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SDI Is Ready For A Busy October

Lots of people, lots of firearms, and more than a little fun. October is shaping up to be a great month for Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI). Here’s why you should be paying attention to the happenings at SDI!

October 6-8, 2017, Members of the SDI team will be gathering in the mountains of Georgia for the annual Iraqveteran8888 Range Day. Range Day for the IV8888 team is a chance to invite the YouTube firearms community to get together, showcase new gear, and try out an unimaginable number of firearms. At this shoot, you will see everything from fully automatic rifles to high-grade pellet rifles, or even an archery tag course. The IV8888 shoot is by invitation only but it will not lack for coverage. Several of the most notable YouTube firearms celebrities will be in attendance to document all the action. Keep an eye out on Sonoran Desert Institute’s Facebook page to view live updates, videos, and posts of all the happenings. IV8888 Range Day is a sight to behold and is eventful enough to fill up your enjoyment meter for a few months, but it is not the only event we have coming up.

On October 27, 2017, Sonoran Desert Institute is assembling a shooting team of staff, partners, and even one lucky local student to compete in Nashville Tennessee. SDI’s team will be competing in sporting clays and will be raising money for the Ronald McDonald House of Nashville where one of SDI’s own, Christian Wilson, serves as a board member.

As stated by the Ronald McDonald House of Nashville, “The 2nd Annual Music City Sporting Clays Tournament in association with the Kids & Clays Foundation will be held on Friday, October 27th, 2017. The tournament will be hosted at the Nashville Gun Club and participants will enjoy a 100-Bird course specially designed for the recreational fun shooter. Registration includes ammunition, exclusive shooter gift, a delicious lunch, bottomless beverages and a cocktail/awards reception. Featured activities include a fabulous silent auction as well as side events featuring flurry shots with all of your favorite game birds!” For information on the event, check the link here,

The SDI team will comprise of both novice and experienced shooters and the resident BMOC, Garett Bischoff, will be in attendance to spread the word about the school. It’s a very exciting opportunity for a school like SDI to be able to work within the firearms community as well as help children and a great cause. Be sure to stay tuned to SDI’s Facebook page for updates on this event as well as live video, news, and to cheer the school on!

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Michael Veglianti

Staff Spotlight: VA Certifying Official, Michael Veglianti

From Birmingham, England, to Scottsdale, Arizona, Michael Veglianti has made quite the trek, and we are glad to have him at Sonoran Desert Institute. Michael is one of Sonoran Desert Institute’s VA Certifying Officials, and he takes great pride in helping our veterans achieve their educational goals.

“I’ve never quite seen anything like the veteran culture in the United States. Veterans have a strong presence, and despite some shortcomings, the U.S. really takes care of their veterans,” said Michael. Michael knew of veterans in England but he had never encountered such a strong unity among veterans as he’s seen in the United States. “It’s really moving to help those that have served their country,” he said.

Michael first started working with veterans’ benefits at the University of Phoenix in 2007, and continued through 2017, until the University of Phoenix started reducing its staff. Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) was lucky enough to acquire his services directly afterward. Michael’s duties consist of processing paperwork from other schools that students have transferred from, negotiating student debt from past classes or past schools, running calculations for student funds, and helping to verify payments. One of his favorite parts of the job is fielding calls from students. Michael had this to say, “I spend most of my day on the computer, so it’s actually a nice change of pace when I get to talk to a student who has questions or somebody who is having issues with their accounts. Really, I just love to help veterans. It drives me nuts when I don’t readily have an answer. So when I don’t, I will dig until I have it.”

Michael has a significant amount of drive when it comes to performing his job. He has earned his bachelor’s degree in business with an emphasis in accounting. He is also trying to find the time and resources to earn his master’s degree. In addition to all of this, Michael is taking steps to learn more about benefits to make himself more of service to those in need by learning TA as well as student Financial Aid benefits.

