Image Source: NASA

As a finish to Vaughn College’s celebration of Women’s History Month, we present this blog about Expedition 57―the first space mission where the only two astronauts representing the United States were both female.

Setting the pace

Launched on June 6, 2018, Expedition 57 began a 197-day mission where it circled the globe 3,152 times, covering 83.3 million miles. The crew consisted of expedition Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), Soyuz Commander Sergey Prokopyev, Oleg Kononenko (RSA), and David Saint-Jacques (CSA). Completing―and distinguishing―this crew were NASA flight engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor and NASA astronaut Anne McClain. Together, they formed a highly successful―and fun―space-traveling team.

Science in the making

Fondly referred to as a “world-class orbiting laboratory,” the Expedition 57 crew worked aboard the International Space Station (ISS), where they contributed to hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, and physical and Earth science. Some exciting discoveries on this space mission included investigations into new cancer treatment methods, algae growth in space, and the installation of a new Life Sciences Glovebox, which is a sealed work area for life science and technology investigations that can accommodate two astronauts. And look at which two crew members were diligently at work in the ISS robotics workstation! The two United States female astronauts made history for women in space.

Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Anne McClain










Image Source: NASA

Timeless activities

The Expedition 57 space mission was all about science―but not without some fun thrown in for good measure. To lighten the mood, the crew had no problem showing off their personalities by d­ressing up in costumes on Halloween. They might have missed out on trick-or-treating, but they wasted no time relaying photos back to Earth to give everyone a good laugh.

Expedition 57 Halloween










Image Source:

The crew returned to Earth on December 20, 2018, closing out a groundbreaking trip which conducted many successful experiments.

The momentum of women empowering other women―along with recognition of their achievements and successes―motivates them to reach for their dreams. Many of us might not make it to the stars as Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Anne McClain did, but our confidence can lead us to our own happy place.

Visit Our Open House on Saturday, April 13

Are you a woman interested in a career in aviation? Register for our Open House on April 13 at 10 a.m. to learn how you can take your future to the skies.

As part of the ongoing celebration of Women’s History Month, the Women in Aviation International Conference (WAI) celebrated its 30th Anniversary last week in Long Beach, California. This milestone celebration hosted attendees from around the globe, representing all aspects of the aviation community and recognizing powerful women who have not only paved the way to help change the landscape of women in aviation but empowered other women to do the same.

In recognition of their groundbreaking achievements, we are spotlighting five influential women in aviation who have been inducted into the WAI Pioneer Hall of Fame.

Bessie Coleman

First African-American to Earn International Pilot’s License

Bessie ColemanBessie Coleman broke the racial barrier and became the first African-American to earn an international pilot’s license. Born in Atlanta, Texas in 1892, Coleman moved to Chicago after briefly attending Langston University in Oklahoma. She was an avid reader and worked as a laundress, but it was during her time in Chicago, where she was inspired by World War I pilots, that she decided to pursue a pilot’s license.

Knowing Europe had a more liberal attitude toward women and people of color, Coleman learned to speak French and worked hard to earn enough money to move to Paris. On June 15, 1921 she earned her pilot’s license from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale. She moved back to the United States, where she flew at air shows and taught aviation to African-Americans.

Sadly, she didn’t live long enough to make her dream of establishing a flying school for African-Americans a reality, but her legacy inspired the Bessie Coleman Aero groups in the early 1930s, which held the first all-black air show in America and attracted 15,000 spectators. Almost 90 years later, the event has become an annual aviation celebration.

Harriet Quimby

First Licensed Female Pilot in the United States

Harriet Quimby On August 11, 1911, Harriet Quimby became the first licensed female pilot in the United States, ten years before Amelia Earhart. Her daring and adventurous side put her name in the books on April 16, 1912 as the first woman to fly across the English Channel. This incredible feat catapulted her name in the industry, but the sinking of the Titanic two days earlier overshadowed her accomplishment in the news. She is also credited with being the first woman to fly over Mexico City.

Prior to earning her pilot’s license, Quimby was an accomplished writer. In 1911, she managed to write seven screenplays which were made into silent movies. At that time in history, she was the only woman who wrote about and encouraged other women to enter the field of aviation.

“In my opinion, there is no reason why the aeroplane should not open a fruitful occupation for women. I see no reason why they cannot realize handsome incomes by carrying passengers between adjacent towns, why they cannot derive incomes from parcel deliveries, from taking photographs from above or from conducting schools for flying.”

Katherine Cheung

“China’s Amelia Earhart”

Katherine CheungListed in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum as the nation’s first Asian aviatrix, Katherine Cheung switched gears from studying music at the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and the University of Southern California to obtaining an international commercial airline pilot’s license.

