Successful Alumni Stories

Successful Alumni Stories



Archana Rajendran of Westerville believes she wouldn’t be where she is today without the hands-on training and personal attention she received from the professors at Central Ohio Technical College (COTC). Rajendran participated in a recent photo shoot celebrating the fact that her alma mater was ranked number one in Ohio and number 19 in the nation by PayScale in its 2016-17 College Salary Report ranking the best community and career colleges by salary potential. “I had an echocardiogram done to me once, and it looked interesting. I used to be a medical assistant as a part-time job, and I wanted to go back to school for something more and this caught my attention,” said Rajendran. “I started at COTC when I was 38 years old in the Diagnostic Medical Sonography (DMS) program.”

Rajendran is originally from India. She came to the United States 22 years ago because of her husband’s job. She is quiet and reserved and has a thick accent. So, when she started doing clinicals at local hospitals as part of the DMS program, she kept to herself. Rajendran said her lack of assertiveness hurt her because hospital administrators did not think she knew what she was doing. “I didn’t speak up, and I was not able to get a lot of scan time during clinicals. I almost gave up. I thought maybe this job wasn’t for me,” said Rajendran. “However, my instructors stood up for me. They got me the scan time I needed working with Loretta Damron and Maryellen Orsinelli, who are dedicated clinical instructors at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. I am thankful that everything worked out well for me."

Rajendran graduated from COTC in 2012 and is now an echo technologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.
“We do ultrasounds of the heart. It is very important for the patient, and the echo does benefit them. It’s a quick and easy approach. It’s not invasive for the patient,” said Rajendran. Rajendran said she knows the training and hands-on experience she got in labs at COTC and in the clinical environment prepared her well for the job. She is doing something that helps to save lives, and loves being able to help others in a time of need.

“It’s worth the price of going to COTC, and the training they give you. You can get right out in the world working. It works out very well,” said Rajendran. “I love my job, and I would not be here if it wasn’t for COTC.”

The president and chief executive officer at the Licking County Chamber of Commerce knows the value of a Central Ohio Technical College (COTC) education from both sides of the table. Jennifer McDonald is a COTC graduate. She received a business management technology degree in 1990. Now, as president of the chamber, McDonald is in charge of trying to attract new business and industry to Licking County, and she knows that COTC is a huge part of that. “Workforce is the number one question posed by a company looking to locate into our area,” said McDonald. “They need to know how the workforce will be trained, and we can turn to COTC for that technical training. The curriculum is set up so students can be ready to go into the workforce quickly. Companies are much more apt to come into the area because COTC is here.”

"It is awesome that the school I graduated from is doing so well. It’s important to our community, and it’s important to me. It’s a very great honor,” said McDonald. McDonald served as marketing director for the Licking County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau from 1991 to 2004. In 2004 she became vice president at the Licking County Chamber of Commerce and served in that role until October 2016 when she was named president and CEO. McDonald was also one of the founding members of the COTC Alumni Council.

“COTC did a great job of preparing me for my career. There was a lot of hands-on training. The professors did a great job of preparing me for my future jobs,” said McDonald. “The students that graduate from COTC go right into jobs and are very prepared. They are the ones that are going to advance and make a good wage.” In December 2017, McDonald received the COTC Outstanding Alumni Award. The purpose of the award is to recognize COTC Alumni who have personal and/or professional achievement that brings honor and distinction to the college and individual attainment and/or contributions for the betterment of our community. “I was very well-trained and ready to go in my career and have succeeded from there.”

When Chase Ghiloni graduated from Newark High School in 2001, he didn’t think college was all that important. These days he has a different opinion. Ghiloni is now the vice president of marketing at First Federal Savings in Newark, Ohio, and credits his success to his digital media design degree from Central Ohio Technical College (COTC). “I was never really the college type. I never really applied myself in high school. I just wanted to get it over with and move on,” said Ghiloni. “But, after being out of high school for a few years, I wanted more. I was in retail, and it was a dead-end job. I couldn’t move up anymore. It was very exhausting. So, I thought I would give this digital media design thing at COTC a try.”

Ghiloni started taking classes at COTC in 2007 when he was 25 years old. At the time, he didn’t know anything about computers or design, but quickly learned and loved everything about it. Just before he graduated in 2010, Ghiloni and a classmate teamed up to open a video production company. “COTC gave me confidence. It boosted my confidence,” said Ghiloni. “The fact that I could actually go and talk to people, lenders and people who might want to invest in our company, was important. I met a lot of people through COTC, and I met big players in the community. I was able to make connections and network.”

