NEPA natives help build Aviation Management program
TOWANDA, Pa. – With nearly two decades of combined experience in the aviation industry, two northeastern Pennsylvania natives are excited to bring their passion and expertise to a new associate degree program at Lackawanna College.
Heather Blokzyl, manager of the Bradford County Airport in Towanda, and Deanna Stoddard, an airport planner with McFarland Johnson in Binghamton, N.Y., have combined their talents to help the College form its new Aviation Management program. The pair began discussing the creation of the program with College leaders in November 2014, bringing an infectious enthusiasm to the process.
“We’re all about aviation, and education in aviation,” said Blokzyl, who graduated from Lackawanna in 2006 with degrees in Business Administration and Accounting. She later earned a bachelor’s degree in aviation management from Everglades University and is expected to complete her master’s degree this fall in the same field from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. The Towanda native is particularly excited to offer new career opportunities to graduates from her alma mater.
“Being two local girls who took two different paths but ended up back in the area working in aviation, we hope that we can serve as good role models for what you can achieve with this degree,” Stoddard said. The Susquehanna County native has a master’s degree in aviation from University of Nebraska Omaha and is a licensed pilot.
Both Blokzyl and Stoddard plan to serve as adjunct professors in the new program, sharing with students their love of and experience in a part of the aviation industry that some aren’t even aware exists.
“A lot of people assume that if you work in aviation, you’re a pilot. That’s really a very small percentage of what actually happens in aviation,” Blokzyl said.
There are numerous job opportunities for students who complete the major. In fact, Blokzyl said she often looks at an airport as a miniature city, complete with hospitality experts, security teams, facility managers, financial consultants, site planners and coordinators, and more.
“We have outlined a management degree that will be useful in preparing students to work in the industry that will give them a competitive edge when they graduate,” Stoddard said.
Unlike a typical business degree, the Aviation Management program is tailored to students who have a passion for flight. While there are opportunities to work close to home with more than 60 private and public airports or heliports in the counties where Lackawanna has campuses or satellite centers, graduates will be able to apply their skills at any airport they desire.
“It’s a very unique program, but you can easily get a job in this industry,” Blokzyl said. “There are opportunities out there that need great management personnel.”
Students who graduate from the associate degree program and choose to earn their pilot’s license at another institution will have even greater job opportunities, Stoddard said.
“We want to teach others about how much an airport can positively impact a local community,” she added. “The people who fly in will stay at hotels, get a rental car, go out to eat or go shopping. It all helps build and tie everything together. It’s not an insulated industry.”
Both said that they hope to utilize their industry contacts to bring guest speakers into the classroom and offer valuable internship opportunities to Aviation Management majors.
Students interested in enrolling in the exciting field can visit www.lackawanna.edu/aviation for more information.
Enrollment for the Fall 2015 semester is open, and classes begin August 31. Visit www.lackawanna.edu for more information.