they love and are passionately pursuing.  It doesn’t mean you’ve given up on your career goals, and it doesn’t mean your degree is worthless.  It means you were proactive and responsible enough to realize that you may have to take a different path to become an Air Traffic Controller than others, but in the end, you’ll be sitting in the same tower cab or radar room as the guy or girl who chose not to get that extra experience.

For example, take Alyssa Smith, a recent air traffic graduate.  She is currently working for The Boeing Company as a Quality System Specialist.  After completing an internship with Boeing, she was offered a full-time position.  While waiting to be hired, she is gaining great full-time work experience as well as growing her network by working in the industry.  Travis Gonzalez is another great example of a graduate of the Air Traffic Management degree program.  Currently, Travis is working at The Mitre Corporation, and while he initially had plans to become an Air Traffic Controller, he found another passion and pursued it.  Travis is still involved in air traffic but is working more with research and analysis.  Still want another example?  Bryan Dietz graduated with an Air Traffic Management degree and has also pursued a career outside of being a controller.

With the FAA’s recent announcement that just a very small hiring panel will be held this November, many air traffic graduates are left thinking, now what?  Now is the perfect time to call upon your back-up plan.  Get started early and don’t wait to be hired by the FAA.  Go through your career checklist.  See what other graduates have done and learn about companies hiring Air Traffic Management graduates.  Check out the Career Services website to see the many resources that are available to make a job search easier for you.  Choose a couple of minors that could translate into skills for alternate types of jobs.  Then get out there and make industry contacts while working full-time.  It’s important to get your foot in the door, and who knows, maybe you’ll find a new passion and calling doing something other than pushing tin.

Amy Treutel graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Air Traffic Management from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and is currently pursuing a Master of Science degree in Aeronautics with a specialization in Management.  She currently works as the Office Associate and has been part of the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Career Services team for five years.

Alumni Career Spotlight: Bryan Dietz

Bryan Dietz, DB 2010

Bryan Dietz, DB 2010

Bryan Dietz graduated in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Air Traffic Management, with minors in Business and International Relations.  Bryan was an active leader on campus during his time at ERAU, with his most visible role as the SGA president.  Bryan took advantage of all opportunities to get involved and develop professionally, which included participating in the Co-op/Internship program.  Bryan’s internship led to his current position with the Allegheny County Airport Authority as an Aviation Business Analyst.  Bryan is engaged to be married and is looking forward to personal and professional milestones to come.

Tell us what you have been doing since graduating from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in May of 2010?

I think the most exciting thing so far is meeting my fiancée, Shannon, after coming back to Pittsburgh. I am very fortunate to have found someone who appreciates my passion for aviation as well as the need for me to look at every airplane above us when we are outside! We enjoy Pittsburgh and it is a great place to live with plenty to do so we find time to enjoy the city.

Following graduation, I was able to come back home and work for the Allegheny County Airport Authority, which manages Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) and Allegheny County Airport (AGC).  While I work with multiple departments at the airport, I work primarily with Air Service Development to develop passenger and cargo flights from PIT.  It has been a great experience being able to work with multiple airlines, other departments, fellow airports, and the ever increasing number of Embry-Riddle alumni.

I stay in touch with Embry-Riddle as a member of the Alumni Advisory Council (AAC) and through the network of Embry-Riddle Alumni.  It is amazing how the campus has changed since just two years ago!

You completed an internship at Allegheny County Airport Authority prior to graduating.  How did this experience help you to obtain your current position?

My internship did three things for me.  First, it made me look outside of the possibilities of my degree program.  While I was an Air Traffic Management major at Embry-Riddle, I wanted to see what airports did in the role of aviation.  I was able to do an internship between my junior and senior year only to find out Airport Management was a better fit for me personally. I have not regretted that decision one bit and would not have known airports were the right fit for me without that internship.

Secondly, the internship exposed me as a potential employee to not only the airport but other aviation sectors as well. Being able to have a company see your work in action is the single best advantage in doing an internship.  I feel it is a advantage ahead of those who apply to a job because the employer  can see the type of work you do first hand.

Lastly, the internship brought a whole additional learning element to my degree.  Not only did I learn real world experiences and knowledge during my internship, but during my last year on campus, I felt as if I was able to apply more of what I learned in the classroom.  I remember specifically, that I appreciated a class I took in Human Resources much more after seeing how important it was in the airport environment.

What have you found most surprising about your career and your work environment?

Bryan Dietz, ERAU DB 2010The most surprising part in my career has been how “small” the aviation industry really is.  In fact, it often feels like the world’s biggest family.  No matter where you go or what you do, you meet someone who knows a friend of yours or who has worked with a colleague of yours at a previous company.  Embry-Riddle is also a big part of what makes the industry feel so small – there are so many graduates out there who I am connected with.

Can you share some advice for current students?

Without a doubt, do not rush your college experience and become involved on campus.  Looking back, the time at Embry-Riddle does move very quickly and I miss the friendships and the campus quite often.  Becoming involved not only makes that experience that much better but it really does prepare you for the work world.  At work, we interact with so many colleagues and customers that have different personalities, backgrounds, and culture that it takes time to find the best ways to interact with those groups.  But getting involved on campus in the clubs, organizations, or sports teams, does give you real work experience in working with different types of people while giving you other skills such as managing the budget of a club and learning how to run a meeting. Having the chance to get involved on campus not only makes you more effective at work but also gives you actual experience and examples to share with your future employer.