Michael prides himself on organization and maintaining a consistent process, but as with any job, issues can arise. “The biggest complications I see on a regular basis is when students transfer from one VA region to another without notifying the VA, if there is a VA account debt from a student’s previous education, or sometimes there’s just a delay in the VA office.” Despite the massive amount of records that Michael processes on a daily basis, he drops everything to help when problems arise. He maintains a dogged approach when problems do come up. “I do absolutely anything I can when a student reaches out.”

Outside of his professional life, Michael Veglianti enjoys soccer, rugby, and cricket. His favorite sports are not often televised in the States, but he makes sure to catch a match when his favorite team, Tottenham Hotspur F.C., is televised. He’s also expanding his taste and starting to enjoy American football. Michael is also quite the movie buff. “Man, I’m going through my phone here and realizing I’ve seen most of the movies out right now.” His current favorites are American Assassin and The Hitman’s Bodyguard.

Michael’s education is not limited to business, accounting, and customer service. He has steadily been learning Pokémon characters from his son and daughter. Like most professional parents, Michael is finding this learning curve to be as complicated and challenging as anything he has encountered in his professional life.

Sonoran Desert Institute had been privileged to gain the employment of somebody with Michael Veglianti’s experience in VA benefits. Combined with his desire to constantly improve SDI’s VA processes and his dedication to help those who have served our country, Michael has proved himself as a terrific asset and a powerful advocate for our students. SDI is happy to have him on board and looks forward to many more years with Michael on staff.

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Emmanuel Ajagbe

Emmanuel Ajagbe: An ambitious student getting all he can out of an SDI education.

Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) created the Field Study Program to give students a chance to gain hands-on experience in the firearms industry by working alongside industry leaders and various successful gunsmiths throughout the country. It’s a program that is not taken advantage of enough, but for a student like Emmanuel Ajagbe, it’s a program that he has jumped into head first. In his quest to be a gunsmith, Emmanuel has now completed not one, but two, Field Studies with SDI partners.

It takes a certain level of drive to build your experience the way that Emmanuel has. Attending a Field Study requires a student to take on extra initiative and responsibility as well as show exceptional work ethic. Moriarti Armaments® was Emmanuel’s first Field Study and was chosen because it was a convenient location to travel for Emmanuel. Although he didn’t really know what to expect, he ended up gaining enough from this experience that he wanted to do it again and enrolled in a Field Study with Moss Pawn & Gun.

Moriarti Armaments is a Type 07 FFL manufacturer and Type 08 FFL importer of firearms located in Miami, Florida. Emmanuel started their program by learning under an armorer understudy on AR-15 and AR-10 platforms. “I personally built in excess of over 10 rifle builds of both AR-15 and AR-10 platforms, checking every build in our in-home steel shoot housing,” said Emmanuel. He also had the opportunity to learn the basics of a firearms business by participating in sales, setup of the store, proper storage of firearms for store closing, how to run FDLE background checks, and how to fill form 4473s to tender the sale of a firearm. Emmanuel worked regular hours and he worked hard.

In all, Emmanuel participated at Moriarti Armaments for four weeks, which he said was ample time to learn a company’s processes and learn or improve old skills. “I have personally built my own AR-15 rifles prior to this field study, but in this study I learned the proper order of assembly, proper use of tools, solutions for abnormal issues, and the management of time, which all improved my total armorer skills. The AR-10 and AR-15 armorer learning aspect was my overall favorite portion of the field study.”

Given what Emmanuel learned at Moriarti Armaments, a lot of students would have called it good. They would have moved on with their careers, but Emmanuel wanted more. He decided to enroll in a Field Study Program with Moss Pawn, a well-known shop with a successful YouTube channel. According to Emmanuel, the experience was “everything I hoped it would be.”

Moss Pawn took Emmanuel in right away. Renown Master Gunsmith Ray Vaughn took Emmanuel around the establishment on day one and introduced him to the entire staff. Emmanuel was then introduced to the tools and was put to work on a project with a Lee-Enfield rifle—a type of rifle that Emmanuel had never before worked on. While he said it was a challenge, Emmanuel was walked through the project by Ray Vaughn, who let him build his confidence by doing it himself.

