Category Archives: Faculty News

Assistant Professor John Columbus talks workplace skills and software engineering education

Photo of Software Engineering Assistant Professor John ColumbusEarlier this year, John Columbus, Assistant Professor of Software Engineering, contributed a column to EdTech Digest titled “Teaching the Untaught,” which focused on how software engineers need to learn both practical and soft workplace skills while still in college, so they are prepared to contribute right away when they enter the workforce.

Here is a follow-up Q&A to that article:

What are some of the specific interpersonal and communication skills that are important for software engineers to have?

A key skill is the ability to interpret the customer’s comments and questions. The customer may have their own specific language just like we have our “technical” language. It’s up to us to understand the customer—not the other way around. Another key skill is writing. Engineers today write thousands of emails per year. We must be concise, understandable by all email recipients, and present our evidence/opinions correctly.

How do those skills come into play specifically in a software engineering context?

An example would be when a customer or business analyst informs the engineer they have a new idea to save time on invoice processing. The engineer needs to be able to understand the invoice process along with the requested changes. The engineer needs to examine the process and related software to determine possible options and their cost. This has to be conveyed accurately and effectively to the process/product owner so they can make an appropriate business decision. If the business leaders can’t understand the recommendations or why one choice would be better than another, they might make an incorrect decision or expensive mistake.

In the column, you mention teamwork in the context of graduates needing to enter the job market with a wide variety of skills—of not being “just” a coder. How does that kind of flexibility aid teamwork out in the real world?

Business is always changing. Keeping up with the demands for change has forced IT teams to be much more flexible. As a manager, I needed a team that could work on multiple projects where different people could play different roles to balance the work. A programmer would work on requirements on one project with the customer, code on a different project, and be the tester on a third project. With the concept of Agile, engineers may have to do different parts during the sprint, and the entire team must be flexible enough to complete the work. Engineers no longer have the luxury of doing just one piece of the entire software development life cycle.

How can students learn teamwork while still in college?

Many of us—me included—didn’t particularly enjoy group projects in college, yet they serve a critical role in helping us deal with the real problems at work. One of the main complaints we hear about group work is that someone doesn’t help out or is actually hindering the process. Unfortunately, that can be a common occurrence at work. Several real situations are that people may have several tasks to work on so something doesn’t get done. Workers may not understand the problem to solve or the process to fix it. And at times, people are simply overwhelmed. These issues happen during college group work and at work, so students need to learn how to effectively deal with it and still get the job done.

Your column mentions that the software engineering talent pool is global, and students need to be culturally sensitive in their interactions with colleagues and superiors. In what other ways can a global and culturally aware perspective benefit software engineers?

I’ve worked on projects with people from across the globe. Most people appreciate another co-worker who shows some interest in at least the basics of their background. Trying to understand a situation from their point of view will usually encourage others to be more flexible with you. This makes the teamwork go more smoothly. Also, you need to understand their point of view to see why they may be recommending a certain course of action or why they may be resistant to an idea. The days of working just with people that all grew up within 20 miles of where you grew up are fading fast.

I’ve also worked on projects where the members are scattered across the globe, and I may be the only person in Minnesota on the team. If I have team members in the rest of the U.S., I must also be aware of the different time zones. When working with a team in India, finding a time to chat online may require flexibility from all members. The internet has broken down the distance barrier so engineers must adapt to that new reality.

Dunwoody’s Software Engineering program launched the fall of 2017. Applications are still open for fall 2018. Learn more about Software Engineering.

Dunwoody names two Distinguished Teachers for 2018

Tom Larson & Richard Thomson honored for their commitment to students

Excellence in teaching and a commitment to lifelong learning are two of the reasons Machine Tool Technology Assistant Professor Tom Larson and Applied Management Adjunct Instructor Richard Thomson were awarded the 2018 Distinguished Teacher Award by Dunwoody College of Technology.

Larson and Thomson were presented with the awards during the April All-Employee Meeting, and both instructors were given medallions to wear during the College’s commencement ceremony this May.

The award is presented annually to a faculty member who has committed a significant portion of their career to the art of teaching and who demonstrates a consistent ability to instill critical and creative thinking skills in their students. In addition, they have demonstrated a commitment to the field of education and building effective relationships within secondary education and industry.

2018 Distinguished Teacher Award Tom Larson

Pictured (from left): Dean of Robotics & Manufacturing Programs E.J. Daigle, Machine Tool Technology Assistant Professor Tom Larson, Provost Jeff Ylinen, and President Rich Wagner.

Tom Larson: Dedicated to his craft and his students

For more than 28 years, Larson has been educating future machinists and manufacturing technicians in his roll as an educator at Dunwoody College of Technology.

