Name: Yvonne Bowers
Hometown: Bakersfield, MO
Currently Resides: Caulfield, MO
Occupation: Technology Assistant
All Degrees and Certificates Received: AAS in Technology-Advanced Industrial Maintenance; AAS in Technology-Manufacturing Technology; AAS in Technology-Advanced Fabrication and Welding; Certificates in Introduction Flux-Cored Arc Welding, Introduction Gas Metal Arc Welding, Introduction Shielded Metal Arc Welding, Principles of Welding, Welding Safety, Welding Math and Measurement, Advanced Flux-Cored Arc Welding, Advanced Gas Metal Arc Welding, Advanced Shielded Metal Arc Welding from Missouri State-West Plains, 2022
“I found Missouri State University-West Plains to be a great environment to learn in.”
Like many of her colleagues, Yvonne Bowers found herself at a crossroads several years ago when Regal-Beloit closed the doors of its manufacturing plant in West Plains and moved its processes to Mexico. But she discovered new opportunities and a new path forward at Missouri State University-West Plains (MSU-WP).
“When I enrolled at MSU-WP, I had just lost my job of 25 years because of the plant closing. I had been a part of the maintenance team there for most of that time, and I guess you could say it was my world. But I had always wanted to go to college, and I saw this as my opportunity,” she said.
Yvonne utilized funding from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Program to pay for her classes at MSU-WP. Through TAA, workers who have lost their jobs due to such things as mass layoffs, global trade dynamics or transitions in economic sectors can receive funds for retraining.
Yvonne had taken a few of MSU-WP’s courses offered at the Greater Ozarks Center for Advanced Technology (GOCAT) through her job at Regal-Beloit for professional development, and she found it to be a great environment in which to learn. Even so, Yvonne was nervous about attending college full time.
“Having been out of high school for 35-plus years when I began my college adventure, I had no idea what to expect, and to be honest, there was a fair amount of fear,” she said. “But the instructors tell you from the beginning they will not allow you to fail.”
“The whole experience was unique.”
Yvonne thrived in the college environment and embraced a host of new experiences that gave her a new perspective on life and helped her develop into the person she is today. She served an internship with the City of West Plains and was part of the team that helped install the new Solar Array, allowing her to utilize newly developed skills in its construction.
She enjoyed the general education classes she was required to take, as well. “Honestly, those were the classes I dreaded the most,” she said. “History was fascinating! After taking the class, I realized I knew very little about the history of our nation. The writing classes were a challenge to me, but they compelled me to look at things with an open mind and think of them from all sides.
“But the most challenging and creative classes I took were the advanced welding and fabrication classes,” Yvonne added. “I went from knowing almost nothing about building something with metal to learning a new profession and creating my own designs.”
“I have seen doors open to me that I did not even know existed.”
Yvonne’s experience at MSU-WP has been life changing. “My main goal when I started college was to graduate, but since then I have found I have a new life to look forward to. Doors have opened, new challenges have presented themselves. I have always enjoyed learning new things, and I am doing that now.”
One of those newly opened doors was MSU-WP’s own workforce development office. With its technology programs expanding and new requests coming in from area industries for customized training, officials needed someone trained in all the technology programs offered to serve as a technology assistant. Yvonne fit that bill.
Beginning this fall, she will teach new students the same skills she learned; assist other instructors with class projects, as needed; help keep student records; and assist with the recruitment of new students, among other duties. She also will continue her own training as an apprentice learning how to maintain and repair the equipment used for MSU-WP’s technology programs.
“My greatest professional accomplishment has been taking what I had learned before college, adding it to what I’ve learned at college and seeing a new future for myself, one I had not even thought of,” Yvonne said.
“Go and get what you want!”
Yvonne sums up her experience at MSU-WP as challenging and rewarding. “There were times I had to keep telling myself ‘You can do this!’, but the times when I made a good grade, completed a difficult assignment or learned a new skill were great,” she explained.
She encourages anyone who is considering enrolling at MSU-WP to take the leap. “If I could give a prospective student any advice, it would be to not talk yourself out of going to college. Do not wait until an opportunity is presented to you like I did. There is a world of possibilities out there that you may not even be aware of. You do not have to settle for what life brings. Go and get what you want!”