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Professional Development on Diversity for Faculty and Staff in Aviation Pathways: A Reflection

by Dr. Osly J. Flores / Apr 12, 2023

Recently, colleagues from OCCRL and I conducted research with faculty and staff at several aviation institutions to examine the support for advancing diversity in aviation career pathways. We conducted focus group and individual interviews as well as survey responses. The project aimed to explore the successes and challenges in recruiting and retaining more diverse students in their programs. In particular, the program we examined centered on Aviation Maintenance Professionals (AMP). What follows are my reflections on an emergent finding that can speak to actual changes in current systems in place in AMP programs, or in any other CTE postsecondary program.

When looking at the survey responses to the question “What kind of professional development (PD) opportunities exist for you toward supporting diverse groups of students?” we found that two-thirds of the respondents indicated a lack of PD in their institutions on diversity. In fact, the vast majority of respondents of the survey indicated N/A—"No" and “Unsure”or they skipped the question all together. If faculty and staff are not able to articulate PD toward supporting diverse students, this response could indicate a possible lack of commitment to diversity embedded in the institution’s mission and vision statement.

The respondents who indicated that their institution does provide PD around diversity also offered a critical examination of such practice. One faculty member responded in the survey that their institution has supported, and continues to provide, various seminars supporting diverse groups of students. Meanwhile, another faculty at the same institution had a different perspective to share, stating:

Professional development opportunities are nice to have; however, to be effective, those opportunities must be paired with a philosophy and an environment that is already effectively managing the needs of students.

One big problem I see has to do with the fact that white people typically do not want to get into real conversations when it comes to race and inequality. The conversations that really need to be had are conversations that are extremely uncomfortable, particularly for whites in this country.

In the above statement, the participant points to an important argument that making transformative changes toward unpacking diversity and equity issues requires difficult conversations. The participant response reminds me of an argument by scholar Lori Patton (2016), who states, “A host of courses can fall within the category of ‘diversity’ without any essential material that really promotes deeper learning and knowledge acquisition about diversity” (p. 321).

I recommend that aviation and CTE programs examine their professional-development training around diversity to understand if and how they are being implemented. Are they including the tough conversations necessary for systemic and systematic change? Do they reach campus audiences that need development around equity the most? How is PD training attached to continuous improvement around diversity and equity within AMP and other CTE programs? 


Patton, L. D. (2016). Disrupting postsecondary prose: Toward a critical race theory of higher education. Urban Education51(3), 315-342.

Dr. Flores is an assistant professor of educational policy, organization, and leadership at the College of Education at Illinois.