“Tom is an outstanding instructor, and his students appreciate his meticulous attention to detail and extensive explanations of CNC programming,” said E.J. Daigle, Dean of Robotics & Manufacturing Programs.

Larson was instrumental in the concept and creation of Dunwoody’s program Right Skills Now for Manufacturing in 2011, and since then he has worked with his students to obtain more than 600 National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) credentials.

“Combining all of this with his willingness to work after hours, including most Saturdays, to maintain and repair equipment makes Tom a crucial resource to the success of a machine shop,” Daigle said. “Tom’s role at Dunwoody cannot be discounted.”

“Receiving the award, which was totally unexpected, was a very gratifying experience,” Larson said. “If you pursue vocationally what you enjoy, and work at perpetuating the craft, the end result will undoubtedly be a satisfying one.”

2018 Distinguished Teacher Award

Pictured (from left): President Rich Wagner, Applied Management Adjunct Instructor Richard Thomson, and Provost Jeff Ylinen.

Richard Thomson: Putting students first

As both a faculty member and an administrator, Thomson has spent the majority of his career dedicating himself to ensuring that all students get the best education possible.

“His selfless, servant leader attitude is demonstrated on a daily basis,” said Michael White, Dean of Applied Management. “His dedication to his students is commendable and goes way above the expectations for any faculty member.”

Thomson holds his students to a high standard, but works proactively and fairly with them so they can be successful.

“He always believes in his students, even when his students do not believe in themselves,” White said. “There are countless success stories found in his students, who would not be successful without the incredible dedication, caring, and teaching excellence exemplified by Richard.”

Always willing to adapt new technologies, Thomson took on the challenge of finding a new way to deliver distance learning. In a short timeframe, he worked to create a webcasting option that delivered an outstanding class to his students. The Applied Management program now uses this as the standard delivery method for the program. ­

Employee Spotlight: Anjana Parua, Automated Systems & Robotics Instructor

Where did you grow up?

I grew up mostly in western parts of India in a state called Gujarat. My father had a transferable job; therefore, we lived in different states in India such as New Delhi, Rajasthan.

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

I earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Gujarat University, India. I have a Master’s in Instrumentation and Control Engineering (Electrical Sciences).

How long have you been working in Dunwoody?

It’s been exactly 6 months, and I am already feeling at home.

Why did you decide to work in Dunwoody?

I always wanted to work at a prestigious institute with strong values and in an environment that promotes diversity. Dunwoody was on the top of my list when I moved to Minnesota and was looking for a job in the academic field. I instantly could connect myself with the courses offered in the Automated Systems & Robotics program. I am very excited to be part of this institution.

What is your favorite part about working at Dunwoody?

The warm and caring nature of people here in Dunwoody.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

One of the reasons I wanted to be a part of the teaching field is to keep exploring new ideas and innovative ways to solve existing problems as well as to see how students grow their skills bit by bit in every lecture they take.

I enjoy the inquisitive nature of students, which provokes them to develop new ideas and solutions to life’s problems. It gives me immense satisfaction when I can help students to nurture their ideas.

What did you do prior to teaching at Dunwoody? Why did you choose the career path you did?

Prior to Dunwoody, I was teaching in India at the BMS College of Engineering in Karnataka, India. Let’s say I was born to be a teacher/educator! Teaching gives me inner peace. When I teach I am the happiest person alive!

What do you enjoy about the Automated System & Robotics industry?

I enjoy programming and instrumentation, which can automate any system to make life simpler.

What are few of your hobbies?

I love to travel a lot and explore different cultures—food and cuisines especially. Dancing and painting relaxes me a lot too. Learning new languages is also one of my newfound hobbies!

What are you most excited for in 2018?

I will be teaching a course in Industrial Robotics (FANUC) during spring semester 2018, and I’m really excited about it.

What is the most beautiful spot you have ever travelled to?

The most beautiful place I have been is Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which is one of the union territories in India. I enjoyed snorkeling in turquoise water and the silence all around me.

Please provide 2-3 fun facts about yourself
  1. I am multi lingual. I know 5 different Indian languages (English, Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, and Kannada!).
  2. I am big fan of the TV series ‘The Office (US)’ and ‘Firefly’.
  3. I am a big Tomb Raider video game fan.

Mia debuts divining rod for art discovery designed by Architecture’s Molly Reichert

Photo of a person holding the divining rod, a plastic u-shaped device with a circle of led lights in the center, near a landscape painting

The Divining Rod in action in one of Mia’s galleries (photo courtesy of Mia)

When Architecture faculty member Molly Reichert teamed up with engineer Ben Arcand to enter Minneapolis Institute of Art’s 3M Arts and Technology Award last year, they came up with a concept that was simple and elegant: a divining rod to guide visitors through the museum galleries in a unique, interesting way.