Those connections are what lead him to First Federal. Ghiloni said a person he had met through COTC asked if he would be interested in the marketing position at the bank. One thing lead to another, and Ghiloni accepted the job. “It was a great opportunity for me,” said Ghiloni. “I was so excited to take the position.”
Ghiloni now serves on the COTC Alumni Council as a way to give back to the college that has given him so much. The council is a group of volunteers who are an advisory committee to the director of development. It was established in 2007 to be the principal link between the college and its network of alumni. “It feels good to give back to COTC. I can always give my time.”
Licking County Sheriff Randy Thorp is now serving his fourth term in office, and he believes a great deal of his success can be credited to Central Ohio Technical College (COTC). “Growing up I thought about a career in law enforcement a lot, but I didn’t start out there immediately. It just kind of evolved,” said Thorp. “When I started in Licking County as a deputy at the sheriff’s office a long time ago, I never dreamed I would be the sheriff. However, it’s all worked out, and COTC was a big part of that.”
Thorp graduated with a criminal justice degree from COTC in 2000 and has been Licking County’s top law enforcement officer for more than a decade. He initially chose COTC for college because it was close to home. However, he now knows that the small, quaint atmosphere helped him and many others succeed in their careers. “It was a great experience with the professors and instructors we had. Classroom sizes weren’t too big,” said Thorp. “When I run across a lot of people in this field, and in other areas and industries in town, we share stories about going to COTC. I also now see how involved COTC is in the community.” 
Thorp lives in Newark and is excited about what the future holds for the community and Licking County. He thinks COTC is a huge part of that and is proud to tell others he’s a graduate of a number one ranked college. “I’m very proud of the campus,” said Thorp. “It’s in my hometown. It’s here in Licking County, and I’m proud of Newark and Licking County as whole. Having COTC here touching so many lives, not only in our county but also in Central Ohio, I’m very proud of that fact. I just appreciate what COTC has done for me.”

When Angela Simmons graduated with a nursing technology degree from Central Ohio Technical College (COTC) in 2003, she knew she wanted to help save lives in her community. Simmons didn't realize then that she would help open and manage a medical service facility that could be the difference between life and death for patients in Licking County. "Air Evac Lifeteam opened a base in Licking County in 2012 after a local fire chief pointed out the lack of timely access to helicopter patient transports in the region," said Simmons. "I am proud to be able to bring this service to the area I grew up in."

Simmons is the program director at the Air Evac Lifeteam base located in St. Lousiville. She manages a staff of 16. The base serves patients in a 70 mile radius of St. Louisville. Air Evac EMS, Inc., which operates Air Evac Lifeteam, is the largest independently owned and operated membership-supported air medical service in the United States, conducting its operations through 125 mutually supporting air medical bases across 15 states. The company has established itself as the preeminent provider of air ambulance services to communities in need of advanced emergency health care and rapid medical transport.

Simmons loves her job and realizes she wouldn't have had this opportunity had it not been for COTC. "I graduated from Heath High School in 1990 and did not go to college right away. I had a family first," said Simmons. "I later got divorced and knew I couldn't support my two children with the job I was doing. So, I needed to get a college degree."

Simmons graduated from COTC after two years and quickly found employment. She worked at Mount Carmel East in the emergency room and then became a nurse manager at an urgent care. Simmons also worked in case management at a surgery center in Newark before coming to Air Evac. "COTC gave me the tools to do what I needed to do. It gave me the organizational skills and training to get where I am now," said Simmons. "By being relatively inexpensive and close to home, COTC allowed me to raise two kids, be a single mom, work full time and go to school full time. I couldn't have done it any other way."

Central Ohio Technical College (COTC) alumnus Tim Blunn's journey to his career as a computed tomography (CT) technologist began with an accident. Blunn was still living in England when he suffered a soccer injury that significantly dislocated his knee. The x-rays proved to be "shockingly interesting," and he was hooked on radiology. Soon after he immigrated to the United States, specifically Columbus, Ohio, Blunn was working in a hospital when a coworker suggested he look into COTC's radiologic technology program. As Blunn would say, the rest was history.

