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        Management, Student Spotlight

        By sea and air: Management junior's journey to Auburn

        February 27, 2024 By Laura Schmitt

        All News


        Ethan Franz flight instructor with student standing in front of plane

        U.S. Navy veteran and flight instructor Ethan Franz (pictured here with Auburn flight student Peyton Brucks) is majoring in management and aims to become a commercial airline pilot.

        Ethan Franz, a junior majoring in management, admits he lacked discipline and ambition when he was 18, which is why he enlisted in the U.S. Navy eight years ago. That decision, though, chartered a new career course for the Cincinnati-area native and ultimately led him to Auburn.

        “I selected whatever billet they had,” said Franz, recalling how he ended up assembling bombs and other munitions aboard the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier as an aircraft ordnance sailor. 

        The work was challenging, yet rewarding, as Franz spent six months during 2017 aboard ship in the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, a mission to militarily defeat the resurgent Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and restore regional stability.

        “Bomb builds are a team effort—it doesn’t happen with just one person,” he explained. “We were successful at meeting our missions and having a very safe operation.”

        In addition to the pressures of his munitions job, the at-sea experience could be isolating as the sailors and Marines were without cell phones and email during the mission.

        “The hardest part was being disconnected from everyday life,” he said. “[However], the navy taught me how to have discipline, achieve goals, study hard and make the most out of your situation.”

        When his four-year enlistment ended in 2020, Franz enrolled in flight school in Florida because this training would enable him to receive money for college. Once he earned his pilot certificate, a former flight school classmate encouraged him to move to Auburn where she had found a position at the Auburn University Regional Airport.

        He applied to Auburn soon afterward, knowing that he wanted a business degree from a top-tier school to complement his career plans to become a commercial airline pilot.

        Ethan Franz closeup flying plane

        Ethan Franz

        “I wanted to have something solid like a business degree from a great university,” Franz said, noting that a management degree will enable him to someday start his own business outside of flying.

        A full-time certified flight instructor with the Auburn Aviation program, Franz takes nearly all of his classes online during his free time.

        “It seems like what I have on my plate is such a hefty workload, but it’s really not,” said Franz, holding up his day planner book which he jokingly describes as his best friend. “It’s all about dedication of time management and resources.”

        According to Franz, the Harbert College of Business has some exceptional instructors who provide valuable life and career mentoring beyond their classroom teaching, citing Information Systems Management Professor Casey Cegielski and Management Program Champion Megan Sumners as just two examples.

        Sumners also helped Franz land a student internship with Auburn’s Aviation program through the management internship course, which is tailored to each student’s specific career goals.

        “When Ethan told me about his background and the work he was already doing, I thought this was a great opportunity to add additional projects, objectives and earn course credit,” said Sumners.

        Franz is responsible for managing the implementation of a new training system at the airport, which allows aviation students to experience what it’s like to fly in high altitude conditions where there’s a lack of oxygen.

        “Students can feel what it’s like to feel the effects of hypoxia in a safe, controlled environment,” Franz said. “I’ve been fortunate to do this internship at my everyday job,” he said.

        By taking summer classes again this year, Franz said he’s on target to earn his bachelor’s degree by December and reach the required flight hours for commercial airline pilots. His goal is to become a commercial pilot for a major airline.


        Learn more about a degree in management from the Harbert College of Business.

        The Harbert College of Business, which is celebrating the 10th anniversary of Raymond and Kathryn Harbert's transformational naming gift, is a nationally ranked hub of undergraduate, graduate and continuing business education that is inspiring the next generation of business leaders. Our world-class faculty deliver unparalleled academic rigor in the classroom, while our research-driven scholarship advances thought leadership and best practice across business disciplines. The largest college on Auburn's campus, Harbert enrolls more than 6,900 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students.