Emmanuel Ajagbe built many skills while attending the Moss Pawn Field Study. He had this to say, “ I learned many skills from Moss Pawn, such as repair on revolvers, striker-fired pistols, rifles, sighting-in precision rifles, Cerakote™ application, diagnostics, customer relations, business-to-business relations, and many approaches on how to problem solve.” With Moss Pawn being a high-volume shop, Emmanuel had no shortage of work to do.

Emmanuel had high praise for both Moriarti Armaments and Moss Pawn. They are both hardworking, professional establishments and Emmanuel was able to make friends across the industry while attending these Field Studies. He came away from both experiences saying that he would recommend them to any student wishing to gain hands-on experience in the firearms industry. Given the work ethic that Emmanuel Ajagbe has shown, there is no doubt that someday he will probably be hosting his own students at his own successful business.

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Walter Howard attends EANGUS conference

SDI Attends Another Successful EANGUS National Conference

Reno, Nevada, was the setting for the 46th Annual Conference and Expo of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States (EANGUS), held August 26–30, 2017. Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) has the honor of being a platinum sponsor for the organization and was fortunate enough to have its Chief Military Liaison, Walter Howard, attend.

The annual conference provided varying degrees of work and play to the over 1,000 airmen and soldiers who attended the meetings for business and professional development. The conference, as described by EANGUS, was “four days of meetings, keynote speakers, special events, professional development, and access to the EANGUS industry trade show.”

In order to bring a mood of fun and socialization to the event, the conference kicked off with a golf tournament at Wolf Run Golf Course and was followed up by an evening social. Attendees then got down to business. Caucuses were held for each of the seven areas that make up the EANGUS membership base, which is divided into regional groups of states. Afterward, the evening culminated in a Welcome Night event, leaving attendees enthusiastic for the rest of the weekend’s activities.

One of the primary reasons for holding the conference was to make key decisions on policies to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of EANGUS and the help it provides to service members. National directors had a chance to meet with regional directors and state officials. This was not unlike the work done throughout similar organizations. The treasury report was given with in-depth reviews of the organization’s finances, and various amendments were voted on concerning the organization’s bylaws. One of the most essential services provided by EANGUS—scholarships—was discussed in detail.

Walter Howard described the four-day event as an “absolute success.” While organization events related to service can be quite political in nature, Walter’s account was both positive and unbiased, “[It was] a phenomenal interaction between attendees. I was able to attend an ESO briefing hosted by the Nevada ESO and attended by the ESSs of South Dakota along with five other schools. Topics covered were Federal Tuition Assistance, State Tuition Assistance, and VA Benefits. I was also able to set up a meeting with the EANGUS Scholarship Committee Chairman. Together, we are going to work out how EANGUS selects the scholarship recipient for the SDI/EANGUS Scholarship.”

Walter Howard went on to say that he found the EANGUS conference to be very productive. “This event is great to network with various leaders within the National Guard and showcase our education program. It further allows us to strengthen our relationship with EANGUS while building new relationships/partnerships with the other states and vendors.”

Sonoran Desert Institute was honored to attend such an important event for service members and their families. The school was invited to various state events and is excited to have had this opportunity. EANGUS has several decades of service to our nation’s military and SDI is happy to be a small part of it.

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Erik Heine

Erik Heine: Building a business after graduating SDI

It was the push he needed. Erik Heine’s first sergeant told him that when he got out of the military, he needed to find his calling in life. Erik enrolled at Sonoran Desert Institute, graduated in March of 2016, and immediately set up shop as a gunsmith. It hasn’t been easy, but NA Gunsmithing is a steadily growing business in Bakersfield, California, and Erik plans on keeping it that way.

Erik Heine is an extremely driven individual. After his conversation with his father about finding his path professionally, his enrollment in school was immediate. Erik enrolled in SDI’s Advanced Gunsmithing Certificate program and within a month of graduating in April of 2016, he had submitted his paperwork to the State of California. By the time September rolled around, Erik was no longer a hobbyist gunsmith but was instead gathering clients at a fast pace. News had spread outside of his immediate group of friends and family, and Erik decided to make a full-fledged business out of his short-lived hobby.

