Category Archives: Alumni & Friends

Mock Interviews gear Dunwoody students up for life after college

Youth Career Awareness Program (YCAP) students learn many life skills during their monthly workshops. The latest month: how to interview for a job.

IMG_0989On Thursday, April 6, Dunwoody College of Technology Youth Career Awareness Program (YCAP) students brushed off their résumés and prepared for mock interview sessions with the City of Lakes Rotary Club.

The Rotary Club has been conducting mock interviews with YCAP students for several years.

“This is one of the Rotary Club’s projects that they really take great pride in,” said Associate Director of Special Initiatives, YCAP Peggy Quam. “It’s their way to give back and stay connected to YCAP.”

YCAP students find mock interviews a valuable learning experience

IMG_1036The mock interviews took place in the College’s Decker Auditorium where each student was paired up with a Rotary Club member for 25 minutes. During that time, students conducted an informational interview and then collected feedback from their partner on their skills. Students interviewed with three different professionals throughout the evening.

“It was a really good learning experience for us,” YCAP student Donald Posterick said. “It was good for getting used to how to act in an interview and strengthening the skills I need to talk to people.”

IMG_0979YCAP Student Erik Ernst had only done a few interviews in the past, and those interviewers hadn’t offered any feedback. “So it was interesting to hear what I had done well and what I needed to work on in the future,” Ernst said.

Preparing for a mock interview

To prepare, students were asked to refine their résumé with Associate Director of Career Services Rob Borchardt.

Borchardt works one-on-one with students every day to make sure they feel confident for their upcoming interviews and their résumés are attractive to employers.

IMG_0982“A well-written résumé is the key to a job interview, so it’s vital that students are able to communicate their skills, experience, and strengths,” Borchardt said. “Dunwoody students are top candidates and a great resume provides a major leg up in any of our students’ job searches.”

About YCAP

Since 1988, Dunwoody College’s YCAP has helped more than 1,300 students gain access to a college education.

YCAP’s mission is to enhance the career opportunities of underrepresented youth by empowering them to graduate from high school and earn a degree from Dunwoody.

YCAP students complete a six-week paid summer internship filled with career exploration, field trips, and college-readiness courses. After the camp, students are eligible for a $20,000 scholarship to attend Dunwoody.

Learn more at dunwoody.edu/ycap.

Student Spotlight: Aaron McCauley-Aburto

Student Spotlight
Aaron McCauley-Aburto, Bachelor of Architecture
Expected Graduation: May 2019

Aaron McCauley-Aburto is a military veteran and part of the first group of students who are enrolled in the Bachelor of Architecture program here at Dunwoody.

“There is a huge sense of ownership in the program,” McCauley-Aburto said. “Not only do we get to be founders in a new architecture program, but we get to have ownership in a new architectural style of learning, where we place emphasis on technical abilities and learning our tools first and then we transition into theory. I respond really well to that.”

Q&A with a Dunwoody Construction Project Supervision Alum

Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 11.02.38 AMDunwoody alumni are innovators, entrepreneurs, top technicians, and skilled workers.  Here is a quick Q&A with just one!

Sarah Pendergast, ’13 Construction Project Supervision, ’12 Interior Design

Construction Coordinator, Northern Tool & Equipment

Q. Where is the weirdest place you have ever met a fellow alum?

A. I was on a blind date with one. We started talking about our education history and I found out he graduated the year before I started at Dunwoody. Ha, small world.

Q. Has there been a moment in your career when you thought “My job is awesome!” and what was that moment?

A. Yes, when I was on the company’s private jet for a quick three-day trip to visit a few of our stores in Florida.

Q. What would your classmates be surprised to know about you now?

A. That I was a Project Manager and built a church in Maple Grove so soon after graduation.

Q. What is your favorite memory of Dunwoody?

A. So many good memories to choose from. My favorite is when I was able to join the 50th Alumni Reunion with my father in 2013. He was in the graduating class of 1963.

