From Keuka College to the U.S. Navy, Vera Freda Intends to Become a Real ‘Top Gun’

A member of the Class of 2020, Vera credits her time at Keuka College for giving her the tools needed to succeed as a flight officer.

Monday, February 6, 2023

As a Student Naval Flight Officer Candidate at the Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida, Vera Freda ’20 is in training to become an NFO — the one giving orders to the Tom Cruise character from “Top Gun.”

“Tom Cruise’s character, Maverick, is the pilot in ‘Top Gun,’” explained Vera, whose rank is Ensign, or ENS Freda. “‘Goose’ is the NFO who sits behind Maverick and does all the communications. When my training is complete, I’ll be directing the pilot, telling them to turn here, fly at this altitude, be in this chunk of air. And I recently began jet advanced training, which takes about a year. Then I’ll have my NFO wings of gold. But I still have a long hard road ahead before I get there.”
Part of Vera’s success in flight school began at Keuka College, where she lauded the College’s Field Period® internship program as confirming both her career choice (education) and the timing of that career (later in life). 
Field Period and Vera’s experience with it are prime examples of one of Keuka College’s core values: Engaging with Curiosity. 
“Knowing that if I’m engaged and curious in what I’m learning, good things happen,” said Vera. “I changed my major to history and political science because I wanted a broader degree in another area I had an interest in. I know I can always come back to teaching. Field Period is one of the most powerful things Keuka College offers and I’m so thankful for it.”
Vera also praises Founding Associate Professor of Child and Family Studies and Associate Professor of Psychology Dr. Nicholas Koberstein, Professor of History Dr. Chris Leahy, and Associate Professor of Political Science Dr. David Pak Leon for giving her the foundation she needed to embrace her curiosity – a vital trait as she earns her NFO wings.
“My professors made me feel comfortable exploring what makes me successful,” Vera recalled. “They are some of the most knowledgeable people in their field, and it was a pleasure to learn from them. Your professors make you feel like you matter at Keuka College, and that makes a huge difference.”

In fact, Vera said she wouldn’t be experiencing the thrills of Naval Officer School without first benefitting from the instruction and support of Keuka College, which helped her gain leadership and communication skills.


“Going to Keuka College, I was able to find myself, find out what was important to me, focus on the things I cared about, and I learned so much. Keuka College gave me the tools I needed to succeed.”

Vera Freda ’20