The Sky’s The Limit

Graduate Satya Sunkavalli’s career is cleared for takeoff

satyaWhen you work in aviation, you know getting a flight from its point of origin to a destination isn’t always easy, and obstacles are the norm, not a rarity. What matters most is how well prepared you are to respond to those obstacles.

Maybe that’s why Satya Sunkavalli is such a great fit for the industry. Her journey toward a degree hasn’t always been easy, but now she’s ready to take flight.

Sunkavalli, a native of India, came to the United States on a student
visa in late 2010 with the intent to earn a pilot certification. She enrolled in a flight program at another institution in Indiana, but personal obstacles prevented her from completing her studies. She transferred to a comparable flight program in Florida with the hope of finishing, but despite a solid performance on the verbal portion of her test, she did not pass the flight portion.

“I was so discouraged and disappointed with myself,” Sunkavalli says. “But there are always challenges in life. You just can’t give up. Doing something a little different after this was a great way to regain my confidence.”

With that renewed spirit, she placed her pilot-training goal on hold and enrolled at Ivy Tech Community College to study aviation from a mechanical perspective.

Aviation Maintenance Technology instructor Brad Stark has taught Sunkavalli in four of his classes, with course content ranging from aircraft fuel systems to sheet metal fabrication.

“Satya strives to do her best at everything she does, and she tries to help the other students,” Stark says.

Sunkavalli’s achievements go beyond the classroom. She’s an advisor for the Aviation Explorer Post 2035 and the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles Youth Program, both based at Smith Field in Fort Wayne. Sunkavalli also takes pride in her association with the local chapter of The Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women pilots founded by 99 licensed women pilots in 1929. Aviation icon Amelia Earhart served as the group’s first president. And most recently she was named a 2015 Newman Civic Fellow, an honor given to inspiring college student leaders who demonstrate an investment in finding solutions for challenges in their community.

Sunkavalli says she wants to become a certified pilot and also be among the first to apply for work at GE Aviation’s new $100 million, nextgeneration jet engine assembly facility being built in Lafayette, Ind. Now that she has her degree, she’s cleared for takeoff.

“Working at a global company like GE would be a great networking opportunity and help me stay on course with aviation and everything I’m looking for in my career,” Sunkavalli says.

Josie Thorpe: Finding a “Family” Connection

When she was in high school, Josie Thorpe was like a lot of students: a little uncertain about what she wanted to focus on in the future. Unlike some of her peers, however, Josie wasn’t content to put off a decision for very long.

“When I was looking at colleges my senior year of high school, I was unsure what I wanted to do,” Thorpe says. “But when I got introduced to ASAP, it seemed like a fast and productive way to learn and stay active in school.”

Thorpe also appreciates the fact that she’s part of a cohort—a group of students that will stay together throughout the program. She says that has allowed her to build relationships that keep everyone focused on their goals.

“In the ASAP program we’re with the same students for the entire program,” Thorpe explains, “and it’s like a family. There are some hard days when it’s a little overwhelming, and we’re each other’s support system.”

Thorpe also appreciates the stipend she is provided with every month, which helps defray expenses that would otherwise require her to keep a job while attending college. On the Ivy Tech Lafayette campus, the stipend was made possible by a gift from the Mike and Sue Smith family, who helped launch the program with a $1 million donation to the Ivy Tech Foundation.

When you consider how far students like Thorpe have come after enrolling in ASAP, it immediately becomes apparent that gifts like the one from the Smith family will pay dividends long into the future.

“At first, ASAP was a little overwhelming, but now, as I reach the end, I realize how worthwhile it’s been,” Thorpe says. “I’ll start at Purdue next year as a junior, and I’m ready. If you had asked me a year ago, I had no idea what I wanted to do, but ASAP has really helped prepare me. It’s getting me where I want to go.”

Homeschooled Student Finds Ivy Tech Community College a Perfect Fit

With help from a mentor, Ashlee Butler sets new goals

Ashlee Butler was a little tentative when she was preparing to start college. Having been homeschooled her entire life, she wondered whether she would be ready for life on campus. Those fears were allayed, however, as soon as she started her first semester at Ivy Tech Community College. In fact, she found that her homeschool experience helped her in adjust to college life.

“The pros of being a homeschool student include mastering such skills as time management and self-discipline,” says Butler. “Both of these qualities have served me well as a college student. I feel that already being dependable and able to complete assignments within a timely manner has allowed me to adjust more rapidly to the college atmosphere.”

Although there were many benefits to homeschooling, Butler acknowledges that it left her with some gaps in advanced math and science. She was nervous about how this would affect her performance in Ivy Tech’s core classes, but she credits her professors for helping her along the way. Ivy Tech’s small classes allowed Butler to feel at ease and get the one-on-one time with her professors she needed to excel.

It was in one of those small classes that she met one of her mentors, Professor Dr. Thomas Sobat. Butler became Sobat’s research assistant, working closely with him on his Forest Insect Ecology Project. This experience had a profound effect on Butler and became a defining moment in her academic journey. She started at Ivy Tech with the goal of earning an associate degree to become a veterinary technician, but her work with Dr. Sobat opened up a world of possibilities within the applied science field.

“The experience and insight I’ve gained throughout our short time doing research together has led me to expand upon my existing academic goals,” says Butler. “Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned is that if you’re persistent and passionate about something, anything’s possible.”

Butler has decided to follow her passion by pursuing not only a bachelor’s degree in Biology but also a doctorate in Veterinary Medicine (DVM) and eventually a Ph.D. in Zoology.

According to Dr. Sobat, Butler is an exemplary student.

“She is motivated, observant, inquisitive, and highly analytical,” says Sobat. “Her presence at the College has prompted the development of a department-wide undergraduate research program, now available to all Ivy Tech Science students.”

Her work with Dr. Sobat led them to speak at the 129th annual Indiana Academy of Science Convention. It also gave Butler the opportunity to attend the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) research conference in West Lafayette, where she was honored to represent Ivy Tech as a student judge.

“My experience at Ivy Tech and being fortunate enough to meet Dr. Sobat has allowed me to find a career path I’m passionate about,” says Butler. “Whether it’s visiting wildlife refuges or working in the lab, I’m excited every day about the new challenges that await.”