Former mill employee charts new course with IT degree

May 16, 2013

From marshfieldnewsherald.com: “Former Whiting Mill employee charts new course with IT degree” — Dawn Zieher never considered working anywhere other than a paper mill.

A Pittsville native, Zieher said she had family that worked in the paper industry, and she began thinking about it in eighth grade. At 19 years old, she was hired at NewPage Corp.’s Whiting mill, where she worked for more than 26 years. When the mill closed in February 2011, she was working as a rewinder operator, cutting up rolls of paper into smaller sections.

“I was shocked,” Zieher said of the closure. “I had to figure out something to do. I always thought about going back to school, but I had been doing shift work, which didn’t really give me a chance to.”

Zieher, 48, of Stevens Point, said she had a general interest in computers, and settled on Mid-State Technical College based in part on location and cost. On Thursday, she will graduate with other students from the Stevens Point campus with an information technology-network specialist degree.

“I liked the classes they offered, and how the faculty treated students,” Zieher said. “I wouldn’t have thought a couple of years ago that I would be graduating with this kind of degree, but this was a great choice for me.”

Kathryn Doar is an instructor of IT-network specialist courses at MSTC, and she has been at the college for 51/2 years. Of the 15 students graduating with that degree this week, Doar said four, including Zieher, are displaced workers.

“Those kinds of students come in here with a great past work experience and a real drive to learn everything they can,” Doar said.

Doar said Zieher is regularly among those students who put in extra hours to learn, whether it is fixing computers in the college’s PC Clinic or volunteering to work on networks for the Rosholt Library and Big Brothers Big Sisters. She also has helped set up the new IT-network specialist lab at Mid-State’s new downtown Stevens Point campus, scheduled to open in January 2014.

While she’s involved now, Zieher admits that college wasn’t always so easy for her.

“It was a total 180 for me. When I was in school the last time, it was paper and pencil, and we used to look things up at the library,” Zieher said. “I felt overwhelmed, but the instructors here made a big difference because they were always very willing to answer any question I had.”

Zieher said she isn’t exactly sure what her next job will be, but that she’s interested in possibly working with computer servers and would be willing to move if necessary. She will benefit from the college’s near 100 percent placement rate for graduates in her field.

“I’ve been able to get a lot of experience at school, so I feel like I have options,” Zieher said.

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