“While in the military, I was used to military firearms and felt very comfortable with them. I realized when I enrolled at SDI that there was much more to learn about firearms in general. SDI taught me detailed mechanisms and how to properly work with firearms. There’s a big difference between breaking down a firearm and taking one apart properly,” said Erik.

Among the best things Erik learned, as simple as it may seem, was the proper cleaning of a firearm. “Oddly enough, the ability to properly disassemble any firearm and clean its mechanisms allows me to learn the inner workings and unique pieces of each firearm, whether I have worked with that model or not.” He then added, “Also…totes. Always have plastic totes. It keeps you organized, and if you take down a firearm in a tote, it might deflect a rogue spring from shooting across the room.”

As with any education, SDI’s School of Firearm Technology gives its students the fundamental education to be comfortable when tackling more complex problems as well as the ability to start learning more complex skills. Erik was able to utilize these fundamental lessons as a platform to start his business, but he wanted to push himself further. Through mutual friendships, Erik befriended a local gunsmith with over 50 years of experience. Over time, Erik was able to prove himself as a willing student and has since been taught to use a lathe and milling machine. Though Erik is in business for himself, he keeps in close contact with his mentor, and, in turn, learns new skills each week. As part of their working process, every couple of weeks, Erik’s mentor tosses him a complicated project that is out of his skillset. It’s not so much to teach Erik anything specific, but rather to see how Erik solves a problem. “Sometimes I miss something or I get taught something, but it’s pretty great when I hear that I completed the task perfectly.”

Erik has now been running a successful gunsmithing business for over a year and has already expanded. He brought on his friend Mitchell Crow this last April to help him with the books as well as take on projects. Since bringing on Mitchell, the demand has continued to grow, and Erik has no intention of seeing that slow down. Recognizing the need, Erik is working his way through a bachelor’s degree in business and hopes to enroll in an advanced machining program soon. In addition to this, as part of their business model, Erik and Mitchell try to attend one advanced armorers course each year. This year was an advanced armorers course at Glock. The results speak for themselves: By focusing on a continuing education, building his skillset, and working hard, Erik is the owner of a growing business.

Being in business for yourself is one of the goals of most aspiring gunsmiths. Erik Heine is a great example to anybody seeking to do this, and he has some sage advice for others seeking to do the same thing. He had the following to say regarding his quick start, “I couldn’t have grown this fast without a mentor. I believe I would have grown, just very slowly. Having an experienced mentor has sped up my learning and his references are quickly speeding up my business.” In addition to his praise of mentorship, his additional lessons almost seem to come out of Kip Carpenter’s Top 10 Mistakes New Gunsmiths Make.

“I would love to spend all my money on new shiny tools. Mitchell and I have realized that we must have money squirreled away for the slow summer business season. My mentor taught me to save money on this by making my own tools when I can. Since he taught me to use a lathe, I make my own punches now, built a barrel floating tool, turned a screwdriver into a custom windage tool, constructed my workbenches, and even assembled a pair of pliers for a Springfield project I had.

“Bill your projects by the project and never bill clients based on time estimate. Some projects take longer than others and you don’t want to bill clients for your learning curve. Additionally, if something is taking longer than expected, you don’t want to limit yourself with a deadline. This can cause you to do inferior work, which would hurt your word of mouth reputation. It’s more important to do great work than it is to hit a deadline. Always try to keep your estimates project-related rather than timeline-related.

“You can’t please everybody. Recognize your skills, and if what your customer wants is outside of your ability, let them know. The risk of working on something outside of your ability is damage to your reputation. The risk of referring a customer to a more skilled smith is a reputation of honesty. I’ve fixed other gunsmiths’ mistakes and it’s always unfortunate to see a customer pay twice for one piece of work.

