editor’s Note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable Spring 2022 graduates.
What does it mean to be a standout among standouts?
It’s possible that Captain Kimberly “Kimber” Jackson, a KC-46A instructor pilot who is graduating this spring from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree, is the embodiment of that idea.
Jackson is completing her Master of Arts in English through ASU Online while maintaining her active-duty career in the US Air Force.
Foundation professor of English Robert Björk, who taught this spring’s graduate capstone symposium, ENG 597, said he had several “extraordinary” students in this group “but one in particular stood out.”
Of course, that standout is Jackson. If she had taken the specific route, she would have earned an advanced degree in a STEM field. But instead he chose the humanities. And he did it for love – love of literature, that is. She also wanted to keep alive the part of her that found pleasure in intellectual and sensory experiences, not just the technical details (though she loves them too).
“I absolutely loved my job,” she insisted, “but ultimately I couldn’t ignore how much I missed intellectual conversations about brilliant American writers rather than fuel systems and navigational techniques.
“I may be the operator of a large flying machine,” she continued, “but I also need to be able to analyze, communicate, make decisions, and lead the information of the people around me. Enrolled in a subject I love to learn, to challenge myself in a way that was different from what I face daily.”
In his capstone reflections, Jackson pointed to specific epiphany moments at ASU courses. She said that in her ENG 560 “Magical Realism as a Global Style” class taught by English professor Claudia Sadowski-Smith, for example, from reading works by Isabel Allende, Karen Te Yamashita, Ana Castillo and Gabriel García Márquez. “My Opinion Changed” What Does ‘Truth’ Mean in Storytelling.”
“Simple things like kids asking questions, sunrises, cooking and a routine military training flight became spectacular when viewed through that lens and the language of magical realism,” she said. “The factuality of what happened during the observation of such things mattered less than the capture of emotional and human truth within them.”
In addition to academic motivation, the flexibility afforded by the online format was essential for Jackson, as his career often finds him “slipping off the harsh shackles of the earth” to quote a famous line by John Gillespie Magee. After graduation, Jackson plans to continue his career in the Air Force, which he has learned in his daily interactions with other pilots at ASU and with senior leadership.
“Recognition of the interconnectedness of disciplines has helped me solve problems at work,” she said, “and the increase in empathetic thought has made me a more understanding and vulnerable leader—and therefore a more effective leader—of both.” necessary for success as an Air Force officer. ,
Jackson shared more about his career, his ASU Online experience, and what to do next in an interview for ASU News.
Q: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study in your field?
answer: For as long as I can remember, I have loved reading and writing. In first grade, I won a Young Writer’s Award for a poem about going to the beach, and it was the first time I received outside recognition that I had talent and passion. Growing up, English remained my favorite subject, but the freedom to choose my undergraduate major at the United States Air Force Academy allowed me to focus my attention in this area. I was enjoying my freshman English class but was considering an engineering major to aid in my goal of becoming an Air Force pilot, and my professor, Captain Grace Miller, helped me realize that careers should be As assigned by class standings, choosing a major that I loved would ultimately help me succeed while making my education more enjoyable and meaningful to me.
This philosophy helped me choose ASU’s online undergraduate program in English. Although studying English has no direct connection with my career field, I had already learned how education in a favorite subject has inherent qualities.
Question: Tell us about being a woman pilot in the Air Force.
A: Becoming a female pilot in the Air Force is an amazing job, even though it does come with some unique challenges. I have grown up believing that I can do whatever I want, which I owe to my wonderful parents and teachers, and to the books that tell me how many paths to choose in life. I was the only woman in my pilot training class (which isn’t surprising since women only make about 7% of pilotsNote: Some sources say 20%. in the Air Force), but I was treated with the same respect and met the same expectations as my classmates. I have found over the course of my career that Air Force men are helpful and go beyond the age-old notions that women should not fly and command airmen in combat. Most of my challenges have been dealing with rules that are slow to change and with a public that still marvels at a woman in the coveted green flight suit.
