Student Profile: Ellie Yoder ’22

Ellie YoderSeattle, Wash.
Major: Aviation ­– Professional Pilot
Parents: Wes ’91 and Kate (Miller) ’92 Yoder

Take to the skies

“I had always been aware of aviation as a career, but hadn’t really considered it until I got to high school and started taking aerospace engineering classes. Several of my family members have their pilot’s licenses or have an interest in it. My dad started at Hesston College as an aviation student before realizing it wasn’t for him, but he still has a passion for aviation and has been supportive of me pursuing it. When I started at Hesston, I wasn’t yet fully decided on aviation. I was unsure of what I wanted to do, but knew I had an interest in aviation, so I decided to give it a try. It didn’t take long before I was hooked and knew I could see myself doing it as a career.

“I’ll admit, I had some doubts at first. When we were in planes flying on the first day of class, just getting the feel for what it’s like, I couldn’t imagine being at the point where I was capable of flying a plane on my own. But I knew I would have to, and I did. I soloed in February – just about six months after my first flight lesson. It was so surreal, and it reminded me why I was doing this. I love it. I didn’t know anything about airplanes coming in, but it’s exciting and empowering to be learning.

“I stuck around Hesston this summer to continue flying and working on my flight hours. I earned my private pilot license on June 26, and now I’m working on my instrument rating.”

Breaking stereotypes

“Being a woman in a male-dominated industry will come with its challenges, but I think it’s also very rewarding. I haven’t felt like I’ve had to prove myself within Hesston’s program just because I’m a woman, but I anticipate that I may have to do that in a career someday. At first, I was a little intimidated at being outnumbered, but there are several other women in the program right now, which is a nice connection to have, and I’m grateful for instructors who treat both men and women equally. We’re all working toward the same goals, so it’s better to view one another as teammates instead of competitors.

“Our instructors are outstanding. They really want each student to succeed and go above and beyond to help us succeed. I know they put in a lot of work after hours. If the weather is bad and we can’t fly, they’re willing to meet up to go over things. We’re able to text them with questions. They do a really good job of preparing us and making sure we feel comfortable with whatever is coming.”

The Hesston Experience

“My first year at Hesston was great and I’m really looking forward to year two. The campus community here is so special. Everyone knows everyone – it’s hard to feel isolated. You might have your close group of friends, but you can also be comfortable hanging out with whoever is around at any given time. I love the evening times when classes are done – especially when the weather is nice – and you can go outside and people are just hanging out playing sand volleyball or tossing a Frisbee around.

“My flight schedule keeps me pretty busy, but I am looking forward to being a Norma for year two.”

Go everywhere goals

“I’m still deciding if I’ll just do the two-year degree in aviation, or if I’ll stay and complete the four-year bachelor degree. Having a bachelor’s degree is something a lot of aviation companies look at when hiring pilots, so it’s definitely something to consider.

“One of my biggest career goals for now is to be a flight instructor, and from there to do some kind of aviation mission work. At some point in my life I want to be an airline pilot as well. Aviation is great for me because I don’t ever want to feel stuck in one place, and I want to make sure I’m always challenging myself.”