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Mechatronics holds key to future for mom of 2

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By Teresa C. Hopkins
thopkins@scbiznews.com
Published Nov. 30, 2015

Jessica Anthony was the first woman to enroll in the mechatronics program at ECPI University in Greenville. The mechatronics field combines mechanics and electronics.

“I’ve always been interested in mechanics. I like to fix things,” she said.

Being female in the program has been anything but intimidating to Anthony. “It’s been fun. All of the guys have just welcomed me in and helped me, and I help them,” she said. “You know, we think a lot different, so a lot of the times if we are in a group setting and we get stuck on something and they can’t figure it out, I have a different approach and perspective and vice versa.”

Jessica Anthony was the first woman in the mechatronics program at ECPI University in Greenville. Mechatronics combines mechanics and electronics. (Photo by Teresa C. Hopkins)
Jessica Anthony was the first woman in the mechatronics program at ECPI University in Greenville. Mechatronics combines mechanics and electronics. (Photo by Teresa C. Hopkins)
Anthony didn’t start her college track at ECPI. The Berea High School graduate started out at Greenville Technical College, taking general studies courses.

“I had surgery when I was a teenager, and the doctor said I probably wouldn’t be able to have children. About a year and a half into college I got a surprise: That I was going to be a mom,” she said. “I didn’t know if that was going to be my only shot at getting to be a mom, and I didn’t want to miss a second of it. I decided at the time that I wanted to focus on the full experience of being a mom, and I put college on the back burner.

“And so, when baby No. 2 came, I figured, ‘Well, the doctors were really wrong.’ ”

Once both kids were in school, Anthony decided that she wasn’t getting any younger and that it was time she went back to college.

“I wanted to get this done and get started on a career as soon as possible because I had already waited longer than most people, so the time was a big factor,” she said.

She chose ECPI University because she could get a bachelor’s degree in 2 1/2 years. Her interest in all things mechanical led her to the mechatronics program. A freshman orientation class provided her with an opportunity to learn about various degree options, as well as the types of careers available and salary estimates. In her research during the class, Anthony discovered different manufacturing careers, specifically careers at BMW.

“(BMW has) a lot of robotics stuff, and that’s what I want to work with, so when something isn’t working properly, someone’s got to troubleshoot and find out what’s wrong and fix it, and that’s all me,” Anthony said.

She’s looking forward to getting into the job field and getting hands-on experience, then continuing her education in a master’s degree program in mechanical engineering.

“With a bachelor’s degree you’re probably going to be a technician; you have to know everything there is to know about how the robot works to be able to fix it, but eventually I would like to be the one to design it,” Anthony said. “I know there are companies that can help you further your education. That’s what I’m really hoping for.”

Phil Barone is an adviser in electronics and mechatronics at ECPI in Greenville and spoke highly of Anthony. “She is one of my top students. She’s intelligent and dedicated,” he said.

An $8,000 scholarship from the United Way of Greenville County helps cover the cost of Anthony’s education at ECPI. She is the recipient of the Jobs to Careers-Women Helping Women scholarship which, according to the United Way website, was developed to help local women take the next big step from a job to a career and ultimately financial stability for themselves and their families.

In addition to taking care of her children, her coursework and maintaining a 3.95 GPA, Anthony participates in a work study program. She tutors GED students and assists in teaching adult basic education and English as a second language for the Greenville Literacy Association.

Her adviser Barone said her helpful ways don’t stop there. She also tutors her classmates. “They all know to come to her if they need help with their coursework,” he said. “Any company out there would be lucky to have her as an employee.”

Anthony is on track to graduate from ECPI in June 2016.

Reach Teresa C. Hopkins at 864-235-5677, ext. 103

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