Changing Lives Through Scholarships: Paige Fischer

Scholarship Spotlight
Paige Fischer, Industrial Engineering Technology
Expected Graduation: May 2019
Women In Technical Careers (WITC) Scholarship, Graco Scholarship

Industrial Engineering Technology student Paige Fischer always knew she wanted a hands-on career. Now in her second year at Dunwoody she is looking forward to a career as a manufacturing engineer in the medical device industry after she graduates.

“I’m excited to be a manufacturing engineer with a machinist background. My dream job is a medical manufacturing engineer,” Fischer said. “The motivation is being able to be a woman who makes differences.”

The entrepreneur: an alum profile

Meet Jack Mowry, ’48 Engineering Drafting & Design Technology

Photo of Jack MowryOn paper, Jack Mowry’s two companies, Metal Craft in Elk River, Minn. and Riverside Machine and Engineering in Chippewa Falls, Wisc., employ around 225 people.

“But we think of it as 225 families,” says Jack, ’71 Engineering Drafting & Design. “We have all these families who depend on us to do our jobs, and we depend on them to do their jobs. We all work together to make a nice living.”

Jack is now semi-retired, helping his children Sean and Trisha, the current owners, learn the business.

“I don’t think I’ll ever completely leave the business,” says Jack. “I’ll always be here.”

Jack grew up in Pine City, Minn. and Howard City, S.D., with eight brothers and sisters. When a high school teacher gently told Jack he wasn’t cut out for industrial engineering, he didn’t listen. Instead, when he heard that Dunwoody was offering a six-month tool and die program to help meet an urgent industry need, he enrolled.

“At the beginning of the course they told us they’d make sure that the top half of the class got jobs, and that the bottom half was on their own,” remembers Jack, though he suspects that nearly everyone got jobs anyway. “Dunwoody gave me confidence. When I left there I had no doubt I could do whatever I wanted to do.”

Later, when he wanted to learn more about designing parts to take on more responsible work for his employer, he completed Dunwoody’s mechanical design program.

Confident that he could do even more challenging work, in 1978 Jack returned to machining and founded Metal Craft in a 200 square-foot basement with just a couple of milling machines and a saw. Shortly thereafter, the stakes went up considerably when the company bought its first CNC (Computer Numeric Control) milling machine at a cost of $39,000.

“That was more than I paid for my house,” says Jack.

Since then, his shops have evolved dramatically and kept up with emerging technology. In 1996, Jack acquired Riverside Engineering  in Chippewa Falls from Cray Research.

“The change in the equipment since I started is so dramatic,” explains Jack. “Today we machine with laser, wire and water. The changes are just phenomenal. It’s like going from the dark ages to now.”

About 25 percent of the business is involved with aerospace and defense manufacturing, and 75 percent is machining close-tolerance parts for surgical instruments and implants.

“The work we do is complex in more ways than one,” says Jack. “We have to trace every step of the job to ensure that we haven’t added any new chemicals or processes without notifying the customers.”

Today, engineers are involved in all steps of production, from quoting to processing to inspection.

“The hardest part of being in business is getting good, qualified people who can help you,” says Jack. “What upsets me most is that we don’t have enough women applying for these machining and engineering jobs. Some think that it’s a dirty, grimy job, but it’s not.  It’s a clean job, and you don’t have to bow your head to anybody, because it’s an occupation that will always keep you employed.”

Changing Lives Through Scholarships: Danny Treat

Scholarship Spotlight
Danny Treat, Engineering Drafting & Design
Expected Graduation: May 2017
Owen Family Fund for Prosperity Scholarship

Danny Treat has always had a lot of interests in life. But Dunwoody College of Technology has given him the focus and drive he needed to steer those interests onto a promising career path.

Growing up in San Diego, Treat struggled with traditional high school, but found success at a charter school that emphasized real work experience.

With interests that spanned a wide spectrum of fields, Treat explored multiple options at a community college before admitting he just wasn’t ready for more school.

Treat was interested in several service-learning programs available through non-profit organizations. He eventually settled on a three-month commitment with Catholic Charities, helping rebuild homes in New Orleans. He continued that work with AmeriCorps, eventually serving as one of the project managers and volunteer coordinators.