Born in China in 1904, Cheung moved to the United States to live with her father and attend college. She married in 1924 and fell in love with flying a few years later while taking an airplane ride with a relative who was a pilot. Soon after, she enrolled for flying lessons, and in 1932 received her pilot certification, the first Asian-American female pilot in the United States to do so. Aerobatics soon became one of her passions. She entered competitive air races and became a member of the Women’s International Association of Aeronautics that same year, launching her aerobatics/air show career. Three years later, Cheung was invited to become a member of the International Association of Women Pilots – the Ninety-Nines – where she befriended Amelia Earhart.

Aside from being honored in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, the Beijing Air Force Aviation Museum calls Cheung “China’s Amelia Earhart.”

Jeana Yeager

Member of the Groundbreaking Voyager Team and Winner of the Collier Trophy

Jeana YeagerJeana Yeager was born in Fort Worth, Texas on May 18, 1952. She moved to Santa Rosa, California in 1977, where she worked as a draftsman and surveyor for a company specializing in geothermal energy. Her fascination with helicopters prompted her to earn her private pilot’s license at the age of 26. In 1980, Yeager met fellow pilot Dick Rutan and his brother Burt, an aircraft designer, at an airshow in Chino, California. The rest, they say, is history. The three innovators brainstormed their dream of flying around the world without stopping and without refueling. After six years of design, construction and development, the Voyager team constructed the unique aircraft made almost entirely of lightweight graphite-honeycomb composite materials. Expected to take 18 months, the milestone flight― which took place between December 14 and December 23, 1986―set the record, taking only nine days, three minutes and forty-four seconds.

In recognition of this revolutionary aviation accomplishment, President Reagan presented the Voyager crew with the Presidential Citizenship Medal, which had been awarded only 16 times before in history. In addition, Jeana Yeager earned the Collier Trophy―aviation’s most prestigious award.

Bernice “Bee” Haydu

Former WASP President Who is Among the First Women to Fly Military Planes for the Army

Bee HayduBernice “Bee” Haydu was born on December 15, 1920 in Montclair, New Jersey. After graduating high school, she enrolled in aviation classes on the weekends while working as a secretary. She attended the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) in Sweetwater, Texas and completed her training in March 1944. Haydu is among the first women to fly military airplanes for the Army Air Force. Her dedication to WASP placed her front and center as president of the organization from 1975-1978, where she led the fight in Congress to recognize the WASP as veterans. In 1977, President Carter signed the bill into law, allowing the WASP access to Veterans Administration benefits.

Haydu was inducted into the New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame in 2000, the Women in Aviation International Pioneer Hall of Fame in 2012, received the FAA’s Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award in 2014, and was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Vaughn College in 2015.

Are you a woman interested in a career in aviation? Register for our Open House on April 13 at 10 a.m. to learn how you can take your future to the skies.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we are celebrating another hardworking female student who is paving her own path at Vaughn College. Strong family ties and a commitment to excellence have set Alexa Cruz ’22, an aircraft operations major, on a trajectory of success as she embraces her freshmen year at Vaughn College to one day become a commercial airline pilot.

Dreaming big

As an only child growing up in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, Cruz said she was raised to dream big. Throughout grade school and high school, she always set high standards for herself and maintained exceptional grades. “As an Asian-American, people tend to stereotype you as a high achiever,” Cruz explained. “I never bought into that notion. My drive comes from within, knowing that I don’t ever want to look back on my life and have regrets.” From a young age, she started the steps to becoming a commercial airline pilot.

Out of the blue

Cruz explained how her parents are her greatest influences in her life. Becoming a pilot was never on her radar until she reflected on their jet-setting careers as shoe designers that she realized she wanted to experience the world firsthand. “There’s so much beauty in the world,” Cruz said. “I always enjoyed hearing my parent’s stories, but I decided I didn’t want to live through other people’s experiences. I want to live it and experience it for myself. It was then that I decided I wanted to become a pilot and travel the world.”

Vaughn was the answer

During her senior year in high school, Cruz was at the point of choosing a college. She knew Vaughn was the one and only school for her. “Vaughn has it all,” Cruz said. “Their aircraft operations program was the perfect fit to fulfill my dream of becoming a pilot, and their reputation is second to none. They exceeded all my expectations.” Vaughn’s wide variety of college programs secured her decision to attend.

Cruz expressed her belief that although the aviation field has been a male-dominated field in the past, women should not be discouraged to set their sights on the skies. “I’m proud to be a female Vaughn student,” Cruz said. “The college offers a diverse environment where both men and women can feel confident that they are offered an equal opportunity in all fields of study.”

Leveling the playing field

We all have our passions. For Cruz, it’s the game of basketball. From the age of 10, she has been playing the sport on school and travel teams, but never knew playing a college sport would be a part of her experience with Vaughn. “Playing basketball teaches you to be both a leader and a team player,” said Cruz. “It’s been the cornerstone of my life, guiding me to balance life and work while grounding me in the mindset to succeed.” Last summer, Cruz was recruited by Vaughn’s athletic department to play basketball for the college. “I never imagined I would play college basketball,” Cruz said humbly. “It’s more than I ever dreamed of and is just what I needed to balance out my education here at Vaughn. I get to experience the best of both worlds.” It has always been Vaughn’s mission to provide opportunities for students to get involved in the College’s athletic programs, campus activities and professional development in their respective fields.

