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Homepage / NAC Women in Aviation Scholarship winner: Charlene Umubyeyi

NAC Women in Aviation Scholarship winner: Charlene Umubyeyi


Charlene Umubyeyi is one of two recipients of the Nordic Aviation Capital (NAC) Women in Aviation Scholarship fund, in partnership with Cranfield University. Here, Charlene, who is studying for an MSc in Air Transport Management, talks about her lifelong fascination with flight, her pride for being awarded the scholarship, and her commitment to being a role model to other women in the aviation industry.

What sparked your interest in the air transport industry?

My interest in the air transport industry was kindled in my early childhood, living near an airport in Rwanda. The sight and sound of planes taking off and landing were not just fascinating visuals and sounds; they symbolised a complex interplay of engineering, physics, and human endeavor. At the age of 10 when I first sat in a cockpit, I experienced an epiphany. The display of controls, the pilots’ expertise, and the sheer magic of flight cemented my passion. This moment was not just about awe; it was a realisation of a calling that I was destined to follow.

Can you tell us a little bit about your life before coming to Cranfield?

Before attending Cranfield, my life was a journey of relentless curiosity and hands-on learning. I was always intrigued by how things worked, leading me to pull apart and reassemble various objects at home. This curiosity guided my academic choices, focusing on maths, physics, and computer sciences in high school. My educational journey took me to China, where I delved into the intricacies of aeronautical engineering. Returning to Rwanda, I worked in a role that combined flight safety and environmental protection, recognising that safeguarding our planet is integral to the overall safety of the sector. I worked in the department of airworthiness ensuring operators uphold the highest standards of safety and compliance in the aviation industry.

Why did you choose Cranfield?

My decision to attend Cranfield University was driven by its unparalleled reputation in aerospace and air transport. Cranfield stood out as a beacon of specialised knowledge, industry connections, and offered a curriculum that perfectly aligned with my aspirations to delve deeper into the technical and managerial aspects of air transport. The university’s focus on innovation and its global network of alumni and industry leaders presented an irresistible opportunity for both personal and professional growth.

What does winning the NAC Women in Aviation scholarship mean to you?

Winning this scholarship was a profound honor and a testament to my dedication to the field of aviation. It represents not just financial support, but also recognition and encouragement from the industry. It’s a validation of my journey so far and a powerful reminder of the potential impact I can make in the traditionally male-dominated field of aviation. This scholarship fuels my commitment to be a role model and advocate for women in aviation.

What advice would you offer future scholarship applicants?

To future scholarship applicants, I’d say: “Be genuine and passionate. Your application should narrate not just your achievements but also your dreams, challenges, and how the scholarship can facilitate your goals. Highlight your unique perspective and experiences, and how these contribute to your vision in aviation. It’s important to articulate why you’re pursuing this path and how you envision making a difference in the industry.”

How are you finding the MSc course? What are the highlights?

The MSc course at Cranfield has been an intellectually stimulating and professionally enriching journey. It’s a perfect blend of theoretical foundation and practical, real-world applications. Highlights include interactive sessions with industry experts, group collaborative projects simulating real-world scenarios, and exposure to the latest trends and challenges in aviation. The diverse cohort of my fellow students also offers a global perspective and enriching cultural exchanges.

What career path do you hope to pursue after graduating?

After graduating, I aim to leverage my skills and knowledge to contribute significantly to aviation, particularly focusing on sustainability, innovation, and the growth of the African air transport industry. I envision myself being at the forefront contributing to advancements that make air travel more accessible, affordable, efficient, eco-friendly, and safer.

What would you say to other women interested in getting into your industry?

To other women aspiring to enter the aviation industry, especially as a young lady from a developing country, wherever you are, I would say: “Your perspective and skills are invaluable in this field. Aviation thrives on diverse insights and innovative thinking – attributes that we women bring in abundance. Never underestimate the impact you can make. Seek mentors, build a supportive network, and believe in your ability to excel.”

What are your thoughts about the future of the aviation industry?

The aviation industry is at a pivotal point, with sustainability, technological innovation, and global connectivity at the forefront. I foresee a future where environmental considerations are deeply integrated with technological advancements, leading to more fuel-efficient, quieter, and less polluting aircraft. The industry is also likely to see advancements in automation and enhanced safety protocols.

Is there anything else we should know about you?

My journey in aviation is a blend of personal passion and a commitment to contributing to a field that is vital to global connectivity and progress. I believe in lifelong learning and in the power of innovation to address the challenges facing the aviation industry. My experience so far has been a testament to the power of persistence, curiosity, and the pursuit of excellence.

Find out more about the Air Transport Management MSc

Charlene Umubyeyi

Written By: Antonia Molloy

Air Transport Management MSc student

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