WEST LAFAYETTE, — Massimo Ruzza and Gabriele Giusti are Boilermaker classmates six hours apart and around the world from Purdue University’s West Lafayette campus.
The pair of Italians Global Purdue the students recently graduated from the professional flight program while connecting with each other in a small-world story.
How two European pilots met through Purdue
Ruzza, from Milan, and Giusti, from Rome, had never met before their time at Purdue Global. However, despite living a six-hour drive apart in Italy, the two connected after deciding at around the same time to pursue the same degree in the same Purdue program.
“When I signed up for (Purdue Global) my (advisor) said, ‘Hey, there’s another Italian doing the same program,'” Giusti said. “And I said, ‘Tell me (his name)’ and he said ‘I can’t’ obviously because of privacy… We end up in the same class. Every semester we had at least one course where we were together.
“…and I see this guy (named) Massimo Ruzza and I think ‘Hmmm, he looks Italian. I guess that’s him, the Italian guy.'”
Giusti said the pair got in touch after initially emailing Ruzza explaining he was also from Italy and working as a pilot.
“The first conversation we had lasted about two hours,” Giusti said. “We were talking nonstop.”
Purdue Global Professional Flight Program
While a bachelor’s degree in professional flight at Purdue takes an average of four years, Ruzza and Giusti were able to complete it in about a year due to their previous flight experiences as full-time pilots.
“(Balancing work and school was) not easy,” Giusti said. “Fortunately, we are airline pilots, so most of the time we have 14 to 15 days off.”
The benefits of earning a degree, regardless of field of study, are numerous when it comes to applying for pilot positions, according to students. However, some jobs that required a degree have recently lifted those requirements, just in time for Ruzza and Giusti to graduate.
“I wanted to work for a company that required a degree, and I didn’t have it,” Ruzza said. “So I had to go get him… So the company I wanted to go work for, I’m sure you’ve heard of it, it’s called FedEx, they required a degree for up to two months and demi So I was one semester away from finishing.
“At the moment, even though the demand (for pilots) is high, the competition is so strong. There are people with several thousand hours (of flight) and working in international (airlines) who have already worked in the field. One of the ways to be competitive is to have the diploma.”
Ruzza explained that a pilot’s degree doesn’t necessarily matter in order to stand out from others who don’t have a degree. He said someone could have a degree in sewing and still get an advantage over another candidate.
Of all the programs, why choose Purdue Global?
Since Purdue Global is an online course, it seems impossible or counterintuitive to earn a professional flight degree online. Ruzza and Giusti explained that due to their full-time status and pilot certifications, it was more the general education credits that they were learning.
“(We took) generic courses like sociology, psychology, algebra… What we took at Purdue, the strictly aviation and non-aviation courses. Like statistics, finance, management of the business aviation, etc.”
Ruzza said there were a few options for him to pursue his professional aviation degree, and that Purdue Global was not initially the first choice.
“I was strongly recommended to go to Liberty University“, Ruzza said. “I have an engineering degree from abroad that FedEx told me was not from an accredited institution. So I had to go back (to school).
“…Liberty not only made me spend a lot of money getting transcripts, but we also got to the point where they couldn’t transfer any of my high school credits. So they said to go back to school and get a GED.”
Ruzza went on to talk about what a different experience he had once he connected with Purdue Global.
“I gave the exact same documents to (my adviser) at Purdue, and I was a fully enrolled Purdue student seven days after talking to them the first time. To me, that was a no-brainer. I don’t know what he did, but he knew exactly what was required (of international students) and it didn’t cost me a penny.”
Giusti said he had a similarly easy experience learning about Purdue Global programs through his advisor.
“(My adviser) was great,” Giusti said. “I didn’t even know how the program was structured…until I spoke with this guy. He walked me through the path so clearly.”
Purdue Global’s Fall 2022 debut took place on Saturday with approximately 1,200 graduating students – 535 bachelor’s degrees, 417 master’s degrees, 149 associate’s degrees, 63 certificates and 13 doctoral degrees were presented at the start.
Ruzza said that while he was unable to have family present at the in-person graduation ceremony, Giusti’s family would serve as his family that day.
“Tomorrow, when (Giusti’s) parents are here, it will be like my family is here,” Ruzza said.
What future for new graduates?
Giusti and Ruzza said they wish they could get paid to go home. Giusti has roots in Florida but often already flies to Charlotte, North Carolina. He said he just didn’t want to go to work, but rather be parked somewhere.
Ruzza said he hopes to one day get paid to go to Milan.
Margaret Christopherson is a reporter for the Journal & Courier. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @MargaretJC2.