Driven to Change

Life, family and a change in direction leads one woman down a non-traditional path.

Three years after starting over, Emily Hatsigeorgiou is graduating from Washtenaw Community College with an Associate in Applied Science Degree in Automotive Services Technology and has landed a full-time job with General Motors, a company she calls her “forever home.”

Like 55 percent of the students attending Washtenaw Community College, Hatsigeorgiou is what you would call a non-traditional student. She got married, started a family and joined the workforce after high school. Everything was going well until 2015, when she found herself divorced, living with her parents and unhappy with the direction her career was heading. It was then that she made the decision to take charge of her life and make a change.

“I sat down with my parents and said, ‘while I’m living here and I have your assistance, why not go back to school and do something else and change the direction I’m going?’“ Hatsigeorgiou recalled.

“The choice to leave my job, start school and make a transition into a new career field seemed daunting, but I’m happy to say it was the best decision of my life.”

The Howell resident learned of Washtenaw Community College’s Automotive Services Technology program through her father who worked with several WCC alumni at GM. The selling point for Hatsigeorgiou
was the knowledge and experience WCC faculty members demonstrated.

“The attention and support faculty and staff provide students at WCC is unmatched,” she said.

Hatsigeorgiou began classes in January 2016 and her path has since unfolded nicely.

“I was still trying to figure everything out when I first started this program, so I didn’t have a set path, but (automotive) was the general area I wanted to be in,” she explained.

When she began taking classes at WCC, Hatsigeorgiou readily admits she knew very little about the auto industry, but that did not stop her from immersing herself in anything she could do to learn more.

While a student, she applied and was hired by the WCC automotive department to be a shop assistant, so she could gain more hands-on experience outside of the classroom. She also volunteered her time building race cars, attending national auto symposiums and participating in automotive trade associations.

In spring of 2017, Hatsigeorgiou found out about an internship opportunity with General Motors – where she hoped to start her
new career.

“I was overjoyed. This was the opportunity I was waiting for,”
she said.

“When I first interviewed Emily for the internship, I had my doubts,” said Brad Stricklin, Engineering Group Manager at GM and Hatsigeorgiou’s internship supervisor. “However, her professionalism and zeal in the interview convinced me to take a chance on her, and I’m glad I did.
She far exceeded my expectations in many regards.”

Hatsigeorgiou was accepted into GM’s summer intern program at the Milford Proving Grounds where part of her responsibilities included working on crash simulation testing.

Hatsigeorgiou’s tenure at WCC has allowed her to find a new career and land a full-time job. Because of WCC’s low tuition rates and flexible class schedule, she plans to return to WCC in the fall while working at GM. She will enroll in the pre-engineering transfer program and continue her educational goal of becoming a mechanical engineer.

“During my internship I was able to work closely with the engineers and see how important the role of the technician was to making these costly tests successful,” Hatsigeorgiou explained. “Starting as a technician responsible for setting up the crash test vehicles will help make me a better engineer.”

Being female in a male-dominated industry has not caused roadblocks for the standout student.

“I think for this industry to continue to flourish, we’re going to have to have more women that want to make the plunge into it,” Hatsigeorgiou commented.

She enjoys the industry because of its passionate workers, constant evolution, and drive to change the world. Hatsigeorgiou plans eventually to hold a leadership position.

For now, she will work in the same building as her father, which is a dream come true, she said.

“I call General Motors my ‘forever company,’ ” Hatsigeorgiou explained. “I don’t ever want to put in another application anywhere else.”
WCC offers numerous certificate programs in the automotive industry, including welding machines, collision repair and service technology, to name a few.


WCC STUDENT RECEIVES NATIONAL INTERNSHIP HONORS

The Cooperative Education and Internship Association (CEIA) recently selected Emily Hatsigeorgiou as Intern of the Year winning their 2018 CEIA Two-Year Student Achievement Award. This national award recognizes one student for excellence in work-integrated learning at a two-year institution. The selection committee was highly impressed by Emily’s drive to return to school as a nontraditional student and a mother in a male-dominated industry.

Barbara A. Hauswirth, Experiential Learning Coordinator at Washtenaw Community College nominated Emily for the award, which will be presented at the CEIA’s annual conference in Charleston, South Carolina on April 18.

AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE
TECHNICIANS AND MECHANIC
QUICK FACTS
$38,470/YEAR
$18.50/hour
2016 Median Pay

749,900 JOBS
Number of Jobs in 2016

6% JOB OUTLOOK
Job Outlook, 2016–26

SOURCE:
bls.gov

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