Worldwide Campus Grads Kick Off Commencement Season at Embry-Riddle

Nearly 400 graduates from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Worldwide Campus gathered April 26-27, 2024, in Florida, to walk the commencement stage and earn their diplomas.

Kim Campbell
Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Kim “KC” Campbell, who served 24 years as a fighter pilot and senior military leader, delivered the keynote address at the Worldwide Campus undergraduate commencement ceremony. (Photo: Kim Campbell)
“Though you come from different places, you share common traits: a love of learning, a commitment to service and a desire to innovate,” said Embry-Riddle President P. Barry Butler, Ph.D., addressing the graduates. “I commend you for your dedication. Your perseverance will serve you well as you advance through life.”

A total of 381 students from seven countries earned degrees at the weekend’s ceremonies, which were hosted on Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus. That number included 197 undergraduates (who walked the stage April 27), and 184 master’s degree earners (who attended

a hooding ceremony April 26). In sum, 169 of the graduates also had military ties, either as active-duty, reserve or veteran servicepeople.

The event’s keynote address was delivered by retired United States Air Force Col. Kim “KC” Campbell, who has more than 100 combat missions to her credit, along with 1,800 hours flown in the A-10 Warthog attack aircraft.

“I never could have imagined all of the opportunities and sometimes challenges I would face throughout my 24-year Air Force career,” Campbell said. “The key is being prepared to seize your moment and lead with courage.”

Campbell knows this from experience. Her moment to seize came in 2003, when the A-10 she was flying over Baghdad was struck with a missile.

“Boom! There’s a loud explosion in the back of the airplane,” Campbell said, reflecting on that fateful day. “The system is completely depleted, and I am now plunging to the ground completely out of control. … I know I have to make every second count. … I set aside my fear. I focus. … I knew I had to make a decision if I was going to survive.”

Rather than eject from the aircraft in enemy territory, she decided to try to fly back to base to land the plane under manual control — a feat that had only been attempted with that particular aircraft three times before.

“Preparation and practice and planning for contingencies became my anecdote to fear,” she told the graduates.

Ultimately, she landed the aircraft safely, which led to her being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for Heroism. The event was a defining moment in her life, and it taught her lessons that she imparted to the Eagle graduating class.

“Over the course of your career, you will face adversity,” she told them. “Do the hard thing. Embrace the fear. And lead with courage.”

Michelle Tabor next to a plaane.
Michelle Tabor graduated with her bachelor’s degree April 27, 2024. She began her Embry-Riddle journey as a dual-enrollment student, earning her associate’s when she was just 17 years old. (Photo Michelle Tabor)

Graduate Spotlight

Michelle Tabor’s personal journey at Embry-Riddle began early. A dual-enrollment student, she earned her associate’s degree in 2022 when she was just 17 years old. At that time, she had already accumulated 125 flight hours and earned her private pilot license. Two years later, she earned her bachelor’s degree in Aeronautics, in addition to her Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI), CFII and Mult-Engine Instructor ratings. Currently, she works as a first officer for a medical cargo company, with hopes of one day sharing the flight deck with her father, Jason Tabor (’19), another Embry-Riddle graduate who now works as a pilot for United Airlines.

Another noteworthy student from this year’s graduating class is Kegan Martindale Hernandez, who earned his master’s degree in Space Operations. A three-time Embry-Riddle grad, Hernandez also began his Eagle journey as a dual-enrollment student, earned his associates in 2020, and then his bachelor’s — in Aeronautics — in 2022.

“Dual enrollment gave me a head start,” Kegan said. “Completing my dual enrollment in high school also helped offset the cost of having to pay a full four-year tuition.”

Like many Embry-Riddle students, Hernandez earned several high-profile networking opportunities during his academic career, including serving as an intern for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), as well as at a fractional private jet ownership firm. He also holds a private pilot license and co-authored a children’s book, titled “Sweet Flight,” which he hopes will inspire younger generations to explore aviation.

“My time at Embry-Riddle has been a very rewarding experience that made me feel challenged and more engaged in school,” Hernandez said, adding that he’s promised to fly his mom and her friends to Italy in first class once he becomes a commercial airline pilot.

A Worldwide graduate walks on campus.
Kegan Martindale Hernandez also started at Embry-Riddle as a dual-enrollment student. He earned his third degree, his master’s in Space Operations, this spring. (Photo: Kegan Martindale Hernandez)

Posted In: Institutional News