Science & Technology

'A Full Spectrum of Aviation': Growing USU Eastern Program Celebrates Recent Grads

By Shelby Ruud Jarman |

For the first time, Utah State University Eastern’s aviation program celebrated graduates receiving certificates, bachelor’s degrees, and master’s degrees, showcasing the breadth of offerings in this growing program.

Eight students recently graduated with unmanned aircraft systems (drones) certificates, fixed-wing commercial pilots, aviation management, and aviation sciences.

“It’s really a full spectrum of aviation,” said Bruce Miller, head of USU’s Aviation Technology Department. “The momentum is building down there in Price.”

The USU Eastern aviation program began in 2019 and has grown in recent years. This is the first year some of these programs have graduates.

“Aviation is one of the most hands-on programs you can get into,” Shalyn Drake said. “I mean, we can talk about engineering and chemistry, they’ll have plenty of lab components. But in aviation, 90% of the classes are project-based.”

Drake graduated with a master's degree in aviation science. She is also a lecturer in charge of the unmanned aircraft systems certificate program at USU Eastern and chose to earn a master’s degree to better serve her students.

“Our certificate students, the drone students, half of them had job offers before they even graduated,” she said.There's an industry need for drone pilots. It is a rigorous program that will open up a whole new world of possibilities to you.”

Drake noted that many students don’t know what direction their careers will take until they are in the program and see the opportunities available to them.

Rachel Reeder had never touched a drone before her time at USU Eastern. After receiving her certificate of unmanned aircraft systems, she will now work with the Davis County mosquito abatement district to track and spray mosquitoes with drones.

“People don’t realize how many jobs you can do as a drone pilot,” Reeder said. “And there are just going to be more and more opportunities as time goes on.”

Reeder noted that the one year she spent working toward her certificate was focused on technical skills, leaving her prepared to jump into the workforce immediately.

Parker Rollins, who majored in both the commercial fixed-wing pilot and the aviation management degrees, initially planned to attend classes at USU’s Logan campus. He was drawn to Price for its flexible flight scheduling and open airspace. Over time, he discovered another advantage: the close-knit community within the program.

“Everybody knows everybody,” he said. “The students are always studying together, and your instructors are very easily accessible. I really enjoyed the one-on-one instructor-student relationship. I always got the help that I needed.”

Looking ahead, an aviation maintenance associate degree is set to launch at USU Eastern in 2025 and construction has begun on facilities for the degree at the Carbon County Airport. According to Miller, this program will offer skills transferable to other related industries in Price, providing even more opportunities for students.

USU Eastern has also implemented concurrent enrollment drone programs in high schools across the state to help generate enthusiasm and provide a pathway for young people to get into an aviation career.

“The community has been the driving force,” Miller said. “They continue to ask us to bring new programs to USU Eastern. The support from the community and main campus has allowed us to continue to expand our footprint to offer a comprehensive aviation program.”

As the aviation program at USU Eastern continues to grow, it remains committed to providing students with the education and hands-on experience they need to succeed in a variety of aviation careers. With the continued support of the community and the university, the future looks bright for aspiring aviators in southeastern Utah.


Shelby Ruud Jarman
College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences


Bruce Miller
Department Head
Department of Aviation Technology


Aerospace 83stories USU Eastern 57stories

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