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ECSU, colleges ink aviation transfer pacts

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Weston Smith (right), a junior at Elizabeth City State University, addresses ECSU and community college officials about his experiences as an aviation science major at ECSU, prior to officials signing an arbitration agreement between ECSU and three community colleges, Friday.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Elizabeth City State University inked agreements with three community colleges on Friday designed to help students studying aviation at the colleges transfer more easily into the aviation science program at ECSU.

The uniform articulation agreements with Lenoir Community College, Sandhills Community College and Guilford Technical Community College allow their students earning an associate degree in either applied science in aviation management or career pilot technology transfer more seamlessly to ECSU to complete a four-year degree.

Although College of The Albemarle has an aviation curriculum at its Aviation and Technical Training Center campus in Currituck, COA does not offer an aviation degree and therefore is not included in the agreement.

But COA officials on Friday indicated a willingness to explore that option in the future.

“Currently, COA does not have plans to move in that direction,” the college said in a prepared statement. “However, college officials are always willing to meet and look at expanding programs and articulation agreements in different areas, such as (aviation). Anytime a student can progress and obtain more education is a win.”

Of course, students at any of the state’s community colleges can take general education courses and transfer coursework to a state university.

That’s what ECSU junior Weston Smith did. Smith said during Friday’s ceremony that he transferred to ECSU from COA and that even though COA does not have an aviation-related articulation agreement with ECSU, most of his community college courses transferred to the university.

Smith is a participant in the Coast Guard’s College Student Pre-commissioning Initiative, which pays full tuition and books for two years and also provides pay and benefits as the student enlists in the Coast Guard while continuing as a full-time student for their junior and senior years.

Smith said ECSU is helping him pursue his aspiration to become a Coast Guard aviator.

Josh Bierly, an aviation student at Sandhills Community College, is preparing to transfer to ECSU to complete his bachelor’s degree. He brings with him four years of military experience and certification as a flight instructor.

Bierly in fact will be working at ECSU as a certified flight instructor while completing his degree. He said the opportunity to work and attend school at the same time was part of what was appealing about transferring to ECSU.

Rebecca Roush, vice president of academic affairs at Sandhills Community College, and other Sandhills officials flew into Elizabeth City Friday morning on a plane piloted by Bierly.

Alex Dominque is an ECSU junior who transferred from Wayne Community College in Goldsboro.

“This program is a really great idea,” Dominque said of ECSU’s aviation program. He said his goal is to serve in the Air Force and then be an airline pilot.

Valeria Pacheco, a junior who transferred from Delaware State University, said ECSU’s affordability and the strong support she gets from faculty and staff make it a great choice for her. The university’s airplanes and flight simulators are top-notch, she added.

Trevor Thomas, a junior who transferred into ECSU’s aviation science program from Guilford Technical Community College, said he gets great support from his classmates and instructors. Thomas said he wants to be an Air Force pilot and then work for a commercial airline.

Kuldeep Rawat, ECSU’s director of aviation science, said the aviation program will move into the Pharmacy Building on campus this summer. The building is becoming a new STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) complex, he said.

Over the next three years and as funding becomes available, ECSU plans to construct two 9,600-square-foot hangars at the airport as well as a 4,800-square-foot maintenance hangar.

Rawat said the aviation program is growing its fleet of airplanes, increasing enrollment, and building a student pipeline through summer camps for middle school and high school students.

Farrah Ward, ECSU’s interim provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said enrollment in aviation science has grown 38 percent over the past year. The job outlook for graduates is excellent because of a growing shortage of airline pilots as current pilots retire in large numbers year after year.

Chancellor Karrie Dixon noted aviation science is ECSU’s “signature program” and said the university is excited about its partnerships with community colleges.

ECSU Board of Trustees Chairman Harold Barnes said the aviation program is part of the overall economic development strategy for the region.

“Superman is not coming,” Barnes said, so the region has to make its own legacy by educating students for good jobs in fields such as education.

Rondall Rice, executive director for operations and administration in the Division of Academic Affairs for the University of North Carolina, said the agreement is a win for the UNC system, the community college system, and for students. Rice also called ECSU’s aviation science program is “a shining jewel in the crown of the nation’s best university system.”

Lenoir Community College President Rusty Hunt said Lenoir has had an aviation program for a long time but now has a quality, affordable option in eastern North Carolina for students who wish to complete a bachelor’s degree in aviation.

“This is a great opportunity for us,” Hunt said.

Rebecca Roush, vice president of academic affairs at Sandhills Community College, also noted the expanded opportunities students now have because of the agreement with ECSU/

Nicholas Yale, director of the aviation program at Guilford Technical Community College, said ECSU is much more affordable than the private, out-of-state colleges that aviation students previously were transferring to in order to complete their degrees.

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