Our Stories

Earning Her Wings

Degree in hand, Wagner heads for pilot school (and beyond)

Christana Wagner
Pilot Training, U.S. Air Force

Vanderbilt Master of Marketing 2019

Most cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) go straight into their Air Force careers upon graduation. But Christana Wagner received a special assignment—to earn a graduate degree in business, in order to return to the Academy and teach in its undergraduate management department later in her career.

The Georgia native had always been drawn to Vanderbilt; it was one of the four schools to which she applied for undergraduate admission. She was especially attracted to the MMark program. “I’ve always been interested in marketing and the psychology behind it all,” Christana says. “Owen’s small-by-design program makes it unique, and networking opportunities are top notch.”

She’s pleased with the decision she made. “The professors are amazing,” she says. “I cannot speak highly enough of them. They truly want to get to know me and are always so helpful to meet with.

“Owen is a place where you can get out of your comfort zone, and it’s okay not to be perfect. Meeting all types of people from all over the world has been a great experience. It’s great to have such a variety of backgrounds melt together in every class. To develop as a leader, I tried to grow and learn from each group I was part of. The group work atmosphere was very different from what I was used to at USAFA. It was a great learning experience to learn with and lead those with a much different life path.”

Outside of school, Christana made the most of her free time in Nashville. She loved finding small, pop-up music shows, working out with classmates at Barry’s Bootcamp in the Gulch, and volunteering through her church community with a group foster home for high school boys.

She is looking forward to her next step, too. Before returning to the Academy to teach, Christana is headed to pilot school to learn to fly Air Force jets.

Fun Fact: Christana completed more than 600 skydives as part of the U.S. Air Force Parachute Team “Wings of Blue”, at events ranging from air shows to college football and major league baseball games.

Owen is a place where you can get out of your comfort zone, and it’s okay not to be perfect.