The Gettysburg Network connects aspiring pilot to opportunity

At the age of nine, Cole Rossiter ’14 flew his first plane. He was part of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program, aimed at getting youth interested in aviation. The experience made a lasting impression, one that sparked Rossiter’s love of flying and guided his career trajectory toward launching satellites into space with NASA and training for combat as a military pilot.

When searching for the right college, the idea of becoming a pilot was abstract—a possible dream with an uncertain path. Rossiter wanted an academically strong school that would allow him to compete in cross country and track and field. From there, he could discover his path. It was not until Rossiter began attending Gettysburg College and exploring his career options that he realized how he could build aviation into his future.

“College is just as much about learning who you are as it is about getting a higher education,” Rossiter said.

Getting to know your strengths and weaknesses, fears, and passions is all a part of the process. Through a bit of exploring, he became an environmental studies and physics double major. Included in the environmental studies major was a requirement for two physics classes.

“I took them freshman year, and I was so impressed with Prof. [Kurt] Andresen and Prof. [Sharon] Stephenson that I immediately declared my physics major,” recalled Rossiter. “It ended up being an awesome, albeit challenging, double major that worked out perfectly for my future career.”

Though Rossiter navigated his path through Gettysburg, there was still a question of his career path. There was not a clear cut plan forward, but he knew aviation had to be part of his quest. “I learned that getting a job out of college isn’t always easy, but a piece of advice I would give students is to use the Gettysburg Network and keep pressing forward,” he said. “There are people out there like me who want to help as many Gettysburg graduates as they can.”

Rossiter visited Prof. Darren Glass’s First-Year Seminar, STEM From the Ground Up: The Thrills and Skills of Science, to share his experience working as an applied physicist with the Goddard Flight Center, NASA.

The Gettysburg Network came through for Rossiter. After graduation, he returned home to New Milford, CT, to explore his dream of becoming a military pilot, first by obtaining his private pilot’s license. He returned to Gettysburg a year later to observe graduation ceremonies and connected again with Stephenson, who told Rossiter about a career opportunity connected to Bruce Guenther ’65 at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). “I was in the right place at the right time and was very fortunate to be offered a life-changing job a year out from college,” Rossiter said.

Stephenson has witnessed the Gettysburg Network work not only for Rossiter, but for many of her students and alumni alike. “What I appreciate about the Gettysburg Network is that the alumni reach out to us in a time when most academic institutions spend a great deal of time reaching out to alums,” she said. “Folks like Guenther and Andre Hinds ’16 [at Deloitte] turned that model on its head. They directly contacted faculty and highlighted potential employment opportunities for our students. What they did I call ‘precision networking,’ and it worked beautifully for everyone involved.”

In Rossiter’s role, he served as a support scientist on the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS). “I acted as a liaison between the NASA engineering teams, who are responsible for building the instruments, and the NOAA science teams, who are responsible for extracting the science product from the instruments,” explained Rossiter. “It was the perfect position for someone with a physics and environmental studies degree who could understand both sides of any problem we faced.”

Throughout his three-and-a-half years with the JPSS, Rossiter continued to chase his dream of becoming a military pilot by applying to Air National Guard (ANG) pilot slots. After a considerable amount of persistence, he accepted a pilot position with the New Hampshire ANG and formally enlisted in March 2018, kicking off the training process to eventually become a mission-qualified KC-46A pilot.

A pilot, a scientist, a husband, an airman, a Gettysburg alumnus—Rossiter carries many titles, titles that will undoubtedly continue to expand and multiply as he continues his journey. In doing so, the Gettysburg Network continues its growth, capitalizing on yet another alumnus willing to help future generations succeed. No matter where Rossiter ends up, he is sure of one thing, “I will be flying something.”

Learn more about the Gettysburg Network

By Devan White ’11
Posted: 05/30/19