Dunwoody rewards innovation at FIRST Robotics MN state championship

Three high school teams receive $500 and the Dunwoody Unique Engineering & Design Award for their FIRST Robotics competition design solutions

The Greenbush-Middle River, Eden Valley-Watkins, and Frazee-Vergas high school teams formed the winning alliance at this year’s Minnesota State High School League FIRST Robotics championship held May 19, at Mariucci Arena. But thanks to Dunwoody’s Unique Engineering & Design Award, teams that didn’t place still had a chance to win.

For the fourth consecutive year, Dunwoody presented a Unique Engineering & Design Award, which recognizes high school robotics teams that exhibit unique engineering design solutions.

Because each year’s FIRST Robotics competition provides several different challenges and multiple ways to score points, teams have to make tough decisions about how they design their robots. No matter whether those decisions lead to a first place win or not, they provide team members with an opportunity to experiment, problem-solve, and learn.

Winners use unique materials methods

The 2018 Unique Engineering & Design Award winners are:

  • Becker, Team 4607 (Becker, MN)
  • Henry Sibley, Team 3100 (Mendota Heights, MN)
  • Farmington, Team 2987 (Farmington, MN)

Dean of Robotics & Manufacturing E.J. Daigle was this year’s judge.

“The winning teams this year designed and built robots using an array of design and custom-manufacturing parts for their robots,” he said. “Machining, welding, 3D-printing, and hand-laid carbon fiber were all on display. By far my favorite was seeing a Banner photoelectric sensor and reflector applied to a robot wheel to be utilized as an encoder.”

Several Dunwoody Robotics & Manufacturing students also attended the event. They talked about their experiences at Dunwoody, made sure the Dunwoody keychain-dispensing FANUC robot—an event favorite—kept running properly, and showcased the College’s “Snow Devil” robotic snow plow by driving it around the concourse.

Scholarships and seminars for FIRST Robotics participants

Dunwoody hopes to give out the award again next year.

The College is offering $1,000 scholarships to FIRST Robotics grads who enroll at Dunwoody for the fall 2018 semester. For details, download the scholarship application or contact Dunwoody Admissions at admissions@dunwoody.edu or 612-381-3041.

The Robotics & Manufacturing department will hold Saturday seminars this fall to help teams prepare for the 2019 FIRST Robotics competition: “Destination: Deep Space.” Topics covered include, basic electricity, Solidworks design, shop skills, industrial robotics, and more.

For details, contact Dean Daigle at edaigle@dunwoody.edu.

High school grad is looking ahead to a career in the Electrical Construction field

Thomas Taylor won’t start his Electrical Construction & Maintenance degree program at Dunwoody until this fall, but the recent Bloomington Kennedy High School graduate already has a plan for his future.

Photo of student Thomas Taylor.I have my perfect plan,” Taylor said. “My plan is to graduate, work in Minnesota for five years, and then I’m going to move down to Florida and work in renewable energy – especially solar panel installation.”

A life-long Bloomington resident, Taylor said he wanted a hands-on education that provided a focused approach in an in-demand field.

“I never enjoyed sitting in the lecture classrooms,” Taylor said. “I always enjoyed more of the hands-on experience.”

He found what he was looking for at Dunwoody.

“[Dunwoody] was actually my first choice and the first college I applied to,” Taylor said. “I was just ecstatic when I got the acceptance letter.”

Taylor had heard about Dunwoody from his neighbor, an alum who works in the electrical construction field. And after hearing about the College, Taylor came to campus and took a tour with his father.

“I was like ‘this is perfect for me,’” he said. “It took one tour and I was sold.”

The hands-on shops and labs were a big selling point for Taylor, who enjoys the challenge of taking things apart and then putting them back together again. “I love seeing how everything fits together,” he said, adding that he is excited to get to work in the wiring labs on campus.

As for his career choice, Taylor was drawn to both the active nature of the job and the options an electrical construction degree would provide.

“That was another selling point – about why I wanted to be an electrician – I realized you can just do so much with it,” he said.

