Tamra Buenger: BC student working toward second degree

Tamra Buenger

Tamra Buenger poses for a photo in the late 1980s, just before she received her associate degree from Brazosport College.

Tamra Buenger

Tamra Buenger returned to Brazosport College in 2015 with the goal of earning a Bachelor’s in Applied Technology. She has six classes remaining and is expecting to graduate in August, 2019.

When Tamra Buenger graduated from Sweeny High School in 1988 she was undecided about going to college. Then a scholarship changed her mind.

“I really didn’t know what I was going to do after high school,” Tamra said. “But I did receive a $500 scholarship for Brazosport College, and my mother thought I should at least use the money the scholarship offered, and then I could decide after that.

“It was a good choice because once I got started I didn’t want the classes I had completed to go to waste,” she added. “I wanted my associate degree. Of course, $500 went a lot further back then than it does now.”

Today, Tamra not only has an associate degree from Brazosport College, she also has less than a year from earning a bachelor’s degree, also from Brazosport College.

And it all started with that initial scholarship 30 years ago.

After using the scholarship to get her foot in the door, Tamra went on to earn an Associate in Applied Science OE-Word Processing in 1990. After graduation, she worked 10 years at The Dow Chemical Company before making a move to Austin. She eventually returned to Brazoria County, was re-hired at Dow, and led a busy, but fulfilling, life raising her daughter, Brooke.

But something was missing.

“I’ve wanted to go back to school ever since I got my associate degree,” Tamra said. “I wanted to work toward my bachelor’s, but something always came up. I had my daughter and raised her, and it was difficult financially to go back to school.

“When it was time for my daughter to go to college, we began looking into financial aid for her, and I started learning about the different options that were available,” she added. “Then, when she was a senior in college, I began thinking about going back to school.”

Tamra’s thoughts about returning to school became even stronger once she received encouragement from her supervisor.

“The support was a big influence on my decision to return,” she said. “Since I had just gotten financial aid for my daughter, I began looking at it for me.”

With her daughter out of school — and Brazosport College now offering a Bachelor of Applied Technology (BAT) degree — the timing was finally right to pursue that second degree.

Nearly 25 years after earning that first degree, Tamra walked through the doors at Brazosport College again in 2015 with the goal of working slowly, but surely, toward a BAT degree.

“I’ve taken two classes a semester, and I only have six classes left,” she said. “I’m finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. I should be graduating in August of next year.”

Through the years, Tamra has noticed quite a few changes at Brazosport College.

“This college is so much nicer now and they offer so much more,” she said. “There are so many services offered. At the same time, enough has remained the same that you still recognize things from 10 years ago. The main structure is still here, it’s just been added to.”

While Brazosport College has seen many obvious structural changes since it opened 50 years ago, Tamra is also using a service that wasn’t around the first time she attended college — online classes.

The curriculum for Brazosport College’s BAT program employs a majority of online courses, which is perfect for Tamra, who also works a full-time job.

“Online classes are extremely convenient, but I can still come up here and talk to Dr. Brandt,” Tamra said of BAT Program Director Dorothy Brandt. “It still has that personal connection. I’ve only met Dr. Brandt a couple of times, but it makes a huge difference. She knows who I am. It’s nice to be able to still meet people face to face.”

Although much has changed through the years, Tamra is thankful that Brazosport College has always been an affordable college with many different financial aid opportunities.

Since she returned to BC in 2015, she has received numerous scholarships, including the Dennis and Kim Bonnen Sponsor a Scholar scholarship, an ACE scholarship and a couple of grants.

“With the responsibility of having to pay for college myself, financial aid definitely eases some of the stress,” she said. “And the financial aid office here at BC has always been helpful. They’ve answered my questions and told me what I needed to do. It’s made a big difference for me.”

Actually, she credits much of her success at Brazosport College to that first scholarship she received three decades ago. For her, it not only provided the first step toward a college education, but also a career path and plenty of self-fulfillment.

“Brazosport College has been a really good place for me,” Tamra said. “If this college wouldn’t have been here I probably wouldn’t have gotten the scholarship. And without that there’s no telling where I’d be now.”