In episode 12 of Futureproof Focus podcast, Dr. Sharon B. De Vivo, president and chief executive officer of Vaughn College and host of the podcast, sat down with three staff members for an informative conversation about college affordability. Read on to learn about the latest changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) from Beatriz Novoa-Cruz, associate vice president of enrollment services, and New York State opportunity programs from Lauren Cajade, executive director of Vaughn’s opportunity programs. Additionally, discover an exciting new tool to help Vaughn students apply for multiple scholarships from Stephen DeSalvo, assistant vice president/chief development officer of the office of institutional advancement and engagement.

The Value of a Vaughn Degree

Were you aware that students who earn a bachelor’s degree can earn $1.2 million more than those without one over the course of their lifetime?

We know that the cost of attending college may be overwhelming. The good news is that Vaughn strives to make earning a degree more affordable. Approximately 90% of Vaughn students receive some type of financial aid, whether it be through state aid, opportunity program support and scholarships. And Vaughn’s financial aid and admissions teams will assist students through every step of the financial aid application process.

Are you ready to dive into your future? What follows is important information from our panel that can help you take the first steps to affording a college education.

New Changes to the FAFSA

Sometimes change is a good thing but can also come with delays. The FAFSA has undergone significant changes through the FAFSA Simplification Act that not only extends aid to more students but makes the application easier and faster to complete. Beginning with the 2024-25 award year, students will be using the new system. It opened on December 31 for the 2024-25 academic year but the new process is taking longer for the government to calculate individual awards for applicants than anticipated, and the timeframe has been pushed back. Institutions have recently begun receiving FAFSA information from the government. This information is needed to be able to review applications and provide prospective students with financial award letters so they can determine the cost of attendance at the institutions they’ve applied to.

Vaughn has extended its preferred deadline to June 1 for students who wish to enroll to accommodate the FAFSA lag and will work with prospective students and their families to help them through the process.

In the meantime, here are the important changes to the FAFSA you need to know about:

  • Fewer questions: The number of questions has been reduced from 108 to 46, with as many as 26 that students may be able to skip, thus further reducing the number to as few as 18—depending on individual circumstances.
  • Eliminated Expected Family Contribution (EFC): EFC has now been replaced with a similar concept called Student Aid Index (SAI), which determines aid based on income.
  • Additional grants: The new SAI will help more underserved students qualify for Pell Grants, which is money that does not have to be repaid.

Important tip: The IRS retrieval tool is still in place. Novoa-Cruz encourages students to use this valuable resource, which makes uploading federal tax returns easy and more accurate—not to mention accelerating the application process.

Whether you have heard about the FAFSA or are new to the college financial aid process, it’s important to know that this application is your gateway to applying for federal aid. Why is this important? Completing the FAFSA application not only opens up opportunities for institutional financial aid but it also extends consideration for additional scholarships and other types of aid. Novoa-Cruz stresses that everyone should complete the FAFSA, regardless of whether or not they think they are eligible.

“Completing the FAFSA is the number one thing for students to do to help with the cost of an education,” said Novoa-Cruz. “Some families make the assumption that they won’t qualify and do not apply…Last year, over $3 billion in Pell Grants was left undisbursed. Even if they don’t qualify for the federal Pell Grant, there are other forms of grants that do not have to paid back, such as awards through the New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and the Enhanced Tuition Awards Program (ETA) that New York state students may be eligible for—not to mention scholarships. So, it always makes sense to apply.”

New York State Opportunity Programs

Vaughn proudly offers help through the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) as another way to give New York state students a jump-start on their futures. Funded by the New York State Education Department (NYSED), HEOP continues to play a crucial role at Vaughn by supporting students who are academically and economically disadvantaged. “Through a state-issued grant, Vaughn is able to assist students with things like tuition, textbooks and laptop computers to help them get to the finish line,” said Cajade. “We even offer summer programs, counseling and tutoring to help level the playing field for these students, come the fall semester.”

To be eligible for HEOP, students must meet the following requirements:

  • Be a New York resident.
  • Be a first-time college student, with transfer students from other opportunity programs also eligible to apply.
  • Meet economic criteria.
  • Meet academic criteria. Students must take a standardized exam to see where they place in math and English.

“We are proud to say we have 100 students in the program,” said Cajade. “HEOP is instrumental in paving the way for students to enroll and succeed in college.” She cannot emphasize enough the importance of completing the FAFSA form. “There are several opportunities for students to receive free money to attend college, but students must complete the FAFSA form to be eligible for any of it.”

Scholarship Universe

Scholarship Universe is an exciting platform for current Vaughn students to search and apply for scholarships—both institutional (at Vaughn) or external. This software program connects to each student’s account through a database, thus making the process more streamlined when the time comes to apply. “Vaughn proudly offers 36 donor-funded scholarships—with five scholarships within each one—from outside corporations and organizations,” DeSalvo said. “Through the Institutional Advancement Office, we raise funds specifically for scholarships. Some of our donors include the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the JFK Chamber of Commerce—who are dependent on our student workforce.” To be considered for most of the 36 Vaughn scholarships, DeSalvo said students should have their profiles and all supporting documentation completed by the spring. In addition to the 36 institutional scholarships, DeSalvo explained that Vaughn students have access to over 14,500 nationwide scholarships through one platform. This gives them an incredible opportunity to find scholarships that meet their criteria. To start the scholarship application process, DeSalvo said students must:

As far as being awarded scholarship money is concerned, DeSalvo said: “The most motivated students receive the greatest amount of funds. The more motivated you are, the more opportunities there will be for you. You have to take the initiative. It’s up to the students. The money is out there. Motivation is the name of the game.”

