On Engagement: Educating Outside the Classroom

Last week, I had the opportunity to present before the Atlanta Aero Club, a regional chapter of the National Aeronautic Association founded more than two decades ago to serve the aviation community in Georgia. The audience consisted of hundreds of people, ranging from aviation enthusiasts to aerospace industry executives, whose diversity reflected the vision of the NAA to advance the art, sport and science of aviation in the United States. I was pleased to be present to honor Georgia’s First Aviator—American aviation pioneer Ben T. Epps—a contemporary of the Wright brothers, who built a monoplane of his own design as early as 1907.

Beyond learning about our state’s aviation history, I had the opportunity to share with the audience a bit about our university mission beyond the School of Aviation. Just as the aerospace industry needs more than pilots and mechanics—it needs communicators, scientists, technologists, STEM teachers, and managers—so too is aviation much more than flying. Aviation is one of the ways people interact, one of the tools we use for transportation, and ultimately for human understanding.

Connecting the dots between the technical what and the philosophical why is what education is all about. We see it on our campuses every day—among faculty, staff, and students. As your President, I get to bring that connection out into the general public, as a voice for the University in the community.

We have a great story to tell. Your experiences, the scholarly works you generate, the contributions you make to economic development, each of those becomes part of our story. This week, I will get to tell that story to the Rotary Club of Downtown Macon.

While speaking engagements provide one avenue for educating outside the classroom, each of us has countless opportunities to engage each day. How are you contributing to our story? Where are your spheres of influence? And what are you telling them about how we define greatness at Georgia’s newest university?

The next time someone asks you where you work or go to school, consider it an opportunity to engage as an educator outside the classroom. Or, as early and influential Christian theologian Saint Augustine so eloquently put it, “Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you.”