Alumni Spotlight: Q & A with White House Fellow
Travis Thul’s education and career leads to White House Fellowship.
Travis Thul received an associate degree in Electrical Engineering Technology in 2004. His education set the stage for three more degrees, including a Doctor of Engineering from George Washington University.
Currently a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Coast Guard, Travis was selected as a 2020-2021 White House Fellow.
What is a White House Fellow?
The program combines service and education. I’m at the Export-Import Bank of the United States where I work on the Program on China and Transformational Exports. I help execute legislation involving international finance and foreign policy. The highly-competitive program started in 1964 to provide first-hand experience working in the federal government. There are 14 selectees for this non-partisan fellowship program.
Why did you choose FVTC?
As a first-generation college student who’d spent much of my youth in a rural community near Rice Lake, Wisconsin, attending a four-year university after high school was foreign to me. However, having role models who had been mechanics and machinists led me to explore a career in engineering.
When my girlfriend (now wife) enrolled at Lawrence University in Appleton, I discovered FVTC and the 2+2 Electrical Engineering Technology program with Milwaukee School of Engineering.
What did you enjoy most at FVTC?
I can say with all honesty that my time at FVTC was some of the most formative. There was a culture of pride that permeated every class. The dedicated faculty, integration of industry and wonderful mentors have had an impact on me to this day.
l always remember running a test on an autonomous vehicle and it driving itself into a garage door. The idea of reporting the damage to faculty was terrifying. However, the professionalism and empathy of the instructors taught me to own my mistakes and grow from them. Those wonderful mentors still have an impact on me today.
Tell us more about your career.
I am a Coast Guard veteran and currently serve as a lieutenant commander in the reserves. Before that, I had the opportunity to carry on FVTC’s mission by serving as Dean of Technology at Minnesota State College Southeast. My goal there was to work toward building the best technical college in Minnesota.