Conference on Diversity in Aviation brings together academia and industry to focus on future workforce development

Posted: November 7, 2019


Keynote speaker Bridget Lauderdale speaking at the conference
Keynote speaker Bridget Lauderdale speaking at the conference Photo: James DeCamp

Aviation and higher education professionals from across the nation converged at The Ohio State University for the 2nd Annual Conference on Diversity in Aviation and 7th Annual Aviation Industry Night, held October 29 and 30.

Hosted by the College of Engineering’s Center for Aviation Studies, the event focused on the importance of diversity in aviation and best practices for inclusion.

Conference organizer Shannon Morrison, PhD, was enthusiastic about the event’s success. “I started this conference because I saw the need to bring together a variety of voices on how to create a more inclusive and equitable aviation industry. The fact that we are able to host the conference for a second year shows the value the diversity conversation has for a wide range of individuals,” shared Morrison, who is the center’s curriculum and assessment manager.

Attendees benefitted from the expertise of keynote speaker Bridget Lauderdale, vice president and general manager, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. She discussed the important role of mentors and sponsors in supporting the career progression of diverse leaders.

Conference breakout sessions focused on implicit bias, gender equity, recruitment, power struggles and dispelling misinformation about diversity.

A special presentation of The Flying Hobos, an interactive living history play, demonstrated the life and accomplishments of the first African Americans who were part of the golden age of flight. The conference enabled the presentation to be given a second time at a local school.


A captain from Republic Airways talking to a student
A captain from Republic Airways talking to a student Photo: James DeCamp

“Having a conference focused on diversity is critically important for our industry,” commented Brian Strzempkowski, assistant director. “Aviation is a global industry that exists to bring people together from around the world. Aviation and diversity should be synonymous with each other, and I’m proud that Ohio State is leading the way.”

Industry Night

For the first time, the center’s annual Aviation Industry Night was held in conjunction with the Conference on Diversity in Aviation.

To start the event, a panel of industry leaders discussed their career pathways and provided insight to students about the future of the field. Panelists were Kandy Bernskoetter, first officer, FedEx Express; Paul Gillenwater, inspector, Federal Aviation Administration; Colonel Doug Hall, United States Air Force; Mark Harden, inspector, Federal Aviation Administration; and Stephanie Morgan, executive director, Ohio State Air Transportation & Aerospace Campus.

After the discussion, over 200 students had the opportunity to meet panelists, talk to a variety industry professionals and visit the booths of potential employers.


Aviation Industry Night panel
Aviation Industry Night panel Photo: James DeCamp

“Aviation Industry Night provides a unique opportunity for students to network with potential employers and other industry professionals in a relaxed environment,” commented Morrison. “This facilitates the exploration of career paths.”

Both the diversity conference and industry night enabled higher education professionals, aviation industry members and students to share best practices and collaborate on the future of the aviation workforce.

Event sponsors were key to the success of the events. Thanks to their generous support, the center was able to open free conference registration to over 100 students from The Ohio State University. Sponsors: Republic Airways, Piedmont, The Ohio State University Office of Diversity and Inclusion, The Ohio State University College of Engineering, NetJets, Envoy, Lbrands, Endeavor Air and Alpa.

“Our sponsors’ support and attendance at both events continues to be instrumental in leading the change in diversity the aviation industry needs,” said Morrison.

by Holly Henley, communications specialist