University News

Student Spotlight: Victoria Ketterer, Junior Fire Protection Services Major

June 4, 2019


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From the Winter/Spring Issue Western: The Magazine for Western Illinois University Alumni

A Woman Conquering a Man's World

What does Western Illinois University mean to me? Opportunities, knowledge, hands-on experience, friendships and much more. My name is Victoria. I am a junior fire science major at WIU. My journey in fire science began four years ago at the Bloomington Area Career Center. There I was able to get a basic knowledge in firefighting, along with my EMT-B license. During my junior year, a University came to talk to the students; this University was WIU. This was the day I fell in love with my future home.

Since choosing to attend Western, I have been blessed with so many opportunities. My freshman year, I joined the nation's only fire science fraternity: Omega Gamma Phi (OGP). By my second semester, I was the secretary of OGP. This opportunity allowed me to learn not only fire science skills, but life skills, such as organization and working with people. I just recently passed the position on to another member.

Through OGP, I was also given the opportunity to participate in SkillsUSA again, which is an organization that offers competitions in technical careers at the high school and college levels. I participated in high school, placing first at the state level twice and 10th and 13th at the national level. When Professors Swanson and Walker asked if anyone wanted to represent WIU at SkillsUSA, I jumped at the opportunity. I made so many connections while competing in high school, so another chance to network was easy to say yes to.

Competing at state was nothing new for me, and it wasn't that difficult considering I was the only college student there. However, I still had to prove I was competent in both my hands-on skills and the physical challenge, both simulating the everyday tasks of a firefighter. Upon returning, OGP's training spaces were opened to me to begin training for nationals. I was allowed to use the University's firefighting gear as well.

Over the summer I traveled to Louisville (KY) with my mother and sister to represent WIU and the state of Illinois at nationals. Nationals is a weeklong competition, each day ranging from eight-12 hours long. I had to complete skills like ropes and knots, donning fire gear, a written test, a job interview and the candidate physical ability test. During the down time, my fellow competitors and I formed friendships that I still hold today. The females were vastly outnumbered by the males. Therefore, we spent much of our time together talking about the challenges we overcome as females in a male–dominated career. I was also able make contacts with fire chiefs and teachers from around the country. At the end of the week, it was announced that I placed sixth in the nation at the collegiate level and as the number one female in the nation at the collegiate level. Without the training and backing of WIU and the LEJA and fire science programs, I would have never had the opportunity to obtain those titles.

WIU has also brought me my best friends and future bridesmaids. I know it is corny, but it is true. Outside of WIU's educational opportunities, there are many social activities. I chose to surround myself with the amazing women of Chi Omega, a social sorority. It offers me not only friendships, but opportunities to grow as a leader and in my professional life. I am currently the sorority's secretary.

Another opportunity WIU has given me is working as an EMT-B as a member of Western EMS (WEMS). WEMS gives me the chance to hone my EMT skills in real life situations. With WEMS, we respond on campus to medical emergencies of students, faculty, staff and campus guests. Being able to practice my skills in real life is an opportunity I am so grateful for, and when I graduate, I will be ready for the workforce.

Thanks to WIU I have been given so many opportunities both in my professional and personal life. I appreciate all that the alumni do to help current and future students of WIU. Without Western Illinois University, I would never have been able to become the person I am to today: a confident young female, working her way toward a career in a male–dominated field, with no reservations about my future.

Posted By: WIU News (U-Relations@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations