Sul Ross student earns his degree from halfway across the world

Sul Ross State University is known by many to be in a remote corner of West Texas. However, in today’s world that doesn’t mean its reach isn’t capable of a global scale. International students have always made up a large portion of the identity of the campus. It works the other way as well. Students go out, in a more literal sense, into the world. Recent graduate Rodric Allen embodies the drive and determination to achieve your goals no matter how difficult or where one is –– even stuck in Thailand.

Allen’s story is in a lot of ways similar to many of the students who attend Sul Ross. He saw it as an opportunity to better his future through higher education. He couldn’t possibly know how far this journey would take him. From Houston to China to Louisiana, Beaumont, Alpine and eventually Thailand. But every step of the way he kept his focus trained on earning his degree.

He found a position as a material and logistics manager for a major chemical expansion in Beaumont, Texas, for a petroleum engineering firm. While the home base was located in Texas, fabrication was outsourced to Thailand. They started off from scratch, and in 18 months, he had built up an infrastructure shipping $118,000,000 worth of equipment back to Texas for use –– during a pandemic. Over the course of that time, he lost none of his materials, which is a remarkable logistic feat in international commerce. But there was that one caveat. He couldn’t go home. He went for 15 months without seeing his family, with the added reality that if he left for home at any time the job wouldn’t be waiting for him.

“They shut down the country. You couldn’t travel between provinces. There was a curfew enforced. You couldn’t leave certain areas, and if you did you would be fined,” Allen recounted.

Stuck in a faraway country and faced with the uncertainty felt by so many around the world, Allen made the hard decision to stay and work. But he was able to immerse himself in a brand-new country and experience a new culture. However, Allen still needed to break through the next ceiling he was stuck under that only a college degree could allow.

Enter Dr. Eric Busby, department chair of the industrial technology program at Sul Ross State University. After connecting with Allen, Busby got him enrolled in the program and helped him move forward with his education, all from halfway across the world. Busby came to Sul Ross from a professional background with a mindset to change everything with the industrial technology program, retooling it to provide a more immersive and hands-on educational experience to better prepare his students for the workforce. His goal is to take students new to the industry and make them prepared to find a job and hit the ground running, but also to take students like Allen who are already working professionals but are looking to take that next step in their careers.

“At graduation I think I was happier than he [Allen] was,” said Busby.

Dr. Busby’s personal experience coupled with his innovation of the program has created a wonderful opportunity for students to become highly skilled, and quickly, in industrial technology at Sul Ross. But it’s also his passion and dedication to his students that is so indicative of the Sul Ross culture that attracts students like Allen to attend and take that next step with confidence.