Currently, Taylor works as a detailer for Luther Kia of Bloomington. And in his spare time, he enjoys spending time outdoors, fishing, and snowboarding.

But even though Taylor has his vision for the future – he isn’t closing any doors.

“Being put on a career path where I know I’m going to have a plan later in life and I know I can be successful is something I’m excited for,” Taylor said. “But I’m also excited for all the different possibilities. Just because I want to work in renewable energy now – who knows! Something may come up along the way and change everything.”

Employee Spotlight: Pete Zeller, Controller, Accounting

Where did you grow up? 

Mequon, Wisconsin.

Where did you attend college? What is your degree in? 

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. I was an Accounting major.

How long have you been working at Dunwoody? 

Three years.

What is your favorite part about working at Dunwoody? 

Most of my working years have been at manufacturing companies, seeing raw materials get transformed into all kinds of useful things. I like the smell of cutting oil and seeing machines at work. I was attracted to Dunwoody by the manufacturing environment combined with the education-focused mission.

What do you enjoy most about your job? 

There are a lot of opportunities here, and it’s rewarding to make positive contributions.

What is your favorite memory at Dunwoody? 

The time Charla Hudlow, Senior Financial Aid Counselor, showed me how she celebrates Friday with a “happy dance.”

What are a few of your hobbies? 

Outdoor activities, hiking, house projects (if you call that a hobby), and working on my old Ford Fairlane.

What skill would you like to master? 

I will never master it, but I would like to take piano lessons again.

What books or TV shows are you enjoying right now? 

I enjoy the TV show “Mom,” and Keith Richards’ book “Life” is a fascinating story.

What three things could you not live without? 

My morning paper, a cup of coffee, and a good night’s sleep.

What is something you will never do again? 

Drive a school bus on icy roads, especially if there are middle-school kids on it!

Please provide 2-3 fun facts about yourself. 
  1. My two sons became interested in unicycling when they were young. They worked very hard to become good riders and competed nationally and internationally. (Yes, there are unicycle competitions which involve racing, artistic riding, and trials skills.)
  2. I learned to ride as well and did some off-road mountain unicycling with our boys and friends in the local club.
  3. I know it’s not a “smart” way to buy music, but I still purchase albums on vinyl.

Dunwoody announces 2018 employee recognition awards

As the 2017-2018 academic year comes to a close, Dunwoody is proud to present several service awards in recognition of the many faculty and staff members who have made a difference to the College, its students, and the broader community.

The following awards and achievements were announced at the All Employee Celebration on May 21:

Dunwoody Leadership Development Program graduates:
  • Andrew Stevens, Industrial Engineering Technology Senior Instructor
  • Karie Johnson, Construction Project Management Senior Instructor
  • John Columbus, Software Engineering Assistant Professor
  • Craig Heinen, Human Resources Specialist
  • Marcus Seraphine, Head Librarian
  • Kerstin Leonard, Prospect Development Analyst

From L to R: Andrew Stevens, Craig Heinen, Marcus Seraphine, Kerstin Leonard, John Columbus, and Karie Johnson

Staff and faculty members who completed a degree:
  • Lee Frisvold, Automotive Service Technology Senior Instructor, B.S., Applied Management
  • Lonny Lunn, Automotive Service Technology Assistant Professor, B.S., Applied Management
  • Scott Zubrod, Automotive Service Technology Assistant Professor, B.S., Applied Management
  • Amber McCollow, Senior Admissions Counselor, M.P.A., Public Administration
  • Karie Johnson, Construction Project Management Senior Instructor, M.S., Organizational Leadership
  • Yun Christenson, Registrar & Director of Institutional Research, M.A., Educational Leadership
  • Mirja Hassan, Cashier & Accounts Payable, A.S., Accounting

From L to R: Scott Zubrod, Lonny Lunn, Lee Frisvold, Karie Johnson, Yun Christenson, and Mirja Hassan

 Building Community Award recipient: 

Reem El-Radi, Arts & Sciences Assistant Professor

The Building Community Award goes to an individual whose projects or efforts demonstrate and heighten Dunwoody’s commitment to cultural awareness being integrated into the campus and community.

