Taylar Keller, 20, had no qualms about tackling a degree in a traditionally male field.
Neither did her parents, Keven and Jana Keller, who gave her their blessing to enroll in a two-year automotive collision repair and refinishing program at Montana State University Billings City College.
A 2011 graduate of Worland High School in Wyoming, Keller grew up on her family’s farm.
That’s where she began learning about engines and heavy equipment.
She got better acquainted when, as a high school student, she worked in a Worland diesel mechanic shop repairing everything from small engines to semis.
Her older brother, Josh, came to Billings to study diesel mechanics at Montana State University Billings College of Technology, now called City College.
It was on a tour of the Billings campus that Taylar Keller found what she was looking for.
“When I came to this department, it was my dream come true,” she said, standing in City College’s automotive collision repair and refinishing lab.
That’s where old or bashed-up cars get fixed and painted to look like new.
As much as she has enjoyed collision repair and refinishing, she still works on diesel engines.
“Diesel is my side hobby,” she said.
Her education won’t end with her May graduation.
She has an internship with the local office of National Coatings and Supplies store, where she will do a little bit of everything from selling supplies locally to traveling to other locations in the national company.
Keller hopes to continue working at National Coatings when she heads back to City College this fall to get a two-year degree in business administration.
Keller’s auto body collision repair instructor, Duane Alexander, said that his program doesn’t enroll many women. Keller was only one of two this semester out of a total of 15 students.
“We’d love to have more,” Alexander said.
Growing up on a farm, Keller had a good work ethic and a familiarity with tools, he said.
If any guys questioned her abilities around the shop, several recent prizes should put those concerns to rest.
Keller won first place in auto refinishing in a Skills U.S.A. Montana competition with other trade students and second place in collision repair; and a $500 scholarship from Montana Collision Repair Specialists.
She will graduate with honors with a 3.75 GPA.