• Midland College Student Success
By Rebecca Bell
Dean of Community Relations & Special Events
It took almost 20 years after high school graduation and lots of “life events” along the way; however, in December 2016, Burgess graduated from Midland College (MC) with a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management. In addition to classes toward her degree, for the past year, she has been enrolled in MC’s Massage Therapy program, and will take her massage therapist licensure exam the end of May.
“My goal is to open my own business,” stated
Burgess. “I first got this idea when I took an
entrepreneurship class at Midland College from
Ryan Peckham. That class literally changed my
life and gave me a sense of focus as to what I
wanted to do. I like the wellness aspect of massage therapy and the idea of providing a service by making someone feel better. I’m hoping to combine the two—entrepreneurship and massage therapy.”
So where has Burgess’ life taken her for the past 20 years?
“I lived in Tennessee for 12 years and was employed as an office manager/marketing director for an assisted living facility,” explained Burgess. “During this time, my two sons were born—Blaine is now 16, and Jaxson is 10. We lived in a beautiful town called Cookeville, which is about the size of Midland and is located between Nashville and Knoxville.”
In 2010, due to unforeseen circumstances, Tonya Burgess moved back to the Permian Basin with her family.
“I didn’t have any experience in the oil and gas industry, didn’t know anyone and didn’t have any formal higher education or training,” said Burgess. “It was hard to find a good job with a decent salary, so I enrolled at Midland College and began working on an associate degree in Small Business Management. One of the first classes I took was a math class from Connie Sanchez. She’ll never know how much she did for me during that class. She really sparked my interest in learning.”
Burgess said it was difficult going to school as a mom with two boys, and it took her three years to obtain her associate degree. She then immediately continued at Midland College working toward her Bachelor of Applied Technology degree, and once she took the entrepreneurship class, she knew what she wanted to do. After that, it took her only one year to complete her baccalaureate degree!
“Classes in the Organizational Management program are held in the evenings, which is wonderful for older adults who work, but it’s difficult for maintaining ‘family time,’” stated Burgess. “When I started the massage therapy program, the classes were also held in the evenings and on some weekends. My boys and I are close, and we like spending time with each other. It’s been hard for all of us, but I think that my going to school has set a good example for my sons. They’ve seen me study and realize that college is important. I just hope they don’t wait as long to attend as I did!”
Before embarking on her entrepreneurial career, Burgess said that she plans to take a much-deserved vacation. In July, she will celebrate her graduation with a week in the resort city of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. She is also looking forward to more family time, which will include the family’s favorite pastimes of swimming, watching movies and bowling.
“I guess I’m lucky that my sons still enjoy my company,” laughed Burgess. “My 16-year-old, Blaine, has a girlfriend, and even when the two of them are together, they like hanging out at our house with me.”
Burgess continued, “I’m very grateful for the love and support of my family. Reaching my educational goals was made possible by them. They allowed me to chase my dreams.”
The small-town girl has grown into a strong, independent woman and mother who has a plan and is striving to reach her goal.
“The past 20 years have given me two wonderful sons and taught me a lot of life’s lessons,” stated Tonya Burgess. “I’ve learned that no matter how old you are or what personal challenges you may encounter, ANYTHING is possible if you put your mind to it. Now I’m ready to embark on my adventure of the next 20 years!”