Outstanding Team Award recipients: 

The Employee Survey Task Force Team:

  • Karie Johnson, Construction Project Management Senior Instructor
  • Marcy Cheeseman, Executive Director of Institutional Advancement
  • Harry Edelman, Arts & Sciences Assistant Professor
  • Zac Mans, Student Services Advisor
  • Teresa Milligan, Student Success Assistant Professor

From L to R: Teresa Milligan, Karie Johnson, Harry Edelman, Marcy Cheeseman, and Zac Mans

The No Fail Fall Committee leaders:

  • Alicia Stoe, Assistant Director of Financial Aid
  • Charla Hudlow, Senior Financial Aid Counselor
  • Mao Rebman, Assistant Registrar
  • Macy Lee, Senior Admissions Counselor
  • Meera Wiest, Senior Admissions Counselor
  • Mary Rasmussen, Senior Admissions Project Coordinator
  • Allie Dresser, Content Marketing Specialist
  • Amber McCollow, Senior Admissions Counselor
  • Tina Nevala, Assistant Registrar
  • Zac Mans, Student Services Advisor

From L to R: Zac Mans, Alicia Stoe, Charla Hudlow, Allie Dresser, Tina Nevala, and Mao Rebman

 The Outstanding Team Award is given out annually to a cross-departmental team of employees whose work has had a significant impact on the way Dunwoody serves its constituents.

Outstanding Staff Innovation Award recipients:
  • Mao Rebman, Assistant Registrar and Drew Rodiles, Assistant Registrar
  • Craig Heinen, Human Resources Specialist
  • Rob Borchardt, Associate Director of Career Services

From L to R: President Rich Wagner, Mao Rebman, Drew Rodiles, and Yun Christenson

From L to R: Cindy Olson, Craig Heinen, and President Rich Wagner

From L to R: Cindy Olson, Rob Borchardt, and President Rich Wagner,=

The Outstanding Staff Innovation Award is awarded to staff members who demonstrate a commitment to implementing innovative strategies to improve efficiency, productivity, cost savings, customer service, and the inclusive climate of Dunwoody.

 Outstanding Academic Innovation Award recipients:
  • Chris Fulton, Web Programming & Database Development Instructor
  • Joey White, Automated Systems & Robotics Instructor

From L to R: Rob Bentz, Chris Fulton, and President Rich Wagner

From L to R: E.J. Daigle, Joey White, and President Rich Wagner

 The Outstanding Academic Innovation Award is awarded to faculty members who demonstrate a commitment to implementing innovative instructional strategies in the classroom.

 Instructor of the Year Award recipients: 
  • Jake Blue, Surveying & Civil Engineering Technology Senior Instructor
  • John Rogoz, Construction Project Management Adjunct Instructor
  • Andy Stevens, Industrial Engineering Technology Senior Instructor
  • Ken Wolfe, Electronics Technology Adjunct Instructor

From L to R: Bridget Reynolds, Jake Blue, and President Rich Wagner

From L to R: Janet Nurnberg, Andy Stevens, and President Rich Wagner

From L to R: E.J. Daigle, Ken Wolfe, and President Rich Wagner

Nominations for the Instructor of the Year Award come from current Dunwoody students. The award is given out annually to instructors who are committed to the students’ academic success, serve as a professional role model to students and colleagues, and aim for academic excellence in curriculum and instruction.

Distinguished Teacher Award recipients: 
  • Tom Larson, Machine Tool Technology Assistant Professor
  • Richard Thompson, Applied Management Adjunct Instructor

From L to R: E.J. Daigle, Tom Larson, Provost Jeff Ylinen, and President Rich Wagner

From L to R: President Rich Wagner, Richard Thompson, and Provost Jeff Ylinen

The Distinguished Teacher Award is given to faculty members who have committed a significant portion of their career to the art of teaching and demonstrate an ongoing commitment to education and lifelong learning.

