Beyond the Classroom: Keegan Staats


Keegan Staats is working at the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) as an operations assistant. This applied-learning opportunity is helping prepare him prepare for a career in economics.

More than 5,000 Shockers each year take what they’ve learned in the classroom and transfer that knowledge into real-world environments. Applied learning — which is required for every Wichita State student — happens in offices, factories, laboratories, nonprofits, industries and companies across the globe. Students work side-by-side with seasoned professionals to ensure that they’re fully prepared to make meaningful contributions to their employers and their communities when they graduate.


Overland Park, Kansas





What is your job title, the company you work for, and your duties during your applied learning experience?

I am currently working at NIAR at the Wichita State campus. I work part-time at Advanced Technologies Lab for Aerospace Systems (ATLAS) as an operations assistant, where I handle a variety of tasks. My main duties include assisting with orders and purchasing supplies for different projects, financial reconciliation, event planning, office management, tours, customer engagement, hiring, interviews and sending and tracking shipments to our associates. 

How long do you expect to work in your current position?

I started in November 2020 and should continue until I graduate in May of 2023. Upon graduation, some students are selected to fill full-time positions. I hope to be one of the students offered this opportunity.

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I learned about this opportunity through the WSU ROTC program. NIAR and the program have strong ties as many of the cadets work here part-time to gain hands-on experience. I was lucky enough to be recommended to NIAR by the program.

How is this experience helping you build your resume and prepare you for your career?

This opportunity is helping me build my resume and preparing me for my career by giving me real-world office and financial experience. I do not know about many other job opportunities a college student would have that can give them the exact kind of experience they would be expected to need at a normal job. NIAR seems to treat its student-workers as real employees by actively teaching and growing their abilities to perform tasks related to their major and desired career path.

How have your classes and experiences at Wichita State prepared you to succeed in this applied-learning opportunity? 

My classes have helped me succeed by teaching me about financial management and accounting in the workforce, while also letting me develop the skills I need to be proficient with any financial applications I need to track and manage the department's purchases. With the skills I gain from these classes I can apply them to my tasks at work and figure out solutions to anything that is expected from me.

What advice would you give other students who are looking for hands-on experiences in their major while they finish college?

If you are a student looking for some hands-on experience while in college, then my advice would be to put yourself out there and make sure you are visible to potential employers. Talk to your friends, teachers and advisors about what you want to pursue because they might know about the right opportunity for you. The second best thing would be to go to the job fairs and apply for the opportunities posted on WSU Handshake. All of these things create the visibility you need to be noticed and to stand out for a potential opportunity.

Read more stories like this