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Baker grad and faculty member to lead Civil Air Patrol

Integrity. Respect. Excellence. Service.

Much more than just four of her favorite words, they represent ideals by which Regena Aye, ’94, ’16 EdD, has lived most of her life. Even more than that, those words represent the values Aye believes are common to the two organizations she serves today—with integrity, respect, and excellence—as coordinator for the instructional design and performance technology (IDPT) doctoral program at Baker and as the soon-to-be chief executive officer and commander of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP).

“There’s a good nexus [between the two entities],” said Aye, who currently serves CAP as vice commander. “Baker is all about building leaders and providing lifetime opportunities, and that’s a focus of CAP. Integrity, respect, excellence, and service are key components of the mission at Baker, and the same can be said for CAP. There’s a lot of overlap.”

Aye will assume her duties as leader of the Civil Air Patrol in August, which will make her the second woman and first Kansan to hold the position. She’ll serve a three-year term with an option for a fourth year.

It’s a crowning achievement in a career filled with service to her community and strong leadership.

“The Civil Air Patrol offered opportunities for leadership and opportunities to give back,” said Aye, who will officially accept promotion August 17. “It’s humbling to be leading an organization that’s meant so much in your life.”

Small Town Values

Aye grew up in Burlingame, Kansas, a small town of 950 or so 37 miles west of Baldwin City. Her penchant for serving others was evident early as she helped various causes and school fundraisers in her hometown. She initially joined the Civil Air Patrol as a cadet in 1989 at the age of 17 and has served as a volunteer for the organization for 30 years, including a short break to attend college.

When it came time to choose a college, she said she considered the University of Kansas and Kansas State University, but in the end, chose Baker because it more closely fit with her rural upbringing and values of service and close-knit community.

“My high school counselor suggested Baker,” Aye said. “I looked at KU and K-State, but Baker won out. It just seemed like a safe place to learn and grow.

“The original plan was [to stay at Baker] two years, then transfer to KU, but I stayed. I’m very grateful to Baker for all the amazing experiences I had there. It showed me a new world, all about building responsible citizens who serve generously, being the best leader I can be, and serving my community. Every time I’ve made a student loan payment, I’ve felt every penny was worth it.”

Aye graduated from Baker with her undergraduate degrees in political science and history. In 1995 she began a long stint teaching at Allen Community College, in Iola, Kansas, culminating in the role of dean of online learning.

“I fell in love with instructional design at Allen,” she said.

It was at Allen Community College where she also fell in love with Phillip Aye. They married and together were foster parents to more than 50 boys before Phillip died in 2009.

A Return to Baker

After earning a master’s degree in history at Emporia State University, Aye returned to Baker and earned her doctorate in higher education in 2016. She began teaching there in 2018 and, a year later, became program coordinator of the doctoral program in instructional design and performance technology.

“We teach students to build training programs or materials to help organizations, with an emphasis on technology,” she said. “Things like process efficiency, process management. It can apply to almost every field there is.”

According to one of her peers, who graduated in the same undergrad class at Baker, the IDPT program is in good hands.

“Regena has been one of our best educators over the past five years,” said Nate Houser, ’94, associate vice president of advancement and senior advisor for diversity, equity, and inclusion. “Her work as chair of IDPT in our School of Education has provided the opportunity for hundreds of students to learn, grow, and prosper under her guidance. Regena has also been an integral part of our new inclusion committee. As a champion for all individuals who fight for a seat at the table to be heard and make a difference, her leadership and perspective help guide and move the group forward.”

Leading With Purpose

Gen. Aye with cadets

The Civil Air Patrol is a volunteer-based auxiliary branch of the Air Force. It has roughly 68,000 volunteers across the country, 540 aircraft, and 1,100 vehicles, and it works with communities through outreach, disaster recovery, and other efforts.

When health issues kept Aye from joining the military, the Civil Air Patrol became a natural choice. Although she has never held a pilot’s license, over her 30 years of service she has flown as part of an air crew (she holds a senior air crew rating) in countless operations as a scanner and observer searching for lost aircraft and lost people or filming aerial imagery following disasters.

She also has worked with CAP’s cadet program, which helps youths age 12 to 20 grow in leadership, fitness, and character.

In August Aye will take the reins of one of the most renowned and vital volunteer organizations in the country. As CEO and commander, she’ll travel three weekends every month, going to conferences or to hand out awards to fellow CAP members.

“Regena will be everything the Civil Air Patrol needs as it moves forward into a dynamic future,” Houser said. “Vision, an ability to build and guide teams, and attention to detail make Regena the perfect choice for the new role.”

Aye says her first order of business will be to listen and learn from other cadets and officers about ways to improve the organization.

“I’m excited to work with the team,” she said. “I want to ensure that future volunteers have an even better experience than I’ve had. It’s important to help our communities through good stewardship.”

Aye has a favorite term that she believes fits well with much of what she’s done in the past, does today, and will do in the future: servant leadership.

“That works well for everything I do,” she said. “It’s all about growing the next generation.”

Photo credit:  1st Lt Lu Chandler, CAP

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