“Don’t be afraid to break stuff. Being tentative makes you less effective and makes you slow. Yes, you want to take the utmost care of a firearm, but anybody who works on a firearm is going to mess up. You’re going to scuff a firearm with a screwdriver. What will make you a real gunsmith is knowing how to fix those things if they happen.”

If there is anything to learn from Erik, it is to never stop building your skills in your trade. There is always something to learn, whether it’s how to work on the trigger mechanism of a unique firearm or how to file your taxes properly. An education like SDI is just a starting point for a career and not an endpoint. The professional world is competitive, and word of mouth will always be the most effective marketing. Erik has further enhanced his business by reaching out to his community and local businesses.

“I want my business to be a part of the community. We try to sponsor events. I have developed a great relationship with a local firearms instructor and have even gotten to know the local police department by routinely taking coffee to them from the Black Rifle Coffee Company.” Erik stated, “I don’t touch their service firearms, but I work on their personal firearms.”

Erik Heine had this to say about his biggest lesson as a gunsmith straight from his mentor, “There is a huge difference between a parts changer and a gunsmith. Anybody can change the parts on a firearm but it takes years of experience, constant learning, and a lot of work to be a gunsmith. You have to really put in the work to learn the skills of customization and how to fix broken parts. These skills can be learned by machining, using a lathe, finding a mentor or by teaching yourself, but you must learn them to call yourself a gunsmith instead of a parts changer. I credit SDI for giving me the opportunity to learn on my own time and build the foundation to start learning to be a gunsmith.”

Erik shows a unique ambition as a business owner. His hunger to learn, his ability to market his business, and his hard work have paved the way for success, and SDI is proud to see his progress. To learn more about Erik’s business, visit

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Field Studies Banner

SDI Field Studies: Giving SDI graduates and edge in today’s marketplace.

“Getting an online education in gunsmithing does not make you a gunsmith.” This statement, as well as similar ones, can be seen across message boards for Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) and other schools alike. It is impossible to ignore, and the answer is an easy, “Yes, this is true.” The fact remains, though, that getting a job as a gunsmith or starting a successful business as a gunsmith is what makes you a gunsmith.

The statement, “Getting a degree in (blank) does not make you a (blank),” can be substituted with any degree such as accounting/accountant, engineering/engineer, or marketing/marketer. Similarly, putting on a space helmet does not make you an astronaut. But, getting an education in aeronautics or engineering, working at NASA, and going to space does. Sonoran Desert Institute has recognized the competitiveness of today’s marketplace for graduates and has added the Field Study Program to their already comprehensive education in order to give their students an edge.

Let’s look at the big picture of today’s marketplace and the achievement of higher education to understand how SDI’s Field Study Program fits in.

Today’s Marketplace

Today’s job market is highly competitive for college graduates. Over the last decade, statistics have shown numbers as low as 27% for college graduates finding employment in the same field as their degrees. Research also shows a mixed review from graduates as to whether their education has helped their career or prepared them for the professional marketplace. No matter if they’re graduating from a university with a degree in engineering, accounting, or from a trade school for plumbing, all graduates struggle with the same market and are constantly trying to increase their odds of having a successful career. While opinion may vary, labor statistics show drastic differences in how education levels affect unemployment and wages. Some of this sounds dire, right? Not so much. Let’s look deeper.

More of America’s workforce has college degrees than at any other time in history. This has flooded the employment pool with qualified applicants. In past decades, having a college degree drastically increased your odds of a high salary and a great career because not as many potential employees had degrees. In today’s competitive environment, you must simply do more to separate yourself from the pack. This can be done through the building of essential skills outside of your education or by finding industry internships. The requirement of separating yourself from the pack spreads across every industry in America, and SDI’s students and past graduates are not exempt.


In the past, completing courses in higher education has been a quick fix for professionals in the job market. “Just get your degree and you will be set for life.” While an education does help you stand out from the pack, it is no longer a guarantee.