President DeVivo’s Success Tips of the Month

President DeVivo closed the podcast with her success tips of the month for you—and other students—who are starting their college search:

  • Always know what career field you want to enter before applying.
  • Be sure the college you are applying to has a strong employer network.
  • Be sure the college has a supportive career services department that will dedicate itself to your success, both during and after college.

Don’t let the cost of a college education hold you back from pursuing your dreams. Did you know that nearly 18 million students apply for financial assistance through the FAFSA? Don’t miss out on your opportunity to fund your college degree. Email us if you need help with the FAFSA.

Interested in a futureproof career in engineering and technology, management or aviation? Discover all that a Vaughn degree offers. Apply today!

In the eleventh episode of Futureproof Focus Podcast, Dr. Sharon B. De Vivo, President and Chief Executive Officer of Vaughn College and host of the podcast, sat down with Loretta Alkalay, regulatory consultant, aviation attorney and adjunct professor at Vaughn for an inspiring conversation about what sparked both her love for aviation and her passion for drones.

Loretta Alkalay: An impressive career

It is not every day that you meet an attorney who has a 30-year background with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), let alone one who is a professor and an avid drone enthusiast. Meet Loretta Alkalay. If you are wondering how she has done all of this—and then some—she has a remarkable story to tell.

“It all began at New York University, where I was studying for my law degree,” she said. “One semester, I took an aviation class as an elective. That was all it took to spark my love for aviation and the law. I was hooked!” During her second year of law school, Alkalay kept her excitement of aviation in full swing by working for a law firm that handled aviation-related cases. She then went on to interview at the FAA, where she was hired and served as an aviation attorney for the next 30 years.

Then, in 2011, Alkalay decided she wanted to share her knowledge of aviation law and took a position at Vaughn College, where she co-taught a class. “It wasn’t until I began teaching at Vaughn that I became interested in drones,” she explained. “The students would play drone videos in class. I was thrilled to see what they could do.” Adding a love of photography to her list of passions, Alkalay said she could not wait to buy a drone that was outfitted with a camera. “I bought the first one that came to market,” she said excitedly. “I love taking still photography—specifically abstract Earth photography. I love the view of Earth from above. It’s amazing.”

Preparing students for careers with drones

Alkalay is excited about where the future of drones is headed. “There are so many career pathways with drones that students can take,” she stated. “Any jobs that were done by a helicopter or aircraft can be done by a drone today.” She said that in addition to drone pilot jobs in delivery and surveying, there are several other careers in areas of drone technology that students can pursue, including: software, photography and sensors.

Attracting more women to uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAV)

As an institution steeped in diversity, Vaughn is committed to help attract more women to the field of engineering and aviation. Alkalay pointed out that although the barriers to working as a drone pilot are few, the number of women currently entering the field is still low due to low awareness, compounded by it being a historically male dominated field. She mentioned how Vaughn is working with local high schools to recruit more girls to its FAA-UAS Certificate Program with the help of a FAA grant. “I’m grateful to be able to participate in the high school program,” she said humbly. “The issue I am seeing is that we are starting too late. I believe we must introduce drones to children at an earlier age and eliminate the stigma of it being an overly technical and mathematical field.”

As a professor of drone law and an expert in the field, Alkalay offered suggestions on ways to recruit more women into the field of uncrewed aerial systems. These include:

  • Make the workplace more accommodating for women. Discrimination and harassment in technology fields is still prevalent. Women must feel more welcome and comfortable working in the field.
  • Make the pathway to the field clear and simple.
  • Highlight the myriad of career opportunities to create excitement.
  • Introduce drones as a viable career path to students at a younger age – and find ways to make it fun, such as creating games and races with drones.

Tips for success

As one of the most popular professors on campus, Alkalay is excited about seeing her students succeed—especially in a field that continues to grow and evolve so quickly. She offered some advice and helpful tips for students who are looking to get involved.

Ways to prepare for a career in UAV

  • Use LinkedIn to connect with people working in the field.
  • Take drone courses, such as those taught at Vaughn.
  • Join the UAV Club at Vaughn for hands-on experience building and flying drones and participating in competitions.
  • Consider this field even if you are studying flight, maintenance or air traffic control. Knowledge is transferable.

Tips for success

  • Be on time.
  • Always be prepared.
  • Have integrity.
  • Know your subject matter.
  • Ask questions.

Looking towards the future

Alkalay is excited to proclaim that the sky is literally the limit for aspiring students seeking a career in this exciting and futureproof field. “Anyone who has a drone license or a specialty in drones will be hired immediately,” she stated. “There are so many opportunities for our students now.”

