When Andrea Chatfield moved to Athens in 2012, the southern Ohio native planned on becoming an organic farmer. Three years later an unexpected shoulder injury led her to a pivotal crossroads in her life.
Thirty years-old and with what she described as limited job skills, Chatfield found herself without a job or a backup plan.
She considered going back to school and started to narrow down her possible majors.
Among the key criteria were majors that could provide her with job and financial security.
She ultimately decided her best bets were either something in healthcare or computer science.
Chatfield said she never considered herself to be technologically savvy or good at math, two factors that initially steered her away from computer science.
However, after meeting Tasha Penwell, the Computer Science program manager for Hocking College, Chatfield two things jumped out that caused her to rethink her academic options.
First, Chatfield was inspired by Penwell’s positive attitude. Second, she was comforted by the fact that her future instructor was once a non-traditional like Chatfield.
In Penwell, she believed she’d found someone able to understand her situation and be able to help guide her past any potential pitfalls.
Despite her initial reservations, Chatfield said it was the combination of Penwell’s enthusiasm and backstory that motivated her to give Hocking College’s Computer Science Program a serious try.
While Chatfield admits that tackling math and learning new skills like coding were a challenge at times, her “stubbornness and persistence” allowed her gradually to overcome her fears and insecurities.
“The more time I spent trying new things the more comfortable I became doing them,” she said.
Chatfield finished her courses in May 2020, and she credits much of success to the time Penwell invested in her and other students both inside and outside the classroom.
Besides meeting with Penwell one-on-one every other week, Chatfield accompanied her instructor to computer science-oriented events like conventions and industry meetups — something Penwell offers to all of her students as a way to make connections with potential employers.
Because of those trips, Chatfield said she’s become more comfortable networking and has been able to make connections with industry insiders, many of whom could be future employers.
Another obstacle Chatfield faced was being the only female student in her computer science classes, however, instead of feeling discouraged it inspired her to become a role model to other women in her situation.
One way she sought to help other women was by becoming involved with Girls Who Code -- an organization that motivates young girls to consider careers in computer science as part of their efforts to even out the gender disparity in the industry.
Looking back, Chatfield now sees her shoulder injury as a twist of fate that directed her toward a more promising career path. What began as an intimidating journey into unfamiliar territory left her feeling more confident in her abilities and “hopeful about where my career can take me.”
Penwell said her student’s journey from an organic farmer to a computer science major is amazing, adding that Chatfield’s story is proof that anyone who thinks they aren’t capable of learning a new skill can accomplish it if they simply don’t give up and keep trying.
Now that she's graduated, Chatfield will stick around at Hocking College. She'll serve as a teaching assistant and administrator for the Google IT Professional Certificate offered through by Hocking, Belmont and Washington State Community colleges in collaboration with Google and Jobs for the Future. Penwell is facilitating the certificate program.
Why choose Hocking College for Computer Science?
Hocking College’s Computer Science programs give students the real-world experience they’ll need to find employment as website and application development or network security professionals.
Penwell said that in her conversations with recruiters, she’s been told that while they don’t require college degrees, it’s preference.
“Employers want the college degree because it shows the graduate has some experience being on their own and having accountability,” Penwell said. “That’s the reason they want the college degree.”
More than that preference for many recruiters is support students can get through in-person classroom instruction.
Penwell says the classroom provides more structure for students and gives them a chance to ask their instructor questions as the lesson or lab moves along.
Students in the programs are also encouraged to attend conferences and workshops. Penwell says she tells students when they have the chance to attend as volunteers because they can usually get in for free.
“At Hocking, you not only get that structure in the classroom, but you also get the connections and the resources to go out and connect with people,” Penwell explained. “They get to network, meet with professionals, meet with recruiters and just build those connections and those relationships.”
That process starts in the first semester of classes, so when a student graduates, they’ve established relationships with companies and professionals to help them get a job.
“They’ve learned the soft skills they need to meet with people, work with people, talk with people and just be successful in their particular field,” Penwell said.
Ohio residents who enroll in Hocking’s computer science programs are eligible for a $2,700 scholarship made possible by a Choose Ohio First grant from the Ohio Department of Higher Education.
More about the Website and Application Development Program
Hocking College’s Website and Application Development program prepares students to work as entry-level website or application developers while offering them real-world job experience through community partnerships.
Students also have the opportunity to receive additional certifications through Hocking College’s partnership with Amazon Web Services Educate.
- Critical thinking skills
- Entrepreneurial skills
- Interpersonal communication skills
- Diversity appreciation skills
- Research skills
- Problem-solving skills
Hocking College’s Associate of Applied Science in Website and Application Development degree program also provides students with the academic foundation they’ll need to pursue a bachelor’s degree in website or application development.
- Graduates from the two-year program will learn to:
- Analyze problems they encounter or given.
- Identify the goals, tasks and challenges of their clients expect them to meet, complete and solve.
- Implement the development cycle for websites and applications.
- Construct, modify, implement, query and maintain effective databases.
- Develop and use code.
More about the Cybersecurity and Network Systems Program
Hocking College’s Cybersecurity and Network Systems program provides students with the real-world experience they’ll need to find employment securing data systems for commercial businesses, banks, schools and government agencies.
The hands-on curriculum is designed to teach students how to react to cyberattacks and how to prevent hackers from stealing data and creating havoc in network systems.
Hocking College’s smaller class sizes allow students the one-on-one time with their instructors they’ll need to become proficient in both operating systems and networking technologies.
Students also have the opportunity to receive additional certifications through Hocking College’s partnership with the Cisco Networking Academy.
Students who pursue an Associate of Applied Science in Cyber Security and Network Systems Technology degree at Hocking College learn how to:
- Analyze problems and envelop logical solutions to resolve them.
- Design, implement, maintain and troubleshoot a small business network.
- Document network architecture, hardware and software.
- Install and configure PC-based security software.
- Configure and implement firewalls to protect network infrastructures.