Soaring to the stars

Senior Landon Toler once doubted his engineering abilities. But after transferring to Mizzou as a sophomore, he discovered the school and major he’d always been looking for.

  • Landon Toler in his graduation garb

Nov. 14, 2023
Contact: Deidra Ashley,

Being a Tiger was always Columbia native Landon Toler’s destiny, but he didn’t realize it at first. As a freshman, Toler avoided engineering out of fear that it would be too difficult, but quickly discovered that what he was afraid was also what he enjoyed most. After transferring to the University of Missouri during his sophomore year, Toler found comfort in the familiar culture at the university and finally pursued a major he was truly passionate about.

Read on for a Q&A with Toler about his Mizzou experience.

Why did you transfer to Mizzou?

About a year into college, I realized the major I had selected just wasn’t interesting to me. I am someone who struggles to do well at things that I am not interested in, so I told myself I would pick a new major that excited me. Unfortunately, my previous university didn’t have an engineering program, but since I grew up a Tiger and had plenty of Mizzou alumni in my family, the University of Missouri was the obvious choice. Once I arrived and experienced the student organization activities and traditions of the College of Engineering, I knew I was in the right place.

Did you have a defining moment while choosing your major?

I’ve always loved engineering, but it’s an intimidating field — which is one of the reasons I initially avoided it in college. My passion for it goes back to fifth grade when I did a capstone project and presentation on the physics behind NASCAR — covering how the cars are built, how they stay on the track, the aerodynamics, the engines and the machines. Today, I’m still exploring related topics through my mechanical engineering major and minors in aerospace engineering and astronomy.

How have you gotten involved on campus?

Involvement in student organizations has been a huge part of my time at Mizzou. When I got to Mizzou, my girlfriend — now fiancée —and I agreed to both go to two student organization meetings for at least a month. I got involved with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the Mizzou Racing Formula SAE team — two organizations that have helped me make new friends and study partners.

I ended up founding my own club, Mizzou AeroTigers, with the former president of ASME. The club competes in aviation design competitions. Currently we are the only aviation design team here at Mizzou, and we're really excited going into this next year to keep improving.

How has AeroTigers paved the way for you and other students to work in the aerospace industry?

Hands-on industry experience is really important. To spend an entire year working on conceptual design and proposal, preliminary design, detailed design, testing and prototyping before the actual performance where we compete to prove our product can achieve mission requirements looks amazing to potential employers. It’s important for students going into similar careers, especially in aviation, to understand those processes and work on a team to accomplish a design goal for an entire year. A lot of our members have worked internships and are now full time with awesome aviation companies like Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Textron, Spirit, Lockheed Martin and Blue Origin.

What people at Mizzou have been a good resource for you?

Dr. Craig Kluever has been fantastic. He is the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. He serves as the academic advisor for AeroTigers and is very knowledgeable, has industry experience and teaches classes specifically over aerodynamics, aircraft, flight performance and aircraft design. A lot of those classes are directly relevant to the work that we're doing in our club. His help has been amazing for our organization.

Story written by Audrey Brown

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