From engineer to educator

A process technology instructor at SOWELA Technical Community College with students enrolled in the program. (Photo: SOWELA)

Christina “Tina” Stroh is on a mission. She wants to recruit as many instructors as possible from an unlikely yet qualified source: engineer retirees.

“It’s a great way to impact the next generation,” said Stroh. “I think of teaching more as volunteer work in a sense, working to help keep the workforce smart and safe. Those students end up paying taxes and spending money in the communities where they live, which benefits everyone.”

Stroh hasn’t always worked in higher education. A chemical engineer by trade, her career has taken her across the U.S. as a process engineer in chemical plants and refineries.

During a stint at a junior college in North Dakota, she found a love of teaching.

“When I retired, I remembered how much I enjoyed adjunct teaching,” Stroh said. “I knew I had enough energy and knowledge to be impactful, so I wrote a letter to SOWELA [Technical Community College] about my interest in being an instructor.”

Shortly after, she interviewed and secured a full-time faculty position in the college’s process technology program.

“I have never regretted it,” Stroh said. “We (process technology faculty) are doing it because it’s the right thing. This school can be transformative. We have students with all kinds of barriers. They see the well-paying jobs, and we’re here to guide them in that effort.”

Stroh encourages those who have retired from the oil and gas industry to “ask what your daily life looks like. If you’ve got time on your hands, consider teaching. Even two hours a week can make a difference.”

When asked what she would tell someone considering teaching as a second career, Stroh says, “Try it and see! The commitment is not that much. For oil and gas professionals, if you’ve worked in the plants, you have already been trained in procedures and safety, and that’s what matters to our students.”

Stroh’s mission to unite students and retirees creates a helpful and innovative system for both the learner and the teacher, a well-designed plan she hopes every engineer can support.

About the Author

Darlene Hoffpauir
Darlene Hoffpauir is the marketing and communications manager at SOWELA Technical Community College in Louisiana.
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