In the spring of 2016, Marie-Sophie Boggasch, UAA gymnast, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in aviation technology emphasizing on professional piloting. Boggasch joined UAA’s gymnastics team back in 2012. At the age of only 16, she decided to come to the United States from Schwarzenbach am Wald, Germany to pursue her athletic career at a D-II institution while also receiving a degree that would have been off her radar back home.
She was sold on UAA after a recruitment visit in April of 2012 and having met head coach Paul Stoklos, who just retired this year after 33 years of working with the team.
Boggasch first declared a major in international studies before quickly switching to aviation technology after having seen the facilities at Merrill Field. Boggasch and her parents discovered UAA’s Aviation Technology Complex during a sightseeing trip shortly after her arrival freshman year. She describes her decision as impulsive, but also rewarding and fulfilling.
“I used to want to be an astronaut ever since I was little. But later decided that being a pilot would be even greater. After arriving at UAA and seeing the aviation buildings, I took it as a sign that it was now meant to be,” Boggasch said.
In gymnastics, the European scoring system is different than the NCAA’s, but Boggasch adjusted her routines to the requirements and was able to see success quickly as a constant contributor to the team in regular line-up. While competing in three events, she accumulated personal bests in vault with a score of 9.875 in 2013, bars 9.8 (2016) and on floor 9.675 (2016). Her bar routine tied for runner-up at their conference championships during her senior year. She also contributed to the Seawolves’ school-record 194.125 team score.
Besides her successful athletic career, Boggasch also excelled academically. She graduated with a 4.0, summa cum laude and is co-recipient of the 2015-16 Dresser Cup, which is the highest academic award among UAA student-athletes. She was also an active member and later president of Alpha Eta Rho, a coed international professional college aviation fraternity. Her former teammate and friend, Louisa Marie Knapp, describes Boggasch as excellent leader and driven individual that is easy to get along with.
“Marie-Sophie is not just a role model for me due to her athletic abilities, but also due to her various valuable characteristics that inspire me. I partially chose UAA because of her and am very glad that I did,” Knapp said.
Boggasch’s dedication does not simply reflect in her athletic and academic achievements, but also in her professional accomplishments. Additionally, to juggling classes and practice times, she worked as a flight instructor for UAA during her junior and senior year. She accumulated up to 20 hours a week in the air and would not stop there.
After graduating in the spring of 2016, she continued working for UAA’s aviation department on an Optional Practical Training visa. Boggasch describes her experience as flight instructor as enriching, as she got the chance to teach others and introduce them to the Alaskan sky. She was actively involved in working with UA President Jim Johnsen to get her major approved for a visa extension of two years. Actions like this describe her incredible work ethic and drive to achieve her dream of working as a pilot in Alaska.
Boggasch further climbed the professional ladder by securing a job with Regal Air. The local company offers flightseeing tours, shore excursions and charter flights around Alaska. Their float planes enable passengers to experience many different and unique parts of Alaska. Boggasch enjoys showing tourists and locals around the place that she learned to love and call her home.
“This job is wonderful, because I get to fly to different places that present new challenges from a pilot perspective every day. I also get to engage with my costumers, which is very rewarding. Additionally, I get to work with the most wonderful crew there is. I am very thankful for how they took me in,” Boggasch said.
As a female pilot of young age, Boggasch is quite unique in the profession and encounters many surprised faces when she introduces herself to her clients.
“I am very happy when my passengers leave satisfied and I therefore, want to encourage all girls out there to follow their dreams despite all stereotypes,” Boggasch said.
Mike Laughlin, the owner of Regal Air and Boggasch’s boss, describes her as valuable addition to his team.
“She started working her first season with us this year and is doing a fantastic job. She is a natural pilot and we would absolutely like her to stick around,” Laughlin said.
Boggasch is only one example of what things UAA alumni accomplish in the community and beyond. Boggasch has considered returning to UAA to work towards a Masters of business administration, possibly while working in the familiar environment of the Alaska Airlines Center as a graduate assistant coach.