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Graduate's Degree in Technical Education Leads to Success

Majel Hein

LA CROSSE, Wis., Feb. 3, 2017 — When Majel Hein came to Western, she was in her mid-20s and ready to make a change. She’d attended college after high school, but it didn’t click for her, so she moved into the workforce, working in the restaurant industry.

She reviewed her options and decided on Western. Starting at Western had two advantages for her. “Not every student comes to Western right from high school, so I felt better knowing there would be other students my age,” she says. Plus, she could attend part time, continue to work, and decide if college was indeed right for her. “It took me a couple of years to figure out what I really wanted,” she says. What she found was that she was great at math and was asked to tutor. She tried to match her strengths with the right program. “I decided the Finance program would be the right route for me.”

"Being in the community, helping others, volunteering, that’s what I like to do," she says.In addition to her classes, she accepted a job as a debt collector. “At Western, our instructors talked about getting work experience in addition to our classes,” she says. Her instructor, Brenda Updike, encouraged her to make the leap from food service to finance. And while it was not an easy job, she did it for a year in order to gain good experience.

That experience paid off. In her final term at Western, she was hired as a member services associate at Community Credit Union. It was a nice step up and a natural transition for her. While there, she wanted to learn more about credit counseling and wondered if she should get a credit counseling certificate, even though that wasn’t part of her position. Her instructor Tom Strom said, “Yes!” Nearly a year later, a credit counseling job at Consumer Credit Counseling Service of La Crosse appeared on TechConnect, a job posting system for technical college students and graduates. “I fell in love with the job description,” she says. She applied, interviewed, and was hired in fall 2013. It was a perfect fit. She went on to become a HUD certified housing counselor, a certified credit counselor, educator, and a nationally certified student loan counselor. And then, after one and a half years on the job, she was promoted to program director. She has a staff of four, all of whom work to help people improve their financial situations. “I, too, have had student loans, it took me almost four years to earn my associate’s degree, so I understand where our clients are,” she says.

And, then, to her surprise, the Consumer Credit Counseling headquarter office in Sheboygan nominated her for the National Foundation of Credit Counseling’s 2016 Counselor of the Year, a national award. “I had no idea I had been nominated,” she says. In fact, even though she was part of the conference planning committee, she didn’t know until two weeks before the conference when her headquarter office revealed it during their conference call. When she accepted her award in front of 250 counselors from around the country, she noted that “Everyone who does this work deserves an award. We are all passionate about helping others.”