High-Flying Ambition

Adam Baker (’12), business major

Dr. Kelly Cartwright, associate professor of psychology

Adam Baker arrived at CNU knowing what he wanted to do but with little idea on how to go about it; Cartwright knew how to do it and showed him the way.

"Sometimes students go to professors because they are interested in working with that professor on research, and sometimes you find in that academic advising relationship you have a common interest or that student's interested in something and you can help foster that interest - that's what happened with Adam," says Cartwright.

"He came in as a freshman in the fall of 2008, in the Canon Scholars program, and I met with him in the summer of 2008 to help him choose his classes. We continued to meet and discuss what his interests were, and he shared with me that he wanted to be an airline executive, that he wanted to do a survey of airline customer satisfaction. And I thought, Well, gosh, that's a lot for a freshman to bite off!"

A college student interested in airline customer satisfaction? Baker has been rather obsessed with the industry for quite some time. Based on flights he's taken, he's noted where improvements could be made." And with the amount of time I've spent online in travel forums on websites, I've learned where the airlines are having shortfalls in terms of offering a good product for customers," he says.

Baker hopes the more he accomplishes in terms of working and obtaining results on where airlines need improvement, the easier it will be to get in the door at an airline when applying for a job. "The airlines are obviously going through a tough time right now, having to make a lot of adjustments, and I find it fascinating to see how all those adjustments are playing out on customer service. Professor Cartwright has been wonderful in providing me with support and backup to get the project established, and it will be a big help, once I get into the project, to get her recommendations," Baker says.

Cartwright explains, "Adam had a clear idea of the question he wanted to investigate, but not necessarily the best ways to make contacts to go about investigating that question, or the best way to structure the project in order to test his hypotheses. A mentor can provide structure, and in that sense I think I help to provide structure. He came with brilliant ideas, and I'm helping to guide him on how to implement those ideas in practice."

With her guidance, Baker has prepared the research proposal and presented it to the University's internal review board to make sure it meets ethical guidelines for working with human subjects. On his own, he gained interest in the project from a well-known commercial airline and hopes to start the study's research phase soon.

Cartwright is glad to see Baker getting involved across campus as well. He's a photographer with his own fledgling business and has been taking photos for The Captain's Log student newspaper. "As a mentor, you notice those things," Cartwright says. "You see students you're mentoring around campus; you notice what interests them as individuals - what makes them tick. Mentors care about students as individuals, and I think that's one of the things you see at CNU, that one-on-one relationship. We know our students' names, not just, "Oh, he's the student who's interested in airline customer satisfaction.'"

Baker is also learning to be a mentor himself through the CNU chapter of Pennies for Peace, which raises money to build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Baker is the group's treasurer/historian and the advisor for its fundraising subcommittee.

"All of us who founded the club last year have taken a more advisory role this year to try and get more of the freshmen involved in the organization. So while we're there making decisions, we're also trying to get the freshmen more motivated to help out," he says. Initially, the members didn't know if they'd generate enough interest to keep the club going. "Now that we're in kind of that mentorship role, we are able to expand more into the campus."

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