Life at Vaughn

As a freshman in her second semester, Cruz said her favorite part of being a Vaughn student is her involvement with an industry-driven community that’s helping to accomplish her goal of becoming a pilot. “Living on campus is one of the best decisions I made to making the most of my experience at Vaughn,” Cruz said. “Just being here and experiencing college life is rewarding, knowing I’m working hard toward my dream.” Cruz joined the Women in Aviation Club on campus and said being a member is a great way to network and connect with older students who are making things happen. Vaughn’s college network allows students to get hands-on experience with industry professionals during their time on campus. “It’s inspiring to see how our peers are advancing their careers,” explained Cruz. “It drives me even harder, knowing I’m living my dream at Vaughn.”

Most Influential Woman in Her Life

Because it is Women’s History Month, we asked Cruz if there is a woman who has been influential in her life?

“Hands down, my mom is the most influential person in my life,” she stated without hesitation. “She not only works hard for our family, but she will go out of her way to help others without thinking twice about it. She gives without ever expecting anything in return. She has the biggest and most generous heart and I’m proud to call her my mom.” Cruz said her mom is her best friend, and on days when she’s feeling stressed or overwhelmed with school, she replays her mom’s words in her head to get her through her day: “I love you to the moon and back.”

“My dreams of becoming a commercial airline pilot may not be taking me to the moon, but who ever thought my mom’s words would someday put me on a journey to the skies?”

Have you ever dreamed about becoming a pilot? If you are wondering how to become a pilot as your future career, register for our Open House on Saturday, April 13 to learn more about taking your dreams to the skies. Let Vaughn help you achieve your dreams of earning a commercial pilot’s license.

Also, check out the insights of Kirei Watson ’18on landing her dream job as a mechanical design engineer.


With 2019 coming to an end, Kirei Watson ’18, a recent Vaughn College graduate, is excited to begin her new career as a mechanical design engineer at Collins Aerospace, and says her experience at Vaughn gave her the confidence and knowledge to approach her future head on. Read more to learn how Watson landed her dream job, as well as her advice and tips on how you can, too.

Learning what it takes

In December 2017, Watson graduated from Vaughn with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering technology: aeronautical. She explains that although it’s important to keep your focus on your classes, it’s equally important to branch off and go beyond the classroom by joining clubs to enhance your passion and help further your career after graduation. Watson was involved with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), and said she even found time to participate in some outside events sponsored by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).

“Joining the right engineering clubs at Vaughn played an instrumental role in landing my current job,” Watson said. “It was during my trip to the SHPE annual conference, sponsored by Vaughn, that I received my big break.” Watson, who was featured in Vaughn’s 2017 Gala video, shares further insight on how students can set themselves on the right path to success.

Importance of internships

During the summer of 2018, Watson held an internship position where she worked as a manufacturing engineer at Harris Corporation, a defense contractor and information technology services provider. “I can’t stress enough how the internship at Harris Corporation helped me determine the type of company I wanted to work for in the future,” Watson stated. “I learned the importance of networking and the contrast between the academic aspect of engineering and the practical or professional approach.” Watson said she can’t emphasize enough how this internship opened her eyes to her future path, as it taught her the importance of being on a team focused on contributing something new and innovative to society.

Preparing early

Ask any college graduate and they’ll tell you: A job isn’t handed to you along with your diploma. The reality is it takes a lot of homework (sorry, but it’s true), extensive job searches, perseverance and guts to go out and secure a job in one’s chosen field. Take advantage of the career services department’s offerings including interview preparation, résumé writing and job search skills. Watson’s advice is to start planning now for your future. “It’s never too early to learn how to professionally prepare yourself for a corporate setting,” said Watson. “Not only are internships a great way to get experience in your field, but don’t underestimate the wisdom of the Vaughn faculty. My mentors were instrumental in helping me transition from an academic environment to a professional one. I will be forever grateful to them.”

Kicking off her new career

Watson will begin her new position as mechanical design engineer with heat exchangers this month. She explains how this new position is different than her internship position as a design engineer because it incorporates additive manufacturing (3D printing). Additionally, she said this new department within the company opens doors for growth and innovation. “I’m excited about this position since it will enable me to contribute to and discover the many possibilities with additive manufacturing in regard to aerospace,” Watson said. “I’m thrilled to begin this next journey in my life, and it’s a good feeling to know Vaughn was the cornerstone to getting me here.”

Are you looking for a new career path? Schedule a visit and find out how a futureproof Vaughn education can get you on the path toward success.