Alumni Spotlight – Heather Hunt Oxendine
The Perfect Stepping Stone
Heather Hunt Oxendine knew since the 9th grade that she wanted to be an electrical engineer. She shares fond memories of Mr. Jerry Shooter, her 9th-grade Physical Science teacher who made learning fun. “We built circuits and pneumatic labs. We would turn the lights off and count revolutions on a wheel with a strobe light, and that was every day,” stated Heather. Mr. Shooter told Heather stories about the real work of engineers, which stuck with her. In those early years, Heather also worked alongside her Grandfather, who owned Oxendine Heating and Air. She can recall her uncles telling her she could be an engineer, and her response to them was, “I don’t like trains.”
Heather began working with her Grandfather when she was only ten years old. She would help work on the service trucks, servicing air conditioning units. “That’s probably where I developed the initial idea that I didn’t have to go the traditional path for my career,” said Heather. “That’s where those seeds were planted. My Grandfather gave me just as much option to work alongside him as he did my brothers. He didn’t treat me like I didn’t have the aptitude.”
Heather shared, “In ninth grade, I learned about engineering and the wide range of options and majors within engineering and how high of demand those majors were. You’re going to get a job with an engineering degree. If you wanted to go to medical school, you could go for biomedical engineering and then go to medical school. It’s the perfect stepping stone.”
Heather graduated early from Purnell Swett High School and entered UNCP in the spring of that year. She took the introductory courses needed to transfer to NC State University in the fall of 2001. In December of 2001, Heather learned she was expecting her first child and moved home. She understood the importance of motherhood and taking full responsibility to care for her daughter.
Choosing Robeson Community College
After taking some time off, Heather decided to go back to school and enrolled at Robeson Community College in the Fall of 2003. She enrolled in the Electrical Electronics Program because she knew that would be similar to engineering. Heather decided not to attend a four-year university because she wanted to do something in the electrical engineering field. She assured her mother that she would be the best student RCC has ever had in the program. Heather also realized that she had a child to provide for, and the two-year program would work for her as a single mom.
Heather spoke about how Danford Groves, a former Robeson Community College employee, helped her with child care services and scholarship opportunities. After graduation, Heather’s first job was with M&W Electric as a project manager and estimator in May 2005; she was introduced to the company’s owner while attending a job fair at Robeson Community College.
Heather feels it is crucial to dispel the stigma associated with community colleges. While at Robeson Community College, Heather learned how to study, take the next level courses, and handle herself.
A Lifelong Career
Heather has made a distinct path for herself in the engineering industry serving in Assistant Project Manager’s capacity with Metcon and Project Manager/Designer with Coastal Plains Engineering. Additionally, she has served in numerous positions by way of promotion with Duke Energy, including Engineering Technologist, Project Manager I and II, Work Management Support Supervisor, and now Initiative Management Manager, Capital Investment Strategy, which focuses on customer delivery capital planning.
Heather attended the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in their two-plus-two program and graduated in August 2016, all while focusing efforts in work and raising her three children. When asked about how she felt when she graduated from UNC-Charlotte, Heather stated, “I still could cry thinking about it. I was so happy that I didn’t have a test to study for while working and taking care of my kids. It was such a relief.”
Heather expressed the need to educate the community about how great the community college experience can be in terms of seeking an educational career. Heather speaks to youth groups about an engineering career and the importance of STEM. She also understands the importance of creating lasting partnerships with industry and community organizations.
When asked to share some of her favorite memories of her time at Robeson Community College Heather responded, “The Electrical Electronics Program is a tough program and a lot of people come in thinking this is a community college and they will be able to breeze through the courses but they are challenging. The cohort I was in started with 30 students, but we ended up with seven. I was the only woman in the class, which prepared me for what my work life would eventually be like. My classmates and I spent a lot of time together, and we were very close. This closeness drove friendship and accountability. The two-year Electrical Electronics Program was challenging and taught me how to be resourceful and successful.”
Heather shared she realized that she had to focus on what gave her the greatest sense of satisfaction. She wanted to put herself in the position that she feels will allow her to contribute to her company and customers.
Heather lives with her husband John and their three beautiful daughters in Pembroke, NC.