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For a SCUBA career, Western Illinois University offers SCUBA minor

Begun in 1962, the scuba diving program at Western Illinois University (WIU) has seen many instructors, students, and changes.  Most recently, the University adopted scuba diving as an official minor course of study.  Today, there are 58 students who have declared scuba as their minor.  But, even before the minor was official, students were leaving WIU’s scuba program and gaining employment as divers. Here’s the story….

Ed Theil graduated WIU in 2002 with a degree in Biology and an emphasis in Zoology plus many scuba certifications.   Ed spent a couple of years doing odd jobs before discovering the aquarium at the Rain Forest Café in downtown Chicago.  The Rain Forest was advertising for divers to help keep the tanks clean.  Ed walked in, presented his credentials and started the next week.  He is now the assistant curator of aquatic life support at the Café.

In 2004 Ryan Andreasen started in the beginning level of scuba at WIU.  Three semesters later he had exhausted all of the options offered in scuba at the school and was frustrated that the scuba minor was not going to be official for quite some time.  Ryan decided that diving was his future and left WIU to attend commercial diving school in Seattle, WA.  He graduated top of his class and is now a lead tender in the Gulf of Mexico working in the oil rig support field.

The first scuba instructor from WIU was created this December.  Allison Epstein spent six semesters in the program completing open water, through instructor preparation class before heading to California to take part in a NAUI Instructor Qualification Program.  Alison proved beyond any doubt that she is ready to teach others how to be safe, responsible divers.

Stuart Cove in Nassau, Amy Slate at Amoray Dive Resort, Key Largo, and Glen Faith from Mermet Springs, IL have all expressed interest in having WIU scuba minors to come intern with them.  Ryan Bromberek is preparing to do just that.  Ryan is a senior at WIU and current scuba minor who is pursuing a career in resort management.  He has completed all of his scuba courses except instructor.  Once he becomes a scuba instructor, he has the enviable problem of where he will accept an internship: Nassau, Bahamas, Mermet Springs, or Key Largo, FL.

The program is already turning full-circle.  Ryan Bromberek has been working for Ed Theil at the Rain Forest Café.  Ed was looking for divers to help keep the tanks clean.  When he found out that Ryan was in the scuba program at WIU, he did not even hesitate to offer him the job.

Word about the diving program at WIU and the quality of divers created is spreading. This past semester alone, 6 transfer students chose WIU to continue their education because of the scuba diving minor.  The program is growing so fast that WIU is currently seeking an additional full-time scuba instructor to help handle the demand (for full details log on to: www.wiu.edu/employment/emp.sphp?id=834).  WIU scuba has a long and rich history.  With the advent of the scuba minor the future looks to be even brighter.

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