Women's History Month graphic

Each week during Womxn’s History Month, we’re profiling womxn faculty members who have pursued academic careers in male-dominated professions and have made significant contributions to their fields. Aerospace and defense is one such industry, with womxn comprising only 19.7 percent of the workforce. Similarly, only 20 percent of Air Force officers are womxn.

Joanne Whitlock was a forensic investigator in the Washington, D.C./Northern Virginia area before she followed her family’s legacy and embarked on her military career. She completed Air Force Officer Training School in 2013 and commissioned as a second lieutenant. As a logistics readiness officer, she has deployed to the Middle East and Africa and has been stationed at various locations across the U.S.

When did you become a university faculty member for the first time, and how would you describe your experience? 

I arrived at Cal State San Bernardino in September 2022 after the Air Force selected me to teach Air Force ROTC at the university. Being assigned to this teaching opportunity was competitive — the Air Force wants high-caliber individuals to teach the next generation of military officers. I'm still an active-duty logistics officer, and being on the faculty is a special duty, three-year assignment. I was really excited to take this assignment because I like having a direct influence in shaping the minds of future Air Force officers. Eventually these cadets will serve the highest ranks of our military — maybe someone will even become a general, and I really cherish that responsibility. I lean in on mentoring students, and it's also great for me to shape my leadership style to be more inclusive of the younger population. I absolutely love teaching — it's been a fantastic experience.

Joanne Whitlock, assistant professor of aerospace studies, teaches a ROTC Leading People/Effective Communication II class on Friday, March 1.
Joanne Whitlock, assistant professor of aerospace studies, teaches a ROTC Leading People/Effective Communication II class on Friday, March 1.

What is the best advice you were given when you became a faculty member (or when you decided to pursue a career in academia)? 

My primary career is still with the military, and teaching ROTC here at the university is simply a special temporary assignment away from my normal career field. But the best advice I was given by mentors when I decided to join the military was about leadership and self-confidence, especially going into a career field that's so male dominated. Self-confidence is being secure in who you are physically, mentally, emotionally, and working on yourself and all those aspects consistently. It's not that you necessarily need to be a perfect specimen in any of the three areas, but that you own where you are in your journey with no apologies. That advice was so important, and with that, also not feeling the need to compare yourself to others or not needing to seek constant validation. Obviously, validation is always great. It's a great boost. But don’t allow that to be what defines your self-worth. That was a big thing I learned when I was getting into the military, and it’s what I try to instill in all of my cadets now, especially my female cadets.

What advice would you give students who identify as female who are interested in pursuing a career in your field?  

Besides sharing the advice I was given about leadership and self-confidence, I tell cadets to always be yourself and have faith in yourself. Don't go out and look for a successful personality and try to duplicate it. Obviously, have role models. But always be yourself and have faith in yourself.

A quote that I like is, “Force the world to tell you ‘no,’ then keep going anyway!” More often than not, we let ourselves get in the way, so I always like to remind female students not to be your own hindrance to progress and success.


At CSUSB, we intentionally spell womxn with an X as an objection to the patriarchal idea that womxn are an extension to men and the inclusion of all womxn go beyond just cis-women.