On April 14th 2018, Andrew Petermann, Bryan Tierney, Mitchell Barry, and myself from WMU’s Chapter of the American Association of Airport Executives attended the 90th Annual AAAE Conference and Exposition in San Diego, California.
We had the chance to network with current employees of airports, companies that help design and build airports, and other student chapters from different universities. This conference has benefited not only me, but also the chapter as a whole. I was able to get insight on how other students run their chapter and are able to fundraise, organize, and recruit. As a new RSO and President, I need all the advice I can get to help my organization be successful.
As part of the conference, we had a lot of Student Chapter meetings that included resume and cover letter building, career fairs, and a mentorship with a member of the airport industry. Bryan Tierney, WMU Sophomore, was paired with a mentor, Kyle Knezevich C.M., a professor from Eastern Kentucky University. Knezevich is also the faculty advisor for EKU’s AAAE Chapter. We had the chance to hang out with him and one of EKU’s members throughout the conference. The group of us discussed how we go about with student chapter problems and organizing events. We also had some discussion and were invited to do a combined tour with EKU in Columbus, OH during the fall. This will be a great opportunity for our student chapters to connect and network with each other.
All four of us enjoyed talking to many other student chapters at the conference, too. Some examples were the University of North Dakota, Kansas State, Kent State, and Vaughn College. We also met and chatted with many airport executives, building our networking skills and professionalism. Bryan said, “As the week went on I could feel my communication skills improving each time I left my comfort zone to talk to someone new.”
All of us learned to be more confident and to put ourselves out there to represent WMU as professionals. We were also reminded that the aviation industry is a small world as Bryan happened to meet the father of a hometown friend during the networking activities. He had no idea this individual was involved in aviation!
One connection I made was with Airport Operations Director at Orlando International Airport, Mr. Marquez Griffin. We met at one of the Student Chapter events, which was structured like speed dating with mentors. We talked one on one about what I want to do in the future and what I do now. He jokingly told me that with the way I presented myself, he should be the one giving me his resume. I laughed and we had casual conversations from then on during the conference. I immediately connected with him on LinkedIn, which is a great tool to keep in touch with everyone you meet in the industry.
This conference has provided all four of us with long-lasting friendships and great networking skills. San Diego International Airport did a fantastic job with hosting this year’s conference and exposition. We look forward to attending next year’s 91st conference in June 2019, which will be in Boston, MA hosted by Boston Logan International Airport. WMU’s AAAE Chapter hopes to bring our experience from conference into our organization to further guide the future airport executives into the industry.