WNC News & Notes: Western Nevada College students net career advancement

David Russell graduated from Western Nevada College with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Automated Systems on Monday in Carson City.

David Russell graduated from Western Nevada College with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Automated Systems on Monday in Carson City.

David Russell can finally get a good night’s sleep again.

The father of two from Fernley didn’t sleep much while providing for his family and simultaneously studying Automated Systems in Western Nevada College’s Advanced Manufacturing program.

Russell graduated on Monday with an Associate of Applied Science in Automated Systems. It capped a dream that began more than three years ago.

“Graduating was a huge accomplishment, not just for me, but also for my family who has supported me the whole way,” Russell said. “I’m showing my kids to get their degrees before starting a family, because if not, they can still get one, but it is a lot harder.”

The former Navy machinist decided to return to school after working in building maintenance for Renown and U.C. Davis medical centers.

“After talking to a couple of friends who work in manufacturing, I realized that was the area I wanted to specialize in and still use the 15 years of experience that I already had,” Russell said. “I started looking for a school that taught automation, I looked all over Northern Nevada and online courses also. WNC had the degree I was looking for.”

In order to return to school, Russell needed to work the graveyard shift at Renown.

“Staying on that shift was the only way I would be able to complete my degree in only a couple of years,” said Russell, who has an 11-year-old son and an 8-year-old daughter. “I was able to be flexible with morning and evening classes, since I still needed to work full time to provide for my family. I would study for a couple of hours after I dropped the kids off at school, at the dance studio or at the ball fields. The hardest part was that I only slept about four hours on the days I worked.”

Russell’s full schedule hasn’t slowed down his academic excellence. He was an Associated Students of Western Nevada’s 2016-17 Career and Technical Education award recipient. He also earned the Manufacturing Technician (MT1) credential and a Siemens Mechatronic Systems Association certification, an internationally recognized credential in automation and industrial systems. Russell also was part of WNC’s first Mechatronics cohort.

“The program is well-designed and it provided me with a lot of industry training, as well as hands-on experience,” Russell said. “The program is set up to encourage critical thinking, which is the most important part of troubleshooting equipment.”

Russell has already found a great job as a result of his training.

“My degree and the Siemens certification already gave me a huge boost in my career. A few weeks ago, I accepted a position at a brand-new FedEx facility,” said Russell, who’s a Maintenance Technician II responsible for performing preventive maintenance and troubleshooting of electrical, pneumatic, mechanical and all of the automated systems.

“David worked in a variety of team settings comfortably and he inspired his fellow students to share ideas and collaborate using his calm demeanor — these are things that will propel him forward in his career,” said Emily Howarth, professor of Electronics and Industrial Technology at WNC.

Summer classes begin June 12. Students interested in Advanced Manufacturing may contact Howarth at Emily.Howarth@wnc.edu.

O’Neill Takes Nontraditional Path to Bachelor’s Degree in Construction Management

As a college student in the 1970s, Martha O’Neill focused on a form of art, obtaining an associate degree in music performance at State University of New York at Onondaga Community College.

Decades later, O’Neill has completed a 180-degree turn in her education by earning a Bachelor of Technology in Construction Management degree. The Sparks resident was part of WNC’s graduating class Monday.

O’Neill married, raised two children, dealt with unemployment and overcame the death of a loved one before finishing here bachelor’s degree.

“Completing the program has always been my vision,” O’Neill said. “I had taken a few drafting classes at WNC and really enjoyed them. When the Construction Management program was announced, I decided to go for it.

“It’s been important for me to impress upon my children that goals are achievable, even if they don’t seem possible. Along the way, I discovered that embracing the journey was equal to achieving the goal.”

A supportive husband who was a participating parent made O’Neill’s return to college smoother.

“Life takes unexpected turns. When I began at WNC in 1998, my oldest was 9 years old and my youngest was a toddler. My husband was my cheerleader. He eased the road for me, making it possible for me to return to school by being with our children when I was at school and financing my dream,” O’Neill said.

To minimize her time away from her family, O’Neill usually took 1-2 classes per semester.

“There have been times that the journey has been difficult logistically — getting time off from my job to make it to campus on time, leaving my children for the evening, focusing on anything after the loss of my husband,” she said. “In class, there have been times when I’ve had a ‘deer in the headlights’ stare about a topic or a term I knew nothing about. But I’ve learned volumes from my instructors and classmates, many of whom are in the trades and for whom I have great respect. Everyone of these people has coached and encouraged me by explaining a process or a term. They don’t know it, but their collaboration helped me complete this program. I am grateful for every one of them.”

O’Neill plans to continue working in the resort industry and evolving as she resumes an interior design certification program.

“I plan to start my own interior design firm sometime in the future,” O’Neill said.

WNC Specialty Crop Institute Presents Hoop House Structures & Season Extension Workshop

Western Nevada College Specialty Crop Institute will offer “Hoop House Structures & Season Extension” workshop on Friday, June 16, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the University of Nevada, Reno Desert Farming Initiative, 1000 Valley Road in Reno. The cost is $30 if registered by June 9 and $35 after this date. Online registration is available at www.wnc.edu/specialty-crop-institute.

Attendees will learn about the different types of hoop houses, design and materials and how they affect production, as well as season extension practices. The workshop will feature a producer panel discussion and a tour of hoop houses at UNR, including a movable hoop house that was recently constructed. The workshop is a collaboration of the WNC Specialty Crop Institute and the Desert Farming Initiative at University of Nevada, Reno.

Featured speaker Diane Green of Greentree Naturals, a certified organic farm in Sandpoint, Idaho, is a well-known workshop presenter in the Northwest and has taught in the Cultivating Success program at the University of Idaho since its inception.

Information/registration: Ann Louhela at ann.louhela@wnc.edu or 775-423-7565, ext. 2228.


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