Patterson forged new career in welding through Wallace State

Apr 18, 2022Gail Crutchfield
Melanie Patterson

Melanie Patterson

HANCEVILLE, Ala. — Melanie Patterson’s career and educational pathways have followed a winding road that has led to journalism, anthropology and finally welding.

A 1992 graduate of Fairview High School, Patterson first attended Wallace State from 1992-1993 before embarking on a long career in journalism. In 2006 she earned a degree in Anthropology from the University of Alabama. In 2015, she enrolled in the Welding program at Wallace State.

“I did it backward,” Patterson said. “My advanced degree was before I got an associate degree in welding.”

When she decided to go back to college for welding, Patterson naturally thought of Wallace State first.

“I had a good experience at Wallace State after I graduated from high school,” she said. “Even though I didn’t graduate then, I knew Wallace was a great school. I have recommended Wallace State to many young people, and to people who are looking to make a career change.”

Her own career change was a sharp turn from her previous career.

“I was previously a journalist for 20 years and knew nothing at all about welding when I started the program,” she said.

“I was intimidated at first because it was totally new and because I was one of the few females in the program,” she added. “But the instructors were excellent. They made sure that I—and all the students—understood the material thoroughly. That gave me the confidence to keep going. My welding degree did launch a new and successful career for me.”

She especially appreciated instructor and current Welding program chairperson Randy Hammond.

“He is one of the best teachers I’ve ever known,” Patterson said. “He genuinely cares about students. It’s not just a job for him. He teaches the science and the theory of welding in a way that students can easily understand. His long-time work experience in the field contributes to his teaching, giving him real-life examples and situations that he shares with students.”

Patterson said the program prepared her to enter the workforce.

“The program taught me what to expect when I entered the workforce,” she said. “I appreciated the instructors explaining the expectations of supervisors and managers in the welding world. I wasn’t a world-class welder at the end of the program — and still am not — but I did thoroughly understand what makes a good weld. I knew whether a weld would pass or fail according to code. I learned how to use various gages and tools that I would use at my job.

“Perhaps most significantly, my WSCC education helped prepare me to pass the CWI (Certified Welding Inspector) exam in July 2021,” Patterson added. “Becoming a CWI is a big accomplishment in the welding world. The exam is hard—only 30 percent of test-takers pass it on the first try. But the instructors at Wallace drilled into us the knowledge, theory and science of welding, and not just how to make a pretty weld without understanding how and why it happened.”

Before she graduated from Wallace State, Patterson already had a job at Altec Industries, Inc., in Birmingham. In early 2022, Patterson began teaching welding at Wallace State as an instructor for the Adult Education program.

“Without my experience at Wallace, I would have never gotten that job, or any other welding job,” she said.

Patterson continues to write, recently completing a nonfiction book about human sex trafficking. She is working on a book proposal in hopes of getting it published. In 2013, she authored “Cullman,” a compilation of historical photos of Cullman for “The Images of America” series of books.

Registration for the Summer 2022 and Fall 2022 semesters began April 4, with Summer classes starting May 24 and Fall classes starting April 18. Wallace State offers a regular full term and two mini terms each semester, with classes offered on campus in Hanceville and Oneonta, online, day, evening and weekends. For more information about Wallace State, visit

Media Contact

  • Kristen Holmes
  • Vice President for Students and Chief Marketing Officer
  • 256-352-8233

submit a Marketing request

Other Stories