Judy Parrish and student in front of airplane

Taking Students Above the Horizon

Written by Chelsey Remitz

There's a lot to be learned in the air. For Judy Parrish's students, taking flight with their professor offered a lesson in life.

Parrish has been flying for more than 22 years. Her passion to be in the air led her to obtain her private license. She now holds a variety of licenses, including instrumental, commercial and instructional.

“I have an airplane instead of a kid,” quips Parrish.

And she put her passion and skills to use in the classroom. This past school year, students who took the CORE discovery class, “On Flight: The Responsibility, Authority and Romance of Aviation,” had an opportunity to fly with Parrish.

Parrish came to Idaho from the University of Arizona eight years ago to become the university’s science dean. A main aspect of her job was fundraising. The scientists Parrish visited were scattered around the country.

“Instead of stopping at hubs around the country, I saved time and money by flying myself,” says Parrish. “The donations more than paid for it, and the alumni really enjoyed it.”

But Parrish missed being a professor. In the summer of 2007, she returned to teaching and research. The fall of 2010, she began teaching the CORE discovery class. Her passion for aviation comes through loud and clear in her classroom.

“Students go into a specific field and focus on those skills, but these courses combine different skills and are much more integrated,” says Parrish. “So many different skills are utilized to make aviation work.”

Early in the course, students focused on the nuts and bolts of aviation. Then Parrish slowly integrated communication, medicine, law, engineering and education into the course.

Each of the disciplines, she says, is utilized in aviation. Communication constantly takes place, from reading maps to staying in touch with towers. Engineering plays a pivotal role in flight beginning with the construction of the plane. To be a pilot you have to obtain a license, but also be medically certified among other qualifications.

A major portion of the class focused on aviation portrayed through books and movies, and experiences people had while flying. Through the course, students could see responsibility and authority line up and what command means.

“It is one of the few positions where the buck really does stop there. Even the president of the United States has checks and balances,” says Parrish. “The pilot has the right to make any decision in the best interest of the flight.

“Pilot in command is one of the few jobs where responsibility and authority are absolute,” she says.

The university’s Risk Management office gave its approval for Parrish to take her students up in the air. She set condition qualities to ensure safety for the students and the 28 students had the choice to fly.

“Flying gives you a different perspective on the world and an opportunity to go to so many places,” says Parrish.

Parrish retires this month. She will be staying in the area and spending her time in the clouds.

“I feel I have a new lease on life,” Parrish says. “I plan to take full advantage of my life and enjoy it.”