Cadets consider career options during Majors' Night
By Staff Sgt. Don Branum, U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
/ Published February 12, 2010
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. --
Before the Air Force Academy's 1,000-plus fourth-class cadets reach recognition in March, many of them will decide what to do with the rest of their lives. Majors' Night, a semiannual event held in Fairchild Hall, gives cadets who haven't declared their field of study a chance to look into their options and make an informed decision.
The Dean of Faculty staff held Majors' Night on Fairchild Hall's second floor Feb. 11. Freshman, undeclared sophomores and cadet candidates from the Academy Preparatory School squeezed through crowded hallways to learn more about each of the 32 majors offered at the Academy. Instructors and guests from other Air Force bases set up exhibits showcasing everything from trained rats to a full-scale, disassembled R2 droid, a Van de Graaff generator and a remotely piloted aircraft simulator.
One of the guests was 2nd Lt. Elizabeth-Ann BuPane, a launch systems officer with the 5th Space Launch Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla. The 2008 graduate and astronautics major spoke to cadets in front of the Astronautics Department's FalconSAT display.
"I've always been interested in space," said Lieutenant BuPane, who was a space operator for FalconSAT-3 and worked on the design for FalconSAT-5. "My mother worked in the space program, so coming here and working with satellites seemed like the logical choice."
On the opposite side of the building, Capts. Matthew LeBlanc and Jordan Hudak, instructors with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, gave cadets the opportunity to hit his display with a rubber mallet.
"Don't hit the glass, or it'll shatter," Captain LeBlanc instructed a cadet with mallet in hand. "Aim for the metal part underneath and hit it as hard as you can." The freshman gave the display a solid whack, turning a piece of steel that represented a building foundation into a miniature Leaning Tower of Pisa. Captain LeBlanc talked to cadets about how civil engineers can design and build foundations that will remain standing during an earthquake.
Further down the hall, Michele Fincher let cadets put their hands on every zombie's favorite treat: brains. Ms. Fincher, an associate professor with the Behavioral Sciences and Leadership Department, explained how an understanding of the human brain could apply to officers' careers.
"Understanding the brain helps us understand things like traumatic brain injuries and how they relate to suicide, depression and anxiety disorders," she said. "It's important as a leader to have a basic understanding so they can determine, 'Is my Airman having problems because he doesn't want to be in the Air Force or because he might have some sort of brain injury?'"
Cadets have until October of their sophomore year to choose a major. That choice is a significant milestone for cadets, said Cadet 2nd Class Vai Schierholtz, a systems engineering management major with Cadet Squadron 03.
"It's a pretty big deal, because it's what you're going to be doing for the next three years and possibly your career," Cadet Schierholtz said. "Once you declare, that's one way you identify yourself with other cadets. You have a lot going on inside your major."
Cadets 4th Class Corey Leibbrand and Joshua Gilly said they were considering declaring for economics. Both cadets are assigned to CS 35.
"I'm looking at economics and management," Cadet Leibbrand said. "One's more people-based, and one's more math-based. The main considerations for me are flexibility in my Air Force career and marketability once I'm out of the Air Force."
Cadet Gilly said he's been interested in economics since he came to the Academy.
"Whenever I do get out, going into the business field is something I want to do," he said.
Col. Richard Fullerton, the permanent professor and department head for the Department of Economics and Geosciences, offered both cadets a few words of advice: "Find a major that you enjoy and pursue it passionately."