The college experience is elevating to a new level, as experiential learning continues to be a vital tool in preparing students for success, both academically and personally.

In this blog, we share the many exciting opportunities for experiential learning that Vaughn provides to give its students a competitive edge and position them for success.

What is experiential learning?

Experiential learning is all about gaining “experience.” It literally is the name of the game, as students are provided with unique opportunities that bridge the gap between academic knowledge and practical skills through “learning by doing” experiences.

Vaughn’s experiential learning opportunities

At Vaughn, students receive more than just an education. They receive priceless exposure to learning experiences that complement—or build upon—their classroom instructions in the fields they love most. What’s great about Vaughn is that it is innately an experiential college, due to the hands-on nature of its programs in engineering, technology, management and aviation. Robotics engineers, drone pilots and aircraft mechanics, for example, are constantly working with their hands to design, build, test, learn and improve. Vaughn’s engineering labs, flight simulator complex, air traffic control room and aviation training institute were built for the purpose of providing hands-on, experiential learning environments for students.

Here, we look at the various kinds of experiential learning opportunities Vaughn offers and how they are giving students a competitive edge in today’s workforce landscape.

Professional conferences

Professional conferences and networking events provide students with priceless exposure to potential jobs, networking opportunities and unparalleled learning experiences in their fields. At these events, Vaughn students have opportunities to present their research projects or papers to showcase their hard work, attract employers and ultimately make vital industry connections that lead to internships and jobs.

Here is a sampling of some of the conferences Vaughn students attend every year:

  • Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE)
  • National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE)
  • American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE)
  • Society of Women Engineers (SWE)
  • Women in Aviation International (WAI)


There’s no denying that landing an internship in your field of study is one of the best ways to gain practical experience and learn if it’s a company and position you can see yourself at for the long-term. By applying the knowledge you’ve learned in the classroom to a real-world setting, you can acquire hands-on experience while developing important workforce skills related to communication, teamwork and problem solving. Vaughn continues to strengthen and grow its employer relationships in the fields of aviation, engineering and management. Some of these companies where students obtain internships include Boeing, LaGuardia Gateway Partners, PANYNJ, Honeywell, Department of Defense, Spirit Airlines, Delta TechOps, Northrop Grumman and several airlines/airports, to name a few.

Multifaceted career support

Vaughn’s career services department helps students through every step of the job placement process – from helping make industry connections, resume writing and interview practice. The career services department organizes two large career fairs on campus every year where students can meet and gather information about potential employers. (Some students even receive internship and job opportunities during these events.) Employer Engagement Days are yet another way that students can make connections with employers. Employers are available on certain days/times and Vaughn students can schedule in-person or Zoom sessions to discuss potential job opportunities.

Student clubs and activities

It’s true that college students need to work hard—but learning is fun when you love what you’re doing. Vaughn offers an abundance of clubs and activities where students can use their hands-on abilities to hone their skills in a relaxed environment with peers who share the same interests.

Below are just a few examples of Vaughn’s experiential clubs and programs:

  • Mars Rover Club—Vaughn’s new Mars Rover club is tasked with designing, building and testing lightweight, human-powered rovers on a complex obstacle course. The team recently traveled to Huntsville, Alabama to compete in the Human Exploration Rover Challenge (HERC).
  • Robotics Team—Vaughn’s robotics team builds award-winning robots that compete in the VEX Robotics World Championship. Vaughn’s robotics team has won several awards at these competitions over the years, including the world title.
  • UAV Club—The uncrewed aerial vehicle club promotes safe, knowledgeable design, construction, and use of drone technology. The UAV team participates in several national competitions each year.
  • FAA-UAS certificate program—This cutting-edge certificate program prepares any interested and qualified student to become an uncrewed aircraft systems operator (UAS) while he or she gains hands-on experience in 3D printing and design/construction. Students will receive the skills they need to earn a remote pilot certificate to operate a UAS. We are proud to announce that seven Vaughn students are graduating from the UAS program in 2023! We can’t wait to see what their futures will bring.

