Andy Vonstauffenberg was working as a chef in Austria when he decided six years ago to switch gears, immigrate to the United States and, eventually, join the Navy. Now, the 25-year-old San Diegan is again reinventing himself.
He recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in professional aeronautics from Florida-based Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide. The school operates three campuses in San Diego , on Aero Drive in Kearny Mesa, at the Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado, and at Camp Pendleton near Oceanside , among more than 130 centers in the United States, Canada, Europe and the Middle East.
Vonstauffenberg’s next challenge: pursuing a Master of Business Administration in Aviation degree at the school , the first time that Embry-Riddle has offered its M.B.A.A. program in San Diego. The inaugural term of the yearlong program runs Jan. 7 through March 9.
“This is fantastic for anyone who wants to further their education,” said Vonstauffenberg, now serving as an E-5 aviation electrician’s mate, second class. “This brings a lot to the table.”
Vonstauffenberg, who will be taking courses for his degree at night, appreciates that many of his fellow students have a foothold in the industry.
“Everybody had an aviation background already, so it makes the discussions especially good,” he said.
Vonstauffenberg hadn’t planned on pursuing the specialty master’s degree until he learned about it from one of his undergraduate instructors.
“I love the school,” he said. “The instructors are amazing. Most of them are mentors to me.”
Vonstauffenberg, recently honored as Junior Sailor of the Year at his squadron, plans to leave the Navy in two years and pursue a career in aviation , preferably for the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.
“I would love to work for the Airport Authority, maybe in operational management,” he said.
He’ll get some help from the school’s career services, including help in preparing cover letters and resum & #233;s, conducting job searches and finding internships.
Billed as the world’s largest, fully accredited university specializing in aviation and aerospace, Embry-Riddle offers more than 30 degree programs at its centers, including at its two main campuses in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Prescott, Ariz.
Previously offered at selected Embry-Riddle Worldwide campuses, the M.B.A.A. program has been retooled to reflect the needs of the aviation, aeronautical and technology industries, covering the latest management concepts, methods and tools. With rising national as well as international competition and scarce resources, the demand for skilled professionals is growing, said Oliver Schlottmann, director of academic support for the Kearny Mesa campus.
“This program is designed for future leaders and decision makers in the field of aviation,” he added. “A lot of people have asked me about an M.B.A. program, because a lot want to go into airport management with some type of aerospace company. This focuses more on a specialized field of aviation. This is not a typical M.B.A.”
According to Larry S. Carlton, chairman of Embry-Riddle Worldwide’s leadership, management and technology departments, the university has looked at other colleges and universities throughout the United States that offered different M.B.A. programs.
“We wanted to give our students the most up-to-date training and offer a global program as well,” Carlton said.
The school is planning to gradually reintroduce the M.B.A.A. courses here and abroad, with the program now running in Germany, and talks are under way in Spain and several other countries, he said.
The demand is there, said Carlton.
“To get anywhere in any type of environment these days, employers are requesting more and more from employees,” he said. “With technology growing, there is a greater need for education.”
Companies will have the opportunity to customize the curriculum to fit their needs, said Carlton.
“This is especially important for a program like ours that offers programs in Europe,” he said. “They have different needs than we have.”
For the most part, individual students will have to stick with the established curriculum, said Carlton, but if there are enough students who request a particular specialty, it could be accommodated.
Meanwhile, Carlton said that Embry-Riddle is developing what he calls an industry board that will reflect the special needs of various corporations.
“We are looking toward industries to let us know what we need to be offering to make employees more promotable,” he said. “I see this program evolving, based on the needs of these companies.”
Each credit hour costs $500, and one course equals three credits. Students, most of whom are established in the industry, can take courses full time or part time, and have the option of studying online, one evening per week or on weekends.
“Typically, the people we work with are from places like Northrop Grumman or Lockheed Martin or airlines and aviation companies around town,” said Schlott & #173;mann.
The students range from military personnel, who have completed their undergraduate degrees, to working pilots, technical advisers, engineers and managers who want to advance in their fields, he said.
In order to be admitted to the program, students must have at least a 2.5 grade point average in an undergraduate program. The prerequisite courses, such as accounting and economics offered at Embry-Riddle, give students a solid foundation when they move on, he said.
“Eventually, they are going to be doing managerial finance and advanced aviation economics,” said Schlottmann.
In agreement is Big Bear-based Mark Bellnap, an assistant professor at Embry-Riddle. He teaches both managerial and financial accounting as part of the university’s Master of Science technical management program worldwide, and will be teaching courses in San Diego during the inaugural term.
“As you climb the corporate ladder, the higher you go, the more opportunity you will have in touching money, and the more likely you will be involved in human resources management,” said Bellnap. “The idea is to give them tools to work within an organization setting to make better financial decisions.”
Christopher Jones, 38, a Navy chief petty officer stationed here, earned his bachelor’s degree in professional aeronautics at Embry-Riddle and is enrolled in the M.B.A.A. program.
“I’m hoping that it will make me more marketable after I retire from the military, opening up more positions and higher-paying jobs,” said Jones, who plans to leave the Navy in the next few years.
While he’s considering a management career with some type of aviation manufacturing company, possibly a government vendor, Jones said that he is open to other fields as well.
“The M.B.A.A. is more versatile and covers a lot of other fields,” said Jones, who gives high grades to Embry-Riddle.
“I am extremely satisfied with the undergrad program and the instructors,” he said. “They’ve worked in the fields they teach, so they can bring in real-world experience that you may not get at another institution.”