An education tells an employer that, in addition to understanding the foundational principles of their given field (accounting, engineering, gunsmithing, etc.), this person is someone who has likely accumulated critical thinking skills and can work independently or in a team. It says that through extensive reading and writing, this is an individual who has a stronger likelihood of being able to communicate effectively as well as to learn new information. And that by learning history, psychology, environmental science, and mathematics, this person has a greater chance of looking at separate pieces of information and tying them together. For example, understanding how economic conditions affect businesses, how this psychologically affects the general marketplace, and how this knowledge can be applied to create a business that better adapts to similar conditions in the future is something an educated candidate would be better prepared for.

While these generalities can be made regarding graduates, there are still no guarantees for finding work in the field of your education. This is because there are also no guarantees to the employer that the applicant is proficient in these skills or that they have the intangible skills necessary to be a successful employee.
These intangible skills relate to the individual’s personality. Can this person think on their feet? Is this person a team player? Is this a negative person or a positive person? Education shows up easily in a resume but it is the interview process that seeks to reveal if these skills exist and whether this person is a good fit. This also falls within the realm of starting your own business. If you have an education, your chance of success is increased; but if you have not worked on your intangible skill set, it can be a serious setback.

There is one last piece to ensure your success as a professional, and that piece is experience.


Nothing beats experience. This is a general truism that echoes across every industry. Would you like to hire an employee with 40 years of experience or would you like to hire a young employee with no real-world experience? This is a dilemma faced by every employer for every position they have ever hired. That is also why SDI has created the Field Study Program.

SDI’s Field Study Program is set up to give students the following benefits:

  • Established relevant industry contacts and networks
  • Application of coursework and labs to actual work situations
  • Increased relevant career-related experience
  • Enhanced background experience to strengthen resume
  • Potential permanent placement with a Field Study partner
  • A competitive advantage over other candidates seeking positions
  • Strengthened relevant verbal and written communication skills
  • A potential reference from a Field Study sponsor

The challenge of gaining experience is something that every student faces. Until actually working as a trauma surgeon, no med school student knows what it’s really like. Therefore, before becoming licensed to practice on real people, doctors must serve long internships after having gained a quality, foundational education. While SDI’s Field Study Program will not require 10 years of your life, it does give participants a higher level of hands-on experience that cannot be found in any educational program outside of an internship or entry level position.

By pairing hands-on experience with a foundational education, SDI’s students can give themselves an advantage that is rare in any industry. If those same students put continuous and conscious effort into their intangible skills, such as quick thinking under pressure, positivity, team mentality and conflict management, they will attain an undeniable advantage in the job market.

There is as much to learn about today’s job marketplace as there is about educational advantages. Large volumes of research and books have been written about these subjects—far beyond the scope of this article. But in the end, whether you’re a student, graduate, or potential student, it will be up to you to put in the effort to increase your chances of success.

To learn more about SDI’s Field Study Program and to apply, please visit:

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GunLearn Blog Image

SDI Staff Attends IFSA GunLearn Seminar

When offering an education in firearms technology, it is important that your staff be knowledgeable about the subject. Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) takes pride in the fact that they have a well-qualified staff of experienced firearms experts. And they recently took it a step further by sending three of their staff to St. Louis for the International Firearms Specialist Academy (IFSA) GunLearn Seminar. SDI President, Traci Lee, Vice President, Wesley LeMay, and Director of Faculty Services, Sara McGilvray, took the trip to St. Louis, and this is what they learned.

The IFSA GunLearn Seminar specializes in the training and accrediting of firearms professionals to become Certified Firearms Specialists. As written on the IFSA GunLearn website,, “CFS certification establishes that a person is a competent professional in the field of safe and accurate firearm and ammunition handling, and identification.”

While Wesley LeMay has a strong military background and is no stranger to firearms technology, Traci Lee and Sara McGilvray have strong backgrounds in education, but are relative novices in their experience with firearms. Despite the varying degrees of firearms experience among the three, they were all able to take away valuable information from their experience with the IFSA GunLearn Seminar.

