Mohammad T. Kushan graduated from the Elliott School in the spring of 2020 with an M.A. in International Science and Technology Policy concentrating on Space Policy. His undergraduate background is in Political Science with a B.A. from UCLA. He began his career with the Federal Aviation Administration as an Oceanic Air Traffic Controller. He and his wife moved to D.C. from the California Bay Area a couple of years ago to pursue an opportunity at FAA headquarters. He is passionate about the intersection of aviation and space and is excited about how the National Airspace System is transforming. In his downtime, he enjoys playing pick-up basketball.
Describe your current position and what have you learned since being in the position?
I am currently with the Air Traffic Standards and Procedures office in the Federal Aviation Administration. Our team works on a broad range of ever-changing challenges that face our National Airspace System. The two significant efforts that I am most excited to be involved with are developing air traffic procedures for integrating Unmanned Aircraft Systems and the standardization of space launch and reentry operations. This work is paving the way for the future of how our sky is organized around new modes of transportation and commerce.
In terms of what I have learned in this role, there are several things. From maintaining our team’s productivity as we adjusted to the COVID-19 pandemic disruptions to working with stakeholders to account for new paths over domestic airspace for space capsule reentries, our airspace is faced with continual change. This role has strengthened my ability to manage change through learning about the importance of having a plan, communicating effectively, and managing risk.
What professional organization, websites, or events would you recommend for students interested in your field, and why?
If you are new to D.C., like I was when I first started my graduate program, subscribe to the Washingtonian magazine. It is a great source of the latest local happenings in art, culture, and food. If your concentration is in space policy or if you’re just interested in space, then sign up for the GW Space Society for a heads up on events and job/internship opportunities.
What was your favorite Elliott School course and why?
My favorite class at Elliott School was U.S. Space Policy with Dr. Dana Johnson. We learned about the origins of the U.S. space program, and the intersections of civil, commercial, and security domains. In addition, we had a great line-up of guest lecturers that included NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, DoD Under Secretary for Research and Engineering Dr. Michael Griffin, and the Executive Secretary of the National Space Council Dr. Scott Pace. The highlight of the class was a private tour of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building by Dr. Pace. Since the tour was in the evening, we nearly had the building to ourselves and ended up sitting in the Indian Treaty Room talking “space” for almost an hour.
What part of your career do you find most challenging and how do you stay motivated?
The most challenging aspect of my career is the part I enjoy most, collaborating with a broad set of stakeholders to develop solutions to complex problems. Things going as planned is the exception. Frustration and disappointment come with any career, but my ten years with the FAA have helped me understand that a little patience and perspective goes a long way. It is never as bad as we make it in our heads. I try to remind myself to remain positive and constructive through the highs and especially the lows.
If someone wrote a book about you 10 years from now, what would it be called?
Against the Odds.
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The #ElliottProud profile series is managed by the Elliott School Office of Graduate Admissions and highlights graduate program alumni to answer common questions posed by prospective, incoming, and current students. For more information on this series or to submit questions, e-mail the Office of Graduate Admissions at email@example.com.
The views expressed by students profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs.