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Life on the fly

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A student kneels next to and points at the tail number of an Ohio State training aircraft. Tail number is N280SU.
Jillian Bourdage on the Ohio State flight line | submitted

For aviation management senior Jillian Bourdage, a typical day starts before the sun rises and doesn’t wrap up until it has long set. Bourdage impressively balances the Flight Education program, her full-time academics as a Fisher College of Business student and a part-time job as a flight instructor all while maintaining a position as a collegiate athlete on The Ohio State University Women’s Golf Team.

“A typical day for me consists of team workouts that start at 7:45 a.m. followed by classes until around 2 p.m. and then golf practice for three to four hours in the afternoon,” Bourdage said. “I try to fit in homework and studying during my free time.”  

Bourdage knew from a young age that she wanted to play Division I golf, but it wasn’t until her sophomore year of high school that she decided she wanted to become a pilot. During an afternoon volunteering at a golf course in her home state of Florida, Bourdage found an interest in the planes taking off from a nearby airport. Ohio State soon became Bourdage’s dream school, as it checked all of her boxes—Division I golf, an excellent aviation program, great academics and it was out of state.  

Bourdage received a combined scholarship for athletics and academics, helping cover the costs of her schooling and flight training. 

“It’s a lot of work to balance it all, but the belief that my coaches and teammates have in me really motivates me to put in the work,” Bourdage said.  

A woman swings a golf club wearing Ohio State gear
submitted

Bourdage knew taking on all her pursuits would make for a busy schedule, but she was sure it was what she wanted, and she was willing to do anything to make her ambitions reality. Aside from sacrificing many hours of sleep, Bourdage had to sometimes move flight training around golf practice, fly at night instead of the day and squeeze in time for homework in the evenings. 

“I was too passionate about both of them to ever consider not pursuing them, so I had to make it work,” Bourdage said. 

To stay motivated, Bourdage said she surrounds herself with supportive friends and peers that help uplift and encourage her. One of the organizations that provides her with support is the Aviation Management Organization, where Bourdage helps with budgeting, outreach and planning speakers. 

After joining in the spring of her freshman year, Bourdage fell in love with the organization and began to do their outreach and engagement before securing her current position as treasurer.  

“They [The Aviation Management Organization] were super inclusive of all different types of majors, and not only did they focus on developing professional skills and enhancing your knowledge of the industry, but they also created a community that I love surrounding myself with,” Bourdage said.  

The Aviation Management Organization has a large focus on mental health, which holds a place of special importance for Bourdage. The club’s meetings typically see around twenty people, but the mental-health-centered meetings tend to draw a larger crowd, according to Bourdage.

“Hosting guest speakers every semester for mental health discussions – that’s just a passion project I have,” Bourdage said. “I’m happy to see that people are really engaged and wanting to be a part of that change in the future. 

Following graduation, Bourdage says she plans on building hours and eventually become an airline pilot, where she can get more involved with pilot mental health and peer support programs within the industry.  

“When you find community, you find people who will help propel you even farther than you can imagine,” Bourdage said. “Follow your instincts, pursue things you are passionate about, and uplift others along the way!”

by Lizzie Eidt, professional writing intern

Category: Students