Bismarck State College
Plant Operator Apprentice (NLO), South Texas Project
Growing up with her father working in the nuclear industry in health physics gave Vanessa a first hand look at the industry. “I’ve known since I was 18 that I wanted to work in the nuclear power industry. Not for the money but for the stability,” she states. After high school she earned some college credits but ended up working in the plastics industry. She found the online EPCE-sponsored Nuclear Power Technology (NUPT) program at Bismarck State College (BSC) while searching online. She mapped out the steps necessary to accomplish the degree and then started classes.
While taking classes, Vanessa was working full time and raising two pre-teens. She found it challenging at times to balance school, work and her home life, but her children were supportive. “They knew it was only for a short period of time.” Vanessa also recommends to new students, “Prepare your family ahead of time. Show them the coursework and let them know what you need to accomplish.” “My father was a bit reserved about the program at first. Now, he has really come around and is raising awareness about the EPCE/BSC program by sharing my success story at different plants across the country.”
According to Vanessa, her online learning experience was, in a word, “Awesome!” “I loved the block style courses that BSC offered. It allowed me to focus on one class at a time – 100%.”
When asked about tips for other online students, she recommends, “Be in touch with your instructor and make postings, even if you think they are foolish. Other students probably have the same questions.” Vanessa also cannot thank one of her instructors, William Waddell, enough. “He was unbelievably helpful,” she proclaims. “Even when I was in other instructors’ classes, he would help me out. He also introduced me to former students who worked in the industry.”
Vanessa accomplished her goal of working in the nuclear industry by recently joining South Texas Project. “I received a job offer within six months of earning my degree.” In her new position, she points out, “It is very competitive to get into the apprenticeship program. After passing the aptitude test and getting hired, you still need excellent study habits to succeed like those I developed in the online classes.” Vanessa is also excited to be able to join her local IBEW soon. “I want to vote and have my voice heard during contract negotiations.”
Vanessa excelled in the program and was awarded by BSC the 2008 Outstanding Student Award for the nuclear program. She was also on the President’s Honor Roll and has been invited to join the Phi Theta Kappa, where she has been offered several scholarships to continue her education. “Right now I want to focus on my first year at South Texas Project, and then I would like to pursue my Bachelor’s degree, definitely in an online program.”