Graduate Spotlight - Administrative Office Technology

Life after textiles means second career

Rená Welzbacher spent 12 years working in the textile industry. The days were long, and the work was physically demanding. She worked four days and had three days off, but two of those days were spent recuperating.

When the job ended, she felt lost. Given the option to attend Greenville Technical College as a way to transition to a new life, Welzbacher selected the Medical Clerical certificate program so that she could find a new job within less than two years.

She completed the certificate in 2005 and went straight into the Physicians Practice Specialist program. Required to complete an internship as part of the program, she chose Safe Kids Upstate, an organization that works to prevent accidental childhood injury. That opportunity led the coalition to hire her on a contract basis once the internship ended.

Six months later, Safe Kids created a permanent position for her, and Rená is now several years into her life after textiles. She continued her education while working, and has also earned an associate degree in Administrative Office Technology from Greenville Technical College. Rená says the challenge was learning to study again, but her instructors were her mentors. "They were very encouraging, especially Mrs. Monson."

Now close to seeing her former textile salary matched, Welzbacher feels the change has been worthwhile. Once a weaver, Rená now never knows what challenges her day may bring.

She relies heavily on the administrative skills - both technical and soft skills - that she learned in her classes and finds there is no typical workday. Compared to what she did before, her new position is an exciting challenge.

"If you've never had a physically demanding job, you almost don't know what work is," she says. "I'm enjoying the chance to put my mind to work."

Going to college means kids can, too

Chris Leonard is going to college so her kids can go to college. With a son at Clemson, a daughter who'll graduate from high school in two years, and another daughter in middle school, Leonard and her husband soon realized that it was going to take a sizable fund for everyone to get an education.

She enrolled in the Administrative Office Technology associate degree program at Greenville Technical College, choosing the medical concentration. When she graduates this spring, she hopes that an administrative position in a medical practice or at a hospital will help pay the college bills.

The medical concentration was a natural choice since while Leonard likes computers and clerical work, her real love is health care. Her favorite classes in the program so far have been medical terminology and biology, and science is an interest that runs in her family.

Going back to school hasn't always been easy, but for Leonard it's been worthwhile.

"All the medical studies nowadays show that the more you keep your brain active as you grow older, the more you'll avoid Alzheimer's and things like that," she says. "I really enjoy the process of continuing to learn."

When the children are far enough along with their educational paths, Leonard plans to return to school once again, earning a nursing degree. She tells her son, who is considering a career as a doctor, that she's either going to work as his office manager or as a nurse in his practice.