5 (more) things we learned from our 2019 student ambassadors

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By Erin Eagan

 

Year after year, our student ambassadors continue to amaze us. They have faced their fears and are chasing their dreams. Each one of these students serves as a role model for others who face similar situations.

This year’s class once again taught us some valuable lessons. In fact, there was so much to digest that we needed two parts to do it. Read the first installment of this series here. Below is part two of what we learned from our 2019 student ambassadors:

1. Tech colleges stand ready to serve veterans

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Andrew Allison, Madison College

Andrew Allison, Madison College

“I am honored to be part of a technical college that supports my military career…” — Marissa Nicholson

Veterans returning from active duty face unique challenges. After serving our country, our veterans must make the transition back to civilian life. In doing so, many choose to further their education as a way to open up more career possibilities. Our colleges are prepared to help them every step of the way.

Marissa Nicholson is a military veteran who chose that path and is now a student at Milwaukee Area Technical College. “I wanted to make sure I enrolled in a college that would help me gain the technical skills I need in the field I am interested in,” said Nicholson. “My goal is to go into Forensic Science, and I know the Criminal Justice program at MATC will help me attain this goal.”

“I am honored to be a part of a technical college that supports my military career,” she continued. “Even while taking semesters off to serve in various parts of the country I am always welcomed back.”

Andrew Allison obtained a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy where he served for over seven years. “As I transitioned to civilian life, I decided to use my GI Bill benefits to return to school,” he said. When Allison chose a career to pursue, he decided to get training for it at Madison College.

“In the Automotive Technical program, I can apply hands-on knowledge of mechanical and electrical systems to complement my engineering background,” he said. “I’ve been happy with my decision ever since.”

2. Some students thrive in a more intimate setting

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Gregg Udulutch, Lakeshore Technical College

Gregg Udulutch, Lakeshore Technical College

“I wanted to go to a school where someone knew me as me and not just another number in the system…” — Logan Smith

Different personalities lead to different learning styles. While some students enjoy being part of a larger group, others prefer more one-on-one attention found in smaller class sizes.

Logan Smith grew up in a very small town in Northern Wisconsin, and the thought of a big university was overwhelming. “I wanted to go a to school where someone knew me as me and not just another number in the system,” he said. When Smith visited the New Richmond campus at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, something clicked. “It felt just like home.”

Smith is now studying architecture with plans to open his own design firm. “The class sizes are small enough that I get direct engagement, and I’ve had a lot of success there.”

After being out of school for more than a decade, Gregg Udulutch decided to follow his dream of becoming a recruiter, which meant obtaining a degree in Human Resources. “I had a lot of anxiety about going back into a formal education setting,” said Udulutch.

Udulutch knew that in order to succeed, he needed to seek out an environment where he would be comfortable. “The smaller campus size at Lakeshore Technical College really helped me feel like I could belong to something and still keep a sense of myself. When you go to a larger campus, you tend to blend in a crowd. You tend to forget who you are. Lakeshore has helped me regain my confidence in school and myself.”

Udulutch just completed his first year of the associate degree program in Human Resource Administration and he plans to continue his education in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree.

3. Education has given them self-confidence

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Bess Corn, Nicolet College

Bess Corn, Nicolet College

“As I continue my journey, I’m confident I’ll be prepared as a result of my experiences…” — Angela Haney

After sometimes feeling lost and uncertain of what their futures would hold, our ambassadors have since learned that with a career they’re passionate about the sky’s the limit.

Angela Haney was part of a broken family who was forced to be out on her own by the age of 14. “I felt low self-esteem, disappointment and hopelessness,” said Haney. “Gateway helped me recognize my truth and my strengths. As I continue my education journey, I am confident I will be prepared as a result of the experiences at Gateway. I am confident that I will be able to dream big and reach my full potential.”

Prior to enrolling at Nicolet College, Bess Corn was a waitress and admittedly “going nowhere fast” in life. While attending Nicolet, Corn had what she calls a “breakthrough in self-confidence” that she had never before experienced. “With help from my amazing support system, they have helped me lay the foundation for my success now and in the future.” With her newfound confidence, Corn has aspirations of becoming an advocate for Early Childhood Education, perhaps even getting into politics to help bring more funding into education.

4. Transfer opportunities are a big draw

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Evan Whalen, Western Technical College

Evan Whalen, Western Technical College

“I will be returning to UW-Stevens Point with confidence that I will be able to succeed this time around…” — Vikram Gill

Wisconsin’s technical colleges have developed more than 1,100 transfer agreements with four-year public and private colleges and universities. These transfer opportunities played a big role for our ambassadors in their decision-making process. With the success they’ve achieved at technical college, our ambassadors can proceed with confidence as they continue on their path to a bachelor’s degree and beyond.

When Evan Whalen was considering colleges, he focused on two-year schools knowing he could save money while taking classes and later transfer to a four-year college to continue his education. “General education courses (at technical colleges) meet the same standards as those at large universities but at a fraction of the cost,” said Whalen, a student at Western Technical College. “I began to look at different transfer opportunities for technical colleges, and I could not have been happier with the opportunities available at Western,” he said. “This will allow me a smooth transition to another college when I continue my education in the future.” Whalen plans on obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Accounting.

Vikram Gill briefly attended UW-Stevens Point after high school before discovering it wasn’t the right fit. He found a home at Mid-State Technical College, where he is in the Business Management program. After he graduates, he plans to transfer back there to pursue a bachelor’s degree. “I will be returning to UW-Stevens Point with an associate degree in Business Management, confident that I will be able to succeed this time around, with leadership skills and a goal to work in higher education,” said Gill.

5. Inform yourself to alleviate student debt

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Logan Smith, WITC

Logan Smith, Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College 

“You can graduate and get into a career being debt-free…” — Logan Smith

The burden of having student debt affects far too many individuals. It can put your life on hold for years while you pay back your loans. This year’s ambassadors urge future college students to be cognizant of this when thinking about higher education and be informed before making any decisions to help alleviate the burden of debt.

Joseph Maier has some advice for others based on his own experience. “Being young and living with your parents you don’t quite grasp the severity of putting down $20,000 a year for a four-year university,” he said. “Take some time when you’re 18 to think about what’s best for you financially.”

Logan Smith agrees. “Having the knowledge that you’re not going to be in debt after you graduate is really something to behold,” he said. “You can graduate and get into a career being debt-free.”

Special thanks goes out to Baird Public Finance, who has sponsored the WTCS State Ambassador program since its inception more than a decade ago.

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