CMC grad wants to help ‘marry’ solar, gas |

CMC grad wants to help ‘marry’ solar, gas

Mike McKibbin
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Ed Kosmicki Colorado Mountain College

RIFLE, Colorado – A desire to learn about solar energy led Tracy Conner to realize she also liked learning about a more traditional part of the energy industry. Now she hopes to find a job to use what she learned in both fields.

Conner, a Parachute resident, was laid off from her administrative job with a natural gas company two years ago. Wanting to train for a career in solar energy, she enrolled at Colorado Mountain College in Rifle, where she also learned about process technology.

Conner just graduated with an associate of applied science degree in process technology. She also earned three certificates of occupational proficiency in process technology and three certificates in solar energy.

She was also recently invited to join Phi Theta Kappa, the national honor society for two-year colleges.

“I originally wanted to find out about solar energy classes, but Jon Prater told me I should check out some process tech classes, too,” Conner said. Prater is the college’s process technology program director. “I didn’t think I’d like process tech as much as I do,” Conner said.

The process technology program at Colorado Mountain College trains students in the skills needed to work in industries such as oil and gas, waste and water treatment, and pharmaceuticals, as well as at power and electric plants.

While she was taking the solar energy and process tech classes, Conner, 45, also learned she could complete her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Fort Lewis College in Durango, which she thought she had already earned.

“I turned in a couple of projects to a few professors at the very end and thought they’d received them,” she said. “It turns out they never got them, so I had to finish things there.”

By taking a few extra classes at Colorado Mountain College, this summer Conner is meeting the final requirements to earn her bachelor’s degree from Fort Lewis.

The youngest of five children, Conner is the only one of her siblings to attend college. She was married in 1998, then shortly after was diagnosed with a heart disease. For a while, she was on a heart transplant list, but doctors then told her that her heart had recovered and she wouldn’t need a transplant.

Before she worked in the gas industry, Conner was a counselor for the developmentally disabled and a massage therapist.

Now, the Parachute resident wants to help “marry” solar and other renewable energies to the fossil-fuel-based process technology field.

Conner pointed out the presence of solar panels in gas fields. Such panels provide power to monitor equipment at well sites and are read remotely by the gas companies.

She credits the Colorado Mountain College courses and instructors for helping her to gain the knowledge and skills she wanted and needed.

“It helped tremendously,” she said. “My favorite class was probably the troubleshooting class, because we had to use all we had been taught to figure out a problem. I always liked figuring out puzzles.”

Conner said she is anxious to start her “second life.”

“This is totally different than anything I ever thought I would do,” she said. “But I’m excited.”

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