"The radiology program at COTC has changed my life in many ways. It helped me realize and achieve goals, better myself as a person and has improved my life as a whole," he said. "I wear my COTC pin with pride." Blunn is now a CT technologist at Grant Medical Center in downtown Columbus with plans to become a traveling CT technologist.

"I love my job at Grant. The hospital, the pace, the variety and the types of injuries we deal with fit me and my personality to a T," he said. Blunn did a clinical rotation at Grant Medical Center while in COTC's radiologic technology program and was hired there immediately after graduating in 2017 with his Associate of Applied Science in Radiologic Science Technology and passing his registry exams.

Blunn Clinical.jpg

"The COTC radiologic science technology program isn't easy, but if you're willing to make the necessary sacrifices you will come out the other side with a high-quality education, a great job and a career path that can take you in many different directions," he said. He also noted the important role his COTC instructors and radiology staff at his clinical sites had on his motivation to complete his education.

Blunn is set to graduate from The Ohio State University's Associate of Science to Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Science and Therapy program in May 2019.

The radiologic science technology program at COTC combines extensive classroom, laboratory and clinical learning situations to provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to safely practice radiology. It is a two-year, five-semester program that is highly competitive and selection-based.

The five-year average job placement rate in radiologic science within one year of graduation from COTC is 100 percent. Recently, all 16 of the 2018 graduates from the radiologic science technology program passed the American Registry of Radiology Technologists (ARRT) certification exam on their first attempt. Faculty credit the 100 percent pass rate to COTC's hands-on training and one-on-one faculty interaction with students. Read more about COTC Radiologic Science Technology program's 100 percent pass rate at cotc.edu/news. Learn more at cotc.edu/radtech.

Caption: Blunn during his first day of clinicals at Grant Medical Center.

In 1981, 18-year-old Julio Valladares traveled to Newark, Ohio, with the El Salvador National Baseball Team to compete in the international Babe Ruth World Series. Now he calls Newark home and is doing his part to give back to the town that gave him a new beginning. On July 3, Central Ohio Technical College (COTC) recognized Valladares as the recipient of the John C. "Jay" Barker Community Service Alumni Award. "It is an honor to be one of the alumni that have received this award," said Valladares. "It feels great to give back to the community which opened the doors for me to become who I am today."


Today, Valladares has traded his amateur baseball career for one in accounting. He served as the assistant treasurer and then as treasurer of Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools for a total of 17 years. When an opening at Newark City Schools (NCS) became available in 2017, Valladares capitalized on the opportunity to return to the place where his life in this country began. He currently serves as the treasurer of NCS and secretary to the NCS Board of Education.

Accepting his current position marked the third time Valladares came to Newark. In his nomination letter, Robert McGaughy, COTC's first business officer and retired Licking Memorial Hospital administrator, described how Valladares returned to Newark in 1982, one year after participating in the world series, to live with his host family. He worked many odd jobs until he was able to afford his own housing, and he was granted citizenship in 1985. Valladares enrolled at COTC in 1990, continuing to work in unskilled labor positions while pursuing his education. 

Valladares graduated from COTC with an associate degree in accounting technology in 1994. This gave him the opportunity for better employment, which in turn provided the means to advance his education. Valladares received a bachelor's degree in accounting in 1997 and then a Master of Business Administration in 2000, both from Franklin University. The job opportunities followed. 

"COTC played a huge role in my career by opening the doors to continued education," said Valladares. "It feels great to be back in Newark because it is giving me the chance to apply my work experience in school finance to a great community like Newark and at the same time feel like part of the success of a great school system."

Valladares is a member of the Newark Rotary Club and the Licking Memorial Hospital Development Council. He also volunteers for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), a local affiliate of the Licking County Housing Organization. He assists the elderly and others that do not have the knowledge or financial means to prepare and file income tax returns. This work touches many families in Licking County.

McGaughy wrote in his nomination letter, "I have been very impressed with Julio's motivation, integrity and willingness to help others. He is someone who adds value to whatever group or organization he serves. His life has been a positive example of what can be done to overcome adversity and become successful."

The COTC John C. "Jay" Barker Community Service Alumni Award was created in 2013 by the COTC Alumni Council to recognize COTC alumni who have made a significant impact through their service to improve our community. The inaugural award was presented posthumously in July 2014 to John C. "Jay" Barker and named in his honor. Barker was active in the Licking County Courthouse Lighting Committee, Licking County Senior Levy Committee, COTC Alumni Council, Energy Cooperative Operation Roundup Foundation Board, Licking County Governmental Preservation Society, National Heisey Glass Museum Board, Rotary Club of Newark-Heath and Ohio Bankers League.

