Just Accepted Student Was Former Air Force F-16 Pilot

Just Accepted Student Was Former Air Force F-16 Pilot

Name: Mike Lightner

Age: 49

Hometown: Marion, OH

Previous College/Work: B.S. Economics, United States Air Force Academy, CO; 2014 M.S. National Security Resourcing, National Defense University, Washington, D.C.; 2017 Certificate in Financial Planning, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.; 27-year career as an Air Force F-16 pilot.

FIDM Major: Merchandise Product Development

FIDM Campus and Start Date: Los Angeles, Jan 2018

Admissions Advisor: Christina Haynes

How did your advisor help with the process? Christina was instrumental to successfully navigating the admissions process. She took the time to thoroughly understand my needs and suggested curriculum options that offered the best fit. Christina also connected me to the Veterans Affairs (VA) representative with whom I could coordinate my Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.  

Tell us a bit about yourself. In addition to my academic pursuits, I look forward to skiing at Mammoth and Big Bear, hiking Yosemite and Redwood, sea kayaking along La Jolla, learning to surf, enjoying the plethora of vineyards in Napa and Sonoma, trying—probably in vain—to improve my golf game, and participating in FIDM’s chapter of Student Veterans of America. I also plan to use my financial education by volunteering as financial planner on military installations throughout Southern California.

What made you want to attend FIDM after a long career of military service? I've always wanted to own my own business after leaving the military. I grew up in the retail fashion industry, so fashion seemed a logical place. It's fast-paced, constantly changing, and the industry fully energizes one's intellectual and creative talents. And creating a business offers the opportunity to create jobs and help others to realize their aspirations and few things are more rewarding than that.

What are your proudest accomplishments so far? Leading men and women in combat is a rewarding experience that truly defies explanation. It's a a dynamic, pressure-filled environment that redefines one's mental and physical limits and creates bonds of fellowship that last a lifetime. I'm grateful to have had that opportunity. It's also been a blessing to see many of my former F-16 student pilots go on to successful careers of their own. As I'm sure many FIDM Instructors can attest, knowing you've helped a person launch a successful career is a source of great pride.

What made FIDM right for you? As an aspiring business owner and newcomer to the fashion industry, I need to quickly develop a basic level of technical knowledge to interact effectively with those involved in the fashion supply chain, from designers, to textile mills and manufacturers. The Merchandise Product Development curriculum at FIDM aligns well with that need. Furthermore, a far-reaching and reliable network is essential for any business. With a broad network of alumni, cooperative activities with business partners, industry-seasoned instructors, and a talented student body, FIDM provides a valuable springboard for building a robust business network.

What are your post-FIDM goals? After FIDM, I hope to grow my business from a domestic niche brand to one with a global clientele. I'd also like to build upon my volunteer efforts by establishing a non-profit foundation dedicated to the financial wellness of American servicemembers. And finally, I'll complete my dive instructor certification in 2019 so I can help others discover the wonders of the undersea world and raise awareness of marine conservation.    

What do you expect to learn at FIDM? There's almost too much to list, but beyond learning the technical skills and industry lexicon, I look forward to learning from my classmates. The opportunity to understand the different ways people from a variety of backgrounds approach a similar problem is priceless. I've found that viewing challenges from perspectives other than my own broadens my awareness of my environment and improves my ability to think objectively and critically.