Alumni Career Spotlight: Alyssa Smith

Alyssa Smith, ERAU ATM

Alyssa Smith, DB 2012

Alyssa Smith is a recent graduate of the Bachelor of Science in Air Traffic Management program at the Embry-Riddle Daytona Beach campus. After being encouraged by an alumnus, she visited The Boeing Company’s booth at last year’s Industry/Career Expo. This summer, Alyssa worked for Boeing as a Quality Systems Specialist Intern and was hired on full-time as a Quality System Specialist in August. As a student at Embry-Riddle, Alyssa worked both on and off campus and completed internships with AvPorts at Teterboro Airport and Brian Boyle Attorneys at Law.

As an Air Traffic Management major, why did you choose to apply to Boeing?

I honestly had never thought about it before speaking with an alumnus who encouraged me to go up to the booth at the career fair. When I did, I ended up finding out about Boeing’s NextGen program and learned more about opportunities in Boeing. 

What skills and traits do you find that are most beneficial in your work?

Communication is key in any job, but especially when you work for such a big company. Peoples’ time is so valuable; make sure you know what you need before you say anything. 

How will this position relate to your future goal?

This position is an awesome opportunity. There is so much room for growth in Boeing, and my manager makes it his responsibility to make sure I get any and all training I want, including leadership training, to help advance toward goals of management. 

What advice do you have for other ATM majors who are waiting for the FAA call?

No one wants to hear it, but it’s a reality that you could be waiting years before you get the call.  Go apply to as many other positions you can while you wait. Try to stay in the industry; market your minors or even the management portion of your degree.

Alumni Career Spotlight: Travis Gonzalez

Travis Gonzalez, DB 2008

We were excited to hear Travis’ story because he is not your typical ATM graduate. Most graduates from the program aspire to become Air Traffic Controllers…while Travis did too initially, things changed for him after his safety internship with JetBlue Airways. In his role at The Mitre Corporation he is able to draw from his Air Traffic Management degree and his internship experience with JetBlue; plus, he has furthered his education in systems engineering to make him an even greater asset to his company.

You majored in Air Traffic Management – what made you decide to pursue a career outside of the FAA?

Working at the Center for Advanced Aviation System Development (CAASD) in MITRE’s FAA research and development center, I am in fact working as one of the main contractors  for the FAA; however, what deviated my initial plan of becoming an air traffic controller was my interest in aviation research and analysis; especially in the midst of a paradigm shift occurring by way of the Next Generation Air Transportation (NextGen). The overall decision to make that change in career path came after a year of working for JetBlue Airways Flight Operational Quality Assurance (FOQA) program which commenced during my senior year at Embry-Riddle. At JetBlue, I assisted air safety investigators and staff engineers in developing metrics and performing statistical analysis on a variety of aircraft parameters that came directly from the fleet for the purposes of identifying answers to critical issues in safety, operational conformance, and internal investigations. After about a year and a half of hands on experience, I decided that the MITRE Corporation with its impressive reputation and wide range of research and development projects, was an excellent choice.

What did you do in the course of the application and interview process with The MITRE Corporation to effectively market yourself as a strong candidate?

I leveraged information obtained from coursework in both my major and system engineering/human factors elective courses, along with the niche skill set learned while working at JetBlue. If there is one piece of advice that I can give an applicant applying to MITRE, it would be to not only focus on your technical strengths, but assess your interest in professional development. Unlike other jobs where you may develop a specific skill set and apply it to or project or job function for the rest of the career, MITRE strongly encourages their educational programs, which sponsor advanced degrees, certifications, or applicable single courses that are extremely helpful due to the different projects you may work on from year to year (see below for more information). I believe the determination for higher learning that I displayed in my interview stuck with those particular managers and was a contributing factor in receiving my job offer in April, 2009. Since then, I have graduated with a Master of Science in Systems Engineering from George Washington University, and am working on my PhD in systems engineering with a dissertation focus on  stochastic optimization in aviation systems.

How has your Embry-Riddle degree opened doors for you in your current role?

In the aviation professional environment, Embry-Riddle is regarded as one of the most respected universities for aeronautical studies. In a competitive job market, where some companies are seeing triple the amount of applications received from the previous year per job opening, it is imperative that you differentiate yourself from the pack, and a degree from Embry-Riddle is a starting point. Secondly, I firmly believe that If I did not pursue an internship during college, I probably would not of had the chance of getting that initial interview in the first place. Proper planning and a clear focus on what career you want to pursue as early as possible, will help you identify a proper internship and get you to the desired end result, which in most cases, is the opportunity to work as a contributing member in enhancing our National Airspace System.

What are your plans for the future?

My plans for the near term future are to complete my PhD in Systems Engineering/Operations Research which I began August of this year, as well as to continually work on interesting research projects that take me to various locations around the U.S. When I finish my PhD and have more of an open schedule to travel, I would like to work in our International division as a country director, which involves identifying and developing innovative system engineering solutions to problems presented by our international clients all over the world.

About MITRE’s tuition reimbursement benefits:

At MITRE, there are three tuition reimbursement programs available to employees that are unmatched amongst the aviation research industry.  Three programs are offered through the Educational Assistance Office: the Basic Educational Assistance Program (BEAP), which reimburses tuition, applicable fees and books to support a planned academic objective in line with MITRE’s work needs; the Accelerated Graduate Degree Program (AGDP), which allows employees to pursue an advanced degree at an accelerated rate by providing time off for studies; and covers tuition, books and applicable fees in full and the Advanced Degree Award Program, through which qualifying employees receive a bonus for completion of their degree. For more information on benefits and additional information on MITRE, please go to

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