I’ve had several encounters in public, sometimes in uniform, where someone would ask my group what we do – a crewmate would answer that we’re an Air Force pilot or aircrew, and that curious person would turn their attention to me alone. Will direct and ask if I do. I am kind and use this time to educate them, but it strikes me that so many Americans will make the impression that the woman in the group can’t possibly be a pilot!
The Air Force is making great strides in fixing discriminatory and harmful regulations. In the eight years I’ve been in the Air Force, hair standards have been modernized to prevent headaches and hair loss, women-specific flight uniforms have become easier to find, aircraft design standards suit a larger pool of candidates are changing, and acceptance for housing and pregnant aircrew has increased. I’m currently 24 weeks old with my first pregnancy, and I’m still flying missions, have a special flight duty uniform to accommodate my changing body, and am surrounded by incredibly supportive people. I think part of my job is to make sure that even the tiniest spark of interest in flying young girls know that they too can be pilots, and that they will not be alone in their journey, but instead find lots of Help people and encourage them.
Question: What is it like to fly an airplane?
A: It’s getting free. You are in control of a flying machine that has just defied gravity, which can dance through and around clouds, and glide with the wind. I think John Gillespie Magee’s poem “High Flight” captures this more beautifully than ever. I really needed to memorize this poem during my freshman year at the Air Force Academy:
Oh! I have broken the firm bonds of the earth
And the sky danced on the wings of silver laughter;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-dividing clouds – and a hundred things done
You haven’t even dreamed – wheeled and mounted and swinging
High in the silence of the sun. hovering over there,
I chased the screaming wind and got carried away
My curious craft through the Footless Hall of Air. ,
Above, long, delicate, burning blue
I have overcome the heights that blow in the wind with easy grace
Where neither larks nor eagles ever fly;
And, while with a silent lifting mind I have trod
high unrestricted purity of space,
Extending my hand touched the face of God.
When I was going through pilot training, the curriculum included acrobatic maneuvers like clover leafs, loops, and emmelmans. The joy and excitement of it was always there, despite the stress and concentration required to execute those maneuvers while grading constantly. There is also the thrill of doing something that requires precision, ability and bravery. Particularly in military flight, either in formation, during aerial refueling or other tactical events, the standards of performance are very high because our mission demands risk. In fact, the KC-46’s primary mission of aerial refueling is described in the governing regulation as “inherently dangerous”.
Q: Back here on the ground. What did you learn – in class or otherwise – at ASU that surprised you or changed your perspective?
A: During this program, I learned how the humanities are extremely applicable in every field as they help us understand the human condition, communicate our thoughts and findings in a meaningful way, and consciously develop our character and values. My capstone reflections have allowed me to define how essential the study of the humanities is to leadership development, which I plan to share with Air Force leaders and my peers as a balance of the current emphasis on STEM Am.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: I chose ASU for the flexibility it provided me with as an active-duty Air Force officer and pilot. I was able to continue with the research while traveling through multiple time zones, and all the professors were very understanding, offering assignment extensions due to unexpected itinerary changes.
Question: What is the best advice you would like to give to those still in school?
A: I would recommend students still working through their respective programs to take the time for classes that interest them. I took a variety of classes, some of which I had no prior experience in, and those choices made my educational journey so much fun and interesting. When we choose classes that don’t clearly align with our focus area or career goals, we find those connections more naturally. Especially in the humanities, everything is intertwined and helps form our repertoire, even if it is not always the case in the curriculum list.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: After graduation, I plan to use my degree to become a champion for the importance of the humanities. Every leader or future leader, in the technical field or otherwise, should continue self-study in the humanities. They enrich our ability to deal with human problems and help us become thoughtful and eloquent leaders.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve a problem on our planet, what would you deal with?
A: Literacy and education. People are talented and creative and wonderful, and if they are given the basic tools of literacy to share and develop their ideas and enrich their own lives, many other issues in the world can be solved locally. Is.