Alumni Spotlight - November 2022
Andrea Whetsell Rodberg '06
Andrea Whetsell Rodberg grew up in Lake Oswego and graduated from Lake Oswego High School, where, as an avid reader, she always had a book in her hand. She ran track and field and participated in Medical Explorers, a club for students interested in pursuing a career in healthcare or medicine. Andrea’s mother left the family when Andrea was 15 years old, at which time she became the primary caregiver for her younger brothers. After high school graduation, Andrea attended Portland Community College and worked for the Frito Lay Co. in their Grandma’s Cookies department. She thought about going into the medical field, but her father, a career Air Force man, encouraged her to follow a different path, such as bookkeeping or accounting. Andrea knew that wasn’t what her heart desired, though. By age 19, her mother returned to the picture, so Andrea focused on her future. At age 22, Andrea enlisted in the U.S. Navy.
Military life took Andrea to Tennessee and Florida where she trained to become an air controller. She worked on duties involving flight plans, weather, ground control, and other related assignments. She even spent time on the USS Lexington, a smaller aircraft carrier that is now a museum. While serving, Andrea married a fellow serviceman, and they had their first child, Donica. At that time, the couple decided not to reenlist and moved to Portland, Oregon, where they joined the Air National Guard. Andrea worked as a civilian at the airbase for a couple of years until she and her husband pursued active duty positions in the U.S. Air Force at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls. They moved to Klamath Falls and had two more daughters, Katy and Elizabeth. After a military career at Kingsley Field that spanned 17 years, seven months, and 20 days in airfield management and command and control, Andrea was in a severe car accident, causing injuries that resulted in a medical discharge. Devastated after going through a divorce and no longer active in the military, a lifestyle that she was accustomed to for so many years, Andrea didn’t know what to do in the next chapter of her life. She worked in the social work field for a while, and a colleague at the Gospel Mission in Klamath Falls that had just graduated from Oregon Tech encouraged Andrea to look into going back to school.
Andrea took the plunge! She met with an advisor, took the required entrance exams, applied for her GI Bill and disabled veterans funding, and returned to college at age 42. An OIT professor, also a guardsman at Kingsley Field, inspired Andrea to look into the university’s medical imaging programs. He even let her shadow him on the job, getting a glimpse into the world of radiology and X-rays. Andrea pursued Radiologic Technology, finally pursuing that dream of working in the medical field, and explains, “I felt so blessed to be able to go back to college. It was such a great experience.” Although nervous about pursuing higher education at her age after a long absence and battling low self-esteem, the educators at Oregon Tech helped her persevere. She adds, “The professors were amazing and so supportive! They were generous with their time, and I appreciated their care and encouragement.”
Post Oregon Tech graduation in 2006, Andrea went to work in Portland at the VA Hospital, starting with x-rays and then performing CAT scans. She eventually moved to the Salem VA Clinic, working in x-ray until she retired in 2019 to care for her ailing mother. Andrea married Bill Rodberg six years ago, and the couple has homes in Canby, Oregon, and Sparks, Nevada. Spending time in Nevada is essential as Andrea’s daughters and five grandchildren live there. Her eldest, Donica, became a nurse and is married to Oregon Tech alumnus Jacob Graham. Elizabeth served in the Army, and Katy spent time working in education and is currently a nanny extraordinaire.
Andrea continues to read avidly and plays guitar and keyboard in retirement. She also enjoys gardening at her Canby home, growing dahlias, roses, and pumpkins to supply her grandchildren with each year. While Andrea put her initial dream of working in healthcare on hold for many years, she revisited that dream and made it a reality. She is also proud of her military career and we thank her for her service. In Andrea’s own words, “I’m so grateful I had a friend who went back to school later in life. I want to encourage veterans that are lost, like I was, to look at the benefits we have. We served our country, and they give back to us with the benefit of getting a good education. I had the opportunity to go to college and have a solid career. I encourage other veterans to take that opportunity.”
~Becky Burkeen, Director of Alumni Relations