Bismarck State College
Field Engineer/Administrative Assistant, Chicopee Electric Light (APPA Member)
Michelle Opon is a pioneer at Chicopee Electric Light – she is the first woman to pursue a position in engineering at the company. Her current role is Field Engineer/Administrative Assistant, but she is pursuing the opportunity to move fully into engineering, and her pursuit of additional education is helping her to do just that.
Michelle spent 14 of her 18 years with Chicopee Electric Light in the customer service and collections department. When she learned the engineering division had plans to expand, she spoke with the engineering supervisor to ask what she could do to move into a Field Engineer position. “He recommended the online Electric Power Technology (ELPW) program through Bismarck State College (BSC) because he knew of other employees that were currently taking online substation courses at BSC,” Michelle said.
At that time, she was currently pursuing two Bachelor’s degrees at University of Massachusetts. As soon as she graduated (with honors) in December 2012, she started the online ELPW Associate’s degree in January 2013. “I took five classes a semester, while also balancing a full-time job, a part-time job at the gym, and training for a marathon. I graduated in December 2014 with honors,” Michelle said. One aspect of the program really impressed Michelle: “A lot of the professors at BSC aren’t just professors –they actually work in the industry in the field so they have the knowledge to really help you understand the material.”
Since graduating, Michelle hasn’t become a full-fledged Field Engineer yet, but noted that the transition isn’t too far off the horizon. Further down the road, she would like to get more involved with the environmental aspect of the business, but for now, “I’m happy to be making the strides I am to become the first female Field Engineer at Chicopee Electric Light.”