Pictured (L-R): COTC President Bonnie L. Coe, Ph.D.; Beth Barker, wife of Jay Barker; Spencer Barker, son of Jay Barker; COTC Alumni Council President Kevin Carver; Julio Valladares; Robert McGaughy

Internship Yields Big Results for COTC Alumnus


Before enrolling at COTC, Braden Patchett already had a long work history in the restaurant business. But for the St. Louisville resident, all those years amounted to only one thing—employment that was just a "J.O.B." leaving him "Just Over Broke." At least, that's how Patchett unashamedly describes his less-than-ideal experiences in the unskilled workforce. Feeling trapped in lower-paying service jobs with no path toward advancement, Patchett was getting by, but not thriving, he admits. Moreover, he was haunted. Employed but not moving forward, he wanted a life, and a career, that he could love.

So, in the spring of 2015, the then 37-year-old decided to act. What Patchett gained, however, was more than he ever dreamed. In two short years, the former restaurant worker not only found a career, he found that earning an associate degree would change his life forever. Now a junior designer at Varo Engineers in Granville, a Salas O'Brien Company, Patchett has a promising engineering career at a full-service engineering and design firm offering good benefits, paid vacation and a corporate culture that actively helps employees succeed.

"My education from COTC has allowed me to reach a better quality of life," said Patchett with emotion, revealing the deep resonance of his feelings. "I love the work. I am making a difference in the local economy by helping local manufacturing. Also, I don't panic about household bills anymore; that used to be a thing," he confessed. "My career looks bright."

Before enrolling at COTC, Patchett was impressed with the college's high-quality academics and powerful salary potential for associate degree graduates. Four of COTC's engineering technology programs are internationally accredited by ABET, a highly prestigious and rare accolade among technical colleges. Further, the median annual wage for mechanical engineering technology graduates is impressively more than $48,000 annually.1

While at COTC, Patchett first met with Varo representatives while preparing for an upcoming campus career fair. From that day forward, Patchett's career trajectory quickly took flight. Just one month later, in mid-May 2017, he began a very successful internship at Varo working on 2D and 3D drafting and design. Just three months later, upon graduating with an Associate of Applied Science in Mechanical Engineering Technology, Varo hired Patchett full time as a CAD operator. In February 2018, Varo entrusted Patchett to take on more in-depth responsibilities and moved him to a client field site where he is gaining valuable hands-on experience and elevating his skills even further. By taking advantage of Varo's mentoring program, Patchett noted that he took the skills learned at COTC and applied them to the real world, leading directly to his current career path.

"COTC has proved to be an excellent local resource to provide students with a well-rounded technical degree that complements what we are looking for in a designer," noted Cari Mead, Varo talent manager. "The candidates from COTC have a strong foundation in CAD that helps speed up the learning to our process. The students are also skilled in 3D modeling in Autodesk Inventor, a software package our mechanical department utilizes. The coursework in thermodynamics, statics and strengths of materials, and mechanical systems also directly complement the education and skillset required to succeed at Varo," she added.

So, what is Patchett's advice to anyone considering changing their own life through COTC? "Find something you love. Find something you enjoy doing. Find something you have a talent in," Patchett counseled. "Then talk to the Gateway at COTC, and find the program that suits you! Apply for every scholarship available. You will be surprised at what you receive, and what you achieve. I am." Barely one year after his own graduation, Patchett returned to COTC to provide the commencement address to the summer 2018 semester graduates.

1The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Ohio Labor Market Information

Like many teens, Bryanna Stigger was unsure of what career to pursue or what college to attend. COTC was close to home and affordable, so it was a convenient choice. It turned out to be a transformational choice. “COTC was the foundation of my career journey,” recalls Stigger.

As a student, an indelible opportunity arose during her internship in the Office of Student Life. COTC was creating an Italian cultural immersion program, a first for the college, and Stigger was able to be front and center during the planning. She also was accepted into the program, and took her first journey outside the United States with fellow COTC students, an adventure she’ll always treasure. “It was then when I realized how campus administrators positively shaped the culture of the campus by creating a sense of community and connectedness among students, faculty and staff alike,” she said. “I aspired to become a higher education professional after that.”

