Aerial view of the Dowagiac campus

SMC graduate going places

Adam Houin, right, with United interns at Boeing

Summer flew by for Adam Houin.

The 2011 Southwestern Michigan College graduate is finishing an internship conducting internal audits for United Airlines.

Since starting May 19, the Buchanan High School product winged his way to Seattle, London and Trinidad and Tobago, the twin island country off the coast of Venezuela.

Accounting “can be exciting,” said Houin, who started at SMC in 2008 intending to become a mechanical engineer.

“I wasn’t into that like I thought I was,” he said.

Instead, he worked for two years in the SMC Business Office with staff accountant Stephanie Lyons.

“She was kind of my mentor,” he said. “I’m grateful for all I learned from her.”

Houin works on the 15th floor of Willis Tower, the 108-floor Chicago skyscraper that is America’s tallest building.

“The views are awesome,” he said.

Houin has a 15-minute walk from Greektown to what he and many others still call the “Sears Tower.”

Houin has not ventured up to the 103rd floor “Skydeck” with the glass-box Ledge he’s seen before.

Instead, he roams the Loop “to get my bearings” and explores the vast dining options available.

“My family used to come to Chicago a couple of times a year,” Houin said.

He claims to be afraid of heights, though he took up rock climbing in SMC’s Student Activity Center.

“SMC got me started. Everyone should try it once. I’m terrified of heights, but I love it” and continues to climb.

United, which employs 86,000, including pilots, flight attendants and front-line airport agents, occupies 16 floors with 4,100 global headquarters employees.

Continental Airlines of Houston merged with United’s parent company, UAL Corp. (now United Continental Holdings, or UCH), in a $3 billion stock swap in October 2010.

Their integration was complete March 3, 2012.

United Airlines and United Express operate an average of 5,341 flights daily to more than 360 airports across six continents.

From SMC, Houin transferred to 5,000-student Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., where he is simultaneously completing bachelor’s and master’s degrees he expects in May.

A native of West Lafayette, Ind., Houin said family members attended Purdue University, but “I didn’t want to get lost in the numbers at a big school. I wanted something with more of a community feel.”

“One of the big reasons I wound up at SMC was the university feel” combined with a lower community college cost.

Working for an airline always interested Houin.

“For 12 years, my dad and I were big into radio-controlled aircraft, flying them at different airfields.”

So when United sent a representative to Bradley’s fall internship fair, “It worked out really well,” he said, admitting he felt “speechless” when the offer was actually made.

He’ll know soon whether he can continue with the company.

“With auditing, people think of policing and that’s not really the case,” Houin said. “We’re just there to help efficiency in a consultant’s role.”

One perk of the position was breaks on personal travel.

He flew to London for a friend’s birthday, which he was “less likely to do otherwise.”

His trip to Seattle July 21 meant so much because of his interest in aviation.

Interns visited Boeing’s Everett, Wash., facility, which opened in 1967 to produce the historic 747 jumbo jet, of which more than 1,400 have been built.

In July 1991, Boeing received a construction permit to expand the Everett site, primarily to support the 777 program.

That included a 50-percent increase in what was already the largest building by volume in the world.

“It was really awesome,” Houin said. “The majority of us were drooling with our jaws dropped.”

This summer’s intern class of 102 was the largest United has had, Houin said, encompassing “marketing, social media, flight operations, network planning and finance — any aspect of the company you can think of.”