Andrew Bell returns to school for engineering degree – says his success was based on quality of his WNCC education
Excellence in education is a popular phrase, but Andrew Bell turned the saying around. Through education he has reached excellence.
Bell, a recent graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno, was honored as a Senior Scholar for the engineering college at the university’s winter commencement on Dec. 1.
According to a spokesperson from the university, Senior Scholars are the top graduates from their respective college or school. To be honored, the student must meet exceptional program standards.
To reach this pinnacle of his educational career, Bell took a circuitous route. He lived in Genoa and attended Douglas County schools until he moved to a remote part of Douglas County after the 7th grade.
“We were so far out we didn’t have electricity,” said Bell. “And since I lived closer to Coleville, Calif., I attended school there and graduated from Coleville High School.”
At 34 years old, Bell is classified as a non-traditional student. He progressed through the ranks of military and private employment before he realized that furthering his education would further his life’s goals.
“College was never in my plans,” said Bell. “My father didn’t think it was necessary, and my supervisors in the Air Force told me that it was who you knew, not a silly piece of paper, that got you ahead in life. I believed them.”
Yet when Bell entered what he called “the real world,” he found out that a piece of paper from a college or university could make all the difference in the world when pursuing career goals.
“I found a job with a company in Carson City,” said Bell. “I was a test technician and I worked with a lot of engineers. It wasn’t long before I realized that I could do the same work they were doing. The only thing that was holding me back was the lack of a diploma.”
In 1989 Bell began taking courses through Western Nevada Community College. At first it was only one class per semester.
“I had a lot of catching up to do in math,” said Bell. “But I was working, I wasn’t married, that’s all the time I had.”
By 1994, Bell enrolled at WNCC as a full time student. He finished his two-year program and moved on to the university in 1996.
“When I married my wife, Sachiko, in 1993, she encouraged me,” said Bell. “I couldn’t have done this without my wife. It couldn’t have happened. She provided the majority of support.”
The Bells and their daughter, Carrina, who is almost 4 years old, live in a cramped two-room apartment in Carson City. This is just one of the many concessions they have made so that Bell could attend college full time.
“It was very difficult to do homework, especially engineering stuff, in such crowded quarters,” said Bell. “So I would rise at 2 a.m. most days so that I could get done what needed to get done, and I could still be a dad and a husband in the evening.”
According to Bell, his success at UNR was based on the quality education he received through WNCC.
“It’s a top rate school, with a positive environment,” said Bell. “The professors really cared and were a lot more personal. It was a smart place to start my education.”
Bell was shocked when he was notified that he was chosen as a Senior Scholar.
“I just did my homework,” said Bell. “I didn’t try to impress anyone. I was blown away when I was told of the honor.”
Bell and his family are enjoying the holidays with a few days of rest and relaxation, although Bell confesses to a few butterflies in his stomach.
“I start to work at Bently on Jan. 4,” said Bell. “When I got out of the Air Force, I applied for a job at Bently’s based on my skills as a technician. They wouldn’t even talk to me. Now I’m going to work for them as a mechanical engineer.”
Bell smiled. “Once I realized my potential, I knew I had to go to college. Don’t tell me a college education doesn’t make a difference. It’s working, and it’s a good feeling.”
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