Cooper’s family later moved to Wilmington, home to North America’s largest private airfield (now owned by Wilmington County Air Park), where Cooper worked sorting cargo and boxes in high school. Being surrounded by aviation only solidified his passion for flying.
“I wanted to be a pilot, but I didn’t know how people became pilots,” Cooper said.
He graduated from Wilmington High School in 2007 and attended classes at Southern State Community College, UC’s Uptown campus and Cincinnati State, lacking direction for his future.
Cooper took a break from school, traveled overseas, and started working in real estate and food. He loved learning about the culture and the hospitality industry. Then in 2015, a knee injury led to five surgeries that left Cooper out of work and deflated.
“I had lost my sense of purpose and was looking for inspirational things,” Cooper said. His childhood dream of becoming a pilot came back into the picture. He flew in from Lunken Airport in Cincinnati and loved it. “I looked to become a professional pilot – and I found UC Clermont.”
Cooper learned that most professional pilot positions require a four-year degree. As a non-traditional student, he had already accumulated about 60 credit hours.
“My transcript was lousy. I thought, ‘How can I make this work?’ said Cooper. “UC Clermont did it.”
Ric Stackpole, senior assistant dean for academic affairs, applied Cooper’s previous college credit to award him a technical associate’s degree after just two semesters. This allowed Cooper to begin UC Clermont’s Aviation Technology program concurrently with UC Online’s Bachelor of Engineering and Applied Studies (BTAS) program. He was also able to use scholarships and financial aid to subsidize the cost of the flight; Cooper received two scholarships for the aviation program totaling $10,000.
“The aviation program is amazing to me because it’s so immersive,” Cooper said, adding that he knew nothing about aviation before enrolling and had learned all the ins and outs of flying. field, including meteorology and aeronautical meteorology. UC Clermont’s aviation program partners with Sporty’s Academy at Clermont County Airport in Batavia, just minutes from the college campus. “For someone who has struggled with academics in the past, it’s nice to look forward to going to class and getting a tangible reward – you can fly now while developing tools to help you later as a professional.”
Since the BTAS program is entirely online, the flexible format accommodates Cooper’s busy life as an older non-traditional student. “I have a family and I work,” Cooper said. “It’s nice to be able to make time for school when I have it, on my own schedule.”
Cooper, now 32, received his bachelor’s degree in December. He is working to get his commercial pilot license this spring and his flight instructor certification this summer. Longer term, Cooper’s goal is to become a commercial airline pilot and work for a corporate flight service, charter company, or private plane. And he couldn’t be happier with his new direction.
“My advice: take the plunge. It seems difficult and overwhelming at first, but time flies,” Cooper said. “There are a lot of resources at your fingertips in the UC catalog. And your growth through the study program will transfer into the professional field.
Learn more about UC Clermont’s Aviation Technology program at https://ucclermont.edu/aviation.html.
Learn more about the BTAS program at https://online.uc.edu/undergraduate-degrees/bachelor-of-technical-applied-studies/.
UC Clermont College is located in the center of Clermont County on 91 beautiful wooded acres in Batavia Township. The college is an accredited open-access institution offering over 50 programs and degrees. UC Clermont is part of the nationally recognized University of Cincinnati. For more information, call (513) 732-5200 or visit www.ucclermont.edu.