EAST PEORIA (AP) — When Amanda Murphy sees a semi, she sees beyond its exterior.
She looks past the dirt and grime caked on its outer shell to see all the intricacies beneath that make it a technological wonder.
"I'm weird like that," Murphy said. "How other people look at nice cars, when I drive by a semi on the highway I can't stop looking at it. The technology they have is amazing, and people don't understand all the little things about semi trucks. I just appreciate all of it."
It's that interest that drove Murphy to become the first ever female applicant for Illinois Central College's Diesel Powered Equipment Technology, or DPET program.
"At first I wasn't sure what to think, because this was the first young lady we've had apply," DPET professor Mike Daugherty said of Murphy, a sophomore from Roselle pursuing an associates degree in applied science. "I've been teaching for 30 years, and all the students I've had were male. So this was a new experience for me."
DPET is a two-year program that began in 1967 with the opening of ICC, and teaches students how to work with heavy truck, agricultural and construction equipment.
The program accepts 20 students per semester out of a pool of about 50 or 60, and graduates about 16 to 18 students after five semesters. Those who graduate are rewarded with a job in their field, and Daugherty said the employment rate after graduation has been 100 percent.
As part of the program, students complete an eight-week salaried internship for credit. Murphy completed her work requirement at Caterpillar last fall.
Murphy said while she doesn't see it as a huge deal being the first girl at DPET, there are some obstacles she needs to overcome.
"Because I'm a female with a smaller stature and the guys are stronger, I had to develop special techniques to compare to that strength," she said.
It's likely because of physical differences that there isn't a high female presence in the field, Daugherty said.
"The work is physical, it's hard, it can be hard on the body in terms of bruised knuckles, sore back and the working environment can be extreme — it's not for everyone," he said. "As we often say, it's a career that's in your blood. It's for an individual that enjoys getting their hands greasy and enjoys the satisfaction for getting a machine up and running for a customer."
While she's somewhat of a rarity, Daugherty praised the work Murphy has done in the program, and said when he received her initial application, it was one he simply "could not deny."
And though she might be the only girl in a class full of males, Murphy said she hasn't been treated any differently because of her gender — nor does she act any differently.
"That's the attitude you have to take entering a male-dominated industry," she said. "You have to act like yourself and not think of yourself any differently, or else other people will treat you differently as well."