But once they won the award, they realized that now they had to actually build it. That took many prototypes (with some of the concepts 3D-printed in Dunwoody’s Materials, Mechanics,& Metrology Lab); recruiting additional team members to help with the software and fabrication; and lots of testing and debugging.

The Divining Rod team (left to right): Max Hoagland, hardware/software designer and programmer; co-creators Ben Arcand and Molly Reichert; and Blaine Garrett, algorithm programmer and designer. (photo courtesy of Mia)

The divining rod project came together in the end and debuted late last month. It features a u-shaped plastic casing that senses your location and displays lights that show you which direction to go in order to find an initial work of art. Once you’ve arrived at the artwork, you scan the label next to it and press a plus or minus button on the rod. Your reaction then interacts with a recommendation algorithm and guides you to a different piece of art it thinks you will like. Every interaction with the divining rod helps the recommendation algorithm it uses personalizes your museum experience further. It also helps the algorithm continue to learn and get better as a recommendation engine.

“The Divining Rods Project has a lot of potential for further development and could be used in a variety of contexts,” Reichert said. “We’re hoping that the collected data can be used to create new projects that augment the museum visitor experience.”

The divining rod project can be experienced at the museum on weekends and most Thursday and Friday evening (click here for a full schedule).

Read more about the product development process on the Mia Divining Rods project blog.

2017 3M Art and Technology Competition

There’s still time to submit your ideas for the 2017 version of the awards. Ideas are due by December 1, 2017. Find out more at the competition website and submit your ideas here.

Employee Spotlight: Teresa Milligan, Principal Instructor

Teresa Milligan, Dunwoody Principal Instructor

Hometown: Scandia, MN

College: College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, MN (undergrad), St. Mary’s University in Minneapolis (graduate)

Degrees: B.A. in Secondary Social Sciences Education, M.A. in Literacy Education, Graduate Certificate for Teachers of Adult ESL

How long have you been working at Dunwoody?

7 years in October!

What is your favorite part about working at Dunwoody?

That I am able to give students the literacy tools they need to succeed in their classes and in their future jobs, as well as collaborating with a lot of very caring, passionate instructors.

I think I get the most satisfaction from watching the excitement of the students who are finally given a chance to shine in a way that reflects who they are and from seeing the pride our instructors have in our students and the satisfaction they feel from being able to facilitate that chance.

What do you like about Dunwoody’s hands-on educational philosophy?

Dunwoody’s philosophy aligns with a lot of the research on learning, especially adult learners, so it’s exciting to put it in action and see it work. What makes us stand out is the relationships students build with their instructors and with each other. We are able to establish the trust and credibility students need to participate in that kind of deep learning, even if they aren’t confident in themselves yet.

What are a few of your hobbies?

Gardening, reading, camping, walking or running with my German shepherd, spending time with my boys, and being a motorcycle mama.

What kind of music do you listen to?

I like almost everything. Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eric Clapton, and The Beatles dominate my playlist, though. I’m a sucker for a bluesy, soulful guitar solo.

What’s your favorite kind of pizza?

Pepperoni and green olive.

Fun facts:
  1. I’ve been with my husband since we were 14!
  2. I have a slight obsession with biographies (right now I’m reading The Wright Brothers by David McCullough, Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets by Curt Gentry).
  3. I can make a mean lasagna.

Employee Spotlight: Mark Anderson, Manager of IT Operations

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Hometown: Belvidere, IL

College: Dunwoody College of Technology

Degrees: AAS in Computer Networking & Electronic Systems, BS in Applied Management with a MIS Concentration

How long have you been working at Dunwoody? 16 years + 1 year as a student worker!

Why did you decide to work at Dunwoody?

I really liked the idea of working where I went to school and applying what I was learning in the classroom to the job. After graduation, I decided to stay with Dunwoody mainly because of the relationships I had built with employees and how quickly I was learning in that environment. Chris Leiseth, my manager at the time, let me take on all sorts of projects and higher-level support requests. He taught me that fixing the technology was the easier part of IT, and that it was more important to learn how to build relationships and trust across the organization.

What is your favorite part about working at Dunwoody?

Hiring student workers for IT. From the interview, to training and coaching them, to watching them graduate and go on to successful and rewarding careers because of what they learned at Dunwoody—I enjoy all of it.

What are a few of your hobbies?

I enjoy playing basketball, golf, and baseball as well as biking, fishing, and woodworking projects.

What is your favorite type of cuisine or food?

When it’s not fishing season, Japanese Teppanyaki.

Which sports teams do you root for?

