While a student at the University of Arizona, Jim Janich studied astronomy. Then he learned a valuable lesson.
"The most important thing I learned was that there were no jobs in this field," he explained. "So I switched to aerospace engineering. Then the bottom fell out of the aerospace industry when (former President Ronald) Reagan slashed the federal defense budget, so I had to find a new career goal."
At the same time, Janich was working full-time as a student employee at the university in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC/R) shop on campus.
"I had been working with these wonderful, very intelligent people in this industry, and it was really cool -- the machines, the technology," he said. "Some of it was more than 70 years old, and some of it was run by state-of-the-art computer systems. It was all so wild! So I switch once again to Mechanical Engineering, with an emphasis in thermal energy systems (i.e. HVAC/R)."
Janich spent several years as a mechanical engineer and technician in HVAC/R -- everything from research and development to design/build mechanical contracting, for both large and small companies. Then his life took another turn.
"One day I got the bug to do something different, so I joined the Peace Corps. They asked me to teach English and Air Conditioning/Refrigeration technology at Karume Technical College, located on the island of Zanzibar, off the east coast of Tanzania in Africa. And that's when I fell in love with teaching," he explained. "Unfortunately, I was only there for two years when the first gulf war started and the U.S. State Department thought my island wasn't safe enough. The country was a Muslim society and there were a few anti-American protests in local mosques. So, I had to leave."
Next up was teaching HVAC/R Ivy Tech State College in Indiana while working as an HVAC/R contractor part-time. However, the education budget was so tight that he was conducting bake sales to buy equipment and tools for my students. Thankfully, a full-time position opened up at College of DuPage.
Since then, he's created an atmosphere of learning and fun in his classrooms, and his students are the ones that benefit.
"I hope they have fun. I hope they are intellectually challenged. I hope they realize that this industry, and our program, could give them a very profitable career," Janich said. And he is amazed by those students who immediately start their own businesses.
"The vast majority of our students go to work for someone else, but these students who start working for themselves are unique. These students are incredible. They are so highly motivated, so driven to success in this field, even though they are so new to this very difficult industry. These students are my motivation, and my inspiration. These students are our success."