“What do you plan to do with the rest of your life?” isn’t a question Shania Mussmann was prepared to answer after graduating high school. Nor is it a question she can answer today. 

But if you ask the recent Eastern Iowa Community Colleges’ (EICC) graduate a different question-- What can you do with your life? – she’s quick to answer.  

“I have endless options,” Mussmann said. And she’s embracing every opportunity.  

Mussmann graduated in May 2023 at EICC’s commencement ceremony at Scott Community College (SCC). She earned two degrees: an Associate in Science and an Associate in Technical Studies, as well as a Welding diploma, and two certificates: Fundamental Welding and Advanced Welding.   

She enrolled at EICC after high school with plans to become a nurse. Faced with some personal challenges and diving grades, Mussmann left the classroom and her education– but only for a little while.  

Then she came roaring back. 

“I absolutely love it and I adore it,” she said about the skill and craft of welding. While switching focus from a medical to a manufacturing field may seem like a big leap, it wasn’t for her. Mussmann and her dad shared a love for cars and racing, and together, they rebuilt her truck. “So, really the next step was welding,” she said. “And I was like, I should just go for it; there’s nothing stopping me.” 

Mussmann re-enrolled at EICC and started welding classes. “It can be kind of intimidating going into a male dominated field when you’re female. But it's wonderful. I feel very strong. It makes me feel more confident about myself,” she said.  

While at EICC, Mussmann raised her GPA and joined Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), the International Honor Society for two-year colleges. She attended PTK’s Catalyst convention, “and I learned a lot, especially about leadership and about myself as a person,” she said.  

They are lessons she put to use. Mussmann was PTK co-president when she graduated.  

She attributes her non-stop determination to a support system that includes family and EICC faculty and staff, “who really helped me and told me, ‘Don’t give up. It is OK that life changes and things change, and you just got to keep pushing forward. You take it and grow from it,’” she recalled.  

Heather Evans, assistant director of admissions and community outreach, and a PTK advisor, was more than a great ally; she was a role model, too. “She’s been there from the beginning, and she’s always had my back. I could go to her with anything, whether it was a frustration or a problem,” Mussmann said. “She always fought for the students and for letting students have a voice. I love that about her.” 

Graduating at the top of her class with two degrees, a diploma, and two certificates, is a source of pride for Mussmann. “It means I didn’t give up and I didn’t stop trying,” she said, adding that when she first attended college people expected her to know what she was going to do for the rest of her life.  

“No, no you don’t,” she said. “I was still trying to figure it out, and even now that I have a welding degree, I’m still trying to figure it out.”  

In the meantime, Mussmann has a plan. “It is kind of weird because I flunked out of nursing, but I am going to St. Ambrose University in the fall (2023) to get a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing. It is a two-year program, and I’ll be there,” she said.  

“I feel like I have endless options in front of me,” Mussmann said. “I don’t know what I want to do, but I do know I don’t want to do the same job the rest of my life. I want to experience different things.”