Scholar finds success in flight

DSF Scholar Christl Haley didn’t have look far for career inspiration—the answer was written in the sky.

Christl, a 2015 graduate of George Washington High School, says watching planes fly above her Green Valley Ranch home had sparked her interest in flying at a young age.

“Living near the airport, I always thought planes were fascinating,” Christl said. As a student member of the Mile High Flight program of the Tuskegee Airmen, Christl said she had the opportunity to go on various flight-related field trips every month, such as the Air Force Academy.

“When I had the chance to fly a simulator—that was my hook. I knew that this is what I wanted to focus on for the rest of my life.”

Now a junior at the University of Colorado (CU) Boulder and the first in her family to attend college, Christl is well on her way to earning bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering with a minor in atmospheric and ocean studies.

“My mom always told me, ‘you’re going to go to college no matter what.’ Once I realized I love aerospace so much, I knew I wasn’t going to get that education in high school, and the next step was clear,” she said.

Christl said her decision to attend CU Boulder, with DSF’s support, quickly proved to be the best path for her.

“DSF has helped me a lot, especially with a single parent who has not been to college. I work as a campus tour guide and get to see my DSF Campus Contact every week, and he’s a great resource,” Christl said. “The really cool thing about CU Boulder is that the engineering center is really large. Our professors have actually been to space, and they are doing research while they teach. We’re learning the material from people who are actually doing this work.”

With a brand new aerospace engineering building soon to be a feature on the CU Boulder campus, Christl has taken advantage of CU Boulder’s position at the forefront of the aerospace engineering industry. From building a balloon to measure air quality, to designing and testing bridges and airplane wings, to building drones, Christl said her coursework is preparing her for the workforce while helping her explore the many pathways that can stem from a career in aerospace engineering.

“There are so many opportunities in aerospace. In terms of drones, there aren’t a lot of laws yet, so there is a lot of leeway. I’d like to retire as a commercial pilot and find an opportunity that can help me get the required flying hours before then,” she said.

With the support of DSF, and state-of-the-art resources at her fingertips through CU Boulder, Christl wants other DSF Scholars to know that they can also forge a career path from their passions.

“If a DSF Scholar knows what they want, I would tell them to keep that motivation in the back of their head all the time. Find the community that will help you keep your ground and stability. When you get to the tough times, remember: This is what you’re working for.”