Andrea Wynne wants others to win – pun intended. Wynne, a career development specialist at UW Tacoma, helps prepare students for life after college. “I want to be able to help people better themselves,” she said.
Wynne’s commitment to others stems from her upbringing in rural Meridian, Mississippi. “I come from a background of extreme poverty and not knowing if the lights were going to stay on,” she said.
Wynne’s parents divorced when she was a child. Growing up, the now-38-year-old says she didn’t receive much support. “I’ve always been told that I’m average or not good enough or that people like us don’t go to college.”
Call it confidence or possibly even curiosity; whatever the reason, Wynne decided she needed something different for herself. “I had this feeling that I wanted more from my life and that made me want to try,” she said.
While in junior high, Andrea met Michael Wynne. The two became friends and eventually started dating. They’ve been together for 23 years. “He builds me up,” said Andrea of her husband. “We come from a similar background and we’ve always leaned on each other.”
Andrea and Michael both joined the Air Force out of high school. They ended up being in basic training together in San Antonio, TX and then technical training in Biloxi, Mississippi, where they married. The pair was then sent to New Mexico.
Andrea decided to start college and enrolled at the University of New Mexico. “I was completely terrified,” she said. Her educational journey spanned years and continents. Andrea left the Air Force after four years but Michael decided to make military service his career.
The couple spent the next ten years in Germany, Florida, and eventually Washington State. With each move Andrea resumed her college career at a different institution. Wynne credits her experience overseas for helping her keep going. “I felt like that was when my brain came on,” she said. “Being in a different country with a different culture let me know that I can do more and see more.”
The Wynnes started a family while in Germany. Their first son was born in 2006, their second in 2008. The birth of her sons fortified Andrea’s decision to finish her degree. “I want to be a successful role model for them – I want them to be proud of me and understand that nothing is impossible,” she said.
Andrea received her bachelor’s in human resources in 2010; she finished her master’s a few years later. Her children older, Andrea decided to return to the work force. She took a position at Joint Base Lewis-McChord helping service members transition into civilian jobs. Later, she worked on the Camo to Commerce grant as a liaison between businesses and JBLM.
Wynne came to UW Tacoma in December of 2015. “The mission here, the goals and the passion from the people, some of whom I met on base, enticed me to want to apply,” she said.
Wynne, a first-generation student, identifies with the UW Tacoma community. A large percentage of students on campus are the first in their families to attend college. “A lot of them come to our office and they’re just really anxious and worried about their own abilities to perform in the workplace,” said Wynne.
To combat this fear, Wynne and others in the Career Development Office work with students to assess their interests and skills. Sometimes this is a one-one-one conversation but it can also be offering tips on how to build a resume or practicing for an interview. Mostly, Wynne tries to get students to see the bigger picture. “I think getting them to draw on their past instances of success can help them be something great in the future,” she said.
The Wynne family has a saying. “We joke that ‘all we do is Wynne’ or that ‘it’s a Wynne-Wynne situation,’” says Andrea. There’s truth in this play on words, hanging in separate frames inside the Wynne’s living room: both Andrea’s and Michael’s college degrees sit side-by-side where they and their children can see them as a continued source of inspiration.
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or firstname.lastname@example.org