Learning takes Flight
A win-win for UCM students and Boy Scouts at annual aviation course. Finding your tribe is an important part of freshman year. Benjamin Kirtley, an Eagle Scout from Faucett, Mo., found his through his Boy Scout connection.
Kirtley, Class of 2020, was the volunteer coordinator for this year’s UCM Merit Badge University. Four hundred Boy Scouts and their leaders camped at Max B. Swisher Skyhaven Airport for a weekend in April. Scouts benefit by seeing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in action, while the aviation students strengthen their skills.
“It got the boys exposed to UCM and gave us an opportunity to share what we’re learning,” Kirtley says. “Plus, the college students who hadn’t been exposed to Boy Scouts got some experience with Scouting. It was good for both parties.”
Kirtley, an aviation management major, joined several organizations freshman year: the American Association of Airport Executives, Baptist Student Union, Aviation Student Leaders and the Missouri Association of Airport Managers. His networking led him to the volunteer opportunity with the Merit Badge University.
“I was really happy to hear about the opportunity to do something with Boy Scouts,” Kirtley says. “I try to stay involved but two hours away from home is a little difficult.”
Kirtley eagerly embraced the mentoring role before him at the Boy Scout event. “I asked where they are on the path to eagle and encouraged them to keep going and not get burned out,” he recalls.
Alumni and friends who also believe in service help make the Merit Badge University possible. The Aviation Department received an Opportunity Grant for the 2016 event and will receive assistance for the 2017 event, too.
“Students benefit from a deeper realization and real-life application of their own knowledge of aviation, as well as experience the value of engaged learning,” says Matthew Furedy, assistant professor of aviation. “The project also highlights the importance of volunteerism and provides hands-on experience and emotional rewards that come from making a difference. We want to develop a culture of service among students.”
“We couldn’t do this without the Foundation’s support and are grateful to the donors whose unrestricted gifts make the Opportunity Grant Program possible.” said Tony Monetti, assistant dean of aviation and executive director of the airport.
The event includes a tour of the airport, flight school and maintenance hangar. Scouts listen to lectures on aviation basics and many experience their first ride in an airplane. Approximately 20 students teach and assist 350 Scouts. The event sold out within a week last year. The Merit Badge University website will advertise the opening of registration in fall or early winter.
Aviation is one of UCM’s signature programs. Students may receive a bachelor’s degrees in one of three areas: the professional pilot program, aviation maintenance management 2+2, and aviation management. The university also offers a master of science in aviation safety.
Max B. Swisher Skyhaven Airport is the only university-owned airport in Missouri. The UCM training fleet includes a Cessna single-engine training aircraft, a Baron Beechcraft Multiengine aircraft, Redbird simulators, and a 737 simulator.