As a fan of drones herself, DeVivo strongly believes that the time for students to consider a career in the field of uncrewed aerial systems is now: “The field of uncrewed aerial systems is constantly—and quickly—evolving. As new technologies become available, it’s making for a fun and fast-paced field to pursue—not to mention the incredible earning potential and awesome career trajectory.”

Do you want to become an uncrewed aircraft systems operator? Vaughn’s cutting-edge UAS design, application and operation certification program can prepare you for this exciting career. High school students can learn more about our program here. Happy flying!

Listen to the podcast in its entirety here.

In episode 10 of Futureproof Focus, Dr. Sharon B. De Vivo, President and Chief Executive Officer of Vaughn College and host of the podcast, sat down with Phil Rugile, Executive Director at the Institute for Workforce Advancement (IWA) and OSW Supply Chain on Long Island. In this exciting conversation, Rugile talked about how his work with Vaughn and local high schools is providing students with critical courses in what are known as “composites” to help build the workforce and supply chain for the Northeastern Offshore Wind Project on Long Island. The new workforce training facility in Brentwood, which will be the first of its kind to expand educational and career opportunities for Suffolk County residents was also highlighted.

What are composites?

For those who are not familiar with the term “composite materials,” Rugile describes them as anything that is not wood or pure metal. For example, the combining of two materials forms a composite. “The composite is stronger together than the two materials are alone,” Rugile explained. “They are more efficient and lighter, making them perfect for offshore wind projects as well as airplane and automotive parts and other manufacturing needs.”

How composites are creating career pathways

As an ambassador for renewable energy and offshore wind, Rugile holds multiple roles at the IWA and has spearheaded the mission to create career pathways by expanding research in the use of composites and advanced engineering practices. By partnering with Vaughn—along with the Cradle of Aviation and OSW—IWA is able to offer courses to high school students in composite manufacturing that can lead to exciting career opportunities. “There’s a gap between the kinds of careers kids are exposed to, compared to the careers and opportunities that actually exist in composite manufacturing,” said Rugile. “By bridging this gap, we are able to bring students into the program and show them what careers these skills can lead to.”

Here are the steps he takes:

  • Introduce students to the program to gain their interest and create a career pathway
  • Show students the next steps to a career in renewable energy through Vaughn College’s degree and certification programs
  • Educate high school teachers about these career opportunities

Diversity in the offshore wind industry

DeVivo asked about the importance of diversifying the workforce in the offshore wind industry. Rugile replied: “This industry is driven by state requirements to be much more inclusive and to create a pool of industry resources that are very diverse. New York State is mandating that there is a plan to engage communities, such as minority-owned and women-owned businesses.” It is important to note that diversifying the workforce boosts career opportunities for adults—as well as students. “Because composites are becoming more prevalent, we are discovering new educational opportunities that never existed before,” said Rugile. “We are now training union workers on how to use composites. It’s a hands-on version of the program that is very successful.”

Brentwood training facility

In March 2022, the Suffolk County Legislature approved a plan to purchase state-owned property in Brentwood, Long Island for $1.46 million to build a workforce training facility. The purpose of this facility, slated to open sometime in 2024, is to strengthen the career pipeline for students and the local economy. Rugile explained that the facility was originally planned to serve as a haven for kids after school. “About five years ago, Brentwood had the worst gang problem in the entire state of New York. Today, the reimagined space has three critical elements that are sure to open doors of opportunity for a new generation.” They include:

  • A community center to provide a safe space for youth to go after school and explore their interests and talents in a meaningful way
  • A workforce training center where people of all ages can develop skills in composites, machining, construction, engineering, safety and more so they can succeed in these fields
  • The National Offshore Wind Training Center, the facility that will provide students with an introduction to the field and provide a pathway to obtain their Global Wind Organization Certification

Offshore Wind Project support

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERD) is working to bring at least 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2035, enough to power six million homes. This is part of the state’s goal to reach 70% of electricity coming from renewable sources by 2030. Long Island is a focus area of this initiative. Offshore wind farms are in development through large developers and energy companies, which are being supported by infrastructure upgrades and training programs, like Rugile’s. New projects of this magnitude take time, but will come to fruition according to Rugile.

Explore careers in offshore wind and renewable energy sources

Offshore wind is coming to Long Island in a big way, which will create a myriad of career opportunities. To learn how you can start your training and become part of the renewable energy movement, check out: OSW Long Island. Watch episode 10 of our podcast in its entirety and check out our . You can also learn about Vaughn’s engineering programs and check out Vaughn’s certificate in composite manufacturing.

In episode 9 of Vaughn’s Futureproof Focus Podcast, Dr. Sharon B. De Vivo, president and chief executive officer of Vaughn College and podcast host, sat down with Vaughn mechatronic engineering major, Suraiya Nawaz ’24, for an enlightening conversation about how her time at Vaughn—along with the internships she has secured—are setting her up for a successful future career.

Discovering Vaughn

Nawaz never considered engineering as a career until she attended a career fair at her high school. It was there that she said she discovered Vaughn and all the engineering degree programs the College has to offer. “After speaking to the representatives at the Vaughn booth, I learned that the College was so close to my home,” she said. “After doing some additional research, I decided Vaughn would be an excellent fit for me.” Nawaz chose to major in mechatronic engineering since the field is a combination of three engineering disciplines: mechanical, electrical and computer.

