Jen Nicolae

Bismarck State College

Safety Specialist, Western Area Power Administration

Jen Nicolae enjoyed her job as a Construction Safety Specialist for the Army Corp of Engineers in Washington D.C., but hated the traffic she experienced every day.  Therefore, when the Safety Specialist position for Western Area Power Administration opened up in Casper, WY, Jen jumped at the opportunity for a change.  However, it meant joining an industry with which she was completely unfamiliar.  “I have a Master’s in Safety, so I have the safety background,” Jen said, “but this was my first experience with an electric utility, so I had absolutely no experience with high-voltage transmission, substations, etc.  I didn’t know what our operators did or what our relay technicians did.”


Almost as soon as Jen arrived, she started inquiring about the best way to get a good understanding about utilities.  Her supervisor recommended she look into the online Electric Power Technology courses at Bismarck State College (BSC), since several other WAPA employees had taken courses there.  She started with a course on AC and DC fundamentals, and ended up earning an Associate of Applied Science degree in Electric Power Technology.  Jen said, “I just felt like I learned so much from the classes, that I just started taking more and more.  I was so close to earning the degree, I just decided to complete the full program.  It was really quality education.”


Jen had previous experience with online education, but felt her experience in BSC’s program was far superior, noting, “The level the instructors interacted with us in online discussions was definitely way more in this program than my previous online experience.”  She also saw great value in the online simulations.  “I’m the type of person that needs to see things in action, so the simulations were helpful because I could take what I learned in a lecture and then actually put it to use.”


Jen found the knowledge she gained through the program invaluable to improving her job performance and confidence in her position.  “As I started taking more classes, everything just started clicking and falling into place” Jen said.  She added, “Now when I walked into the substation, not only did I know what everyone was doing, but now I could tell if what they were doing was safe, or if something wasn’t being done in a safe manner.  It’s definitely helped me be better at my job.”