Faculty and Staff


Dr. Bill Hutto

Dr. Bill Hutto

Airport Director/Aviation Center Director/Aviation Department Head

Dr. Bill Hutto is an Accredited Airport Executive and has been involved in business and professional associations locally and throughout the state. Bill currently serves the community as a member of the Auburn City Board of Education; and he has served as President of the Auburn Rotary Club, Chairman of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce, and in other capacities such as with the Boy Scouts of America. On the state level, he is a Past President of the Aviation Council of Alabama. He also serves on the Board of Trustees for the Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI) and as Chair of the Aviation Committee for the Aerospace States Association (ASA). Bill holds a degree in Aviation Management from Auburn University, a MBA from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and a PhD in Public Administration from Auburn University.

Dr. James Birdsong

Dr. James Birdsong

Program Coordinator and Lecturer

A career Air Force officer, Dr. James Birdsong served as a command C-130 pilot, headquarters staff officer, academic instructor, and squadron operations officer.  He has held various positions in finance, operations, safety, systems acquisition, and strategic planning, and has extensive international aviation experience.  James is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and Auburn University and has served in higher education for more than 10 years.  As program coordinator, James is responsible for all facets of Auburn Aviation, to include teaching, research, and outreach. James is Auburn’s principal investigator for the FAA’s Technical Training and Human Performance Center of Excellence (TTHP COE), and serves as a member of the TTHP COE executive leadership committee.

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Wayne Ceynowa

Chief Instructor Pilot

Wayne Ceynowa is the Chief Flight Instructor and has been involved in pilot training for airline pilot career-seeking individuals for over 30 years. In that time he has held positions as Vice President – Flight Training Academy Operations, Vice President - Ab-Initio Pilot Training, as well as Part 141 Chief Flight Instructor, Part 142 Training Center Evaluator, and FAA Airman Certification Representative. Wayne is a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical with a B.S in Aeronautics and a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) in Finance.

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Earle Thompson

UAS Program Manager, Lecturer and Colonel, United States Air Force, Retired

A career Air Force officer with 36 years of service, Colonel Thompson served as a fighter pilot in the A-10, A-37B and the F-16, academic instructor, instructor pilot, assistant operations officer and squadron commander.He has held a number of staff positions at the Wing, Numbered Air Force, Headquarters Air Force, and COCOM levels to include Wing Chief of Training, Inspector General Inspector and instructor pilot, Deputy Director of Air Combat Command’s Directorate of Analysis and L2, Current Air Operations Chief and Joint Operations Center Chief of Operations at USCENTCOM and Executive Director of Air Force Safety at Headquarters Air Force in the Pentagon.  Earle held various positions in operations, safety, systems acquisition, and strategic planning, and has extensive international experience working in Southwest Asia, Europe, and South America.  He currently teaches Air Traffic Control and Aerodynamics in the Aviation Management program in the Harbert College of Business.  Colonel Thompson is the lead for the HCOB in the on-going UAS Center of Excellence efforts with the FAA in the ASSURE coalition of universities.  He was the safety subject matter expert in an Auburn led study of Safety of UASs in the National Airspace funded by an FAA grant.  

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Kurt Reeseman

Assistant Chief Instructor Pilot and Lt Colonel, United States Air Force, Retired

Kurt Reesman joined the Auburn Family as the Assistant Chief Flight Instructor in June 2017, bringing a wide variety of both military and civilian aviation experience. He retired from the Air Force where he spent most of his career in the training business. He flew the T-37, RF-4C and F-15E and instructed and evaluated student performance in the T-37 and F-15E. Additionally, he served as an instructor and evaluator to the Royal Saudi Air Force in the F-15S.

After retiring from the Air Force in 2005, Kurt was hired to help Liberty University start their aviation program. During his nine-year tenure, he served as an Associate Professor, Flight Instructor, and National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA) team coach. While at Liberty, Kurt also represented the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) as a Safety Seminar presenter and Flight Instructor Refresher Course instructor. Additionally, he was invited to serve as an industry representative for the re-write of the FAA Private Pilot and Instrument Rating practical test standards. These documents were converted into the recently released Airman Certification Standards for the Private Pilot Certificate and Instrument Rating. After leaving Liberty, L3 Commercial Training Solutions contracted Kurt as the Project Manager for the Airline Transport Pilot Certification Training Program (ATPCTP) course creation. While at L3, he also served as their Manager of Curriculum Development and Quality Control redesigning their training curriculum, streamlining their training process and establishing a quality control process. In October, 2015 Convergent Performance contracted Kurt to serve as a Certified Instructor and Quality Assurance Subject Matter Expert for courses taught during United Airline’s Leadership, Excellence and Professionalism (LEaP) Training Program that was given to every United pilot. A portion of this program focused on Convergent Performance President Dr. Tony Kern’s books “The Blue Threat” and “Going Pro.” Most recently Kurt was a Lecturer at Middle Tennessee State University in their Professional Pilot concentration. While serving at Middle Tennessee he made significant contributions to the revitalization of the Crew Resource Management course. Kurt brings a wealth of academic, flight and industry experience to the Department of Aviation.