A hands-on learner, Treat enjoyed the carpentry and construction aspects of the job, but he also liked the idea of helping design a project. With those interests in mind, Treat enrolled at the University of New Orleans in the naval architecture and marine engineering program.

But the four-year, traditional college model wasn’t a good fit. “There was no ‘hands-on’ learning,” Treat said, adding that it wasn’t until the final year of the program that you got to do the “fun stuff.”

By this time, Treat had met his now fiancée who was from the Twin Cities and wanted to move back to start her teaching career.

The couple moved to Minneapolis and Treat found work installing closets, and looked into joining the electrical union. It was his fiancée’s mother, who happens to be a career counselor, who first suggested Dunwoody as an option.

So Treat attended an open house and checked out a number of programs before hearing about the Engineering Drafting & Design program.

“When I saw the 3D printers and heard about the program I knew that was it,” Treat said.

It was decision he never regretted. “I felt more at home here than I did at either the community college or the four-year university,” Treat said. “I connected more.”

Treat was impressed with all of the hands-on work, and with a 3.96 GPA, he has excelled in all of his coursework. Treat is also one of the 2016-17 Owen Scholarship recipients.

“I haven’t had a day when I haven’t wanted to come to school,” Treat said.

He already has an internship with Proto Labs, an on-demand manufacturer of custom prototypes using CNC machining, injection molding and 3D printing.

After graduating, Treat wants to find a career that allows him to utilize all of the skills he’s learned – from design to build. “I want to design the stuff and then help make it,” Treat said.

If you’d like to help someone like Danny with a scholarship gift, donate online at www.alumni.dunwoody.edu/donate-now or contact Mary Meador at 612-381-3048 or mmeador@Dunwoody.edu.

The Self-Starter: An Alum Profile

Meet Vern Discher, ’48 Engineering Drafting & Design Technology

Discher_Vernon1Visit Vern and Shirley Discher’s Prior Lake home and you’ll see Dunwoody pride. A Dunwoody pennant hangs over the door in the den. Certificates acknowledging Vern’s membership in the Dunwoody 50-Year-Club and the Legacy Association are displayed on the wall, next to scores of family pictures and a map showing the couple’s travels around the world and to all 50 states.

“Shirley and I have been truly blessed in our journey through life,” says Vern. “This isn’t a ‘me’ story; it’s a ‘we’ story.”

The couple met on a double date in Minneapolis when they were still in high school. Vern was hooked instantly, but marriage had to wait until after he completed his military service in Germany and graduated from Dunwoody.

Once he had settled into work at West Bend Aluminum Company (a job the College arranged for him), he and Shirley launched their life together.

In the following years, Vern moved through a series of positions that built his knowledge of extruded aluminum manufacturing and sales.

“I was always looking for better jobs with higher pay, so I moved around from company to company in those early years,” he explains, admitting that there were a few times when he tried some “wild scheme to be my own boss” that didn’t work out. “I think I just had a built-in desire to be independent,” he explains.

In 1975, he was named general manager of Northland Marine, a division of Northland Aluminum Products that manufactured marine windshields and portholes.

The company was struggling, and Vern and CEO/owner Dave Dalquist turned it around by moving into extruded aluminum fabricating, an industry Vern knew very well.

With a new name of Northland Fabricators and a new product line, sales took off. In 1979, when Northland Aluminum was ready to sell the division, Vern and plant manager Larry Holen, bought the company, renaming it Norfab.

“A lot of the success of Norfab was my ability to hire the right people,” explains Vern. He focused on sales, and let other people do their jobs.

Shirley was often at his side at trade shows, business dinners and calls on key customers. “She did an excellent job,” says Vern. “She loved people and people loved her. We’d go to a trade show, and they’d show up at our booth and say, ‘Where’s Shirley?’”

In 1987, Vern sold his share of the company and retired to travel the world with Shirley.

“I have great personal pride in the fact that after more than 25 years, Norfab is still very much in business and that most of the employees that were there when I left are either still working there or have retired from Norfab.”

“When I look back on my career, I see that things just evolved,” says Vern. He’s pleased to see that Dunwoody continues to evolve too. “When I was there, Dunwoody was all drafting boards and tee squares,” he remembers. “Now it’s all computers. It fascinates me to go through it and to see what the young people are doing and the things they’re creating.”