William and Kate Dunwoody Outstanding Service Award recipient: 
  • Lesley Arntzen, Senior Financial Aid Counselor

From L to R: Cindy Olson, Lesley Arntzen, and President Rich Wagner,

The William and Kate Dunwoody Outstanding Service Award is given to employees who have consistently performed outstanding work for the College.

Dunwoody Class of 2018 joins proud history

85% of Dunwoody’s graduating class already employed in their field

On Thursday, May 17, more than 480 students walked across the stage and joined Dunwoody’s long and proud history of motivated and determined alumni.

Dunwoody’s 2017-18 Commencement Ceremony took place at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Rob Borchardt, Associate Director of Career Services, reported that at the time of Commencement, 85% of the graduating class was already employed in their field.

“Our core mission is to ensure students find work in their field upon graduating,” Borchardt said. “Dunwoody staff and faculty are committed to ensuring our students are highly employable. This year was no different. We are very proud of the graduating class.”

Student Speaker Gianna Madison reflects on time at Dunwoody
Bachelor of Architecture graduate Gianna Madison

Bachelor of Architecture graduate Gianna Madison

Gianna Madison, one of the College’s first graduates from the Bachelor of Architecture program, was selected as the student speaker. The 2018 graduation ceremony marked the third degree she has received from Dunwoody.

“During my time at Dunwoody, I have seen the school expand, in terms of programs and footprint,” Madison said. “I have seen community outreach become more deliberate. And I have seen collaboration among the different departments become a priority. All of these changes have taught me that not only is change inevitable, but it is also necessary if progress is to be made.”

Madison also shared eight important lessons she has learned throughout her professional and college career, urging graduates to do the same:

    1. Be grateful for every day, and show appreciation.
    2. Ask for help when needed. It teaches humility.
    3. Help others whenever possible. It builds character.
    4. Build a strong support system and rely on it.
    5. Challenge yourself, your thoughts, and your beliefs.
    6. Don’t procrastinate.
    7. Embrace challenges because a challenge is an opportunity yet to be explored.
    8. No matter what, never give up. You will never know what level of greatness you can reach if you don’t give yourself the opportunity to do so.
Mark Sherry keynotes Dunwoody Commencement
President of Mortenson Development Incorporated and Senior Vice President of Mortenson Construction Company Mark Sherry

President of Mortenson Development Incorporated and Senior Vice President of Mortenson Construction Company Mark Sherry

Mark Sherry, President of Mortenson Development Incorporated and Senior Vice President of Mortenson Construction Company, was the ceremony’s keynote speaker.

Sherry, an ‘87 Dunwoody Architectural Drafting & Estimating Technology alum, described his journey to Dunwoody and lessons learned throughout his 30-year career with Mortenson Construction. He also applauded the Class of 2018 on their accomplishments and shared what they can expect now because of their degrees.

“The education you have received at Dunwoody gives you a competitive advantage in the marketplace,” he said. “You will come to business better prepared with a hands-on applied learning experience. At Dunwoody, your educators have worked in the field they are teaching…you have had the opportunity to utilize state of the art equipment and tools. And because of your hard work and Dunwoody’s partnership with industry, you likely find yourself already employed, or soon to be.”

“You are very lucky,” he continued. “You are graduating at a time where the need for you in business is at an all-time high. You are in that proverbial right place at the right time with the right degree. It’s a great time to be a Dunwoody grad.”

President Rich Wagner challenges Dunwoody grads
Dunwoody College of Technology President Rich Wagner

Dunwoody College of Technology President Rich Wagner

After the degrees were awarded and diplomas were distributed, President Rich Wagner reminded graduates that it’s now their turn to build on the Dunwoody legacy.

“We hear from employers that they hire Dunwoody graduates first,” he said. “We have employers tell us their best employees are Dunwoody graduates. Employers tell us how far ahead Dunwoody graduates are compared to other programs. When you tell people that you attended Dunwoody, you’ll hear how wonderful the school is, when I talk about Dunwoody I hear the same. And all of this is because of Dunwoody’s reputation. A reputation built by Dunwoody alumni.”

