Suzanne Kearns, an associate professor in the Geopghraphy and Environmental Management aviation program, in the Faculty of Environment, will be receiving an Elsie award in the education category from the Northern Lights Aero Foundation. The awards are selected by a judging panel comprised of aviation and aerospace industry experts and veterans. This September, Kearns will be honoured at the Elsie Awards Gala in Toronto.
Looking at Kearns’ experience, this award comes as no surprise. From the age of 15, she began her flight training, flew solo on her 16th birthday, and had her private fixed and rotary-wing licenses by 17.
She went on to earn her commercial multi-engine instrument pilot licenses (fixed- and rotary-wing), a college diploma in helicopter flight training from Canadore College, a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical science and a master’s degree in human factors and systems engineering both from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. She began working full-time as a professor at the age of 24 and simultaneously began studying for her PhD in education, which she earned in 2007.
Kearns teaches, conducts research, develops e-learning courses, and writes about aviation safety and training. She has authored four books and many academic and industry articles, and is considered a leading academic in her field. Her textbook is used in universities around the world to teach the next generation about the ‘Fundamentals of International Aviation’.
“The goal is to promote the importance of recruiting, educating, and retaining the next generation of aviation professionals as the air transport sector is facing critical shortages that impact both the travelling public and society as a whole. Reaching young women is critical, as only about 5% of pilots and even less maintenance engineers are women, and we can’t solve this problem by only targeting half of the population,” says Kearns.
About a year ago, Kearns wanted to raise awareness about the projected global shortage for the next generation of aviation professionals. She took action, writing articles to be published by MacLeans, Hill Times, and Skies Magazine explaining the issue. Kearns also wrote to various government officials and representatives, ultimately meeting with the Honourable Marc Garneau (Minister of Transport) and Stephen Fuhr (MP). Her initiative supported the Federal TRAN committee’s study into the threats facing flight schools, in which, many of the key issues she had identified were directly supported in the committee’s final report.
This wouldn’t have been accomplished without the support from several groups at UWaterloo who helped translate research into real world impact: the Faculty, WatCo (Waterloo Commercialization Office), the communications office, and the government relations office were all critical in helping convey this message. – Suzanne Kearns.
Congratulations on this incredible and well-deserved award Suzanne!