Scholarships help women pursue technical careers.

Kelly Vang studies Engineering Drafting & Design at Dunwoody.

Kelly Vang had no idea she was destined to become an Engineer. 

When she was younger, it was the furthest thing from her mind. 

She wanted to be a pharmacist. When she got to college, she began her studies by taking a pharmacy tech class and quickly became disenchanted.

“I didn’t enjoy it,” she said. “I didn’t like medical terminology. I needed a new environment.”

As a child of immigrant parents who put in many hours on the factory floor, she was encouraged to find a career away from that kind of work. Her parents wanted something different for her. 

At a friend’s urging, she took a summer job at Turck, Inc., a Plymouth company that specializes in sensors, interface technology, and connectors. 

It was there that she discovered her calling. 

Kelly Vang is studying Engineering, Drafting & Design at Dunwoody.
Kelly Vang is studying Engineering, Drafting & Design at Dunwoody.

She enjoyed learning about sensors and connectors and where these items were used: like local amusement parks she had been to, or in lawn mower tractors she was familiar with. Knowing she helped put the epoxy in those same connectors pushed her to want to know more about them.

“When I eventually moved into the special assembly team, working with the engineers and technicians who knew even more than the regular assemblers that I was working with every day, I was able to ask them more questions about the products we made,” she said.

She still wanted a formal education and a four-year degree, but was getting nervous that she was not going to have enough money to pay for it. She started to look for places offering scholarship opportunities and discovered the Women In Technical Careers (WITC) scholarship during a visit to one of Dunwoody’s Open House events.

Many technical careers are historically male-dominated. The WITC scholarship program is designed to help female students seeking a degree in a technical field break through those barriers.  

In addition to scholarship funding, recipients receive a childcare stipend (if eligible); have access to monthly workshops; and receive academic support from fellow WITC students, the WITC program manager, and a female mentor who works in the same industry. 

Funds come from donors, several who have provided multi-year support such as Otto Bremer Trust, The Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, Maggie Mithun Endowed WITC Scholarship, Kay Phillips and Jill Mortensen Fund, the Charlson Foundation, and Women’s Foundation of Minnesota.

Vang was excited when she was awarded one of these scholarships. She recently completed her first year in the Engineering Drafting & Design program, where she worked on real-world projects such as Art By Blind.

“I love it here so much,” she said. “All the instructors are so supportive. They want to make sure you are going to graduate.”

Which Vang is on track to do next spring with an Associate of Applied Science degree.

Once she has that in hand, she plans to continue into the Industrial Engineering Technology program where she can earn that Bachelor of Science degree she once thought was out of reach, all thanks to the WITC program.