Academic Excellence Award Student News

Anna MacLean Recognized for Academic Achievement

Machine Tool Technology student is recipient of Academic Excellence Award

Anna MacLean started her college career studying Mechanical Engineering south of the Minnesota border, where the corn grows tall. It was the fall of 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, and the new normal was not the educational experience she was craving.  

So, after only one semester, she returned to Maple Grove to reevaluate her career and academic goals.  

“I’ve always been hands on,” the Maple Grove resident said. “My grandma taught me how to knit when I was 5 years old, and I haven’t looked back since. I am constantly doing some craft or activity in my down time, whether it be knitting, crocheting, embroidery, cross stitch — you name it…” 

The idea of furthering her education through an applied learning approach intrigued her. One after another, family members encouraged her to research career paths offered by Dunwoody.  

Anna MacLean at the controls of one of the Haas CNC machines.

MacLean scheduled a tour of campus, and it was love at first sight.  

“After seeing it in person and talking to the staff, it really sealed the deal,” MacLean said. “Even without interacting with current students, the sense of community I felt was unlike any other school I had toured. I knew that in attending Dunwoody I would be heavily supported throughout my attendance.” 

She enrolled in the Welding program and spent her first year of classes soaking everything up like a sponge.  

Anna MacLean, right, fabricates the inner frame of the Shell-Eco Marathon Battery-Electric prototype vehicle she drove to a fifth-place finish at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

However, it was the introduction to the machine shop — a course every student in the Manufacturing field must take — in her second year, where she truly found her fit. Soon after, she switched her major to Machine Tool Technology. 

“I became enamored with machining,” MacLean said. “I just loved how precise it could be, and the vast ways in which machining can be applied.” 

She had already earned enough credits to receive the one-year certification in Welding Technology and viewed it as a backup plan if her new aspiration to become a machinist did not come to fruition. 

Thinking it could be helpful for her career, she joined the College’s Shell Eco-marathon team — the Dunwoody Daredevils — where she assisted her teammates re-design and fabricate the inner frame of the vehicle’s shell. As the driver, she drove them to a fifth-place finish in the Battery-Electric prototype vehicle at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2023 and was a coach to this year’s driver who finished second in April. MacLean instead drove the College’s Urban Concept Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) to a seventh-place win at the same competition. 

Anna MacLean gets some help from teammates as she steers the Urban Concept ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicle to the track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“It helped me realize that there is no limit to what I can achieve in my life if I put in the work and the time,” she said.  

When the student worker position for the Machine Shop became available, MacLean hopped at the chance and applied for the job. It allowed time to continue to hone her skills with the Haas CNC machines. She helped keep the shop updated for faculty and would occasionally fill in for staff at the Tool Crib, checking out tools and supplies to other students. Serving as a student ambassador during monthly Open Houses, she would give prospective students a preview of a Dunwoody education by coaching them through programming exercises on the keypads of the CNCs. 

MacLean’s attitude, skills, and work ethic led to her being chosen as the 2024 Academic Excellence Award recipient for Robotics & Manufacturing.  

The award is given to one graduating student from each academic area who has earned a 3.0 grade point average or higher, and recipients are nominated by faculty members 

“Anna received multiple nominations from our department,” said Alex Wong, Academic Director of Engineering Design and Machining. “On top of the academic and attendance requirements for nominees, Anna stood out with her extra contributions to the school.” 

MacLean said she is appreciative of the award. 

“It means that people recognize the hard work I’ve put into learning about machining from the ground up, and that they see potential in me to do great things in my career,” she said. “I just hope that I can continue as I have been and make Dunwoody proud to have given me this award.” 

She also credits Dunwoody’s educational model for her success. 

“I really love learning here. Our teachers make learning the priority and grades just an afterthought,” MacLean said. “In my previous educational career, I don’t think I had ever truly focused on learning something without the pressure of getting a good grade motivating me. Here at Dunwoody, I can focus on learning from my classmates and teachers without my grades on the forefront of my mind.” 

Weeks before Commencement, she left her job as a student worker and started as a machinist at Product Development Solutions (PDS) in Blaine, transitioning to full-time after graduating in May.  

She hopes to one day work in the medical industry creating medical devices from the ground up. Until then, she said she will continue to find ways to gain more experience in different machining methods and techniques to perfect and make that dream a reality.