Feb 05, 2013


Brent Shults stands proudly in front of his new place of employment. Shults received a job offer from Take Care Health Systems shortly after obtaining his degree in Business Information Technology at Columbia State Community College.

(Columbia, Tenn. - January 20, 2011) - - - The struggling economy has impacted thousands of workers across the nation including local Spring Hill resident Brent Shults, who became unemployed in May 2009 after 11 years of service to Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. Fortunately, many Bridgestone/Firestone employees, including Shults, were eligible to receive Trade Adjustment Assistance grants - a federal program that provides funding for displaced workers to retrain and gain the skills necessary to re-enter the workforce.

After researching occupations that would be in demand for the next ten or 20 years, Shults decided to enroll in the Business Information Technology program at Columbia State. His goal was to develop new skills which would allow him to pursue a career in Information Technology.

"In 2005, I had bought my first computer. I had very limited knowledge of computer systems at the start of 2009," said Shults. However, he did not let his lack of experience prevent him from reaching his goals and credits much of his success to his Columbia State instructors. "My professors were patient with me, knowing my 20-year work history and that I was changing careers mid-stream in life. I believe they truly wanted to help me."

Shults is married with three children and needed a higher education institution that would allow him the opportunity to get an education while still maintaining his family obligations. "At Columbia State, I was able to take classes on campus and through the Regents Online Degree Program (RODP) at the same time," explained Shults. "The flexibility of classes and the availability of online courses helped me to merge my school schedule with my family responsibilities."

After spending 20 years in the workforce, Shults had reservations about starting college as a non-traditional student. However, those reservations were quickly dispelled. "Columbia State has a small community atmosphere and I learned more than anything not to be intimidated by the classes and assignments," explained Shults. "The professors and administration were always ready and willing to help me when I had a question. They took time to make sure I understood the material and offered other ways to supplement learning such as tutoring."

In addition to his coursework, Shults volunteered his time by working in the Columbia State Information Technology department. "I wanted to help other students who were coming back to school after many years like I had done," said Shults. "I also wanted to encourage the younger students to stay in school and finish their degree so they would not end up like I did."

Shults' hands-on experience in the Information Technology department included building databases, computer maintenance, monitoring computer labs, and installing updates and operating systems.

"The experience I gained by volunteering in the Information Technology department was very valuable to me in understanding the daily operations and how an Information Technology team works together," explained Shults. "I made many new friends and learned a lot of new things outside the classroom."

"Brent was always positive and upbeat and really seemed to be excited about being able to learn something new every day," said Emily Siciensky, Associate Vice President of Information Technology at Columbia State. "As a result of Brent volunteering in our department we were able to wrap-up several projects that we had wanted to finish for a long time but had not been able to complete due to a lack of available resources."

"Brent had a great attitude and was a quick learner," said Ed Wilson, Director of Daily Operations in the Information Technology department at Columbia State. "He applied what he learned in his field of study to the projects we assigned him, was a great asset to our group, and showed professionalism towards our students, faculty and staff as well as with his co-workers in the Information Technology department."

While attending Columbia State, Shults enrolled in 18 hours each semester, served as a Peer Leader to help students be successful in their own college experience, made the Dean's List twice and completed his two-year degree in only one year and three months. "Brent's experience is a true success story," said Wilson. "In a year and a half, he went from being laid-off, enrolling at Columbia State and volunteering to work for free to completing his degree and receiving a job offer in his chosen field!"

"Brent was an incredible asset to the Peer Leader Program and was always going above and beyond to help students in need," said Dr. Paula Petty-Ward, Counseling and Orientation Coordinator and Peer Leader Program Director. "In addition to genuinely caring about other students, he had the personal and social interaction skills that allowed him to be able to explain computers and information technology to non-technical people in a way that helped them understand and did not make them feel intimidated."

Upon completion of his Associate of Applied Science degree, Shults accepted a job offer as a Systems Engineer Associate at Take Care Health Systems in Franklin, Tennessee. Shults intends to continue his education and is currently enrolled at Middle Tennessee State University pursuing his Bachelor's degree. In addition, Shults hopes to acquire certification in several database related areas such as SQL to help further his career. His ultimate goal is to be a Database Administrator and work with SQL and Oracle.

Columbia State's Business Information Technology program is designed to prepare students for employment or advancement in information technology or in an office setting. The program has a central core of courses with additional specialized courses in two options, computer systems and office systems. Skills obtained in the program may be applied in a variety of occupations including computer support, networking, programming, web design, administrative assistance, office management, software specialist, and project coordinator. The program is designed for students who plan to enter the workforce after graduation.

For more information on the Business Information Technology program contact Laurie Pewitt, Business Information Technology Program Director and Assistant Professor of Computer Information Systems at (931) 540-2668 or by emailing lpewitt2@columbiastate.edu.

Columbia State is a two-year college, serving a nine-county area in southern Middle Tennessee with locations in Columbia, Franklin, Lawrenceburg, Lewisburg and Clifton. As Tennessee's first community college, Columbia State is committed to increasing access and enhancing diversity at all five campuses. Columbia State is a member of the Tennessee Board of Regents, the sixth largest higher education system in the nation. For more information, please visit www.columbiastate.edu.