HVAC technician-turned transfer student reaping benefits of Mizzou experience

October 18, 2023

Emily Unterschutz
Emily Unterschutz is one of more than 7,000 transfer students at Mizzou.

Emily Unterschutz was a full-time HVAC technician earning a good salary when she decided to return to school and invest in a bachelor’s degree.

It was scary and intimidating, she admits — but three months into the mechanical engineering program, she’s thriving.

“It’s been exhilarating,” Unterschutz said. “Mizzou has made it very easy to settle in. Any big life change is scary, especially when it involves dipping into money I’ve earned and saved for the past two years, but I see this as an investment that will pay off quickly.”

It’s National Transfer Week, and Unterschutz is one of more than 7,000 transfer students at Mizzou — roughly 25% of the student population. This past summer, the MU Transfer Center was named to the Phi Theta Kappa 2023 Transfer Honor Roll for its transfer-friendly policies, and Unterschutz can attest.

“Transferring my credits was seamless,” she said. “There are so many resources at Mizzou, and they make it easy for transfer students to connect with each other.”

Already, Unterschutz is starting to reap the benefits of a four-year degree program. While she originally thought she’d stay in the heating and cooling field, she’s now realizing her career options are quickly expanding. In fact, she’s interviewing for a summer internship after stopping by the Fall Mizzou Engineering Career Fair last month on a whim.

“I decided to go at the last minute and wasn’t as prepared as I could have been, but the first company I talked to referred me to another company two booths down that matched my interest and experience,” she said. “I got an interview and am now talking to the company about an internship.”

Finding Direction

Growing up, Unterschutz wasn’t sure what she wanted to do in life. She liked working alongside her dad, who owned a lawn care business, and knew she wanted a job that kept her active.

In high school, she worked at a restaurant, where she had the opportunity to talk to the HVAC technicians who would come in to fix the refrigerators. She was fascinated by the work.

“They said they liked it, and it paid well, but that I needed to go to a technical school,” she said.

Unterschutz opted for State Technical College of Missouri, and at the time was one of just two women enrolled in the HVAC program. After graduating, she accepted a position at Chapman Heating & Cooling, where she continues to work part-time today.

“Chapman has been wonderful about me returning to school,” she said. “I’m glad I have the experience and knowledge from working for them. It will be invaluable as I explore career opportunities.”  

Expanding Interests

Because of her part-time job, Unterschutz admits she can’t get as involved in clubs and activities as other students, however that hasn’t stopped her from discovering new interests.

She attended a couple of meetings of the MU Students’ Underwater Robotics Foundation, where she had the opportunity to see Jelly, the robot that can perform tasks under water.

She’s also discovered an interest in chemistry — a class others warned her about.

“I really like my chemistry class,” she said. “To me, it’s the most intuitive. I’m also enjoying an indigenous religions class, which has nothing to do with my major, but it’s fascinating. That’s a fun one.”

Unterschutz is looking forward to starting mechanical engineering coursework in the coming semester. And she’s excited to see what the future holds, knowing the possibilities are endless.

Want to expand your career opportunities and invest in your future? Learn more about transferring to Mizzou.