Like many Southeast Technical students, Individualized Studies graduate Jason Luhmann may not fit the typical college student mold. Jason, who happens to be audibly impaired, attended Southeast Technical as a single parent to two sons, eleven-year-old Tanner and eight-year-old Tyler. While some may view his circumstances as road blocks to earning a degree, it’s clear from Jason’s accomplishments at Southeast Technical that life’s unexpected twists and turns have been the driving factors behind his success.
A native of Lake City, Minnesota, Jason gave the four-year college track a try after graduating from high school. When parenthood entered the scene, Jason left school to work full time. Jason’s first experience at Southeast Technical was for a machinist training program arranged by his employer. Years later, he remembered Southeast Technical and decided that earning a degree would lead to a better life for his family. Now with an A.S. degree from Southeast Technical in Individualized Studies, Jason has transferred his credits to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire to study material science.
Why Individualized Studies was right for Jason
“Balancing school, work and personal life can be a real challenge,” Jason says, “But I found out more about what I want to do in life because of Southeast Tech. The smaller class sizes and student focus from the instructors really helped me.”
For Jason, Southeast Technical’s Individualized Studies degree—a program that encourages students to develop their career interests while earning transferable general education credits—offered the level of customization and flexibility he needed to get started on his career path.
“The initial appeal was that I could use the credits I earned years ago and apply them to a degree,” Jason notes. “I later realized the full benefits of the Individualized Studies program in that I could tailor the program to work for me, especially once I realized that I indeed wanted to continue on with my education.”
Taking on a leadership role
Taking that initial step to resume his studies as an adult learner has paid off for Jason in invaluable career and leadership-building experiences. “I was able to play a leading role in the Chinese New Year Celebration last year, which would be much harder to do at a larger school,” Jason says. “Southeast Tech, with its smaller campus size, allows you to make connections with everyone.”
One connection Jason made through the Chinese New Year Celebration was with his Chinese culture instructor Yanmei Jiang, who arranged for Jason to job-shadow her brother, a chemistry professor and environmental science consultant, for a 50-day learning experience in China.
“Jason is one of the most critical thinkers I have ever met over my ten plus years of teaching at the college level in the U.S.,” Yanmei remarks. “He also demonstrated amazing leadership during last year's Chinese New Year celebration. Without him, it would not have been as successful of an event.”
What's next for Jason
So what is Jason’s advice for students considering an Individualized Studies degree? “The benefits are affordability and the ability to take baby steps, if you will,” Jason says. “Completing classes at Southeast Tech definitely helped my confidence before going to a four-year school, but I will tell you right now that by no means is that because the classes are easier, but rather because the attention you get from your teachers really helps.”
Backed by that confidence as he studies ways to improve the sustainability of every-day materials, Jason is definitely going places and dreaming big. “I want to be involved in making things better for the world, and many of those advances will come from changing the materials we use. I would also like to pair that with my enjoyment of travel. We will see how they mesh up."