MTSU names aviation veteran new chair of Departmen...

MTSU names aviation veteran new chair of Department of Aerospace

Middle Tennessee State University has named experienced aviation professor Chaminda S. Prelis as the new chair of its nationally recognized Department of Aerospace.

Dr. Chaminda Prelis, chair, Aerospace Department

Dr. Chaminda Prelis

Prelis comes to MTSU from the University of Dubuque in Dubuque, Iowa, where he was most recently the director of aviation programs after also having served as the program’s head of academics as well as an assistant and associate professor during his 12 years there. Prelis takes the reins of the MTSU program effective Aug. 1.

“MTSU clearly has one of the top aerospace programs in the nation, so maintaining its high quality is essential,” said MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee. “Bringing on someone of Dr. Prelis’ caliber and experience will help us continue to produce the highly trained pilots and other aviation professionals who are providing the workforce of the present and future.”

Prelis earned his master’s and bachelor’s degrees in aviation from the University of North Dakota and also holds a commercial pilot certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration. He has a doctorate in business administration from Northcentral University in San Diego, California.

Dr. Sidney A. McPhee, MTSU president

Dr. Sidney A. McPhee

Dr. Mark Byrnes, university provost

Dr. Mark Byrnes

“Our Aerospace program has a lot of moving parts — both literally and figuratively — and is home to the most undergraduate majors of any department,” MTSU Provost Mark Byrnes said. “We worked hard to hire the best leader we could, and I am very pleased that Chaminda will be joining us in that role.”

Professionally, Prelis worked in various management roles for Northwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines before joining the faculty at the University of Dubuque. He comes to a signature MTSU program that boasts 20 full-time faculty members, 100-plus flight instructors and more than 1,000 majors, placing it among the largest of the nation’s collegiate aviation programs.

“I am excited by the opportunity to work with an exceptionally talented team of individuals within the Aerospace Department,” Prelis said. “Moreover, I look forward to meeting the students, supporting their goals, and preparing them for future challenges.”

Dr. Wendy Beckman

Dr. Wendy Beckman

Prelis takes over for MTSU aerospace professor and former chair Wendy Beckman, who is returning to teaching full time after shepherding the the program through a dynamic period of growth, from upgrades to its fleet housed at Murfreesboro Airport to additions of state-of-the-art flight simulators to renovations of instructional space.

“Wendy has been an excellent chair, leading the department through a time of tremendous growth and adroitly handling a variety of complex issues that came her way,” Byrnes said.

MTSU’s Aerospace program offers six concentrations: aviation management, aerospace technology, flight dispatch, maintenance management, professional pilot, and unmanned aircraft systems operations. A master’s degree in aeronautical science, with concentrations in aviation education, aviation management, and aviation safety and security management is also offered.

In addition to the above concentrations, the Aerospace Department offers an Air Traffic Control add-on program, which allows graduates to be recommended to the FAA for air traffic controller training and hiring.

For more information about MTSU’s Aerospace Department, go to

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