My family from Illinois would disown me if I went with all Minnesota teams, so, Chicago White Sox, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Wild, and Minnesota Timberwolves. I do like watching the Twins and Vikings, but I still root for the Sox and Packers when they play.

Dunwoody students study abroad in Cuba

Eight Dunwoody students have another bullet to add to their résumé (and a lot of photos to add to their portfolios) thanks to a recent study aboard trip to Cuba!

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Architecture students Alex Stanley, Celina Nelson, and Gianna Madison; Surveying & Civil Engineering Technology student Patrick Kowal; Construction Project Management student Kate Anderson; and Construction Management students Freddy Jara, Aaron Davis, and Jake Benson-Devine joined Senior Instructor Alex Wong, Program Manager Heather Gay, and Dean Bridget Reynolds on the nine-day adventure late last month.

During their trip, students had the opportunity to experience the city-life of Havana, the small town charm of Santa Clara, the history behind Trinidad port, and the captivating beauty of Topes De Collantes National Park.

Trip highlights included:
Havana
  • Studying the reconstruction and restoration of Havanna
  • Learning what technical education looks like in another country
  • Experiencing different types of food and music
Santa Clara
  • Learning what construction materials and methods are used for restoration projects in a more rural area
  • Learning how smaller educational institutions train students for jobs
  • Understanding how a construction site is prepared in another country
Trinidad
  • Discovering the national influences and inspirations behind the port’s design
  • Seeing the many different goods being imported and exported
  • Learning the history behind residential design and how pirates and weather played a role
  • Studying the evolution of the port’s economy and society

Topes De Collantes National Park

  • Hiking the Escambray Mountains
  • Swimming in the basin of a waterfall
Trip photos:

The College plans to offer another study abroad trip summer of 2018.

To learn more about the 2017 Study Abroad trip, visit: https://cubacmgt1901.wordpress.com

Employee Spotlight: Andy Stevens

A Q&A with Industrial Engineering Senior Instructor Andy Stevens

AndyStevens

Hometown: Browerville, MN
College: St. Cloud State
Degrees: B.S. in Operations Management, Masters in Business Administration (Currently pursuing a M.S. in Manufacturing Engineering at UW-Stout)
Certifications: Professional Engineering Manager (PEM), Certified Manufacturing Engineer (CMfgE), Mini-Master in Lean Manufacturing

How long have you been working at Dunwoody?

I had the opportunity to start working at Dunwoody as an adjunct instructor spring 2017 semester and started as a full-time instructor in March. It feels like time has flown by, and I can’t believe we are almost the end of the semester.

Why did you decide to work at Dunwoody?

Dunwoody is one of the best-kept secrets in the Twin Cities, and I’ve admired Dunwoody for years as a hands-on, high-tech college. I’ve always wanted to get into teaching and when the opportunity presented itself, I went for it! I’m grateful for the opportunity.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Interacting with students is extremely enjoyable! Whether that is in the classroom during a lecture and discussion or outside the classroom answering questions and giving guidance. In second, I would say it is the constant learning and reinforcing the depth of industrial engineering knowledge.

What are a few of your hobbies?

I love making “stuff”. I guess that’s why I have a passion for manufacturing in general! Some of the things I make are homemade beer/wine, soap, canning all kinds of things out of the garden, and many other homemade products. I also enjoy gardening, being outdoors, and marksmanship.

What is the best concert you’ve ever been to?

1998 – The George Strait Country Music festival at the Metrodome or The Zelda Orchestra at the Orpheum just a few years ago.

What is the one thing in the world you are most proud of?

Beyond a doubt the one thing I am most proud of is being married to my wife, Heidi. We have been together for almost seven years and along the way she has supported whatever “crazy idea” I get; from quitting a job and starting my own consulting business, coming up with some new hobby that turns the house upside down, or anything in between. She is 100% supportive of my endeavors regardless of how big or crazy the idea may seem.

Fun Facts:
  • In high school I worked at a horse ranch as a wrangler year-round. Growing up, I also raised huskies for dogsledding and actually participated in races!
  • I’ve spent about 15 years in industry, ranging in titles as a Manufacturing Engineering Manager, Industrial Engineer, CI Engineer, Manufacturing Engineer, Project Manager, and others.
  • When I was a consultant project manager, I traveled all over the United States and was able to see LOTS of different manufacturing companies. From making egg patties in New Jersey, to truck transmission castings in Kentucky, to air conditioners in Louisiana, or the best smelling facility I have ever been in: a microwave bacon company in northern Iowa!
  • I started my own consulting business and keep it going on the side to this day. I focus on helping companies with operations management and industrial engineering problems/opportunities.
  • I’m PUMPED to be an instructor at Dunwoody!