Embracing the Vaughn experience

As a rising senior, Nawaz stated that being active on campus in the many clubs and organizations at Vaughn, proved instrumental in helping nurture her leadership skills as she embraced the field of engineering. When she was a freshman, she joined the Society of Women in Engineering (SWE) and held several roles over the years—including her current role as secretary of the chapter. “I wanted to connect with other women in the field,” she explained. “Joining clubs not only helps give you a better understanding of the industry but is also a great way to break out of your comfort zone.” Feeding her interest in engineering, Nawaz joined Vaughn’s Mars Rover Club, where she gained hands-on experience in the construction of rovers and participated in national competitions. “I’m grateful to Vaughn for the opportunity to participate in these invigorating competitions,” she said. “Vaughn supports its students by covering all of the financial expenses to attend the competitions, so we can gain the real-life experience necessary to succeed in the field.”

Valuing Internships

As one of the recipients of the four-year full-tuition LaGuardia Redevelopment Opportunity Scholarship—which is sponsored in partnership with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) and Vaughn College—Nawaz was afforded several internship opportunities, which she considers steppingstones to her current internship at the Whirlpool Corporation. “My first internship was working at Terminal B at LaGuardia, where I assisted with inspections and safety work. After that, I had the pleasure of working at the Border Authority Aviation Headquarters at the Walton Center, where I worked every day helping with the Wi-Fi service at John F. Kennedy International Airport. It was an amazing feeling knowing my work at these internships made a difference,” she said proudly. “Internships are no longer about filing and getting coffee. They are an opportunity to work on real projects that contribute to the life of the organization and help the company save money by fixing problems.”

In addition to the two PANYNJ internships, Nawaz landed another at Tesla, where she discovered a connection with automation. “I really loved working there. I even worked with a robot! I can see myself working in automation in the future.” She said the tasks at her internship at Whirlpool align with more traditional manufacturing. “I was placed on a big project in the welding department,” she said. “I contributed to conversations with the team. It was a big responsibility.”

Empowering Women

As a woman of color in pursuit of an engineering career, Nawaz is optimistic about her future. “I felt nervous and a bit hesitant my first month there,” she admitted. “The field is still very male dominated. But my manager was female, and that made all the difference. I felt comfortable going to her with questions, which made it easy to hit the ground running. I never felt like I would be treated differently or not receive opportunities because of my gender.”

Looking to the Future

Although Nawaz is leaning toward pursuing a career in automation, she still hasn’t given up on her hope of one day working in the aerospace industry. “Today’s technical advancements are ever-changing,” she said. “I believe robotics will be a big part of the future. I hope my dream job falls somewhere in the middle.”

Are you seeking an exciting career in engineering? Vaughn’s leading-edge degree in mechatronic engineering is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) of ABET and is one of only four in the country to hold this distinction. Discover how our degree programs can set you on a path to a successful future.

Listen to episode 9 of the podcast here.

In episode 8 of Vaughn’s podcast, Futureproof Focus, Dr. Sharon B. DeVivo, president of Vaughn College and host of the podcast, sat down with Vaughn graduate Philip Bredu ’22 for an inspiring conversation about the value of internships, and how his passion for engineering and the sciences helped him land his current position as a test engineer at Georgia Power.

Coming to America

Born and raised in Ghana, Bredu and his brother moved to the United States to join their father, who was already living in New York at the time. At the age of 18, Bredu enrolled at Bronx Community College, where he started taking courses in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. “Throughout my high school years in Ghana, I always gravitated toward math and physics,” he said. “It never scared me away. I knew it was something I could do.” Then Bredu received an email about a scholarship offered at Vaughn College. “I was intrigued about what I read and wanted to learn more about the College and its engineering programs.”

Excited about his future, Bredu knew that Vaughn would be the perfect place for him to pursue his dream. “I transferred to Vaughn and enrolled in the mechanical engineering program,” he said. “Being at Vaughn offered me the hands-on learning experience I wanted. From financial aid and career support to expert professors and incredible industry connections, landing my internship at Georgia Power was easy.”

The “power” of internships

Philip Bredu'22, Vaughn College mechanical engineering graduateBredu is the perfect example of how an internship can literally “power” your ability to land the job of your dreams. Bredu attended a career fair at Vaughn where he learned that he could use his engineering degree to work at a power company. Later, Vaughn sponsored a trip for him to attend the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) conference where he met with representatives from Georgia Power and received an internship opportunity. “I was invited to the hospitality suite at the conference where I met the supervisor at Georgia Power. After speaking with him for a short time, I was offered the internship!” Bredu said the experience was life changing as it helped him realize that working in the power industry was something he could do.

During the internship, Bredu valued the ability to work both in the office and in the field. “The hybrid schedule enabled me to learn so many different aspects of energy management. This is a dynamic career that will hold my interest for the long term.”

After the internship, Bredu was offered a permanent position at Georgia Power. In 2022, he graduated from Vaughn with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and was ready to start his career as a test engineer. “Moving to Georgia by myself and leaving my family was a challenging time for me,” he said. “It was a total lifestyle change from living in New York, but I’m adjusting. I love my job.”