“…the legacy of Dunwoody is now in your hands,” he continued. “You now represent the best Dunwoody has to offer, and your actions and accomplishments will build Dunwoody’s reputation for the next generation of Dunwoody students. We look forward with great anticipation to hearing about your successes.”

Congratulations to all of Dunwoody’s 2017-18 graduates.

Photo credit: Stan Waldhauser Photo/Design

View more Commencement photos.

Global Citizen Award Winners: Alexis Koren & Viviane Vaaj

Since 2013, Dunwoody College’s Diversity Council has presented a Student Global Citizen Award to a student or students whose accomplishments exemplify an enthusiastic awareness of issues related to working and living successfully in our diverse society. The 2018 award recipients are Alexis Koren and Viviane Vaaj.


Alexis Koren
Automated Systems & Robotics
Inver Grove Heights, MN

Photo of Alexis KorenAlexis Koren didn’t have the smoothest high school experience. Not only did she experience bullying, but she also broke her back in six places during her senior year. She was able to graduate six months early, but couldn’t carry on with her education. About two years down the road to recovery, she was determined to put her shattered dreams back together and go to college. She wanted to prove wrong those who were skeptical that she would be able to do so. One of her biggest motivations for this was Hastings High School electronics and electricity instructor Dave Davenport. Because of his classes, Koren had come to love programming robots.

Koren had a desire to attend Dunwoody as her love for electronics and robots was growing. After touring the College, she knew that it was the right place for her.

While attending Dunwoody, Koren got involved in volunteer work — she joined the Leaders of Today and Tomorrow (LOTT), a program that seeks to help young women become leaders in their professions and communities. For her community engagement project with LOTT, she gathered menstrual products for the residents of Simpson Housing Services. Volunteering is an activity she has loved to do ever since she began helping out with her aunt in homes for the elderly at the age of 12.

Koren is excited to start her career. But she also hopes to continue to help others, especially by being an inspiration to them like Dave Davenport was for her.

“I want to be a mentor for other men and women,” she said. “Just because there are so many people who feel like they’re not good enough for the world. Everyone is worth it. It only takes one person to believe in you, for you to believe in yourself.”


Viviane Vaaj
Electrical Construction Design & Management
Rosemount, MN

Photo of Viviane VaajPrior to attending Dunwoody, Viviane Vaaj earned a nursing degree and then worked in real estate, which brought her into contact with a local general contractor firm. After learning more about the field from the general contractor, she developed an interest in electrical construction design. She decided to attend Dunwoody because of the small class sizes and the hands-on method of instruction.

It was not a career she had been aware of right out of high school.

“I have to say, as a woman and minority, I was not encouraged to attend technical schools like Dunwoody,” she said. “We were always encouraged to attend the liberal arts schools.”

While at Dunwoody, Vaaj, who is Hmong, helped others learn more about her background by participating at the College’s yearly Festival of Cultures. She is also very active in her community.

“I didn’t choose to advocate for diversity,” she said. “It was part of who I am.”

Vaaj hopes to help diversify the construction industry by encouraging more women and people of color to enter the field. She understands, though, that any change is going to take time and will require people working together to understand each other.

“What I’ve learned from diversity projects is that there are so many people who focus on the differences of other people that we sometimes forget our similarities,” she said.

Academic Excellence Award: Donald Posterick

Donald Posterick
Electronics Engineering Technology
Grand Rapids, Minnesota

Described by faculty as a student who demonstrates “a focused determination to succeed and an outstanding desire to excel,” Donald Posterick earned not only the Academic Excellence Award in Robotics & Manufacturing, but he also received this year’s Student Leadership Award from the Dunwoody Alumni Association.

“Donald reminds me that the best Dunwoody students not only challenge themselves, but also challenge us as instructors to push harder and farther,” Dean of Robotics & Manufacturing E.J. Daigle said.