Dr. Stephen Swartz

Dr. Stephen M. Swartz

Lecturer, CFI/AGII

Dr. Steve Swartz (PhD, Business Administration, Michigan State University 1994) is a retired military officer (Lt Col USAF) with over 30 years experience in Aviation Maintenance, Transportation, and Logistics.  Starting out as an aircraft mechanic, his military experience includes a variety of leadership positions both on the flight line and in overhaul/heavy maintenance on multi-engine jet aircraft.  He holds a variety of FAA certificates and ratings, and is a practicing flight and ground instructor.

Since earning his doctoral degree, Dr. Swartz has contributed to his discipline through teaching, research, and outreach.  He has developed curricula and courseware at the graduate (Masters' and Doctoral) and undergraduate level.  In addition to curricula committee service, he personally led the development of both new Doctoral (Supply Chain and Logistics) and Undergraduate (BS, Aviation Logistics) Programs for the University of North Texas.  He has authored over 27 peer-reviewed journal articles; half of them in "Elite" or "Category I" level publications.  He has successfully executed several externally funded (State or Federal level) research projects totaling over $500,000.  His current, active research streams focus on Transportation Safety (crew decision making) and the Aviation Economics (general aviation contributions to served communities).

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Carl Thompson

Lecturer and Captain, Delta Air Lines, Retired

Captain Thompson, Delta Air Lines, Retired, served in the USAF and Tennessee Air National Guard as an Aircraft Commander on the KC-135A. In the USAF, Captain Thompson was squadron safety officer. At Delta Air Lines, he flew the DC-8, B-727, 737, 757, 767 and L-1011. Captain Thompson spent 9 years in the Delta Flight Training Department and was a senior instructor on the B-737.

Captain Thompson holds an undergraduate degree in Aviation Management from Auburn University and a graduate degree in Management from Central Michigan University University.

James Cochran

Robert Cochran

Senior Lecturer, Attorney, and Commander, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Mr. Cochran ( BS, Accounting, Auburn University, 1974; MA, Webster College, 1980; JD, Cumberland School of Law of Samford University, 1997) is a retired Naval Aviator (Commander, U.S. Navy) who flew both shore based and carrier based Navy aircraft.  He was an Aircraft Commander and Instructor Pilot in numerous aircraft, and additionally held numerous operations, maintenance and staff billets.  He served on three Navy aircraft accident investigation boards chairing one of them.  After retiring from the Navy he attended law school and practiced law for a number of years.  He left his law practice to teach Business Law and Aviation Law full time at Auburn University.

Dr. JoEllen Sefton

Dr. JoEllen Sefton

Associate Professor

Dr. JoEllen Sefton is the director of the School of Kinesiology’s Warrior Research Center and Neuromechanics Research Laboratory and serves a principal investigator for FAA Technical Training and Human Performance Center of Excellence research. She has an extensive Department of Defense research portfolio focused on improving human performance through research and applied knowledge across a wide range of populations. Dr. Sefton holds a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University, a Master’s degree from Central Connecticut State University, and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Dr. James Witte

Dr. James Witte


Dr. Witte is a professor of adult education and the adult education program coordinator. A career Army officer and pilot, Dr. Witte has over 60-years of experience in military and civilian rotor-wing and fixed-wing aircraft, and holds an Airframe and Powerplant Certificate. He brings a wealth of experience to the FAA’s Technical Training and Human Performance Center of Excellence with an academic background in workforce development and evaluation, individual learning styles, and learning assessment. He has spent extensive time in industrial training, developing programs of instruction ranging from Sexual Harassment, Loss Control Management, Supervisor's Safety Development, Methods and Techniques of Training for Safety Instructors, and Office of Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliance training. His training development client list includes: IMC-Agrico, The Port of Tampa, Nissan Corporation, Wonderbread, Coca-Cola, Cargill Fertilizer, Florida Departments of Transportation, Labor and Corrections and many other private sector and governmental agencies. Dr. Witte holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska, a Master’s Degree from the College of William and Mary, and a Ph. D. from the University of South Florida. He is an avid world traveler having lived and worked in places such as Pakistan, Central and South America, Europe and Japan. His multi-cultural, multi-lingual background brings a unique perspective to examining how people acquire information and develop their own learning style.

Last modified: October 10, 2017