A passion for solving problems: An alumni profile

Allen Wentland, ’86 Computer & Digital Systems Technician, has built a business by finding solutions

When Allen Wentland, ’86 Computer & Digital Systems Technician, was hired as the first employee of the newly formed Washburn Computer Group he never imagined that the title behind his name would one day be “owner.” More than 25 years later Wentland may now be the boss, but his biggest joy still comes from doing what he was first hired to do – solving problems for customers. Now he just accomplishes that goal on a much larger scale.

Photo of Allen Wentland at Washburn Computer Group.

Allen Wentland, ’86 Computer & Digital Systems Technician, is the owner of a Monticello-based computer company — Washburn Computer Group.

The road to business ownership

Wentland’s path to business ownership is anything but traditional. Growing up in a small Minnesota farming community, Wentland began working maintenance at a foundry after high school. And while the job wasn’t what he wanted to do for the rest of his life, he did discover a talent and passion for fixing electronics.

So at the age of 31, Wentland took it to heart when his uncle Leo Wentland, ‘49 Electrical Construction & Maintenance, said to him, “Allen, go to Dunwoody.”

Two years later, Wentland got his degree and his first job in the industry. He was hired by Dataserv to work in their new Point of Sale (POS) division, repairing the POS computers and equipment that make sales in the service industry possible. The POS industry includes everything from the cash registers to the software systems.

The company went out of business, but Wentland’s experience in the POS industry got him a job as a technician for a brand new company – Washburn Computer Group. In the beginning, the company was simply buying and selling POS equipment.

“During my first week I remember thinking that this was going to be one of the easiest jobs I ever had,” Wentland laughingly recalls.

It wasn’t long before Wentland’s knack for solving problems kicked in. “In the beginning, we were just buying and selling, no maintenance,” Wentland said. “So I started putzing with some of the broken equipment to see if I could repair and resell it.”

The idea was a good one and today the repair side now accounts for about 80 percent of Washburn’s business.

A unique side of the computer industry

When you tour the company you get a feel for the scope of services Washburn provides. Instead of just throwing out equipment that doesn’t work, companies send the broken equipment to Washburn. Once it arrives everything is cataloged, stripped apart and then cleaned. Parts are even painted to look brand new. Technicians go to work diagnosing and then repairing the problem before everything is reassembled and shipped back to the customer. As for the parts that cannot be repaired – those are destroyed and then recycled.

As the business grew, so did Wentland’s responsibilities. The job titles changed as well, from Technician to Head Technician to Vice President. And then one day, the past owner approached Wentland with the news that he was ready to sell the company.

Wentland wasn’t ready for the role of owner, but he also wasn’t ready to let go of a company he had helped build from the ground up. So on December 28, 2005, Wentland added the title of Owner to his name.

From employee to owner

At the time, Washburn had between 20 and 30 employees and was handling the repair of about 2,000 pieces of equipment a month.

Today, the business has nearly tripled and now employs close to 80 employees and repairs and ships about 6,000 pieces of equipment a month out of its two locations – the main facility in Monticello, Minnesota, and a second shipping center in Las Vegas.

The path to success was not an easy one. Wentland knew the technical side of the company, but he had to learn the business side. He surrounded himself with good people and learned from several mentors. To this day, Wentland is still grateful for the help and plans to pay it forward when he retires by mentoring other small business owners.

The success of Washburn can also be seen in its growing list of customers. “We don’t lose customers,” Wentland said. Today the company serves a wide range of well-known companies in the service industry – from casinos to home improvement stores.

Wentland is still amazed by the two-person business he helped grow into the thriving company it is today. His advice to young entrepreneurs? “Don’t give up. Surround yourself with problem-solvers who take pride in serving your customers.”

When he is not at work, Wentland can be found up north tackling his next challenge – the renovation and rebuilding of an old cabin. A getaway he shares with his wife Janice and their extended family, including 19 grandchildren.

Read more stories about alumni entrepreneurs in the Fall 2016 edition of the Alumni & Friends Magazine.