Saturo Okada, senior in professional pilot at Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus, is one of 12 students receiving the university's Dean of Student Life Outstanding Senior Award.
Inaugurated in 1999, the award recognizes seniors on the Manhattan and K-State Polytechnic campuses for their significant contributions to student life during their time at K-State.
When Julie Rowe, diversity, inclusion and access coordinator at K-State Polytechnic, first met Okada, she knew he would be active on campus. Okada, who is from Japan, took the English language program for international students on the Manhattan campus, then came to Salina to earn his professional pilot bachelor's degree at K-State Polytechnic.
"One of the most admirable traits that Saturo brings to our campus community is his willingness to try new experiences," Rowe said. "It is apparent that Saturo embraces life and desires to make the most of his opportunities."
Okada has been an active member of the K-State Flight Team. His role as the team's safety officer helped it place in regional and national competitions for four consecutive years. Additionally, Okada served as a math and physics tutor and was the co-founder of a tutoring program for new pilot students. Weekly tutoring sessions provided opportunities for Okada to assist new flight students with their private pilot ratings. During his senior year, K-State Polytechnic employed Okada as a certified flight instructor.
"He cares deeply about the success of his students," Rowe said. "He watches them take off for their solo flights and is there to greet them when they land."
Additionally, Okada was actively involved with intramurals and student life. He enjoyed playing many sports and served as a resident assistant for three years.
"I like the close, family environment," Okada said. "I get to know a lot of people here just walking around. It's impossible to walk from the dorms to the flight center without seeing or talking to someone I know."
"Satoru goes the extra mile to help wherever the campus community needs him," Rowe said. "He has that rare combination of someone who holds high standards but who also gives grace when mistakes are made. He helps everyone around him to grow and reach their potential."
Okada was motivated to pursue an aviation career as a child by the movie "Top Gun." His interest was boosted when he attended high school in Michigan for one year as an exchange student. His host father was a pilot and owned aircraft.
Following his graduation from K-State Polytechnic this spring, Okada plans to stay in Kansas and continue working as a certified flight instructor for the school. Ultimately, he aspires to work for a commercial airline in the United States.