First-Generation Graduate Brandon Hanner Is Prepared to Fly High
445 - Bachelor's degrees in criminal justice awarded in 2015-16
Fall 2015 - Launch of new doctoral program in criminal justice
4 - UCF campuses offering a bachelor's degree in criminal justice (Orlando, Cocoa, Daytona Beach, Valencia West)
1 - Rank of online undergraduate program by bestcolleges.com
First-Generation Graduate Is Prepared to Fly High
Monday, May 01, 2017
Brandon Hanner's passion for aviation began when
he was about six years old.
"My grandfather took me to my first air show," said Hanner, a
24-year-old first generation student who graduates Saturday, May 6
from the University of Central Florida. "I saw all the planes and I
was fascinated, but when I saw one of the military fighter jets, I
just fell in love." When he asked his grandfather if he could fly a
jet like it, he was told, "You can do anything you want, as long as
you work hard." From that point on Hanner dreamed of becoming a
military fighter pilot.
His dream coupled with a great love for family and tremendous
drive and determination have led him to a defining time in his
Just days after earning a bachelor's degree in criminal
justice and completing the United States Air Force ROTC program
at UCF, Hanner will be commissioned into the U.S. Air Force and
shortly thereafter begin pilot training at Columbus Air Force Base
in Mississippi. He'll be one of just 341 pilot trainees selected
from a pool of about 1,200 applicants. He'll also be the first
member of his family to enter the military.
Hanner's wife Ashley and their two-year-old son, Ethan will join
him in Mississippi. The couple met in middle school in Port St.
Lucie and have been together ever since - a period of nearly 10
years that includes their marriage in 2013.
"Ashley and Ethan - that right there is what lights Brandon's
fire and keeps him striving for success," said fellow graduate and
friend Miller Trant.
Hanner didn't fully realize he could pursue aviation
professionally until he entered high school. "It's not one of those
jobs that you see and hear about, or that you know people in it or
how to achieve it," he said.
Fortunately, he learned about aviation careers in high school
when he dual enrolled in a college-level aerospace course offered
through Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla.
His professor was an ex-military pilot and a commercial airline
pilot who told Hanner about the various paths he could take toward
becoming a military fighter pilot.
Hanner knew he had to go to college to be a fighter pilot, but
there was another driver as well. "I saw my parents and their
parents always struggling," he said. "I wanted to further my
education because it was something no one else in my family had
done or had been able to pursue. I wanted to pave the way."
Hanner entered UCF as an aerospace engineering major in 2011 and
joined the Air Force ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps)
program the following year. About two years in he faced "the
biggest challenge" of his college career: staying focused on
physics and calculus courses while two family members battled
life-threatening health problems. He switched his major to criminal
justice and enjoyed the program so much that he's now pursuing the
master's degree in criminal
justice as well.
"Brandon always came to advising sessions very prepared and with
a plan," said undergraduate criminal justice advisor Marva
Ellington. "He's just an exemplary young man, both in thought and
As a member of AFROTC at UCF, Hanner has been one of an average
of 200 cadets a year who take classes and laboratories designed to
develop leadership, team-building, decision-making and critical
thinking skills. He said the experience has given him "a big boost
It's also led to strong friendships such as the one he formed
with Trant, who also is headed to pilot training at Columbus. "We
both want to fly jets for the United States Air Force, so it makes
it pretty easy to obtain your goals when you surround yourself with
likeminded people," Trant said.
Hanner knows that pilot training will be challenging but he
thinks he's well-prepared. He and Trant need to complete the
55-week pilot training program and rank high enough to earn the
aircraft they want. But Hanner also knows that a positive attitude
and hard work can take you far - wisdom once shared by his
grandfather that's proving to be right.
To say Hanner is excited about entering the Air Force and
beginning pilot training is an understatement. Yet his excitement
is for much more than himself. He knows what his career will mean
for his family.
"In the future, when my son says to me 'dad, can I do this or
can I do that,' I'll be able to say, 'yes, you can do anything you
want,'" he said.
In addition to his bachelor's degree, Hanner is graduating
Minor in Homeland Security and Emergency Management and a Minor
in Aerospace Studies. As a UCF student he also completed six
certifications offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency,
or FEMA, and the U.S. Air Force's Field Training Officer
Written by Karen Guin
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One of the benefits of conducting international fieldwork is the opportunity to become engrossed in a different culture.
— William Moreto,
The people I worked with ... put me in every scenario possible and allowed me to experience it first hand.
— Max Thedy,
former student intern who worked with law enforcement rangers in Cape Town, South Africa
I cannot stress enough the importance of the basic research skills and knowledge, combined with an understanding of data analysis for those planning to be leaders in the field of criminal justice.
— Roberto Hugh Potter,
Criminal Justice Department Professor
I would not be in the position I have today if it weren’t for the Criminal Justice Program at UCF.
— Carl Metzger,
M.S. in Criminal Justice, '03; Deputy Chief, University of Central Florida