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Aviation Internship Leads to Bright Future

Student displays EKU banner on airport runway

Featuring senior Christian Nelson and alum Kyle Knezevich

Eastern Kentucky University is unique in many ways, including its Aviation program. EKU’s College of Business and Technology offers many students a variety of experiences before graduation, and for senior Aviation major Christian Nelson (Pellville, Ky.), there was no exception. With a concentration in Professional Flight, Multi-Engine Land (MEL), and a minor in Aerospace Management, it’s no wonder that he took an exciting opportunity to intern at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington.

Nelson worked extensively with Mr. Kyle Knezevich, an Eastern Aviation graduate of 2010. Knezevich was eager to give something back to his school. “As an Eastern graduate myself, being able to give something back to the University was always a goal of mine following my graduation and this internship program is certainly a product of that intent. Thanks to a great partnership with the EKU Center for Career and Co-Op, that vision became a reality back in the Spring of 2014 and has been a wonderful experience ever since.”

Nelson had nothing but positive things to say about his internship and shared photos in this photo gallery.

How did your previous coursework prepare you for the internship?

“I feel like by having a background as a pilot I was able to jump straight into the internship without any major learning barriers. EKU’s Aviation Department offers a wide variety of aviation related courses giving you knowledge in multiple areas. Eastern does not just teach you to become a pilot or just teach you to manage an airport; our curriculum does a great job interweaving the two in the classroom and giving you an all-around knowledge of the industry as a whole.”

What was your day-to-day experience like?

“It is hard to explain my day-to-day experience during my internship because no two days were the same. Almost every day consisted of issuing airport security badges to employees and general aviation tenants but outside of that, you never knew what would happen. The internship literally allows you to experience every aspect of how an airport functions. I was able to work on the airfield, get experience in communications, aid in airport security, dispatch our onsite public safety officers and I even sat in on the board meeting where they approved the budget for the fiscal year.”

What new skills did you gain through the internship?

“Through this internship, you gain so much knowledge about how an airport functions. You get to experience every aspect of the airport. No doubt, I learned a lot about the aviation field but the most important skill I came away with is how to be a professional. Being a professional is more than just a title, it is a lifestyle and the employees at the Blue Grass Airport have just that.  At an airport you never know what you are going to be faced with which is why having a professional attitude is so important. No matter the situation, the employees at the Blue Grass Airport handled it with great respect and with a professional attitude. I found myself striving to recreate that same professional attitude they expressed when presented with the same situation. This skill not only makes me a better employee but a better person as well and I can thank my coworkers during this internship for that.”

Why did you nominate your employers for the Co-Op award?

“When I received the email from the EKU Co-op department about the opportunity to nominate Blue Grass Airport for the “Great Place to Work” award, I knew I had to do it. The employees at the airport gave me a great opportunity to get hands on experience and to further my career; I wanted to do something in return for them. I am thankful that Connie Dirks and the Career Department chose us for that award. I think it is important to note that at the awards ceremony, every past intern showed up as well as Kyle Knezevich and Travis Crilly (Manager of Operations at the airport). To have them all there at the awards ceremony speaks highly of the internship and how great it really is.”

What changes to your future plans have you made, if any, because of this experience?

“Throughout my first two and a half years in the aviation department at Eastern all I ever thought about was flying. That’s what I was going to school for so that’s what I focused on. I applied for this internship because I wanted to get experience in the aviation field even if it was not flying. As a pilot, it is always good to have a backup plan and aerospace management was just that, a backup plan. Throughout this internship, I gained a love for the groundside of aviation. It is a side of aviation I have never got to experience. Coming from a small town in Western Kentucky, aviation is scarce. Almost all of my experience has been here at EKU in the left seat of an aircraft and reading only about the groundside in textbooks. Contrary to what most people think, those are two very different worlds. Because of this internship, I now want to do both. I would love to run an airport one day as well as fly corporate. This internship has allowed me to meet people who do just that, showing me that it is very possible to do both.”

Knezevich agreed with Nelson’s statements, highlighting not only the university, but the great work that individual EKU students bring to employment. “By combining the classroom knowledge that students gain from their coursework at EKU with hands-on experience at the airport, the program allows students, like Christian, the opportunity to develop additional skills and knowledge through a one of a kind experience that will carry them immediately into their careers in the aviation industry. Christian did an exceptional job for us while he was at the airport. His ability to effectively communicate with various groups as well as adapt to a variety of situations made him an ideal intern. In fact, by the end of his internship, Christian could be found performing many of the duties typically tasked to full-time personnel. He was, and continues to be, an asset for us and has truly set a new standard for participants in our program. He is a great example of the quality, highly educated, and motivated students that EKU produces and will serve as a terrific ambassador for the University well into the future.”

As a result of excellent academic preparation and Nelson's hard work, he was hired as part-time Operations Specialist at Blue Grass Airport after successfully completing his internship. According to Knezevich, "A huge promotion from his status as an intern. He will now be tasked with the same responsibilities as full time department personnel. It's a great credit to the wonderful job he has done for us." EKU Associate Professor of Aviation Tony Adams, was also pleased with Nelson's success congratulating him on achieving employment at the Lexington Bluegrass Airport. "Your success is our success. You are on your way to being a well-rounded addition to the aviation industry. Thanks to Kyle, the Bluegrass team, and EKU Coop for recognizing a valuable asset of EKU Aviation."

For more information about EKU’s Aviation program, visit aviation.eku.edu.

Published on September 02, 2015

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