From Army ROTC Cadet to Unmanned Systems Master’s Degree

Lucia Karnes earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Embry-Riddle and turned that experience into a job at Boeing Intelligence & Analytics.

Unmanned Systems student Lucia Karnes began her master’s program while on deployment in Afghanistan in the U.S. Army.  (Photo: Lucia Karnes)
Unmanned Systems student Lucia Karnes began her master’s program while on deployment in Afghanistan in the U.S. Army. (Photo: Lucia Karnes)

While serving overseas in the U.S. Army, Lucia Karnes (‘14, ‘21) came across an Embry-Riddle Worldwide sign and took the opportunity to learn more about the various learning options offered in ERAU’s online programs.

She decided it was time to pursue her master’s degree and joined the M.S. in Unmanned Systems (MSUS) program.

While doing so, she was on deployment in Afghanistan serving on a transportation brigade that helped track and collect pieces of military equipment that were moving throughout the country.

A military-friendly university

Although military life presents its own obstacles to completing coursework, Karnes said that professors and other students were very understanding of the constraints she had.

“If I had chosen a school that didn’t have as much military involvement, I don’t know that the same level of flexibility would have been easy to come by,” she said.

Upon returning to the U.S., Karnes began working for Boeing Intelligence and Analytics (BI&A) while serving in a Reserve capacity. In 2019, she decided to separate from the Army to dedicate more time to her civilian career. After serving in roles such as chief of staff, she recently accepted a new position as division manager for the Geospatial Division at BI&A.

A large portion of her work involves taking documentation from airspaces outside of the U.S. and compiling them into Department of Defense format for U.S. pilots to use. While navigating the unknown can be a challenging part of this role, she finds fulfillment from leading others and seeing her team members grow.

How do Embry-Riddle degrees work in the real world?

Karnes found the classes in the MSUS program to be very helpful in her day-to-day work. Her National Airspace class has proven to be especially useful.

She has also learned that the principles taught in the military are very applicable to pursuing higher education.

“Be where you’re supposed to be, be there at the right time, have what you’re supposed to have and the world will completely open up to you,” she said.

Karnes attributes much of her success to her previous experience at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach campus as well. As someone who enjoys working in a fast-paced environment and excels in swift decision-making, she thrived in the B.S. in Air Traffic Management program. While earning her undergraduate degree, she also set the foundation for her career with Embry-Riddle’s Army ROTC unit.

Since she was interested in the military and had family members who had served in the Army, Karnes decided to follow their lead and stick with this branch. She was also fortunate to receive an Army ROTC scholarship during her first semester at Embry-Riddle.

“The Army ROTC unit had an absolutely amazing curriculum to start young officers off and I was ahead of my peers in almost every aspect of training because of the preparation with the Eagle Battalion,” she said. “I cannot speak highly enough of the instructors and cadets in that program.”

It’s safe to say that Karnes is a proud Eagle, and an inspiring member of the Embry-Riddle community.

“Embry-Riddle Worldwide has been flexible with me every step of my career,” she said. “I am one course away from graduating with my MSUS and it is incredible to look back at all of the changes and challenges along the way.”

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