Are you ready to gain hands-on experience in something you love doing? Check out Vaughn’s free STEM-focused experiential learning summer programs. Students can earn college credit for engineering and gain valuable industry know-how—all while having fun! Which one will you choose this summer?

In episode 7 of Vaughn College’s Futureproof Focus Podcast, Dr. Sharon B. DeVivo, president of Vaughn College and host of the podcast, sat down with Migdalia Gonzalez, manager of the Hispanic Employment Program at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for an enlightening conversation about how this agency is helping to improve diversity and inclusion in the aviation industry.

Embracing her skill set

As a Latina woman who heads up the Hispanic Employment Program at the FAA, Gonzales is indeed making strides. Bringing years of experience in other industries, her skillset of cultivating partnerships was the cornerstone for landing this significant role at the agency.

See how Gonzalez’s role at the FAA is making a difference in the lives of Hispanics and others from underrepresented populations—especially women.

How the FAA is making aviation accessible to all

Gonzalez said she has a passion for inspiring and elevating the lives of Latinos and feels honored to be making it happen at the FAA. “Our strength is our people,” she explained. “The goal is to expand and strengthen the line of employees to ensure we get better at serving all populations.” She continued by sharing some interesting facts. Were you aware that Hispanics are the largest underrepressented group in the US? Did you know that the US is the third largest Spanish speaking country in the world? “It’s all about connecting the dots and showing them the opportunities,” Gonzalez said.

Educating Hispanic women that jobs in aviation are an option

It’s not surprising to learn that the aviation industry is predominantly male. Gonzalez shared her thoughts on this and explained how women of color are gravitating more toward jobs in the industries of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) rather than aviation. When asked why aviation is not in the running, she replied: “We need more exposure. Women of color have the lowest numbers in the aviation industry because they’re not aware of what positions are available to them.”

She also explained how cultural issues are among the main reasons why Latino women shy away from careers in aviation. “For the most part, the traditional Hispanic family largely believes being a pilot is a man’s job,” she said. “Girls are raised that a job in aviation is not an option for them, so they are often surprised to learn that it is! Just look at the amazing opportunities Vaughn College provides for women and others from under-resourced communities.” She noted that although change is never easy, the trend is improving little by little.

The FAA’s Hispanic Employment Program goals

First and foremost, Gonzalez stated that safety is the mission of the FAA. “We are the largest agency under the Department of Transportation,” she said. “I’m honored to be the first to serve in this role after 10 years. The program was affected over the years due to budget cuts, but we are making great progress through recent programs and initiatives.”

Some of the ways in which the FAA’s Hispanic Employment Program is making a difference:

  • Creating mentorship programs for employees
  • Empowering underrepresented women to showcase their skillsets
  • Organizing outreach events at Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) to make students aware of the career possibilities at the FAA. The agency recently held an event in Puerto Rico and is scheduled to appear at Vaughn College soon
  • Educating parents of children (in kindergarten through twelfth grade) about the career possibilities in aviation
  • Provide technical guidance to ensure Hispanic populations are given full consideration when employment decisions are being made

How internships provide a gateway for underrepresented groups

Gonzalez said that last year, the agency received its largest number of internship applications from the Latino community. “We are proud to give everyone their fair chance to apply for one of our paid internships,” she said. “We are educating the future and attracting talent that we might never have known we needed.”

At the end of the day, Gonzalez said it’s all about creating a diverse workforce—and not just pilots. The FAA employs attorneys, accountants, project managers, mechanics and even a medical team. “It’s important to realize that diversity begins with diverse thoughts. It’s not just about black and white. It’s about someone’s experiences and skillsets that helps support the culture we have at the FAA, so we can look like the communities we serve.”

Listen to episode 7 featuring Migdalia Gonzalez today.

Is diversity important to you when choosing a college? Read how Vaughn meets this need.