Article written by Erin Sydney Fox, Office of Extended Education
Most people wait until after they have finished their master’s degree to switch careers or change jobs. As a chronic overachiever, Schedir Illoldi was not one of them. While pursuing the Executive Master of Public Service and Administration (EMPSA) degree from Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service, Schedir was working as a Commercial Space Transportation Safety Inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration Office of Commercial Space Transportation. During her time in the program, she had the opportunity to advance in her career and become the Interim Deputy Manager of her division within the Federal Aviation Administration for six months. She took that opportunity and performed exceedingly well. Having demonstrated to her supervisors her success at juggling increased responsibility and graduate-level school work, she continued to serve in a leadership role upon graduation. Currently, as a Commercial Space Transportation Safety Inspector, she maintains a balance between protecting the safety, health, and property of the public while also promoting the American space industry.
Schedir’s path began at Texas A&M University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering. After graduation, she relocated to Washington, DC, and began pursuing an online Graduate Certificate in Advanced International Affairs while working as an intern. While completing her graduate certificate, she started her career in federal service at the National Science Foundation, waiting in earnest for the Bush School to finalize its online master’s program and begin accepting students. Schedir went on to become a member of the charter class of the EMPSA program, pursuing a track in Homeland Security.
Her emphasis on Homeland Security allowed her to focus on how to merge topics such as infrastructure with her preexisting knowledge of engineering and space launches. Schedir said the Homeland Security capstone project made a lasting impression on her as it provided a framework for how to approach tasks that continues to impact how she frames her own projects. She credits the EMPSA program with allowing her to become more disciplined in her approach to presentations and proposals as well as providing the tools to mature as a professional. Overall, Schedir says the EMPSA program made her more well-rounded and enabled her to take the next step in her career with confidence. While Schedir admits she is relatively young compared to others in equivalent manager positions in her industry, she credits her experience in the EMPSA program with providing training about what is expected of a manager and promoting the high standards that are required by the position.
“In an online program, professors are incredibly involved and engaged with their students through discussion boards,” says Schedir. In addition to the professor’s level of involvement, Schedir made a point to stress how supportive the staff and administrators of the EMPSA program were with any questions the students had from a functionality perspective. “The support from all levels of involvement made it easier to be away from campus because there was always someone checking in and providing support to the students,” says Schedir. “As fulltime professionals, being able to send an email and be met with a speedy response was incredibly beneficial to the students in the program,” she added.
Overall, it was the values of public service held by the Bush School that resonated with Schedir and impacted her time in the program. And Schedir made an impact on her fellow classmates too. She was selected by her EMPSA peers to be the Class of Fall 2018 celebration speaker at the graduation ceremonies. Schedir said in her speech, “I encourage you, graduating class, to be men and women of character who drive progress in your communities.” She and the fall 2018 EMPSA graduating class are doing just that—leading and driving progress for the good of their communities!
Each month, the EMPSA program will highlight the experiences of a former student. Schedir Illoldi is this September’s featured alumni. Stay tuned to see who we will feature next month.