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Five Steps to Starting a Regional Scholarship Program

June 3, 2013

Listen to a NBAA Flight Plan podcast for more on starting a regional scholarship program.

When Mark Myers became president of the Ohio Regional Business Aviation Association (ORBAA), he identified one of his top priorities right off the bat.

“We have to have a give-back,” he said. Specifically, Myers wanted to find a way for ORBAA to make a significant contribution to the business aviation community and to Ohio.

Luckily for Myers, he had on his board of directors a Fortune 500 company flight officer named Eric Black, who was also thinking of creating a “give-back.” Black, however, had something very specific in mind. For some time, he and a colleague, both graduates of Ohio State University’s flight program, had been bothered by the lack of curricula aimed specifically at business aviation.

“As we found our pathways within the industry itself, we were basically educated by the industry,” Black explained. “For us to graduate from a four- or five-year program without any specific knowledge about the business aviation end of the industry was a travesty,” he added.

Little did Black or Myers know at the time, but they were taking the first step toward establishing the Ohio Regional Business Aviation Association Collegiate Scholarship.

Step One: Identify the Need

Both Myers and Black said realizing that none of the six universities in Ohio offering four-year degrees in aviation offered much in the way of business aviation education was an “aha moment.” But the problem was bigger than a simple lack of educational offerings, said Black. Not only did students – and even some faculty members – have almost no knowledge of business aviation, many had the wrong idea of what the industry is all about, he said. “That’s typically where we had to start: correcting misperceptions,” he explained.

Step Two: Form Partnerships

Black said he and his colleague mulled over how best to attack the twin problems of little working knowledge and misperceptions about business aviation. They decided to start by going back to Ohio State University themselves.

“We went back as guest speakers in the classroom and addressed some of these topics,” Black said. “We also began forming partnerships with the educators.”

That partnering effort expanded from Ohio State to the other five aviation schools: Bowling Green State University, University of Cincinnati, Ohio University, Kent State University and Sinclair Community College. It also expanded to include Ohio business aviation leaders and members of the NBAA Business Aviation Roundtable, Black noted.

ORBAA was ideally set up to create these partnerships. In 2008, Ohio business aviation leaders had formed the Business Aviation Collaborative of Ohio (BACO), aimed at better preparing students for aviation careers. ORBAA and OBAC merged in 2011. With that move, Myers said, came an organization with existing relationships within the collegiate community, as well as a connection with state officials who could facilitate the expansion of business aviation education.

Step Three: Promote It

Once the network of relationships dedicated to enhancing business aviation awareness among college students was established, Black said the next task was to create a way to involve the students themselves.

“Mark Myers said he wanted a deliverable: our first scholarship. This was kind of the pinnacle of what we were trying to do, because it was of direct benefit to the students, but it had a lot of meaning underpinning the whole thing,” said Black.

Step Four: Fund It

Using a portion of the funds derived from its Ohio Business Aviation Training Stand-Down (OBATS) events, ORBAA created a $5,000 scholarship competition and spread the word through its relationships with the colleges.

“OBAC decided they would take 25 percent of the net proceeds from their events (which are pay-to-play and sponsored events) and apply those proceeds toward scholarships,” Myers said.

Step Five: Award the Scholarship

The criteria for entrants were not complicated:

  • U.S. citizenship would be required
  • Entrants had to be sophomores, juniors or seniors enrolled in an Ohio collegiate aviation program that is a member of the University Aviation Association
  • Applicants would be required to provide proof of private pilot or higher FAA airman certificate
  • Applicants would need to provide a current resume (two pages maximum)
  • Applicants would need to provide a copy of their transcripts showing coursework consistent with their aviation career goals
  • A recommendation letter from the aviation program at the applicant’s school would need to be included with each application
  • Applicants would be required to write a one-page, typed essay explaining why business aviation is an important pathway for their careers

The entries had to be submitted by Jan. 25, 2013. Dozens of students from across Ohio applied.

And the Winner Is...

Bowling Green State University Aviation Studies Major Brian Finley won the competition. Finley, a senior with a 3.7 grade point average (GPA), has already started steeping himself in business aviation by working as an aircraft dispatch intern and a line-service intern.

“It is impressive to see what the [business aviation] industry has created,” said Finley. “The companies, workforce and economic impact are tremendous, and [I have a] passion for this industry. And now, thanks to ORBAA, I am a little closer to my dream of being a future leader in the business aviation community in Ohio.”

Perhaps even more important was the interest the scholarship program stirred among aviation students in Ohio, said Black. “The larger benefit of the whole thing is there’s actually meat under the surface of that scholarship. There’s actually meaning to all students, because you can only benefit one, maybe several, students with a scholarship program. But we set up an education initiative that affects the curricula and all the students.”

Other Success Stories

“It is extremely satisfying to me to see groups like ORBAA initiating this effort to reach out to our young folks to bring them into a rewarding aviation career,” said NBAA Director of Regional Programs Steve Hadley, who explained that helping develop programs such as ORBAA’s scholarship effort has become a personal mission. “It is an effort that not only helps the individual student but also their communities which benefit from their future career work in business aviation.”

Local and regional business aviation groups from around the country collectively raise millions of dollars for scholarships, Hadley said. Among them:

  • Chicago Area Business Aviation Association
  • Colorado Aviation Business Association
  • Friends of Trenton Mercer Airport
  • Georgia Business Aviation Association
  • Long Island Business Aviation Association
  • Love Field Pilots Association
  • North Texas Business Aviation Association
  • Partnership for Corporate Aviation Training
  • St. Louis Business Aviation Association
  • San Antonio Business Aviation Association
  • Waco Aviation Alliance
  • West Michigan Business Aviation Association
  • Westchester Aviation Association

Many, said Hadley, combine their scholarship offerings with mentoring and internship programs.

Find more information on how regional business aviation organizations can help develop new talent within the industry at the NBAA Business Aviation Regional Groups Library site.