Connections That Count

For William Baca III, the connections he’s made within the Eagle community have made all the difference.

B.S. in Aerospace Engineering student William Baca III, Class of 2023
Embry-Riddle alumnus Norman Knight (’90) and Aerospace Engineering junior William Baca III (’23) met at an admissions event in Houston, Texas. (Photo: William Baca III)

William “Tre’” Baca III (’23), an Aerospace Engineering student at the Prescott Campus, remembers having talks with his grandfather about his interest in mathematical equations and careers that would let him put it to use.

“He has always believed in me – even when I never thought I had the potential to pursue something in engineering,” he said.

When Baca started high school, those conversations turned to choosing a college and planning for his future.

Embry-Riddle was his “number one choice” because of its small learning environment and the opportunities it presented for hands-on classroom experience and one-on-one interaction with professors, he said.

As a first-generation student, Baca juggles jobs both on and off campus and has had to step outside of his comfort zone to get the help he needs in his classes. He has found one of the most helpful resources to be office hours that he can regularly attend with professors who know how he learns, along with the open-door policies many of his faculty have.

“Being the first in my family to attend college means a lot to me,” he said. “It means so much to me as the individual I am today and the person I will become down the road.”

As a campus ambassador for the Admissions Office, Baca is heavily involved in the university community. This role has not only allowed him to form lifelong connections on campus, but also among members of Embry-Riddle’s extensive alumni network.

One of his most impactful experiences was meeting alumnus Norman Knight (’90) while attending an admissions event in Houston, Texas, in March of 2020. Knight, who also earned his degree in Aerospace Engineering at the Prescott Campus, is the Deputy Director of Flight Operations for NASA and has over 30 years of experience in the industry.

“I was able to get his personal email and phone number, and he gave me great advice when it comes to school and in life in general,” Baca said.

Baca encourages first-generation students like him to make sure they use all the resources the university has to offer and never lose sight of their goals.

“I always tell myself on a daily basis, ‘If I can believe it, I can achieve it,’" he said.

When it comes to his dream job, Baca is quite literally shooting for the stars. He hopes to become an astronaut or aerospace engineer and plans to interview for internships with companies like NASA and Raytheon this fall. With the connections he’s made at Embry-Riddle, he is confident he will achieve his goals.