The three-day event put on by® provided all attendees with a challenging environment regardless of experience. Traci Lee had this to say, “The course challenged the various levels of experience that were in the room, without completely overwhelming a novice like me.” Wesley LeMay echoed this sentiment, “This was my second opportunity to see Mr. Dan O’Kelly teach this seminar, and I continue to learn something new each time.”
Attendees were instructed on firearm safety, mechanical operation, ammunition, silencers, destructive devices, court testimony, gun parts, and categorization based on GCA and NFA guidelines. SDI staff was also educated on the firearms regulations surrounding the school, which utilizes 80% lower receivers and muzzleloaders. Follow-up discussions were engaged after each day’s lesson to ensure that each attendee could address all of their questions.

GunLearn Seminars are offered in person and as online-based programs much like Sonoran Desert Institute’s School of Firearm Technology. All of their instructors, including Dan O’Kelly, have at least 30 years of experience and are always able to bring a substantial amount of knowledge to the table.

SDI was grateful to have the opportunity to send staff to a seminar that could provide so much education in such a short amount of time. The fact that both experienced firearms experts as well as firearms novices came away with enough knowledge to feel comfortable fielding firearms-related questions speaks to the strength of GunLearn’s program. This seminar is highly recommended and the school’s staff can rest assured that SDI will continue to educate them through this program.

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Caitlin Mullins Banner

Staff Spotlight: Caitlin Mullins

Five years and still going strong. Caitlin Mullins started working at Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) while in college and needed a part-time job. She graduated from Arizona State University in 2015 with a bachelor’s in Anthropology but has stayed on with SDI, playing an increasingly important role in the school.

A lot of college students seek part-time work just to earn some money while attending school. These positions are usually vacated after the student graduates and they decide to move on to a position related to their degree. Caitlin has taken a different route. She has fallen in love with the school, her co-workers, and the overall culture at SDI. The reward has been an increased level of responsibility as well as making many friends along the way.

You might not recognize Caitlin’s name, but if you are currently a student, chances are she has seen yours. Caitlin has taken on an increasing role in student services and is one of the engines that make the school work. One of her primary duties is to update student information, help with acclimation to the school, and process transfer credits. If you have enrolled at SDI or if you have transferred credits into an SDI program, Caitlin is the person to thank.

One of Caitlin’s favorite parts of working for SDI has been helping students who have never taken courses in higher education or students who have not attended school in a long time. She makes sure everybody has all the information on hand to help them succeed. Caitlin stated, “While we put students’ success at our school in their own hands, I take a lot of pride in making sure they have everything they need to do so.” This part of giving responsibility to students can be a bit of a tightrope. There is a delicate balance between trying to help everybody and making sure that students are taking their own initiative.

Between the work that Caitlin does in admissions as well as in student services, she wears a lot of hats. “I can definitely say that no day is ever the same.” Whether it is updating student information, transferring their credits, answering their questions, or addressing concerns by sending out informational packets, Caitlin takes pride in the help that she provides. The enjoyment that she gets out of the job is reflected in the many success stories of SDI’s graduates. It’s one of her favorite parts of the job—seeing a student graduate and find success after attending the school.

SDI, being a school that revolves around gunsmithing, also gives Caitlin an opportunity to immerse herself in the firearms culture of American society. This is a cultural segment that Caitlin is familiar with. She grew up in Kentucky, shooting with her father and her friends. While she does not do her own gunsmithing, firearms have always been a part of her life. This aspect of the job has been a large part of why she has spent five years working for Sonoran Desert Institute.

Caitlin loves her job, which is evident in her enthusiasm and commitment to the school. But when it comes time to decompress, she enjoys attending concerts in the Arizona area, gardening, and, as she stated, “Lots of reading.” Caitlin also has a special interest in sign language and seeks out opportunities to volunteer for interpreting.

While you may not know her name, if you attend SDI or if you have already graduated, you can be assured that Caitlin Mullins has put in a lot of hard work on your behalf. She has seen the school grow from students having to mail in projects to now being able to use the dynamic online environment offered. And she is excited to see what the future holds for Sonoran Desert Institute.

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