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A soaring senior

  • Aviation science major had an eventful 2019

    Wednesday, April 8, 2020
    The author and Col. Charles McGee (Ret.), Tuskegee Airman

    By Tiffany Jackson

    I am a senior majoring in aviation science with a concentration in aviation management, and I had an exciting 2019.  A year ago, I was studying abroad, traveling to six European nations. I completed a fall internship at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and I was fortunate to be selected for a prestigious fellowship in my field.  

    In February 2019, I began my study abroad program in the small eastern European nation of Estonia. I attended the University of Tartu and the Estonian Aviation Academy. The country's native language, Estonian, is considered among the most difficult in the world to learn.  

    As it pertains to my major, taking classes internationally exposed me to the factors of international safety operations I never have before considered.  I had the opportunity to design, build and operate remotely piloted aircraft (i.e. drones) while also becoming familiar with European laws and policies governing aviation. During my time in Estonia, I took classes required to graduate from UMES, which afforded me a different perspective of my field - and the career paths I was considering. 

    Another great part of studying abroad was the ability to see the world outside of Maryland and the United States. I visited Finland, Norway, Russia, Latvia and Sweden with friends I met from the program and Estonian locals with whom I developed close friendships. It's nice to know now I have friends all around the world, and a place to stay when I decide to visit.  

    Studying abroad was an eye-opening experience, which I believe has been integral to my development as an aviation professional. It was in Estonia that I learned about the Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship Program and submitted my application to the U.S. Department of Transportation hoping to become one of the 2019 fellows. 

    When my peers began to move back to campus for the fall 2019 semester, I was settling in at home in the Washington, D.C. area, preparing to begin my senior year with an FAA internship. I began my full-time internship, which was contracted through TSC Enterprise, LLC, at the end of August and finished in late December. Simultaneously, I also was completing a full-time course load of online classes at UMES. 

    I worked as an analyst in the Office of Rulemaking, the regulatory office under the FAA's Aviation Safety Organization. This assignment aligned perfectly with my career goals because of my interest in aviation safety and aviation policy. It was during my internship I was notified that I was named an Eisenhower Fellow and awarded a $10,000 grant. This meant I could begin my proposed research project, “The Future of Aviation: Who's Next to Lead?”   

    As my internship was coming to a close, I was invited (by the FAA) to extend it another semester, which I have been able to accomplish “remotely” because I needed to return to Princess Anne to complete the final semester of my undergraduate studies. 

    Editor's note: Ms. Jackson wrote this essay prior to spring break, when the university announced it would shift instruction online for the remainder of the semester because of the coronavirus pandemic.