LSUA looks to double aviation program’s class size in upcoming academic year

Reaches more potential students with program open house at AEX
Less than three years into its aviation program, LSUA is quickly growing, recruiting even more prospective students at its 2nd aviation open house on April 27.
Published: Apr. 27, 2023 at 8:56 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Less than three years into their aviation program, LSUA is quickly growing, recruiting even more prospective students at their 2nd aviation open house on Thursday.

The open house host, Million Air at Alexandria International Airport (AEX), also acts as the program’s on-site and on-the-job training for many of the program’s courses through LSUA’s partnership with the AEX Careers and Education Initiative.

Potential students had the opportunity to visit with professors and get a look at the curriculum, funding opportunities and internships and receive a behind-the-scenes look at the place they could start their aviation journey.

“Keen interest in the program is what we’re hearing,” said Dr. Paul Coreil, chancellor of LSUA. “It’s not students really considering the program, it’s students saying, ‘I’m coming. I just want to learn more and look at the airplanes and just get more excited about being a pilot or being part of the program.’”

The program’s class size has already grown to 23 students since it began in 2021.

“LSUA is an awesome university. It’s like a gem that we have in our own backyard,” Shari Drerup, an aviation professor at LSUA. “To think that we have an aviation program where you can do a four-year degree in professional aviation or if you want to get your private pilot’s license and get an aviation management degree. Who would have thought that we could do that in our own hometown of Alexandria?”

Students soon to enter the field will fill a need for new pilots in the cockpit.

“The airlines need pilots badly, and they’re hiring like crazy,” said Drerup. “They have so many pilots that are retiring every year. So, I can’t think of a better career that you could go into and step right into a job with an airline or a 135 charter operation, which is what I flew. The salaries are going through the roof. They’re giving sign-on bonuses. And the reason you need to go to LSUA is we are small enough to meet your needs, but we’re large enough to give you all the training that you need.”

Dr. Coreil echoed Drerup, explaining that the school is providing workers for jobs that are already available, so students can step right into the workforce. Drerup emphasized the need for women to be a part of that workforce, as fewer and fewer women are becoming pilots.

Melody Gros is one of those women with her sights set on filling that gap.

“The industry right now is really needing pilots,” said Gros. “So, going through this program, you open yourself up to a ton of job opportunities, such as, you could do cargo, you could do charter, you could do airlines, you can fly football teams.”

Gros said the pilot community is small and allows those in the field to meet new and different people, as well as travel to different areas.

She encouraged prospective students to figure out how committed they are to pursuing aviation, as the hours and requirements are demanding but emphasized that the outcome is worth it.

“It is a lot to learn. It is like a firehouse amount of information, definitely,” said Gros. “But it’s worth it though. You get a lot of information and it helps you look at other things in life too. You know aviation like the mindset around it, that pilot mindset can be put toward other things in life too.”

Dr. Coreil said the university expects potentially double the current aviation program size in the upcoming academic year, as 30 additional students have already filed applications for the aviation program, six of whom are registered for fall coursework.

LSUA is one of the only aviation programs in the state of Louisiana and the only one in the LSU system.

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