Posterick’s love for electronics and engineering started back in high school when his natural curiosity prompted him to join the Robotics Team and the Shell Eco Marathon Team.

When nobody on the Robotics Team voiced an interest in tackling the electronics and programming side, Posterick stepped up and took on the challenge. He then went on to develop a speed controller for the Shell Eco Marathon Team’s prototype electronic vehicle.

“I began to learn how to program using online resources – and a lot of trial and error,” Posterick said. “At first it was hard, but I was determined, and I didn’t let anything slow me down.”

That hard work and determination has also helped him succeed here at Dunwoody.

Originally from Grand Rapids, Minn., Posterick discovered Dunwoody College while out talking with companies about sponsoring the Robotics Team. The vice president of the local Chrysler dealership happened to be the former IT director at Dunwoody and encouraged Posterick to check it out and connected him with Daigle.

Posterick followed up on the advice and applied for the College’s Youth Career Awareness Program.

“I was impressed by all that Dunwoody had to offer – from the fully equipped labs, experienced faculty, and interesting extra-curricular activities. I knew that this was the school for me,” Posterick said. “I was luckily accepted into YCAP. The scholarship from YCAP made it possible for me to attend Dunwoody, and after spending the five weeks over the summer at Dunwoody, I wouldn’t have wanted to go anywhere else.”

During his time at Dunwoody, Posterick has enjoyed the project-based approach to education.

“Here at Dunwoody the material we cover in our theory classes we immediately apply in our labs to build and reinforce the skills that we will need in the future,” Posterick said.

Posterick has excelled beyond the classroom as well. He served as the lead programmer for Dunwoody’s autonomous snow plow teams, resulting in third and second place finishes during the past two years, among 12 of the top engineering universities in the Upper Midwest.

In addition, Posterick and his teammates went above and beyond assisting other colleges and university teams with repairs to their own snowplows, ensuring they could compete – and earning the Professor Nattu Sportsmanship Award.

Posterick is graduating from the Electronics Engineering Technology program and is planning to return this fall as a student in the Software Engineering program.

After two years and hundreds of hours of software design for the autonomous snowplows I have realized that my true passion is not just electronics, but bringing together electronics and software,” Posterick said. “My plan is pursue a bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering from Dunwoody over the next four years and continue studying and developing autonomous navigation software to be used by our snowplows, but also to create a versatile system capable of autonomous flight control and obstacle avoidance in multirotor platforms.”

Academic Excellence Award: Brann Haugen

Brann Haugen
Graphic Design ‘18
Minneapolis, MN


Brann Haugen had been searching for the right college for a while. But few schools were leaving much of an impression—that is until he toured Dunwoody.

“I saw all of the equipment and tools available to the students, and I was wowed,” Haugen explained. “And once I heard the education was a more hands-on approach, I was sold.”

Having always had an interest in art and design, Haugen decided to enroll in the Graphic Design program. And it wasn’t long before his talent, dedication, and determination was noticed.

“Brann immediately made an impact,” Graphic Design Assistant Professor Tom Herold said. “His focus, work ethic, and good humor helped create a community of learning within the department and the school.”

During his first semester, Haugen was elected president of Dunwoody’s Design Club.

In 2017, he was a national award winner of the annual Print In America design competition as well as a member of the Dunwoody team that won the American Institute of Corrugated Converters (AICC) Corrugated as Art Competition.

Haugen is also this year’s Academic Excellence Award recipient for the Design & Graphics Technology department.

“Brann has been a leader in the classroom,” Herold said. “He was the last to leave in the evening and the first to connect with other students—during good times and bad. He is very deserving of this award.”

Haugen attributes his success to an inspiring class and always finding ways to improve.

“The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is just knowing I have abilities and that I have a shot,” Haugen shared. “I felt like I was originally living in a bubble in terms of my creative abilities. But working with fellow classmates, and working on real projects, and being able to talk about design with other people has been so valuable. I know I can keep on going forward from here.”

After graduation, Haugen has plans to find another internship that leads into a full-time design job. He also hopes to do some traveling.