The tales of two chemical engineers

Zach Faber and Kayla Wyer have very different stories, yet they share a goal: To complete their chemical engineering degree online through the University of North Dakota’s Distance Engineering Degree Program (DEDP).

“There are no chemical engineering programs in the Wichita area, and since I work full-time, I did some extensive research and UND was the best fit for what I needed as a working, non-traditional student,” said Faber.

Wyer had the same challenge, no chemical engineering programs were offered in her area so she looked to UND’s program.

Business and family meet

Faber has a background in environmental science, and a degree in biology. He owns his own business, Strata, LLC, a holding company of various compliance businesses that focuses on environmental, health and safety compliance and engineering; solution mining; and natural gas and natural gas liquids underground storage.

While working as an environmental scientist, Faber gained knowledge of the chemical engineering field by working alongside professionals. One engineer explained how his work went beyond solving regulatory compliance issues for a facility. Another demonstrated the uniqueness and power of chemical engineering applications.

UND chemical engineeringIn addition to working full-time and completing his degree, Faber also takes care of his family; he has six kids. His hectic schedule was one of the reasons UND’s chemical engineering program fit best for him.

Faber started taking courses in 2011 and plans to finish during the next summer semester. One of the advantages to the DEDP program is the ability to go through the curriculum at your own pace. Individuals can take four classes in a semester or just one. Accreditation is another reason Faber looked to UND.

“Being ABET accredited, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc., and being in the Midwest made UND the easy choice for me. Honestly, I couldn’t find another program that provided the entire undergraduate curriculum at a distance,” said Faber.

One of the biggest advantages for Faber is continuing to work while learning. It’s provided him the unique opportunity to apply what he’s learning almost immediately. He explains the retention of information during online courses and on-campus labs is far better than in subjects where he wasn’t able to immediately apply the knowledge.

“Quizzes, lectures, assignments, everything is posted to Blackboard,” said Faber. “Exams are proctored then have to be scanned and uploaded to Blackboard (the originals are mailed).”

Proctored exams require a neutral, third-party individual to supervise examinations. Proctors have the responsibility of facilitating fairness and integrity during testing situations. Read about UND’s proctor policy.

“After a few semesters, my proctor and I developed a good rapport. We developed a system of double-checking and reviewing everything before it went in the mail – to make sure neither of us forgot something.  Because you and your proctor are responsible for ensuring everything was printed and completed before you send off your test,” explained Faber.

Faber stressed in order to be successful individuals must dedicate time and energy, as well as having people around you who understand and support your goals and commitments.  He admits he wouldn’t be able to juggle as much without the support of his wife, Lindsey, who, according to Faber, really keeps the family organized while he spends evenings, nights, and weekends completing assignments and exams.

“The entire process was challenging, but I went in expecting that. Anyone who understands what a chemical engineer does, expects getting a degree to not be easy,” said Faber.

Road of life

Wyer wants her story to provide an example that obtaining a degree online is doable, no matter the circumstances and road life takes you.

“I had a baby in high school, when I was sixteen. I wanted to stop being a ‘statistic’ and do what others thought I couldn’t,” said Wyer.

UND chemical engineeringAfter spending a few years raising three children and working full-time, she decided to further her education.

In 2013, after receiving an associate’s degree, Wyer started studying Biochemistry at a college in her hometown, but found she wasn’t as passionate about that degree like she had hoped.

She had always wanted a degree in chemical engineering, but there wasn’t a university close enough that offered the degree on-campus. So, she settled and started working on a degree she really didn’t want (Biochemistry). Soon after, Wyer began searching for universities that offer engineering degrees online. She found only one: The University of North Dakota.

“I have been enrolled in college full-time for six years now. I’m a wife, I work 20+ hours a week, and I care for my three children. My days are busy,” said Wyer.

As a mother and student, her weeks are chaotic and messy. Her days are filled with helping kids with homework, attending sporting events and activities, laundry, cleaning, and cooking dinner. On top of that, she juggles lectures, homework, quizzes and exams.

She makes sure to use her time wisely, studying for exams and quizzes while making dinner or watching lectures while folding laundry. Most of the time she does homework at night, when everyone’s in bed. She’s had her fair share of sleepless nights preparing for exams or rushing to complete assignments.

“Looking back, every sleepless night was and will be well worth it,” said Wyer.

Wyer added that despite what some may think, online classes are just as much work, if not more than on-campus courses. It’s not easy but it’s definitely possible.

“Your mindset, dedication, motivation, self-discipline and perseverance are some of the most important tools when accepting the challenge of completing a degree online,” said Wyer.

She’s looking forward to the required, on-campus labs, where she’ll meet other students and her chemical engineering professors in a hands-on setting.

“I see my professors almost every day on a computer screen. They grade my papers and exams, but they don’t actually get to meet me as a traditional student. Which is why I’m looking forward to being on campus, in Grand Forks,” said Wyer.

Advice to future students

“I would tell prospective students that if getting a college degree is something that’s truly important to them, and will not let anything stop them from obtaining it, then they should find a way to accomplish their goals, just like I did,” said Wyer.

One of the most positive things about Wyer’s college experience has been proving to herself that she can do it. Without the guidance of a couple influential people, she perhaps wouldn’t be sharing the same story.

“The decision to go back to school was not easy. The most influential people in my life are my parents. Their influence is beyond any calculations imaginable and the strength of the foundation they laid out for me is unmeasurable,” said Wyer.

Wyer concluded, “I’m doing something that some people consider impossible. Somehow, I found the courage within myself to pursue this dream. Even though I was up against overwhelming odds, and I still have work to do, I’m closer than I was yesterday.”

After completing her chemical engineering degree, Wyer hopes to do something with research or safety in the oil and gas field.


Hannah Manske
Office of Extended Learning communications intern

One thought on “The tales of two chemical engineers

  • January 16, 2017 at 9:07 am

    I am thankful to have come across these testimonials. For the past ten years, I’ve been working hard to improve my life, and have considered returning to school to complete my post baccalaureate degree in chemical engineering. Affording a second degree is nearly impossible, so I put the pursuit aside and have spent a lot of my life trying to move forward, believing that I gave engineering my best but it just didn’t work out. But I really want to go back and finish what I’ve started. Reading how others have made the tough decisions for themselves is uplifting. I’m very happy for these two, and so many others like them. I hope I can do this one day. Great job, you guys are inspiring.


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