A day in the life of a test engineer

“You never stop learning. This job teaches you the importance of being a good listener and asking questions.” When Dr. DeVivo asked him if he would recommend working in the power industry, Bredu responded with an enthusiastic, “yes!” “There’s always something new and exciting to learn about,” he explained. “Today’s customers are interested in solar, wind and sustainable energy. Working as a test engineer is a dream come true for me. It’s a diversified job that requires different skills. If you’re looking for a hands-on, intense and exciting career, becoming a test engineer is the job for you. You’ll never be bored.”

Engineering is an excellent field to get into because it offers a wide range of career opportunities across a variety of industries with stability and endless growth potential. What’s more is that new and emerging technologies are creating new roles in engineering every day. So check out Vaughn’s engineering and technology program and set your sights on an incredible future.

Check out all Vaughn’s podcast episodes.

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.

In the sixth episode of Futureproof Focus, Dr. Sharon B. DeVivo, president of Vaughn College and host of the podcast, sat down with Vaughn College alum Eric Santos Silva ‘21 for an inspiring conversation about how his passion for aviation maintenance grew in the military and how he is climbing his way to the top of his career as an aircraft maintenance technician at Delta Air Lines.

Paving the way to his future

Growing up in Brazil, Silva said he always had a strong interest in aviation as well as learning how things worked. His family moved to New York where he attended high school. Like most students, however, he wasn’t sure where his future would take him. “As a first-generation American, I knew I wanted to go to college, but I wasn’t sure what field of study I wanted to pursue,” Silva said. “Then, during senior year, I met with a United States Air Force recruiter who was visiting the school. I enlisted after graduation—and the rest, you can say, is history.”

Gaining experience in the military

Silva was stationed in England, where he served six years in the Air Force. “I worked on the planes’ weapons systems,” he stated. “Being surrounded by airplanes and gaining the hands-on experience truly ignited my passion for aviation.” He explained how serving in the military instilled core qualities and skillsets that not only helped him get to where he is today, but which he applies to life in general:

  • Being organized
  • Coming prepared to every situation or event
  • Being punctual
  • Taking care in appearance
  • Setting a good tone

Finding Vaughn

“After serving my country for six years, I knew it was time to explore my opportunities in the civilian world,” Silva declared. “I had no doubt my future would be in aviation.” In 2019, he enrolled in Vaughn’s associate in occupational studies program, where he received his airframe and powerplant (A&P) certification. “I knew it would be an adjustment transitioning from military to civilian life, but Vaughn made me feel right at home.” Silva said he joined the Veteran’s Club, where he was welcomed by fellow veterans who—like him—made the decision to pursue a career in aviation. He mentioned how one of his favorite activities at Vaughn was joining the aircraft maintenance competition team (AMC) where he—along with his teammates—competed against other airline employees in the field.

Shortly after graduating with his associate in occupational studies degree, Silva was hired by Endeavor Air, where he worked as an aircraft mechanic. (Endeavor Air is a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines that operates 151 regional jets on 700 daily flights to the United States, Canada and the Caribbean). While at this job, he decided to take his education one step further and enrolled in Vaughn’s Bachelor of Science in Aviation Maintenance Management program while continuing to work at the company which had slowed down considerably due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “I wanted to further my education for my future,” Silva enthusiastically stated. “The aviation management degree will position me to be one step ahead of other aircraft mechanics. I know it will pay off when the time is right.” He explained that working and attending college was challenging at the beginning, but having the support of a great team and attending classes remotely during the pandemic made it easier.

Landing the job at Delta Air Lines

Once airlines resumed service after the height of the pandemic, Silva left Endeavor Air and accepted an aircraft mechanic position at Delta Air Lines, where he works the nightshift at LaGuardia Airport. “My experience and track record as a mechanic at Endeavor made for a smooth transition to Delta,” he said. He was able to use the connections he made at Vaughn and in the field to land the position. Silva noted how Delta does not have separate avionics (electronics) teams, the mechanics do everything, which has helped him round out his skillset and become more marketable in the future.

Increasing demand for aircraft mechanics

Silva emphasized that all airlines—from regional to commercial—are hiring aircraft mechanics. “The industry needs workers—especially mechanics,” he said. “It’s an exciting industry—especially with the way technology is playing a role in our jobs.” He explained that technology is changing the platform for the future of aviation on many levels. For example, in a job that at one time simply required a wrench, aircraft mechanics are now using their laptops to troubleshoot the issue. “Delta provides training in Atlanta on the latest updates in technology,” Silva explained. “It’s an exciting time to work in the industry.”

When asked about working toward a management position, Silva explained that even though it’s quite a journey toward landing a managerial role, he’s proud that he has his bachelor’s degree in his back pocket for when the time comes. These are the steps it takes:

  1. Lead mechanic
  2. Shift manager
  3. Base manager
  4. Regional manager

Silva’s advice to students

“Explore all avenues. There are resources—and colleges like Vaughn—to help you get to where you want to be.” Silva said students should keep these benefits in mind if they are considering a career as an aircraft mechanic:

  • Incredible job security
  • Lots of room for growth
  • A long ladder of opportunity to climb to the top of the industry

He closed with this sentiment: “Even though it might seem like a long road—to see the light at the end of the tunnel—it comes up fast. Don’t give up on your dream.”

Listen to the podcast in its entirety here.

Thinking about becoming an aircraft mechanic? Attend our Open House on Saturday, March 18, where you will learn about our futureproof degree programs in aviation, engineering and technology and management. Register now.


In our fifth episode of Futureproof Focus, Dr. Sharon B. DeVivo, president of Vaughn College and host of the podcast, sat down with Gagandeep Munder ’14, captain at Delta Connection, for an inspiring conversation about how he broke barriers to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot. Read on to learn how his passion for aviation landed him in the captain’s seat.

A passion for aviation

From an early age, Gagandeep, who grew up in India, expressed a love for aviation. When he was 11 years old, his family moved to New York, where he became obsessed with watching the airplanes take off and land at LaGuardia Airport. “I knew I wanted to become a pilot, but no one took me seriously,” said Gagandeep. “Being a pilot is frowned upon in my country, and my family thought I would outgrow my passion for aviation.” Following his dream, Gagandeep enrolled at Vaughn College at the age of 19, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Aircraft Operations. “Attending Vaughn was the best decision for me. I loved being surrounded by others who share the same passion for aviation as I do.”

His path to the captain’s seat

After graduating from Vaughn in 2014, Gagandeep had his certifications in place to begin working as a flight instructor. He explained how he worked seven days a week—always keeping his eye on the sky for the opportunity to transition from flight instructor to the flight deck. In 2016, his dream came true when he accepted an offer from Endeavor Air/Delta Connection. “At 23 years old, I was flying a jet. It was surreal,” he said. “At that moment, I was humbled that my love for aviation led me to stay true to my dream.” Two years later, he was promoted to captain.

Breaking barriers

At the age of 25, he was living his dream. Gagandeep was asked by Dr. DeVivo what it was like to make the transition from the right seat (as co-pilot) to the left seat (as captain)—as a person from an underrepresented group.

“It was difficult at first,” he said. “I was only 25 years old and the only person who looked like me. “It was challenging, but it made me stronger,” he explained. “I was given the incredible opportunity to fly international routes as a captain. It inspires me every day to share my passion with the next generation of flight students to be the best they can be.”

Gagandeep’s advice and tips for students

Gagandeep offered some inspirational tips for success as a guide to underrepresented students:

  • Approach what you love as a shared passion—not by a skin tone or what a person looks like.
  • Work hard, stay determined, true to your passion—and you’ll be successful.

Landing the legacy seat

Now at 30 years old, Gagandeep is proud to say he has been hired by United Airlines, one of the three legacy industry carriers. “I wanted to be a part of a culture where there is room to grow,” he said. “United Airlines is that culture. It’s like family, where we are all on a first-name basis.” One of the biggest decisions, he said, was choosing what type of flying he wanted to do. Should he fly international or domestic? “At 30 years old, it is unimaginable that I will be flying the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. I can’t wait to begin training on this aircraft,” he said excitedly. As a first officer for United, Gagandeep has moved back to the right seat, and that’s just fine with him. “It’s a blessing to be working with experienced pilots on international flights,” he said. “I’ll be soaking up all their knowledge.”

When it comes to inspiring the younger generation of flight students, Gagandeep reminds them that it’s not about the stripes or status—it’s all about being safe. “You want to be ready for what’s ahead of you. Don’t rush, stay focused and learn as much as you can along the way.”

Gagandeep’s take on the in-demand need for pilots

The ongoing pilot shortage means that the best time to pursue a career in aviation is now. Gagandeep cited that United Airlines is hiring between 70 and 80 pilots each week, and is projected to hire approximately 15,000 more within the next 10 years. And that’s just for United.

If becoming a pilot is on your radar, here is a quick snapshot of the pathway to earning your wings as a captain:

  • Certified flight instructor
  • Co-pilot (right seat) at regional airline
  • Captain (left seat) at regional airline
  • Co-pilot (right seat) legacy airline
  • Work to transition to captain (left seat) legacy airline

Gagandeep explained that although the demand for pilots continues to grow, companies are very particular in their pilot selection process. “Airlines will not just hire anyone due to the shortage,” he stated. “There are certain qualities they look for that go beyond your qualifications.” Here are important characteristics that airlines seek during the pilot selection process:

  • Fitting the company culture
  • Possessing a positive attitude
  • Being hardworking and a people person
  • Representing the company in a positive light
  • Passing the company’s qualification/personality exam, which is used to gauge a candidate’s personality, demeanor, honesty and how he or she handles pressure

When it comes to becoming a pilot, Gagandeep is passionate about sharing his thoughts and experiences with the younger generation. “Becoming a pilot brings a sense of maturity and responsibility, both in the air and on the ground,” he said with great conviction. “Think about it: You’re responsible for the lives sitting behind you on the airplane. And when you’re not flying, you find that you carry yourself differently. You’re now representing the community and the airline. Being a pilot makes you do the right thing, no matter where you are.”

Watch the full podcast here.

