• YEAR: Master's student
  • MAJOR: Aviation management
  • HOMETOWN: Jeffersonville, Indiana

Dominique Vaughn

Her full-time job is inspiring first-generation college students in the 21st Century Scholars program at Purdue. She's pursuing her master's degree online through Purdue's ProSTAR program. She's a pilot. She's a musician. She's also a mom. She's known to family by her middle name, Ashley, but to the rest of the world as Dominique Vaughn, modern-day superwoman. Her life today is a whirlwind, but don't think that means she's ready to rest. Dominique is ready to fly to new heights — literally and figuratively.


Dominique first wanted to be a lawyer but got interested in flight from an aviation camp in high school. She even earned her pilot's license before she graduated from high school.

"I fell in love with the idea of being a black female pilot," she says. "I have a real conquer-the-world, resilient, I'll-show-you attitude. I love flying, but I still to this day believe I will go to law school and I'd also like to get my PhD. I have a long bucket list."

Mom is job one

Dominique had her daughter, Genesis, now 3, when she was still an undergraduate at Purdue. She and her boyfriend, Adrien, are raising their daughter together. Though it has been a challenge to combine studies, work and motherhood, Dominique wouldn't have it any other way.

"I am 100 percent mom," she says. "My family comes first. My daughter brings me a lot of joy. She is my motivation, my strength."

I write the songs

With all she has to juggle, you'd think Dominique has no time for hobbies. Think again.

She not only plays three instruments — alto sax, drums and keyboard — but she also writes songs. "Some call me a rapper. I'm not a rapper. I'm a lyricist. I'm a poet who flows when the music hits."

She also enjoys reading and was a dancer for many years growing up, but music is first in her heart. "Music got me through some tough times in college, especially my ability to write songs."

Fly me to the moon

If Dominique had an hour to spend any way she wanted, she says, she would spend it flying or being flown — as far as she could go. She's plenty busy these days but still finds time to hold down a job as a flight instructor at the Purdue Airport, working three mornings a week and some evenings.

"Next to music, flying is my biggest stress reliever. It's very serene being up above the clouds."