February Community Game Changer
MSU Denver alumna inspires girls to pursue science careers
By Amy Phare
In 2009, Zyola Mix moved to Colorado in hopes of building a new life. She was a recent divorcee, a single mother and an abuse survivor. The job she landed, she lost, and Mix soon found herself needing public assistance. It was an “extremely demoralizing” time for Mix, whose sole focus was keeping her daughter safe.
But in just four years, Mix overcame her turbulent past, graduated with honors and made a name in the aerospace industry. And it all started when she walked through the doors of Metropolitan State University of Denver.
“I came in not a very positive person,” she says, “but by the end of the first semester, I realized I can do this. That built confidence. I was not sure I would finish, but then I had no doubt that I would finish. That was my biggest transformation. I was barely walking straight, and then I walked out saying ‘I can do this.’”
In fall 2013 Mix graduated with honors from MSU Denver with a degree in aerospace operations, an emphasis in space commercialization and a minor in mechanical engineering technology. She has since landed employment with Jeppesen, a subsidiary of the Boeing Co., as a navigation information analyst.
Utilizing AGI’s Systems Tool Kit software, Mix recently spearheaded a project that simulates the attempt by Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan to circumnavigate the globe. “My purpose is to recreate the flight as realistically as possible,” says Mix, who is using this model-based simulation to map the way Earhart flew to each airport, her flight paths and approach styles. “I am trying to find out how she got to the airports. I’m not concerned with where she went missing.”
The research will be used to create an exhibit at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum, where Mix interned and continues to volunteer. She also will use the software to map the path of Denver’s Amelia Earhart (9NEWS), who will attempt to recreate the legacy flight in June.
But Mix won’t stop there. She is researching grants and scholarships for her next goal of achieving a master’s degree in space systems engineering.
“I’ve started to believe I’m capable,” says Mix. “The only way to overcome it is to just do it.”
She dreams of becoming a NASA administrator and spreads her excitement about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields through the organization Take Flight Leadership Aviation/Bessie Coleman Fly Girls — a program that provides aviation education and scholarship resources for minority students who are interested in aviation careers.
“I want to build a ladder for other girls to pursue science and math careers and know not to be afraid,” says Mix. “I’m using aviation to show them they can do science and math and use business smarts.
“And not just girls. I want to get all kids excited.”
Although Mix says she’s never thought of herself as a game changer, she has certainly made an impact on her daughter, a kindergartener and would-be pilot, who encourages Mix to keep pushing.
“I’m extremely proud I earned my pilot’s license, earned my degree and am able to keep my daughter happy with all the challenges we’ve faced,” says Mix. “I want to be the best role model I can be.”
Content Provided By Metropolitan State University of Denver
Community Game Changer Archive
September: Ricardo Rocha
October: Professor AnnJanette Alejano-Steele
– Watch October Community Game Changer Promo
November: Faculty Member April Hill
– Watch November Community Game Changer Promo
December: Alumn Jeff Martinez
January: Professor Aaron Brown