Driven to STEM, Graduating Drafting Student Finds Her Path at UACCM

Woman stands in front of plants
Drafting student Shelby Burke graduates at the fall 2020 semester with an Associate of Applied Science in Drafting. (Photo courtesy of Shelby Burke)

When creating 3D models of a residential house, drafting student Shelby Burke sees more than computerized designs. She sees a dream home for others. Now as she graduates with an Associate of Applied Science in Drafting, she looks forward to helping others take an architect’s sketches and help a family visualize their forever home.

A longtime enthusiast for STEM fields, Burke knew that she didn’t want to attend a four-year university. She had not always planned to gain a degree in drafting, not until she learned about the career and UACCM’s program. Living in nearby Atkins, she knew the college was right for her based on the college’s location near her home and began taking drafting courses.

She spent the first semester getting used to the academic rigor of college courses and learning the basics of drafting. Then she started envisioning her future career.

“After a semester or two, I knew it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” she said. “I get to be behind the scenes of design and create the drawing for things to be built. I just think that is awesome.”

While at UACCM, her internship with Cowell Steel Structures, Inc., a steel building manufacturer based out of Russellville, helped her gain experience in the field. Later, they offered her a job. After graduating this semester, she plans to continue working at the place that helped her start her career and to take in everything she can learn.

She hopes to further explore the drafting of housing designs and someday work at an architectural firm. Thanks to a lab assignment, she has even designed her own house with a virtual model.

“In one of my classes, we got to design a house and I designed my dream home,” she said. “My husband and I are going to bring that house to life and build it this upcoming year. That is something I will always remember and cherish.” 

She credits her instructors, including Drafting Instructor Kristen Karetov, for supporting her goals and helping her along. “After a semester, I could tell my teachers encouraged me on what I wanted for myself,” she said.

She also thanks her husband for the constant nudges of support. “My husband always pushed me to do better and to think about the bigger picture,” she said.

When asked to give advice to incoming and current students, she gives them the same motivation that helped her through college. “Don’t get discouraged,” she tells them. “Find someone to constantly motivate you and don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re doing a good job and you will succeed.”

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