Stigger also held a student position in COTC’s Gateway, which would transition to full-time employment upon her graduation. It was there, she said, where she realized her calling: helping students succeed along their educational journey. She completed a bachelor’s degree in business administration and then a Master of Business Psychology from Franklin University, one of the 26 institutions with which COTC has articulation agreements.

Now, Stigger works at The Ohio State University. She is the Master of Social Work Outreach Programs Coordinator providing leadership for marketing activities. Her favorite part of the job is interacting with students. She loves witnessing their journey from prospect to graduate, and she shares her personal experiences to provide support and encouragement. “COTC impacted my life because it transformed my career,” said Stigger. “I appreciate COTC’s student-centered approach to learning which is exemplified both inside and outside of the classroom. COTC’s values of honor, integrity and excellence remain within me today.”


The day his son graduated from COTC was one of the proudest moments of Jeff Pillow’s life. It may sound cliché, but this wasn’t just another milestone to adulthood. Collin became the third member of the Pillow family to attend COTC. Mom Julie was the first; Jeff the second.
Jeff and Julie were high school sweethearts who married soon after graduating from Mount Vernon High School. They moved to Newark across from the campus so Julie could attend nursing school while Jeff worked. When she graduated in 1989, the roles reversed. Jeff began taking courses in computer programming.

“It worked for us, especially being young and getting married,” said Julie who has had a 30-plus year career as a nurse at Riverside Hospital. Jeff has spent more than 20 years working in information technology at Park National Bank. “I have hired a lot of people at Park National Bank, and COTC is one of my go-to locations for recruitment,” explained Jeff. “I’ve managed for 15-plus years. COTC graduates come in my department well prepared. They do a very good job. The drawback is that they don’t stay long in my department, but they advance within Park.”

The Pillows left it up to their children to choose their own college. While their daughter went to a four-year institution, Collin decided COTC was the right fit for him. “I wanted a college that was not too expensive and not too big,” said Collin. “I need one-on-one time, which every professor offered. My friends couldn’t get that at a bigger school. That’s the number one thing I liked about this campus.”
COTC brings out different memories for each Pillow. It’s where Jeff coded his first COBOL program. It’s where Julie camped out all night to register for classes. It’s where Collin started his first business. The one thing they have in common, though, is that COTC is where each of them found their passion.


Kori Caughenbaugh made a choice to stand out from the rest. First, she decided to enter the traditionally male-dominated world of architectural engineering. Second, she decided the best way to begin her career was to earn a two-year degree and get started quickly in the workforce.

Now, at only 22, she’s already accomplished both. Caughenbaugh earned her Associate of Applied Science in Architectural Engineering Technology from Central Ohio Technical College (COTC) in August 2017. Prior to graduation, however, she had already taken on a full-time position as a junior designer with Northpoint Ohio Architecture in Newark, Ohio, after completing an internship with the firm.

“COTC provided me with the knowledge and training to be able to step right into a career following graduation,” said Caughenbaugh. At Northpoint, she works directly with project managers and individually to design layouts, 3-D conceptual models and construction documents; skills she mastered at COTC.

“COTC’s program gives our graduates a broad base in the technical skills that they’ll practice every day in their jobs,” said Whit Tussing, engineering technology program director. “Our graduates are well prepared to begin a career in variety of construction-related fields, including architectural and civil engineering offices.”

Recent COTC engineering graduates are employed at AEP, Boeing, EMH&T and Red Architecture, as well as many other central Ohio firms and industries. As for Caughenbaugh, college options were plentiful before choosing COTC. Graduating at the top of her Licking Valley High School class, the softball star had her pick of NCAA Division I college scholarships. But she eventually turned them all down. “I saw how beautiful COTC’s Newark campus was and how close to home it was as well. It also gave me the opportunity to watch my younger brother, Colt, finish out his senior year of high school baseball,” said Caughenbaugh. “And, best of all, it relinquished the fear of ever getting in college debt.”

Today, Caughenbaugh has her dream job thanks to her COTC degree. “What I love the most about my job are the opportunities that it provides me in comparison to a large architecture firm,” she noted. “I get to do a wide variety of jobs and have a close relationship with all my co-workers and clients. With so much time to still grow as an individual, though, and with the help of the architecture firm that I work at, I’ve started classes at Ohio State to pursue my goal of becoming a licensed architect while still working.”

Yes, Kori Caughenbaugh made a choice to stand out from the rest, and it started with COTC.

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