Kelly is a senior admissions representative at the Tulsa Welding School, Jacksonville campus. Kelly joined Tulsa Welding School in November 2015.
Thanks for your time, Kelly. Please tell us a little about your background.
I was born and raised here in Jacksonville. I’ve been in education my entire career. Before I came to TWS, I worked in a university admissions department for eight years. Before that, I was a teacher and worked with students with learning disabilities.
What made you move from teaching to admissions 11 years ago?
I wanted more room for advancement and a change of pace. I do miss teaching sometimes, but what I do now is still very rewarding—going to graduations and watching people change their life is wonderful. It’s similar to the satisfaction I got from teaching children.
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What is it about the job that keeps you coming in?
I honestly love giving students the guidance and the information they need to make an informed decision on what’s best for them. I also like the atmosphere here. It’s very fast tracked. It’s “go, go, go” all the time, and I love that.
What can people expect if they call to inquire about a program?
I’ll go through a phone interview process with them to get to know them a little bit, break the ice and make them comfortable. I want to see where they’re at and what their motivation is. I want them to feel comfortable talking to me. I ask about their current situation: their educational background, if they’re working, if they have a family. Then, of course, I invite them to come into the campus.
What happens when they come in?
I’ll provide them with all the relevant information, take them on a tour and introduce them to faculty. My favorite thing is to put them in a booth to watch someone weld. Many of the students I meet have never seen a welding machine. When they get up close and personal is when their faces light up, just like kids in a toy store! We can talk about welding all we want, but for someone that has never done it, to actually see it makes it feel real.
Do you only deal with welding? TWS Jacksonville offers HVAC and electrical programs, too.
I help students with every program we offer. Our HVAC and electrical programs are very good. I don’t get down to that campus as much as I’d like to, as I’m usually pretty busy here, but when I take students there, we do the same thing. We go through the labs and talk with instructors to help them get a feel for everything.
What happens if they decide not to enroll that day?
I do a follow-up call regardless of whether they enroll. I like to touch base with them to see if they have any questions, just to see how they feel about things. If they’re still not sure, I leave them be for a while, but 9 times out of 10, they call me to come back in. Our programs are that awesome.
What are the most common questions you get asked by students?
Top three: “What makes your school different?” “Do you help with job placement?” “How much is the program?”
How do you answer?
When it comes to other schools, I can’t speak about them accurately. I tell them to do their own research, but we are the largest welding school for a reason! The most significant difference is our job placement. We have an 84% job placement, which is pretty amazing. Our Career Services department works extremely hard to help place out students. When it comes to cost, I go over the standard pricing for everything. But I encourage them to speak with financial aid to see what they might be eligible for in terms of grants, scholarships and so on.
What involvement do you have with students after they’ve enrolled?
I always call them after their first day and continue to keep in touch during the first week. After that, I try to follow up with them at least once every phase to see how they’re doing, even if it’s just a text. I’m a friendly person, so most of my students will stop by to say hi to let me know what’s going on. We also go to graduation, and that’s very rewarding.
Do you have a favorite student success story from your time at the campus?
This one just stands out at the moment. I have a student who has just a couple of weeks left. This student has been in jail and been around the wrong people, but has totally done a 180° since the day we met. They are continuing on to do the pipefitting program, even though they’ve got a job opportunity, which they’re super-excited about. It just makes my heart all warm and fuzzy that this person actually stuck with it through all the obstacles and the naysayers. The student doesn’t have a solid support system, so I feel that I was that person for them, and that’s a good feeling!
How can students help you to help them?
Communication is the key. If you want to help me help you, just do what you say you’re going to do. If you say you’re going to be here at a time, get here at that time. I want to see them graduate!
What advice do you have for students who may be considering attending TWS?
It’s not going to be easy, but you’ll get out what you put in. We offer really awesome programs here, but you’ve got to stick with it. It can be especially hard for students who are working full-time and going to school. That’s a lot, especially if you have kids, so be prepared for that. There are going to be days you want to give up, days when you’ll never want to see this place again, but you’ve got to keep moving forward. The payoff is there. You’ve just got to keep going.