As a high school student with a solid foundation in chemistry, Stephanie Puckly had her future all planned—go to college for four years, earn a bachelor’s degree, then apply to medical school. Finding the right college fit would be easy. She wanted to be a doctor.
Then, right before her senior year of high school, she discovered that she needed to meet a vocational technology requirement in order to graduate.
Puckly chose welding as her tech-elective to challenge herself and, as what she referred to as “a friendly competition with her father” to show her dad, a logger, that she could do something better than he could.
Turns out, Puckly not only liked welding, she was good at it. So good, that her teacher suggested she major in welding in college.
Major in welding? Not go to med school? No way.
When she brought the idea to her parents, they surprised her by suggesting she visit a nearby company to see what welding is like in industry.
Her dad’s advice: “Lincoln Electric is in Cleveland, just 2 hours away. Go see what welding has to offer.”
She returned, fired up at the idea of majoring in welding.
Choosing the right college fit
A college level degree in welding is usually earned in either a certificate program or through a two-year associate degree program. Puckly wanted more than that. She wanted a four-year degree and, after touring the Pennsylvania College of Technology’s campus and their state-of-the-art welding lab, she was hooked. Penn College turned out to be a perfect fit. Here, she could earn a degree in welding at the associate level and pursue a bachelor’s degree in engineering.
Puckly, now a junior at Penn College, will graduate in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Welding and Fabrication Engineering. Her engineering background, combined with the internships that have taken her all the way to the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, have prepared her future welding jobs and also for a career that not only combines her love of welding but also her skill at problem solving, critical thinking, math and science.
“There is so much physics and chemistry in welding. Internships really opened my eyes beyond the world of welding, especially when combined with the chemical and physical elements.”
Welding and course work
Puckly took a “full load” of course and lab work in college. During her freshman year, she took 18-21 credits each semester and spent half her day in the welding lab and the remainder studying math, science, and physics.
“You can’t learn welding out of a book. We thoroughly get an understanding of what the process is for each type of welding.”
For a girl who originally had her sight set on becoming a doctor, the combination of hands-on learning in the lab and rigorous coursework in math and science was exactly what she sought and expected from her college experience.
But, you can’t study all the time.
Aside from Penn College offering the major and degree level she wanted, Puckly loved the opportunities for outdoor fun and adventure. Trap shooting, hiking, kayaking, and the walking along the Riverwalk are just some of the activities she enjoys and they all are just a block from the college. She sums it up well: “I don’t like to be inside.”
Advice for incoming freshmen
“Take advantage of everything the college offers, especially the electives. I took a scuba class and now I’m scuba certified. It was one of the coolest fitness electives I’ve ever had. Penn College also has one of the best archery programs in the country. Students don’t realize how much we have to offer.”
From a high school elective to a vocation and a career path, Puckly is confident she made the right choice and found the right college fit.
“I am welding because I enjoy it so much. I would rather not have to work a day in my life. I want to go do my hobby. Welding does not feel like a job to me.”