Redhawks and soaring go hand-in-hand. The start of Southeast's Professional Pilot program was cleared for takeoff this fall, and Assistant Professor Miranda Sullivan landed in Cape Girardeau about a year ago to help lead the program.

Miranda's love for aviation didn't have the typical start. She didn't have family members who flew professionally. She didn't dream of the day she would take off into the clouds. In fact, she wanted to be a veteranarian. However, after realizing she wasn't suited for some of the more delicate parts of working with sick animals, Sullivan went in search of a new career.

Okay I need to find something else to do. So, I took the aptitude test, and the number one thing that came back was a pilot. It said I was task oriented, detail oriented, and I would be able to multitask and be a pilot. So I was like, well, I've never even thought of that as a career. I mean, they were not really many pilots in my area. My dad flew for fun. But, you know, I never thought of that as a career for myself.

Miranda Sullivan, Assistant Professor

With this new career path in her sights, Miranda got to work earning her flight certifications. During school she juggled being a Division I athlete, being on the equestrian team, and earning flight time. Needless to say, Miranda was a busy student. As she stepped into the world of aviation, she realized she knew nothing about engines or mechanics. At first, Miranda assumed she would switch majors once her courses became too difficult. But, once she got off the ground for her private pilot's license there was no turning back. She came away with several certificates, including her private pilot's license, flight instructor certification, and multi-engine instructor certification. Miranda also gained experience with tail wheel and high-performance aircraft.

She describes her first flight by herself as surreal.

That moment that you get to to do your first solo and you're in the airplane by yourself and you think, 'Oh my gosh, this is on me, I'm in control of this airplane, I am the one making all the moves,' and it's a surreal experience. It's honestly one of the coolest things that I've ever done is that first solo, it's just all of a sudden you get your wings.

Miranda Sullivan, Assistant Professor

Now, she's teaching future pilots how to fly. The Professional Pilot Program at Southeast welcomed its first group of students in 2021. Miranda says students with any knowledge base can come here to learn about aviation. Our students have the opportunity to receive up to seven certificates or ratings. Miranda instructs students in ground courses where they learn the ins and outs of the aircraft and within their first few days, Southeast students are flying. Being part of the journey as students go from conceptual flight to taking off into the clouds is Miranda's favorite part of the job.

Assistant Professor

"This is the first semester that we've actually had students, and I think it's going way better than we could have possibly expected. Of course, they're going to be hiccups with any new pilot program, but that being said, the University support has been fantastic. They have been so supportive. The community support has been wonderful. "

Miranda Sullivan

Headshot of Miranda Sullivan
Southeast is also partnered with U.S. Aviation and Republic Airways giving students access to a wide network of assets to start their future careers. These partnerships open up access to aviation professionals for our students to learn from and network with.

After SEMO, there are so many steps that those students can take, I mean, the possibilities are endless. There's so many different careers in aviation they can choose to go. That's one of the things, we set students up for a professional career in aviation. So whether that be, they want to go to airlines, they want to fly corporately, they maybe want to do some charter stuff, you know, pipeline whatever they want to do. We give them the tools to be successful in those in those areas. So the possibilities are endless.

Miranda Sullivan, Assistant Professor