Thinking about becoming a pilot? Read why now is the best time to pursue flight training if you want to become a pilot.

In this month’s episode, “Booming Aviation, Engineering and Management Job Markets: How Vaughn is Answering the Call,” Dr. Sharon B. DeVivo, president of Vaughn College and host of the podcast, Futureproof Focus, sat down with her colleague, Chaundra Daniels, director of career services, for an enlightening discussion about the booming job market in aviation, engineering and management, and how Vaughn is preparing its students to gain the competitive edge for landing positions in these in-demand fields

Daniels setting the pace for student success

With less than one year in her position as Vaughn’s director of career services, Daniels has brought a fresh perspective to the department by implementing innovative programs that are changing the face of student/employee relations. For more than 20 years, she has devoted her career to helping others develop their professional paths and employer relations skills. “Vaughn is the place to be,” said Daniels. “My passion is helping students find their passion and dream job.”

How Vaughn’s degree programs are fueling the job market

Dr. DeVivo opened the discussion by stating how Vaughn prepares its students for some of today’s most in-demand jobs. With hiring at record-setting levels in the fields of aerospace, aviation and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), she emphasized how Vaughn graduates have acquired the skills and are well-positioned to land careers in these booming job markets.

Daniels was excited to report that jobs in these fields are “pouring in.” “There is no shortage of jobs in our industry,” she said. “Employers are seeking out our students, knowing the value and credentials a Vaughn student brings to their company. This is the opportune time to be a Vaughn student.”  She further stated that Boeing just recently hired four of the College’s students. Daniels emphasized how—in addition to the job openings in the aforementioned fields—aviation maintenance technician jobs are also a crucial position being actively recruited now. “These technicians work behind the scenes to ensure the airplanes are safe to fly. Jobs like these—and others—are available across the board.”

Preparing students for success

Daniels was proud to say that Vaughn students are career-driven. “They know why they are here and what career they want for their future,” she said. And the College’s career services department is the hub where it all begins. “It’s important to engage with students early on—in their freshmen and sophomore years,” she said. “By working with them early, we can help them address any of their fears and sharpen their communication and networking skills.” Daniels explained the importance of meeting students where they are. “We want them to feel comfortable being able to present themselves and their skillset.” She went on to say that the career services department works with students to achieve these goals by offering an open-door policy that is designed around their schedules. This way, students can receive help with résumé development and interview preparation, among other career support tasks.

Making connections with Vaughn’s programs and partnerships

Preparing students for success is only one part of Vaughn’s mission. Helping them make the right connections to land their dream jobs is what Daniels does best. Employer Engagement Days—a program which she spearheaded—and other partnerships are helping Vaughn students land internships and jobs in their fields.

Employer Engagement Days

Last spring, Daniels kicked off Employer Engagement Days as a new initiative to streamline the employer engagement process for Vaughn students and industry leaders who are looking to hire. She explained how work is about building relationships and that these one-on-one meetings are proving successful for both employers and students who were seeking a more efficient and convenient way to meet by accommodating the schedules of both parties. “I developed Employer Engagement Days as a way to get employers back on campus after the pandemic,” Daniels said. She explained that the process is more casual and less stressful, thus allowing representatives from corporations to interview students on an individual basis—without the pressure and time constraints of traditional large networking events and career fairs. Employer Engagement Days helps to level the playing field, as it removes the competition and gives both the student and employer the time needed to determine if they are a good fit for each other.

JetBlue’s ‘University Gateway’ Pilot Pathway Program

Last summer, Vaughn partnered with JetBlue Airways as part of the airlines’ University Gateway Pilot Pathway Program. This groundbreaking, first-of-its-kind program allows aircraft operations students who attend Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI) accredited institutions—such as Vaughn—to apply and interview for positions at JetBlue as they completed their college courses. You can check out the JetBlue University Gateway program requirements on the website.

LaGuardia Gateway Partners

Earlier this year, LaGuardia Gateway Partners approached Vaughn to set up an internship program where students could gain experience in the industry. “Early onset industry experience is so important,” Daniels stated. “Internship programs such as this is just another way Vaughn prepares its students and offers them opportunities for a successful future.”

Professional Development Workshop Series

Daniels is passionate about helping students build the confidence and resilience they need to present themselves in the best possible light and articulate who they are. Here are some of the ways in which career services helps students to achieve these goals:

  • Industry résumé building
  • Effective interviewing
  • Networking and conferences

Dr. DeVivo added that the student experience offered at Vaughn sets the College apart from other institutions. “We support our students emotionally, financially and socially,” she said. “These programs and conferences are great pathways to their careers.”

The industry’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion

Dr. DeVivo stated that over the last several years, Vaughn has seen companies commit to hiring individuals from diverse backgrounds. Daniels replied that it isn’t as much about how employees are meeting diversity as we know it, but it should be regarded rather as a “diversity of thought.” She explained that—from a humanity perspective—it’s all about hiring the best person for the job. “Diversity is not easy,” Daniels said. “It’s a communication and personality issue. If employers seek candidates based on what they bring to the table—their unique talents—they’ll win every time.”

Dr. DeVivo’s tip of the month

Dr. DeVivo concluded the conversation with a wrap-up tip of the month: “The key to landing a great career is seizing opportunities early by establishing relationships with employers as part of your educational journey.”

