When Pittsburg native Allen Canzonieri enrolled at Dunwoody, he already had more life and career experience than most professionals do after a decade in the field.
A Veteran, he joined the Army at 17 and served in the cavalry for eight years, completing two tours in Iraq before being medically separated and moving back home.
With his Army career behind him, he enrolled in college with the idea of taking pre-med classes and becoming an orthopedic surgeon.
“I swiftly realized that wasn’t in the cards,” he said. “So after that I worked a couple of dead-end jobs selling construction, trucks, and RVs.”
It was also back in Pittsburg when Canzonieri met his wife Paige, then a product engineer for Eaton Corporation, whose job would move the couple around before finally landing in the Twin Cities in 2016.
Now an Automation Manufacturing Engineer for CommScope, she would also be the one who would encourage him to explore a career in engineering.
A new path forward
So he enrolled at a local community technical college and earned an Associate in Applied Science in Fluid Power Engineering and Motion Control.
As he was finishing up the program he came to the realization that while he didn’t want to be a hydraulic engineer, he did want to get his bachelor’s degree in engineering. And that’s when he discovered Dunwoody’s +2 Bachelor’s of Science in Industrial Engineering Technology.
“I chose the program because I could get an engineering degree without going through another four years of college,” he said. “Plus, the facilities [at Dunwoody] are phenomenal. I was quite taken aback on how industry current the facilities are.”
With the decision made, Canzonieri enrolled and started classes in the fall of 2019. He worked full time and took six classes a semester.
Despite the heavy work and school commitment, he managed to finish on time, graduate Magna Cum Laude, and earn the Academic Excellence Award for the School of Engineering.
“The classes just all seemed to make sense to me,” he said. “The way information was presented clicked with me.”
He also walked away with a career that he loves.
Canzonieri accepted as a position as a Project Field Engineer for Adolfson & Peterson Construction and is currently working on a construction site, monitoring progress, timelines, and materials.
“I love it,” he said. “I’m working on an 18 story build in Edina and it’s one of the prettiest buildings I’ve ever seen.” Adding that the program really prepared him for the work he is doing now.
“A lot of the stuff we did revolved around project management and mechanical engineering, and I discovered I really enjoyed seeing a project from inception to completion,” he said. “I like taking an idea and turning it into a finished project — and doing it all on time and on budget.”
That model of going from ideation to creation was built into the program, and one project he said he really enjoyed was in his Engineering Economic Analysis class, which had each student create a product or service and then complete a full financial analysis to determine its in-market feasibility.
He also took it as an opportunity to solve a problem he’s dealt with in his own life. “I wanted to design an ATV ramp for the bed of a truck that would hold a side-by-side, but that could also be disassembled.”
That type of portable ramp would allow ATVers to camp in one location with their fifth-wheel or travel trailer, but still haul their ATV out to trails in another location.
In order to determine the product’s feasibility, he had to first design the product in SolidWorks and determine if it was structurally sound.
“I ended up designing three different variations,” he said. But the project didn’t stop there. Canzonieri had to also calculate the cost of materials, assembly facility rental, warehousing, and tools and equipment needed to produce the product. He then looked at bank rates and completed a market analysis to see if the demand was there — it was.
And while he doesn’t have any plans to start producing his design, he said he really enjoyed the entire process involved.
A support network
Throughout his education, Canzonieri said he felt supported by the faculty, even when everything had to switch to online due to COVID.
“I thought the faculty did an amazing job adapting — providing the value of education we expected and demanded,” he said. “My experience at Dunwoody has been far more positive than other post-secondary experiences. Faculty engage with the students. They know their names. There is no lack of support at Dunwoody.”
In addition to the ticking expiration date of his VA education funds, Canzonieri said his wife was the one who always inspired him to stay motivated during his time at Dunwoody. She also helped him regain his math skills, after waiting 10 years between high school and college.
Looking back, the new Dunwoody grad said one of the biggest lessons he will carry with him is how he approaches problems and solutions.
“I learned to be more open-minded when looking at stuff,” he said. “Even if something looks good — it can still be improved. I learned to look at the world through a different lens — one of continuous improvement.”