“When will you see us?” That was the theme of a silent protest near the Daytona Beach Campus after the killing of George Floyd. It is a fair question, and it deserves an answer — from institutions and communities, and from each of us as individuals.
To see the value of every person requires a willingness to take a hard look at yourself. You then have to be willing to learn and change, which should be the core values of any university.
To honor George Floyd, our campuses joined in a virtual memorial. We followed this up with two “Your Voice Matters” Zoom meetings. Students, staff and faculty shared their thoughts, feelings and experiences. These were candid conversations, not speeches, and the emphasis was on listening to each other. Some personal stories were painful to hear. However, I felt encouraged by the trust and mutual respect that was consistent across almost four hours, which means we have a solid foundation to build on.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has launched a search for a new senior advisor, a chief diversity and inclusion officer (CDIO). This new position extends our commitment to make aviation and aerospace more diverse and inclusive. We have taken steps in the right direction, including recruiting campaigns, scholarships, mentoring programs and awareness-raising channels and events. Our new CDIO will help us find new ways to recognize, attract, support and celebrate talent.
We have cause for celebration. This issue of Lift expresses our pride in alumni who are in the vanguard of aviation and aerospace leadership — including 1995 graduate Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., the first Black chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, and 2005 graduate JoAnne Bass, the first woman to serve as chief master sergeant of the U.S. Air Force. U.S. Army officer Valdeta Mehanja, a 2013 and 2017 graduate, completed her training to be a Black Hawk helicopter pilot. Featured previously in Lift, veteran Reamonn Soto, a 2017 graduate, developed his start-up as a student; he is now a CEO and tenant in our Research Park in Daytona Beach, where he incubated a successful business. The Research Park to date has generated more than $90 million in economic impact in Florida and created 500 jobs.
As the world’s leading aviation educator, we support an industry critical to our country’s economy and security. We owe this industry the best minds, and graduates who are prepared to contribute on day one. New leaders will emerge from an enriching environment where everyone can succeed without compromising identity, values or culture. They will be Eagles. Rising to this challenge uplifts us all.
P. Barry Butler, Ph.D.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University