Cal State LA student aims for career in the aviation industry
By Madeline Tondi
Cal State LA News Service
From her front yard, Pearl Sun can see small planes buzz in and out of San Gabriel Valley Airport.
“That’s where my aspiration in aviation began,” says Sun, who was raised in El Monte.
The 23-year-old Sun is graduating in May with a Bachelor of Science in Aviation Administration from California State University, Los Angeles. She was also inspired by her uncle, a retired air traffic controller for the United States military, who enthusiastically recounted his experiences and convinced Sun to follow in his footsteps. Another inspiration was a professor at Mt. San Antonio College, where Sun attended before enrolling at Cal State LA. He warned her not to “trip at the finish line” and to look beyond her short-term goals.
“It helps me because I know there’s more for me to learn and there’s more opportunities out there in the world that I don’t know about,” Sun says of that advice.
Sun is flexible on her route to a career in aviation. Her top choice is to work for the federal government. She has applied for an air traffic controller position with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and hopes to receive a tentative offer letter from the agency's academy. If she does not receive an offer, her plan is to pursue a Master of Business Administration.
After graduating from Mt. SAC with three associate degrees in aviation science, commercial flight and business, Sun interned in Washington, D.C. Working in the Air Traffic Organization arm of the FAA, she examined risk analysis of aircraft accidents. She also interned with EuroControl, or the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation. At the time, she was pursuing a pilot’s license. But in order to take advantage of this “once in a lifetime opportunity” in the nation’s capital, she temporarily set aside her dreams of flying.
She transferred to Cal State LA in 2015. Attending the University opened the door for her to win awards and scholarships. Sun attributes her success to a strong work ethic and a tight-knit social network within the Aviation Administration Program at Cal State LA. Her classmates, friends, faculty advisors and professors pushed her forward.
“I wouldn’t have gotten this far without their help,” Sun says.
Sun was able to travel to aviation conferences with fellow classmates to present research projects and network with industry professionals.
She is a leading member of the Cal State LA chapter of the American Association of Airport Executives. This year, with the association, Sun attended the Annual Airport Management Short Course in Monterey to present on “Women in Aviation.” She received the association's academic scholarship, the second straight year that she won the award.
Sun earned third place at the Student Research Project Contest at the association’s 88th annual conference in Houston, Texas, with two of her classmates. Presenting to a panel of judges was a challenging experience, but Sun says it was amazing to participate and have the support of Cal State LA professors who accompanied her team to the event.
“I want to influence people or to motivate people to see that [I am] really going far beyond [my] limits,” Sun says, offering advice for others. “And because I can do it, you can do it.”