Katherine Fairbanks has used her education and experience to empower other women, as well as run a successful business.
Ms. Fairbanks attended QCC three separate times for different reasons. Initially, she earned her associate’s degree in business, becoming the first in her family to attend college. She attended after high school, graduating in 1982.
After getting married and having children, she returned to QCC for the Early Childhood Education program, and transferred to Worcester State University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1989.
As a stay-at-home mother with two children, she said she was able to start back at QCC because of the flexible schedules and affordable tuition.
However, she had always wanted to be a nurse. Because of the competitive nursing program, she had applied to the program several times before being accepted, but was able to complete some pre-requisite courses during that time.
“Nursing was an extremely difficult curriculum. One faculty member stands out as being an outstanding educator. Ellen Vangel-Brousseau was a nursing instructor set apart from all the others. She cared that a student really understood the curriculum and the nursing process. She was brilliant and compassionate,” Ms. Fairbanks said. “I believe I was blessed to have had her as an influence.”
She completed the nursing program and passed her RN boards in 1996. She also returned to WSU to obtain her graduate degree in Public Health/Community Nursing.
“Although I was a stay-at-home mom and running the family business, I found time to work part-time at various facilities using my nursing skills and education. As my children got older, a family decision was made that I would leave my nursing job at UMass/Memorial Hospital to focus on the kids and the family business.”
After her divorce, she ended up taking over the family business of Millbury Rubbish Removal. She later founded DirtyGirl Disposal, Inc., a waste management company that empowers and provides opportunities for women to work in the waste industry as commercial truck drivers.
“Although I am not involved in the nursing profession in a ‘traditional’ role, I believe that my education and experience has given me the tools to be successful in my business endeavors,” Ms. Fairbanks said. “I have worked with women in the past and am currently working with four women who want to train for their commercial driver’s license. The women that I work with are usually disadvantaged in some way. They may be unemployed or underemployed and are often single moms. By obtaining a CDL, they can increase their earning capacity by double, offering them a self-sustaining career and increasing their self-esteem.”
Through DirtyGirl Disposal, she provides Commercial Driver’s License training (Class B) to select women at no charge to them, paying permitting and licensing fees.
As a business owner, she has been involved in many community endeavors, such as providing a $500 scholarship to a graduating senior of a vocational/technical high school from funds obtained from one of our dumpster container rentals. The company also provides dumpsters to Habitat for Humanity and local non-profits, some at no charge or others at cost.
Ms. Fairbanks has also been an American Red Cross volunteer, providing nursing services to people in shelters after natural disasters. In addition, she is a member of the Worcester Regional Medical Reserve Corps.
“One of my favorite community involvement activities is to share the parts of my story that might make a difference in another’s life. I want to inspire and empower others. I have talked to high school students, as well as college students about entrepreneurship. I have talked to the Worcester Rotary Group to inspire and share some of the challenges along the road of life and entrepreneurship,” she said. “I hope I can have the privilege to continue to share my stories with people that want to listen, and hopefully learn something.”
On being named a QCC Guardian, Ms. Fairbanks said she is deeply honored and is looking forward to representing QCC. “I look forward to inspiring others in their commitment to advance their education at Quinsigamond Community College, an institution I believe in wholeheartedly,” she said. “Each of my three children attended QCC, I believe that QCC does it right. My hope is that it continues to do so long into the future.”