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SEI's Student Services Team is the BEST!

Posted by: chris
September 13, 2012

SEI has the best technical solar training in the world, but there is a lot more that goes into serving thousands of students every year.   Everything from advising, taking registrations, to making students feel comfortable when they come to our in-person trainings.  SEI's Student Services Team is world class!

Chris Smith, SEI Student Services Team member blogs about her summer experience helping students during their visit to Paonia, Colorado.

I love my job in the summertime. That's when students come to our state- of-the-art lab facility in Paonia for hands-on training. Every week there is a new batch of students to meet. They are young and old, men and women. They come from all over the states, and all over the world. Students have come to class from Czechoslovakia, Peru, Jamaica, even a couple from Nigeria – after 15 years working in the states, they are planning to return to their birth country with their new solar electricity skills. One recent student was a nun from Pakistan (her family has been Catholic for 6 generations). My first week on the job two young men from Saudi Arabia left their lab rotation to come into the reception area so they could pray towards Mecca.

A big event during each week of class is the potluck for students, instructors, and staff. Despite the fact that many students stay in motels, everyone figures out how to bring something delicious to share. The lab yard has several varieties of solar ovens – many students have never used a solar oven before, and are curious to see if they really work! (And they do!) The student lounge/kitchen’s solar-powered refrigerators usually contain a good sampling from the local microbrewery, and we are collecting favorite recipes from the potlucks to publish in a future edition of our newsletter.

I am not technically trained. I help students with where to stay, where to eat, and how to get around (we have bikes to rent). Paonia is off the beaten path, and as one of our instructors says at the first morning intros during a class, "if you got here, you passed the first test."

One morning, literally 5 minutes before class, a student showed up with his 9-year-old son, and he had no lodging. I took the son to the library while his father rejoined class, and by noon he was on the "pool" bus to spend the day swimming in nearby Hotchkiss.

One incident really opened my eyes to how valuable our classes are. A student taking PV101 at our classroom in downtown Paonia asked if he could stop by after class, to see something at our lab facility. I waited for him and once he showed up he walked over to our steep roof system and looked underneath a module. "Wow," he said, "there it is," pointing to a tiny washer. "See that," he explained. "My company purchased solar system kits and installed the modules, and when we were finished, the we had a bunch of these washers left. We didn't know what they were for. I just learned they ground the entire system."

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