Amber Brown probably wouldn’t have predicted her career path when she graduated with an art degree from John Heron School of Art in 1998 and began working as a sculptor. She initially had great success, working for MGA Sculpture Studios in Florida and also creating art for the Tampa Bay Aquarium, Nickelodeon, Busch Gardens, the Great Wolf Lodge, and more.
But after experiencing two recessions and having a child, Amber made the difficult decision to hang up her artist’s hat and trade it for a hard hat. Her family owns a construction company and gave Amber a job with financial stability. She’s worked the past thirteen years in road construction, mostly feeding an asphalt or gravel plant.
It was a good job that allowed her to provide for her family. But as a creative person, Amber felt like something was missing. It was breaking her spirit to work alone and perform repetitive tasks every day. She began to dream about a different future.
“When you’re isolated and a creative person, interesting things happen in your inner world,” said Amber. “I would come up with fancy ideas of a different kind of life. One where I could make a good living but also do something where I could use my creative brain and skills as an artist.”
Knowing that Warsaw was the orthopedic capital of the world, Amber decided that her ideal career would be sculpting tools for an orthopedic company. But she knew she’d have to get a degree and learn 3D modeling if she wanted to make it work.
One rainy day, Amber dropped into the office of Ivy Tech Warsaw’s Advanced Manufacturing Director Tom Till, who advised her to enroll in the Design Technology program. It hasn’t always been easy, but throughout her time at Ivy Tech, Amber has learned again and again that she can overcome any obstacle.
“When I was struggling with a physics class, I thought ‘Oh dear God, what if I’ve gotten this far, and only to find out that it’s too much for me?’ Even at the very end, that self-doubt was there. But I’ve realized through this whole process that that’s not something I really need to listen to anymore. Look to the evidence—okay, when you’ve put your whole effort into something, when have you failed? I finished the class with an A.”
Along with challenging classwork, Amber also had to balance working full time with creating a schedule that worked for her. As a working adult, Amber needed night or online classes, and her program wasn’t offered in Warsaw, so she had to take any program-specific courses through Fort Wayne or South Bend.
“I really did the full mixed bag of course offerings that Ivy Tech has. That’s what enabled me to get this done—the fact that there were courses that were offered at night and online. Luckily between the three campuses I could build a schedule for myself every semester that fit my life. That’s one of the big advantages to Ivy Tech—there’s so many campuses that if you need to find a late class, you’re going to be able to find it.”
Amber is now graduating in May with her Associate Degree in Design Technology. She’s currently focused on planning her wedding this summer. But after that, she has her portfolio ready and hopes to fulfil her dream of becoming a CAD Designer at an orthopedic company, where she can use her artistic and technical knowledge to sculpt tools and improve lives.