Nine proud alumni from Delaware State University call the flight deck of United Airlines aircraft home—and they were particularly happy to take part in a recent event celebrating the inclusion of their alma mater into a new program by the airline to work towards more diversity in its ranks.
On April 15, Delaware State University announced that its aviation department has joined United Airlines’ Aviate program, building qualified applicants towards its potential pool of future pilots. United launched the program in pursuit of training 5,000 new pilots by 2030 through its cooperative agreements with a number of aviation training organizations. As the first HBCU (Historically Black College and University) selected by United for the program, DSU leads the way for others to follow.
DSU and the airline came together for a special lunch at Delaware Airpark (33N) in Dover/Cheswold that day in which those 9 alums attended with representatives from United, including Mary Ann Schaffer, systems chief pilot. “Aviate provides that path for [DSU students] to follow; you’ll know what that next step is going to be,” Schaffer said in a university press release. “That is what this partnership between Aviate and Delaware State University will provide for you, so you can see that future.” In an interview with Flying, DSU aviation program director Lt. Col. Michael Hales noted that Schaffer spent an hour in a one-on-one session with the young women who are current DSU students, during which they could ask her any questions they had about finding an aviation career path. He expressed how the Aviate program made that path a lot clearer for all of the university’s aviation graduates.
“We have a tremendous opportunity to build our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in 2021 and beyond,” said Brett Hart, president of United Airlines, in the release. “Inspired by the Aviate motto ‘Love to fly, born to lead,’ we look forward to working side by side with our partners at Delaware State University, and we welcome the next generation of aviators to the flight deck.”
University president Tony Allen also committed to the collaboration, and spoke to United’s dedication to improving diversity in its ranks. “When it comes to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, you cannot hope for better. You have to do better,” said Dr. Allen. “That starts with leadership and partnership. As the No. 1 provider of pilots of color in the country, we’re proud of United’s leadership and excited about the partnership.”