ATLANTA — From a young age, Jai Ferrell (M.A. ’08) said she was taught she could do anything — even fly. Fittingly enough, the Georgia State University graduate is now on the leadership team at the busiest airport in the world.
Ferrell, who was recently named to the Georgia State Alumni Association’s 40 Under 40, is the chief commercial officer and deputy general manager at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
She oversees a revenue portfolio which exceeds $1 billion, and supervises passenger and cargo air service, airline affairs and commercial property management.
Ferrell said her mother, Lolita Ferrell, who worked at Georgia State for more than two decades, was the first person to persuade her she could work in the aviation industry.
“My mom is a retiree of Georgia State after serving over 28 years,” Ferrell said. “Recalling how much of her life she served the institution, coupled with the number of other alumni that could have been honored, makes this very special.”
With a background in sports and entertainment marketing and experience working with brands such as CNN, Turner, Cartoon Network and the Atlanta Braves, Ferrell said she didn’t expect to end up in the aviation industry.
“I would have never thought of being in the aviation field and now I’m one of the youngest senior leaders in aviation in the world,” Ferrell said. “This is a personal achievement because I didn’t know my own strength. It’s a little surprising, but I really believed that I could fly and one day I just took flight.”
Ferrell earned a master’s degree in communication from Georgia State in 2008 and started working at the airport in 2016 as head of marketing and branding. She became assistant general manager of the airport’s Commercial Development Division in 2020 and was promoted to her current role in 2022.
When the Super Bowl was held in Atlanta in 2019, she served on the airport’s planning committee, tapping into her prior experience working in sports marketing to help coordinate NFL team arrivals, team plane parking, team paraphernalia displays and the onsite traveler experience.
“It’s really amazing to stretch yourself and defy the limits of what you think you can do,” Ferrell said. “This was my own personal Super Bowl.”
Ferrell said her mother and grandmother taught her that she could be anything or do anything.
“They taught me to believe I could fly,” Ferrell said. “In the next five years I may become the general manager of an airport or get into the automotive industry or run for public office. You never know. I truly believe that I can do anything.”