Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn. – University of Tennessee Space Institute (UTSI) students who earned their graduate degrees since summer 2011 were recognized at a reception held in their honor May 7.
This year’s guest speaker was Aerospace Testing Alliance (ATA) General Manager Steve Pearson, who used James Madison and Alexander Hamilton to illustrate the importance of furthering one’s education.
“I described how two young men of small stature and with little political clout saved the country and built a nation at a time when the established leaders of the day stood on the sidelines and just worried,” Pearson said. “It’s a story of what dedication, motivation and ‘not going to take no for an answer’ can do.”
Pearson’s talk was a historical allegory on how two people without connections asserted themselves by persuading Gen. George Washington to be the first president.
“Their persistence paid off in the long run,” Pearson said. “Adams and Hamilton were important in framing the U.S. Constitution. I expect significant results from these graduate students who worked hard to balance work and school to ‘pay it forward.’”
Pearson said the event was well attended by family, friends and members of UTSI.
Graduates present to be acknowledged for earning a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering were Timothy Barber, Brian Godfrey, Benjamin Klamm, Kevin Holst, Adam Plondke and James Rogers; mechanical engineering were Anthony Harrison and Austin Kimbrell; aviation systems were Jonathan Kolwyck and Samuel Williams; electrical engineering was Bryan Hayes; and industrial engineering was Kaleigh Hatfield. Receiving his Ph.D. in aerospace engineering was Joshua Batterson.
Bryan Hayes is an ATA electrical engineer and technical lead for the Non-contact Stress Measurement System (NSMS).
Attending graduate school provided the Tullahoma native with a new skill set he could apply directly to his job.
“AEDC benefited from the degree by me applying the advanced knowledge I learned during the masters program to the work I perform here at AEDC,” Hayes said. “What I learned in the graduate classes can be directly applied to the signal processing work I perform on a daily basis. The degree [also] benefits me and my family by making me more marketable to the workforce at large.”
Hayes said the connection between work and his family is literally a bloodline.
“My biggest role model and mentor is my dad, Tommy Hayes, who worked out here as an instrument technician for almost 40 years,” Bryan said. “He got me involved in electronics early and helped me during my undergraduate degree when I didn’t understand certain aspects of electronics. The engineer who mentored me and got me started in NSMS was Bob Fugerer when I hired in back in 1999.
“Little did I know that he would leave in 2001, but he exposed me to software, hardware design and printed circuit board layout for the NSMS project. That prepared me to be the technical lead for NSMS.”
Working at AEDC has provided Hayes with some unique opportunities.
“When I came to work at AEDC and they offered to pay for graduate classes at UTSI, I couldn’t refuse,” he said. “UTSI is a great place to go to school and I enjoyed the professors. I’m a big Volunteers fan in all sports and it felt really good to attend the graduate hooding ceremony at Thompson-Boling Arena and be a part of the UT family.”
Kevin Holst is an ATA Aeropropulsion Product Branch test and evaluation analysis engineer who supports the data validation and analysis tasks for engine testing.
“I’ve been at AEDC for just under five years,” said the Bartlett, Tenn., native. “The coursework I completed has helped give me a broad base of knowledge from which to draw from for my work at AEDC. Working on a thesis helped me to apply that academic knowledge to a slightly more real-world example and produce a product from it.”
Although pleased with acquiring the degree, he acknowledged that more remains to be done.
“My intent is for this degree to be a milestone and not a stopping point,” Holst said. “Although I just got my degree, I’m looking forward to the next challenge.”
The greatest hurdle he faced was completing his thesis, not due to its difficulty, “just making time for it.”
Holst said Rob McAmis and Andrew Jackson have been his primary role models and mentors since he joined AEDC’s workforce.
Kaleigh Hatfield, continuous improvement lead for the asset management process with ATA’s Test Assets and Support Branch, began attending UTSI one semester after earning her bachelor’s degree in industrial and systems engineering at Tennessee Technological University.
“I wanted to go ahead and start grad school while everything was still fresh and while I was used to attending school,” said the Lynchburg native. “I don’t have any children, so I figured I would have the freest time in my life to pursue an advanced degree.”
Like her colleagues who graduated from UTSI this summer, she said everyone involved comes out ahead from an advanced degree.
“I benefit by expanding my knowledge and experience, my managers benefit because now I am better equipped to serve in more job functions,” she said. “And ATA/AEDC benefits as a whole from my implementing what I learned through my advanced degree.”
Hatfield spoke about the more immediate impact of her graduate degree.
“I have a better understanding of how to manage and solve problems than I did before,” she said. “I am very relieved and excited to have this degree. I am also proud to have an advanced degree.”
Like her coworkers and fellow grad students, the biggest challenge was balancing work, school and her personal life while trying to excel in all.
She credits Christopher Mears, Walt Bishop and David Hurst as being her mentors and role models at AEDC.