You can listen to the podcast in its entirety here.

Thinking about becoming a pilot? Read about why now is the best time to pursue your degree.

Does your passion lie STEM-related fields? Read why Gen Z students are choosing STEM as a top career choice.

Want to learn more about becoming an aviation technician? Read why aviation maintenance degrees are fueling great career opportunities.

In this month’s episode, “Top Health and Wellness Tips for College Students,” Dr. Sharon B. DeVivo, president of Vaughn College and host of the podcast Futureproof Focus, sat down with her colleagues, Dr. Stacey Dutil, director of counseling and wellness, and Omari Wright, athletics Coordinator, for a candid discussion about the mental health of today’s college students and how Vaughn is helping its students stay well, both mentally and physically.

Students’ outlook is looking up

Despite the ongoing mental health and wellness issues reported by students across college campuses, both Dr. Dutil and Wright agree they are seeing an improvement at Vaughn, post-pandemic. “Vaughn students are resilient,” said Dutil. “There’s less stigma surrounding mental health today, as students are more open to talk about it.” And when it comes to diversity, Vaughn has a unique population of students which sets it apart from other college campuses. From first-generation college students and veterans to single parents and those juggling full-time jobs, Vaughn students have their own set of challenges to cope with. “Overall, (post-pandemic) we’re seeing our students’ ability to be more social, and that has a huge impact on their mental health.,” Dr. Dutil said.

What is “imposter syndrome?”

Dr. DeVivo raises the question about “imposter syndrome” as a real challenge that students are facing. This is especially for students who are entering fields dominated by those different from themselves. Thoughts such as, ‘I don’t belong here,’ or ‘You have to see it to be it,’ are sparking conversation to do a better job at demonstrating that everyone is credible and qualified. Fields such as engineering and technology, for example, are male dominated—and predominantly white. For students who don’t fit this profile—but have passion for the field—Dr. Dutil said it’s important to encourage them to build a supportive network through mentorships and clubs and societies with people who look like them and who understand their experience. “It makes a huge difference,” Dr. Dutil said.

Athletic Coordinator Wright weighed in on the topic with a unique angle. “I use athletics to teach life,” said Wright. “It’s about teamwork and working with people from different backgrounds. You have to grow through it and create a community of encouragement and positive energy to find purpose and a sense of belonging with people who look like you.”

How Vaughn is helping students

As Director of Counseling and Wellness at Vaughn for the past four years, Dr. Dutil said helping students of diverse cultures is all about speaking a universal language. “You have to meet people where they are,” she said. “It’s all about building a rapport and having a conversation. When you sit them down, their fear and shame go away.” Here are some of the ways the counseling and wellness department helps Vaughn students:

  • Food pantry: Meet the basic needs of students without any barriers.
  • Case management: Help students with issues such as housing and benefits.
  • Wellness committee: Colleagues collaborate to identify students who have challenges and take a holistic approach to helping them.
  • Residence life: Work with students who may be under distress about being away from home.
  • Guest speakers: Book guest speakers who address wellness and mental health issues.
  • Wellness challenge: Organize fun events to keep students engaged.

From a sports perspective, Wright organized several programs to keep students physically and mentally fit. Here are some of the ways he accomplishes this:

  • Virtual world wellness programs: Organizing boot camps and yoga sessions (women only) to help students with self-expression.
  • Recreational programs: E-sports is a popular platform where students can find areas where they fit in to explore their own talents.

Women’s Warrior Program

Created by Wright, this program was inspired by his mother, who raised him and his three siblings as a single parent. “I wanted to create a stronger infrastructure around women—a community outside of athletics,” he said. It’s based around the notion that: “There’s nothing I can’t do if given the opportunity to do so.” Wright believes: “If you want to go fast through life, then you go by yourself, but if you want to go far in life, then you go with a team.” Here are the highlights and goals of the Women’s Warrior Program for the 2022-2023 school year:

  • Galvanize school spirit: Help different departments create a buzz and awareness of campus events.
  • Get experience and work in different departments: Get your foot in the door and gain experience to include on your résumé.
  • Community service: Get Vaughn’s name out in the community and surround people with positivity. Helps students become well-rounded and gain experience to put on their résumés.

Wellness tips for students

As the fall semester kicks off, Dr. Dutil and Wright are excited to share some of their best wellness tips to prepare students for a great school year ahead.

Dr. Dutil: Be proactive about your mental health and wellness.

  • Don’t wait until you’re in a crisis. Come see us early and get to know us and our services.
  • Have a contingency plan—Preparing for Plan B is always a good idea. You never want to take for granted how things will turn out. Having a contingency plan can help reduce stress and get you to refocus.

Wright: Success is a planned event.

  • Networking can help you find where you belong.
  • Staying active every day helps with your mental and physical well-being. Setting small goals leads to large victories.

Dr. DeVivo concluded the conversation with a tip of her own: “Believe in yourself. You’re way more resilient than you think you are.”

You can watch the podcast in its entirety here.

Read more about how to stay mentally healthy in college here. Feeling a little stressed? Read about how to find your balance here.