photo of student graduating

I got my GED.... [But] my grades [at Waubonsee] were almost all A’s and B’s. That’s something I have never done before.

Two significant achievements were celebrated when Mark Burton received his degree at Waubonsee Community College this week. The first is that Burton, of Aurora, said he never thought he’d earn a college degree, and the second is that he will be the first student to complete the new Automotive Transportation Service Technology degree.

Introduced in fall 2015, the degree was designed to add specialty skill classes focused on advancements in technology in the automotive field. Guy Tiberio, Waubonsee Automotive Technology Instructor, said technicians that have this training are more in demand and can command higher salaries. 

“These are areas that many training programs do not cover, so students are left to learn on their own or go through manufacturer specific training,” Tiberio explained. “Our students now have the option to learn here so they can go right into a job with these skills.”

Burton completed the automotive technology degree in the fall, and then decided to also complete coursework for the new degree, as he felt it would give him a competitive advantage among employers.

“Basically the reason why I pursued both is to give me a lot of options,” he said. “I was not sure what I want to do as far as where I want to go in the auto field, but this gives me some extra knowledge and skills for working with all of the newer technologies in the field.”

Burton said that completing two degrees is an achievement he is proud of, and never dreamed of accomplishing.

“I had never pursued education,” he said. “I didn’t graduate high school, I got my GED, and my wife started taking classes at Waubonsee and so I decided I wanted to go and see what I might like.”

Burton said after a year of general studies, he enrolled in the auto program. He liked that the program allows students to gain real world experience.

“My grades were almost all A’s and B’s,” he said. “That’s something I have never done before so I am pretty proud of myself.”

The father of a five-year-old and six-year-old, Burton said maintaining a full course load, part-time job and caring for his children has been a challenge. His wife has served as the family’s primary breadwinner throughout his education, and so now Burton looks forward to focusing on work and his family.

“It has been quite a struggle for me,” he said.

Tiberio said that the new degree was a good option for Burton.

“Mark did not need too much encouraging, because at the time, he was going through a lot in his life and realized that he needed to get as much education as he could so he would have the most opportunity,” Tiberio said. “He set goals for himself about the kind of technician he wanted to be, and realized that having both degrees would get him there and give him the most opportunities for a good career.”