How doing business at EITC changed my life

Education

Last month, I participated in Eastern Idaho Technical College’s “Doing Business at EITC” promotional campaign (see the ridiculous photo to the right). During the workshop I had a chance to reflect on my first impressions of the school and how it drastically changed over the years.

I wasn’t asked to tell my story, nor am I officially endorsing the school. But as EITC’s promotional campaign is in full swing, I figured this was a good time to talk about my decision to attend the school.

A skeptical beginning

At one time, I wasn’t a big fan of Eastern Idaho Technical College.

Years ago, as a cocky journalism graduate, I was given the opportunity to do technical training at EITC. The lessons on social media in business were far from bad. In fact, I remember learning a great deal. But I was unimpressed by the institution itself.

To me, the technical school seemed barely removed from high school. And worse, the school catered to people who needed second chances — the high school dropouts or middle-aged minimum wage workers I believed had wasted life’s opportunities.

Back then, armed with a still-crisp bachelor’s degree and already employed in a respectable career field, I placed myself above the certificate and associate degree seekers at Idaho Falls’ tiny tech school.

Today though, I’m truly ashamed to have felt that way. Looking back, that opinion seems a staggering act of stupidity on my part, because I couldn’t have been more wrong about Eastern Idaho Technical College.

The reasons I did business at EITC

My opinions of EITC began to change as I was asked to cover stories at the school as an education reporter.

Albiston

My first light bulb moment — when I discovered EITC was more than meets the eye — was during my initial meeting with then-president Dr. Steve Albiston. Over the years, I’ve interviewed a number of college and university presidents, but none of them left an impression like Albiston.

Rather than talk educational policy, state politics or finances, Albiston spent that first meeting talking about his love for the remarkable students at his school. He obviously knew them and could relate to them. He was well-spoken, but down-to-earth — a breath of fresh air from long-winded academic jargon that typified most interviews with university officials.

He offered me his cell phone number and asked how he could make himself most available to work with. That was so atypical, I was blown away. And he meant it. I don’t ever remember a time as a reporter or a student I couldn’t reach him.

I figured if a man of that caliber was in charge of EITC, there had to be more to the school.

My second “aha” moment came years later, as I looked around and realized that yes, newspapers really were going the way of the telegraph. With layoffs and cutbacks in newspapers becoming the norm, it was apparent the ability to write by itself, would not ensure a successful career in journalism.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to leave the industry, or simply gain more skills to adapt to the change. But regardless, I felt stuck in a rut. I worried perhaps I had wasted some of my career and needed that dreaded second chance.

Web development and programming languages intrigued me, so I decided to pursue that path.

But after years on a reporter’s salary, and with a family of five, the thought of returning to school was daunting. The thought of taking out more student loans was terrifying.

Thankfully, my relationships with EITC staff and students had given me a glimpse of the school’s economic accessibility. My decision to attend ultimately came down to the school’s low tuition and the fact that I could continue to work full time and go to school full time.

I didn’t know it at the time, but it was one of the best decisions I would ever make.

What I learned and loved about EITC

Being a student at EITC was tremendously different than my first experience at college as an 18-year-old.

At EITC, the classes were much smaller, and everyone’s background was different. My peers ranged in age from 19 to above 60 from both blue- and white-collar professions. Some students had college degrees, and others were the first members of their family to attempt college.

Class discussions among students with backgrounds this varied was fascinating. Everyone brought something new and unique to the table, and everyone benefited. Plus, there was a clear understanding that we would succeed or fail as a group. It was great.

As a technical school, the education was hands-on, not theoretical. We learned by writing code and producing websites, which forced us to rely on each other to grow and succeed. We even found ourselves on occasion teaching the teacher.

We decided as a class to test our knowledge in two state skills competitions and came away with several first-place awards. We also participated in a start-up weekend event, where we had to develop a full product in just 48 hours.

These experiences were so valuable, not only in teaching me new skills, but showing me how the skills could be applied in a variety of fields.

The internship I was required to take — even though it was a financial hardship — taught me even more. It also led me to a job opportunity, which eventually transformed into my position at EastIdahoNews.com.

EITC_Web

The bottom line

As a journalist, I can’t officially endorse or recommend EITC, but I can say I am glad it is part of the eastern Idaho community. I’ve seen the school change the lives of many local students and teachers.

As a student, EITC changed my life. The education I received, the life-lessons I learned, and the associations I made are things I will treasure for the rest of my life.

I’m glad I chose to do business at EITC.

Disclaimer: Managing Editor Nate Sunderland is a graduate of Eastern Idaho Technical College, and has been featured in EITC promotional material. However, this column was not solicited by the school, nor did Sunderland received any compensation from EITC for writing it. The views expressed in this column also are not representative of EastIdahoNews.com or its parent company, Riverbend Holdings.

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