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#OTGYpsi: EMU Community Collaborations Mean More Opportunities For Students

On this edition of "On The Ground Ypsi," Lisa Barry and Sarah Rigg talk with Jerard Delaney, aviation program coordinator for Eastern Michigan University, about how students benefit from one of several partnerships the university has that give them more hands-on experience as part of their degree.


Concentrate Ann Arbor

Sarah Rigg's Feature Article: EMU improves student opportunities through community and industry partnerships

EMU Aviation Program

"Carnegie Selects Colleges and Universities for 2015 Community Engagement Classification"

Futures for Frontliners



Lisa Barry: You're listening to 89-1 WEMU and this is On the Ground Ypsi. I'm Lisa Barry talking with Concentrate Media's On the Ground project manager Sarah Rigg about one of her online stories this week. And we're joined now by Sarah to tell us about the story and the guest she's brought with her. Hi, Sarah.

Sarah Rigg: Hi, Lisa. So, this week I wrote a story that is a roundup of about half a dozen collaborations that EMU--Eastern Michigan University--has undertaken in the past year and a half to two years with industry or nonprofit partners to provide more options to their students. And I have brought with me Jerry Delaney, to talk about the aviation program's most recent collaboration.

Lisa Barry Welcome, Jerry. Great to have you join us here.

Jerry Delaney Thank you very much. Pleasure to be with you.

Lisa Barry: Is the aviation program at Eastern just a collaboration, or is it a degree you can get, or how does that work?

Jerry Delaney It is a degree program. And, actually, under the aviation program, we have two majors. We have a major in aviation management technology, which is predominantly oriented towards people that are going into the business end of aviation, airport management, aircraft handling, fixed base operators, advertising and so on. And then, the other major we have and the one we have the majority of students in is the aviation flight major. And that major is orienting people towards careers in aviation as pilots. Most people who automatically think of that as being airline pilots, not necessarily always the case. We had have many of our students end up flying crate, flying for commercial aviation, private aviation, business aviation, and so on.

Lisa Barry: Seems like lately we've been hearing about some opportunities along those lines as well.

Jerry Delaney: It is. During the slowdown because of the pandemic, obviously, things were backed up a little bit. Prior to that happening, there was a tremendous shortage of pilots--well, actually positions all the way across the aviation industry--pilots, air traffic controllers, maintenance technicians and so on. During the pandemic, when the airlines rolled back a little bit, one of the things they did was offer some of their pilots early buyouts. And now that we're starting to ramp back up again, those people that took the early buyouts obviously are not coming back. We already had a shortage prior to, and so, the shortage is actually twice that. So, pretty much as soon as our students are graduating and getting the number of flight hours they need to transition over to the airlines or commercial aviation, their job is going to be there.

Lisa Barry: And since we're talking about collaborations, clarify that.

Jerry Delaney: I'm the program coordinator for the aviation program. So, I kind of oversee the whole operation. And then we partner with Chrono Aviation for the flight portion. Yes, there's the collaboration.

Lisa Barry: OK.

Jerry Delaney: So the way that breaks down is we do all of the academic preparation here at the university. We also do the ground schools for the pilot certificates that the students are trying to acquire here at the university. And then our partner, Crosswinds Aviation, provides the flight services. The partnership that we have with them is relatively new. It's just coming up on a year old. And it offered some tremendous advantages to our students primarily and especially with some of the things that happened during the pandemic rather than operating out of just one airport, as we had been in the past with Iran. We now operate out of four different airports. We have a presence that will run. We also operate out of Howell, Flint, and Pontiac. One of the great advantages for our students with that is, as you probably know, Eastern is a significant portion of our students are commuters. It offers them an opportunity to fly oftentimes much closer to their home so they can come to the university, get classes, head home, head over to the airport, fly, and it makes that portion of the training much more convenient.

Lisa Barry: And you, Jerry, are a pilot yourself, are you not?

Jerry Delaney: I am. I'm a commercial pilot, a flight instructor and I keep my hand in it. I don't teach through the university. We have a small airport near where I live. And just to keep myself current and keep myself fresh, I usually try to keep a couple of students going. So, I'm here at the university today doing all the business stuff, but tomorrow I'll be flying.

Lisa Barry: Sarah, you talk to a lot of people because Eastern has a lot of collaborations going on. Can you tell us about some of those?

Sarah Rigg: Yeah, I had to narrow it down to just about the past 18 months to two years, because if we were going back further than that, they've got so many other partnerships. So, I talked about the Futures for Frontliners program, and I talked with Kevin Kucsera, who is a vice president, at EMU about that, and Governor Whitmer announced a program where people who are frontline workers during the pandemic could get a two-year degree at a community college for free, tuition free. And so, EMU built a partnership with Henry Ford to help those frontliners and continue on tuition free, or a steep tuition break anyway, and get their four year degree at EMU. And since that original announcement, six other community colleges have signed on to the same type of agreement. So that was pretty cool. Another one was GameAbove, which is an alumni group that gave a huge series of donations, culminating a five million dollar gift earlier this year to the College of Engineering and Technology. They renamed themselves GameAbove, and there's lots of opportunities that come out of that, not only for the engineering students themselves, upgrades to their equipment, but also for outreach to high school students who might want to go into STEM fields. There's another collaboration with Babeu Gulf University in China, where Chinese students there can get a dual degree through EMU and their own university. That was pretty neat. And there was a couple of other smaller collaborations I talked about too. But I know how much detail you want me to go into about that, Lisa. 

Lisa Barry: My question is, when you were putting this together about the collaborations Eastern Michigan University is involved in, are you getting the feel that this is a new trend in higher education?

Sarah Rigg: So, I also talked to President Smith about this, and he was saying that some schools can really focus more on the theoretical and they don't do quite as much outreach in community partnerships. But, according to the Carnegie Foundation, there's a category of school called engaged schools, and they have all these partnerships. And EMU was definitely in that category of engaged schools. And President Smith was talking about why people who are hiring like EMU students, because they haven't just gone to classes. They more than likely been to some kind of practicum or internship and gotten the job experience as well before they even graduate.

Jerry Delaney: To kind of dovetail on what Sarah was talking about in terms of the partnerships, one of the things I think that we have a tremendous focus on here at the university is training people and educating people for real world experiences in the job market. And I think that's where those partnerships have really come in. In addition to the partnership we have with Crosswinds, we're also developing partnerships with Colletta, which is a major freight company, also operating out of Willow Run as flight, which is also a major airport supplier of aviation fuel. So, we're connecting our students with the industries in southeast Michigan. We've got a lot of aviation-oriented industries, so we're connecting those people directly with the industries. It's a benefit for the industry that they're getting people that are excited and interested in it. And it's a tremendous benefit for our students in that they're gaining that real world experience.

Lisa Barry: Connections and collaborations--we love sharing information about that. Jerry Delaney and Sarah Rigg, thanks to both of you for talking to us here on WEMU.

Jerry Delaney: You're welcome.

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu

Lisa Barry was a reporter, and host of All Things Considered on 89.1 WEMU.
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