Students in the Western Michigan University College of Aviation launched an annual award program to recognize those who have helped the college achieve greater diversity, and they have named the W.K. Kellogg Foundation as the award’s first recipient.
The first WMU College of Aviation Excellence in Diversity Award will be presented today, April 11, at the University’s annual program to recognize diversity achievements. The event is set for 5 p.m. in the Bernhard Center Bernhard on WMU’s main campus in Kalamazoo.
The Kellogg Foundation was singled out for its longtime support for diversity initiatives that impact the college and the profession as a whole. The foundation has been heavily involved with the WMU aviation college since the 1990s, and was instrumental in helping to bring the college to its home at W.K. Kellogg Airport in Battle Creek, Mich. A 1995 grant of $2.9 million and a $5.2 million grant in 1998, both from the Kellogg Foundation, combined with support from Battle Creek Unlimited, WMU and the federal government, to create a world-class aviation program in Battle Creek.
A significant portion of the grants from the foundation to the college allowed the college to focus on outreach, recruitment and retention, and scholarships for underrepresented groups in aviation.
With support from the Kellogg Foundation and others, WMU has awarded more than $2.5 million in diversity scholarships. The percentage of African Americans in the College of Aviation’s student body has risen from 1 percent in 1999 to 6 percent today. While only a handful of women were enrolled in aviation programs when the Kellogg Foundation made its first grant in 1995 to address the issue, women now make up about 10 percent of the aviation student body.
“Without the structure provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the College of Aviation’s focus on diversity would not be as strong as it is today,” says Ryan Pendleton, president of the college’s Multicultural Association of Aviation Professionals, which created the award. “Diversity is a part of everything the W.K. Kellogg Foundation does and believes and they provided us guidance in doing the same.”
Working with the University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Pendleton and his fellow students in the MAAP conceived the college diversity award to honor people or organizations who demonstrate a significant impact on diversity in aviation; show commitment to community service on a consistent basis; positively impact the students, faculty, and staff; contribute to the engagement of youth coming into the aviation industry; and have professionalism that maintains the integrity, character, morale and service of the aviation industry.
Nominations for the new award were submitted to the college, and Pendleton and a selection committee selected the W.K. Kellogg Foundation as its inaugural recipient.
“This award was 100 percent student initiated, and I couldn’t be more proud of our students for realizing just how special our relationship with the Kellogg Foundation is and what it has allowed us to accomplish,” says Capt. David Powell, dean of the college. “Our entire college is stronger because of the diverse student body we’ve been able to build.”
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.
The foundation is based in Battle Creek, Mich., and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti.
Visit wkkf.org for more information.
The WMU College of Aviation boasts enrollment of 700 students in three programs—aviation maintenance technology, aviation science and administration, and aviation flight science. The college’s mission is to prepare leaders who are sought after by the aerospace industry and to engage in meaningful research that advances the knowledge base. The college’s vision is to serve as the premier aerospace education and research institution in a diverse global society. Founded in 1939, WMU’s aviation program has operated since 1997 from the W.K. Kellogg Airfield in Battle Creek.
Visit wmich.edu/aviation for more information.