Alumna sheds new light on term mani-pedi

Nov 10, 2023Neesha Hosein
Shannon Bullard-Dorsey

Shannon Bullard-Dorsey recently graduated from the nail technician program at San Jacinto College’s South Campus, but her specialty isn’t the bling.

The Army veteran has been doing nails since she was a teenager.

“My mom ended up in a nursing home when I was a teen, and I would visit her and do her manicures and pedicures,” Bullard-Dorsey said. “Her roommate asked if I could do hers, and I agreed. After a few weeks, I ended up doing nails on the whole floor. I discovered that nurses don’t get paid to do that, nor do they have the time.”

Seeing the need for medical nail care more than three decades ago sparked a passion she is finally pursuing as a career.

“This my third career,” she said. “I went from high school to college, then became an executive assistant, human resources manager, then got called in the military, where I was for 15 years.”

After retiring from the military, she thought — what now? After doing nails for family and friends as a hobby for decades, she decided it was time to take it up a notch.

The San Jac experience

Bullard-Dorsey learned more than just nail care at San Jac.

“The experience was enlightening from the first day,” she said. “I’d just turned 50, and I noticed almost everyone else was around 18 or 19. It was a little awkward at first, but most of the subject matter was familiar, so that was comforting. I only thought I knew about nails until this program.”

Lessons included different acrylic nails like hard and soft gels and press-ons and things that affect nail quality like prep, adhesives, and cuticle work. Bullard-Dorsey is well-versed in what clients should look out for when visiting a salon — from smells and ventilation systems that protect lungs to proper tool and furniture sterilization. The science aspect meant understanding bacteria and fungi that can grow on nails.

She also learned about massage techniques and health conditions that require extra caution when applying pressure to hands and feet.

“I also learned about electricity, specifically regarding the equipment and how it affects people when we’re working on their hands with different currents,” Bullard-Dorsey said. “We also have to know safety protocols and a bit of chemistry.”


Cosmetology instructor Pandora Freestone met Bullard-Dorsey at the BUORLive 2022 Nail Art Student Competition, where she took third place as a Level 1 student. Impressed by her accomplishment, Freestone encouraged her to join SkillsUSA.

“She is a great leader and getting better every day,” Freestone said. “I'm excited to see the future Shannon is creating for herself and her family. She has truly inspired me.”

Bullard-Dorsey is the current SkillsUSA president for the South Campus chapter. She believes the organization empowers students not only with technical skills development and training but with opportunities like public speaking, networking, leadership, group work, and critical thinking — all of which prepare her for the professional world.  

Future career plans

“I graduated with my nail tech certificate of technology, passed the Texas state written and practical exams, and received my license,” Bullard-Dorsey said. “I’m planning on getting my medical certification next year, and I’m working on an art degree at San Jac, which will help me with my drawing and painting for nail art.”

Starting a mobile medical nail care business is her ultimate goal, focusing on the elderly, the chronically ill, and people with special needs and mobility issues. This career opens doors to work with podiatrists, hospitals, nursing homes, and individuals.

I enjoy helping people and making them feel healthy and beautiful.
Shannon Bullard-Dorsey

Learn more about San Jac’s cosmetology programs at

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