DR. MAXINE LUBNER: Flying High At Vaughn College

Staff Writer

Over the course of her life, Dr. Maxine Lubner has traveled from her home continent of Africa to the streets of Queens. The experiences she has gone through led her to pursue the field of psychology and public health, which in turn affected nearly every aspect of her career.

Lubner was born in Zimbabwe and was educated in South Africa during the era of Apartheid. Her time in these countries not only set her on a career in public health, but also created her love of airplanes, a field in which she is highly-regarded today.

12 MaxineLubner photo_2014Educated at the University of Cape Town while South Africa was still a British colony, Lubner said she was very aware of the difference of her race, even when she was a child. While she and her family were involved with the anti-Apartheid movement, she said that it was a treacherous period of her life.

During her time at the University of Cape Town, Lubner worked on a project that looked at mental health and how stress or genetics affects it. This work helped take her to Columbia University, a change that came soon after she decided to move to London.

“It was a discussion we had for many years. Should we stay and keep fighting or should we leave? I wasn’t sure if I was brave enough to go through what my friends went through and I wasn’t sure I’d be effective enough. So I decided to leave,” Lubner said.

Fascinated by the work at Columbia University, Lubner accepted the chance to work on social psychology and epidemiology. While she was in graduate school, she also got the chance to complete a childhood dream. Lubner got her pilot certificate.

Lubner’s fascination with airplanes and aviation began when she was a child. Her family used to go on vacation to a beach location that had a large lagoon. Her father would drive around in a beach buggy, racing the small airplanes that were flying over the mountains and landing on the beach.

“They were mysterious, romantic, gorgeous planes,” Lubner said.

Although her love of airplanes fell by the wayside during her education, a tourist flight around New York on a plane with her brother brought that passion back to the forefront. From there, it was only a matter of time before she became an FAA-certified pilot.

As her interest in aviation resurfaced, Lubner began to take all of the work she was doing and center it on airplanes. She continued to do research in the field after graduating, working part-time at New York University for a while.

“Airplane accidents are a public health issue. The causes are mostly social and psychological,” she said. “All the fields I was studying [fit into aviation]. It all kind of came together for me.”

After spending a couple of years taking care of her son, Lubner found her way to Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology, based in Flushing, where her expertise came in handy with the programs it was starting. The college hired her to get the pilot training program off the ground.

“As the department grew, I taught some courses and continued to do research work in aviation and eventually gave up the social work,” she said.

In 2011, Lubner received an invitation to attend the E-G8 forum, which discusses technology matters on a global level. She said that a good portion of the conversations that took place had to do with the Internet and regulations against illegal factors, like child pornography.

As the Internet is changing education as well, Lubner said she is a big believer in multiple methods for teaching. Whether discussing current events or working in groups, an essential skill in aviation, Lubner keeps her students engaged and gets them involved in their field of choice as soon as possible.

“I try to get students connected with people in their field as soon as they can,” she said.

Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125,, or @Joey788.