Rhonda Adams '11

Woods Online alumna’s hard work pays off

Rhonda Adams ’11 worked her way through the corporate ranks to set a positive example for her son.

Lifting heavy rolls of film, studying during lunch and coming home to feed and bathe a little boy were all part of a normal day for one woman who accomplished her goal and in turn landed the job she’d always wanted.

In 2008, after being laid off, Rhonda Adams ’11 started work at AET Films, a Terre Haute, Ind. company that produces rolls of polypropylene plastic film, which its customers turn into everything from bottle labels to plastic packaging. To stay out of the unemployment lines, she accepted the position even though the job was vastly different than what she was used to. Adams started in production as an entry-level “packout” operator, preparing rolls of film for shipment. After six months, she moved into the position of machine operator, taking the processed film and slitting it into finished rolls.

“At AET, the rolls range in weight from 10-2,000 pounds, and sometimes I was covered in dirt and my body ached,” Adams said. “We worked 12 hours, three days on and three days off swing shifts.” At the same time, Adams was studying accounting in Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College’s Woods Online program and taking care of her young son as a single parent. “It was difficult,” she said. “With the schedule I worked, it was hard to follow a routine.”

 To Adams, her son came first, next her job and finally her schoolwork. She almost always had a textbook open during her work breaks and lunches. “I had a lot of self-doubts about whether I could finish,” Adams said. “I had a few setbacks, but then I would look at my son and see that the end result would be worth any sacrifices I had.”

SMWC let me be me and let me learn in a way that suited my situation.

Adams made the decision to go back to school and start the Woods Online program when her son was only a few months old. She said she wanted to be able to set an example for him. “I couldn’t have completed a traditional campus program and have been able to support my family at the same time,” Adams said. “I was also not a great traditional kind of student. I got bored in lecture type classrooms, and I liked being an independent type of student. SMWC let me be me and let me learn in a way that suited my situation.”

Becoming the first in her family to finish college, Adams received her bachelor’s degree in accounting information systems with a minor in computer information systems in August 2010. Because of her studying habits during work breaks, many co-workers knew Adams was going to school for accounting. The same year she graduated, the AET’s accounts payable clerk position became available. She interviewed for the position and got the job.

“Since I got my degree, I was given a lot of opportunities to use my skillset beyond that of the normal accounting clerk, who basically just pays the bills,” Adams said.

Now, Adams is an accountant for one of the three plants in Terre Haute. She closes out the costs for each month, comparing the actual costs to the budgeted amounts. “I love analyzing things,” she said. “When things don’t add up, I like to dig into the details and figure out where there’s a mistake. Being an accountant at a manufacturing company provides variety and flexibility. I can get involved in every department, because it always comes back to cost and how to be cost-effective.”

When Adams finally reached her goal after eight years of hard work, dedication and multitasking, she said it was like being in shock. “I finished my degree, and I suddenly had extra time on my hands,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t have to find a job, because I already had one."