Ever wondered what happens to students after they graduate? Ever notice how their news on Facebook suddenly tapers off in our modern-day world where social media this time of year used to be filled with this class and that class, hockey games, football games, etc.? Well, this summer I had the chance to catch up with a recent University of North Dakota (UND) graduate, Tony Batson, at the 2016 AirVenture in Oshkosh and learn about how he started at UND and what he’s up to these days.
That Chicago Kid…
Tony grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, IL and not surprisingly, had exposure to aviation from a young age. His father was a big part of his interest in aviation as he was told stories about aviation in World War II as a young kid. Tony was also into model aircraft building as well as Remote Controlled Aircraft (RCA). His interest for aviation piqued in high school when he had his first Discovery Flight at Chicagoland Aviation and soon he was working for the company as an aircraft detailer and in their office at the Lewis University Airport (KLOT).
Tony began his search for an aviation university in high school and looked at schools such as Purdue University, and others. One of his managers was actually a UND alumni which greatly factored in his decision as he heard of how professors at UND would go above and beyond for their students. On a “freezing, cold October day”, Tony made the trip to the upper Midwest and the rest was history.
Being at UND…
Like most students, Tony’s first year was a bit of a culture shock – especially coming to the Midwest after living in the suburbs of a major U.S. city. His roommate, a local to Grand Forks, took him under his wing. Tony remembers when they first met his roommate offering his cars and spare keys for whenever he needed to use it.
Flying didn’t always come naturally for Tony and sometimes lessons were challenging, but Tony “hit the ground running”. He wasn’t just involved in flying – he was also involved in different student groups on campus.
There were many groups that focused on aviation at UND, but Tony remembers Alpha Eta Roe as the “one club I really stuck with”. As soon as he joined, he had a position – he worked his way through different leadership positions and ended up as the President of the aviation fraternity. He remembers it as a way to network with leaders of other student groups on campus and what a benefit it was.
College wasn’t always about Alpha Eta Ro as he remembers advisers and professors alike as being a positive influence on his time at UND. However, the fraternity proved to be more than just a spare time activity as his work with the president of Piper Aircraft on a recent visit to UND landed him a job as a graduate intern in the Marketing Department.
He enjoys working with Piper Aircraft as it is something new every day. Some days he could be working on developing checklists, or he’s working with Sales and matching sales leads with regional dealers or making that first contact. Recently, he’s been working on marketing the new fleet of Piper aircraft being built to replace the aircraft at UND (and doing a great job, by the way).
Some Words for Students…
I often wonder what graduates would say to students at UND, almost at UND, or fellow graduates. Tony advises prospective students to get involved and get to know people while his advice to current students is to work hard because it’s a great time for pilots right now. Grads have some special advice that he tries to embody on a day-today basis: pay it forward and help the people behind you.
Where Are They Going?
After catching up with Tony, I couldn’t help but be excited about his aviation journey which is just beginning. I also ruminated on how his current job and experiences were because of UND and the groups he was involved in while a student there – UND is truly a great place to be.
Are you a UND alumni? Feel free to comment with your memories as a student there or any other school you attended!