Two grads throwing caps in the air
At UT Permian Basin it’s our mission to help students at every age and stage of life.

UT Permian Basin students Ashley and Matthew St. Pierre are married with two young kids, and both have fulltime jobs.

Coming back to school when life is full speed, isn’t an easy task but it’s one they took on together.

“I have been a landman in the oil and gas industry for about 15 years and I went through a restructure in 2020 that was separate from Covid so while I was out of work, I thought I should go back to school and get my master’s,” said Ashley.

“My career started right after high school. I delayed college for military service, so I’m not a traditional student,” said Matthew.

Ashley has earned her Master’s in Business Administration or an MBA and Matthew earned his Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Technology. On top of being a veteran, Matthew is also the first person in his family to earn a college degree.

“This was a personal accomplishment that I wanted to do, be the first in my family to graduate college no matter what the timeline was," Matthew explained. "There were moments that I didn’t think I would get there, but I am glad I did.”

At UT Permian Basin, about 50% of our students don’t arrive straight out of high school. They are often working full-time, raising families, and earning their degree at the same time. Ashley said for them, it was finding a balance that worked.

"Sometimes we would have big tests on the same weekend so we would trade off kids. He would take them to the movies so I could study and vice versa.”

“My school day would start about 9:30 at night and go until whenever it needed to. Once you're in that mode it was just the normal, but now resting is definitely enjoyable. I think our children are too young to recognize the sacrifices but it was definitely worth it for our family,” Matthew added.

Ashley and Matthew both said that UTPB was the best for them. Their professors were available anytime and their coursework translated into real-world skills that benefit their careers.

“I needed tutoring a little bit with my professors and they were extremely accessible. They were able to work around my work schedule to meet in person and go over stuff. I also did some facetimes with them. They are so flexible and very knowledgeable. I learned a lot from them,” said Ashley.

“My course work was rigorous and I enjoyed the struggle, there is no other way of saying it," shared Matthew. "It was definitely a challenging course load and the material was current. I never felt like it was behind or wasn’t up-to-date. If I’m taking it from the classroom directly to a work environment it was as modern as it could be because it was directly applicable to what I was doing at work.”

Being a non-traditional student is something UT Permian Basin President, Dr. Sandra Woodley can relate to and she’s passionate about making sure the University provides the time and resources needed for all students, no matter what stage of life they’re in.

"We love our non-traditional student population at UTPB. I took 10 years and two babies to earn a degree," said UT Permian Basin Dr. Sandra Woodley. "It's always heart-warming to see the resiliency that our non-traditional students have at UTPB. They finish their degree while married, with kids, and juggling all the things. We are so proud of Ashley and Matthew for making their way through and getting their degree. At UTPB we care very much about making sure students have the support that they need. The support of flexible classes, and making sure the professors understand the flexibility that they need to complete their degree.”

The St. Pierre’s feel more prepared than ever to continue their careers and they’re thankful for the knowledge they’ve gained over the past few years.

“Changing my major probably added about 30 hours but for me, the industrial technology is more what I am doing. It’s engineering adjacent but it’s still technical heavy and that’s where my career field was going. Some of the classes I was like wow I am really glad I am taking this because it pertains to exactly what I am doing at work or a project that was coming up or more real-world experience so some of the courses just matched perfectly to what I was doing at the time,” said Matthew.

"Understanding the finance stuff was a big deal for me and that’s helped me a lot. So when the technical people are talking about running numbers and things like that I don’t feel like I am in the dark as much anymore so that’s the biggest thing for me,” said Ashley.

And the best part? They are both walking the stage debt-free!

“As a non-traditional student being a parent and fulltime employee, I picked UTPB because of the cost, the ability to not travel, and the option to take a class in person or do it from home," Ashley added.

 “It speaks to UTPB. The cost schedule, we were able to undertake both of our educations on one income at the time so that speaks to how affordable and it was an undertaking we felt comfortable doing as a family,” Matthew explained.