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Dunwoody Class of 2018 joins proud history

85% of Dunwoody’s graduating class already employed in their field

On Thursday, May 17, more than 480 students walked across the stage and joined Dunwoody’s long and proud history of motivated and determined alumni.

Dunwoody’s 2017-18 Commencement Ceremony took place at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Rob Borchardt, Associate Director of Career Services, reported that at the time of Commencement, 85% of the graduating class was already employed in their field.

“Our core mission is to ensure students find work in their field upon graduating,” Borchardt said. “Dunwoody staff and faculty are committed to ensuring our students are highly employable. This year was no different. We are very proud of the graduating class.”

Student Speaker Gianna Madison reflects on time at Dunwoody
Bachelor of Architecture graduate Gianna Madison

Bachelor of Architecture graduate Gianna Madison

Gianna Madison, one of the College’s first graduates from the Bachelor of Architecture program, was selected as the student speaker. The 2018 graduation ceremony marked the third degree she has received from Dunwoody.

“During my time at Dunwoody, I have seen the school expand, in terms of programs and footprint,” Madison said. “I have seen community outreach become more deliberate. And I have seen collaboration among the different departments become a priority. All of these changes have taught me that not only is change inevitable, but it is also necessary if progress is to be made.”

Madison also shared eight important lessons she has learned throughout her professional and college career, urging graduates to do the same:

    1. Be grateful for every day, and show appreciation.
    2. Ask for help when needed. It teaches humility.
    3. Help others whenever possible. It builds character.
    4. Build a strong support system and rely on it.
    5. Challenge yourself, your thoughts, and your beliefs.
    6. Don’t procrastinate.
    7. Embrace challenges because a challenge is an opportunity yet to be explored.
    8. No matter what, never give up. You will never know what level of greatness you can reach if you don’t give yourself the opportunity to do so.
Mark Sherry keynotes Dunwoody Commencement
President of Mortenson Development Incorporated and Senior Vice President of Mortenson Construction Company Mark Sherry

President of Mortenson Development Incorporated and Senior Vice President of Mortenson Construction Company Mark Sherry

Mark Sherry, President of Mortenson Development Incorporated and Senior Vice President of Mortenson Construction Company, was the ceremony’s keynote speaker.

Sherry, an ‘87 Dunwoody Architectural Drafting & Estimating Technology alum, described his journey to Dunwoody and lessons learned throughout his 30-year career with Mortenson Construction. He also applauded the Class of 2018 on their accomplishments and shared what they can expect now because of their degrees.

“The education you have received at Dunwoody gives you a competitive advantage in the marketplace,” he said. “You will come to business better prepared with a hands-on applied learning experience. At Dunwoody, your educators have worked in the field they are teaching…you have had the opportunity to utilize state of the art equipment and tools. And because of your hard work and Dunwoody’s partnership with industry, you likely find yourself already employed, or soon to be.”

“You are very lucky,” he continued. “You are graduating at a time where the need for you in business is at an all-time high. You are in that proverbial right place at the right time with the right degree. It’s a great time to be a Dunwoody grad.”

President Rich Wagner challenges Dunwoody grads
Dunwoody College of Technology President Rich Wagner

Dunwoody College of Technology President Rich Wagner

After the degrees were awarded and diplomas were distributed, President Rich Wagner reminded graduates that it’s now their turn to build on the Dunwoody legacy.

“We hear from employers that they hire Dunwoody graduates first,” he said. “We have employers tell us their best employees are Dunwoody graduates. Employers tell us how far ahead Dunwoody graduates are compared to other programs. When you tell people that you attended Dunwoody, you’ll hear how wonderful the school is, when I talk about Dunwoody I hear the same. And all of this is because of Dunwoody’s reputation. A reputation built by Dunwoody alumni.”

“…the legacy of Dunwoody is now in your hands,” he continued. “You now represent the best Dunwoody has to offer, and your actions and accomplishments will build Dunwoody’s reputation for the next generation of Dunwoody students. We look forward with great anticipation to hearing about your successes.”

Congratulations to all of Dunwoody’s 2017-18 graduates.

Photo credit: Stan Waldhauser Photo/Design

View more Commencement photos.

Academic Excellence Award: Brann Haugen

Brann Haugen
Graphic Design ‘18
Minneapolis, MN


Brann Haugen had been searching for the right college for a while. But few schools were leaving much of an impression—that is until he toured Dunwoody.

“I saw all of the equipment and tools available to the students, and I was wowed,” Haugen explained. “And once I heard the education was a more hands-on approach, I was sold.”

Having always had an interest in art and design, Haugen decided to enroll in the Graphic Design program. And it wasn’t long before his talent, dedication, and determination was noticed.

“Brann immediately made an impact,” Graphic Design Assistant Professor Tom Herold said. “His focus, work ethic, and good humor helped create a community of learning within the department and the school.”

During his first semester, Haugen was elected president of Dunwoody’s Design Club.

In 2017, he was a national award winner of the annual Print In America design competition as well as a member of the Dunwoody team that won the American Institute of Corrugated Converters (AICC) Corrugated as Art Competition.

Haugen is also this year’s Academic Excellence Award recipient for the Design & Graphics Technology department.

“Brann has been a leader in the classroom,” Herold said. “He was the last to leave in the evening and the first to connect with other students—during good times and bad. He is very deserving of this award.”

Haugen attributes his success to an inspiring class and always finding ways to improve.

“The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is just knowing I have abilities and that I have a shot,” Haugen shared. “I felt like I was originally living in a bubble in terms of my creative abilities. But working with fellow classmates, and working on real projects, and being able to talk about design with other people has been so valuable. I know I can keep on going forward from here.”

After graduation, Haugen has plans to find another internship that leads into a full-time design job. He also hopes to do some traveling.

Bachelor of Architecture graduate Gianna Madison to speak at Dunwoody’s 2018 Commencement

Photo of Gianna MadisonDunwoody College of Technology is pleased to announce that this year’s student speaker for Commencement will be Bachelor of Architecture graduate Gianna Madison.

Madison is a member of the College’s first Bachelor of Architecture graduating class.

This is not her first Dunwoody degree, however. After watching an older sibling earn a degree with the help of Dunwoody’s Youth Career Awareness Program (YCAP), Madison decided that a project-focused education was for her. She too successfully applied to YCAP and was able to earn a two-year Architectural Drafting & Estimating Technology degree in 2006.

At around the time Madison was graduating, Dunwoody launched an Interior Design program. Intrigued by the idea of focusing more on design, Madison decided to continue on at Dunwoody for an additional two years to earn an associate’s degree in Interior Design.

Following graduation, Madison worked as a Construction Project Coordinator for Anoka County. In 2014, she learned about another new Dunwoody program—a Bachelor of Architecture. Just three more years of school would transform her existing two-year year architectural drafting degree into a Bachelor of Architecture, allowing her to pursue the path to become a licensed architect. She had always wanted to be an architect and was already sold on Dunwoody’s approach to education.

This time, though, she would be going to school while working full-time. More importantly, she was now the mother of a toddler and was determined to be there for her daughter as much as possible.

Balancing all those roles wasn’t easy, but Madison has made it work.

“Sometimes I have to spend less time with my daughter in order to work late, sometimes I have to take a day off of work in order to complete a project, or sometimes I have to set homework aside over the weekend in order to attend a dance performance for my daughter,” she said. “In the end it is all about choosing what takes priority, at that moment, and why. The most difficult decision that I have had to make is giving up time with my daughter, which weighed heavy on me, but I have found it comforting to remind myself this isn’t forever, and I am doing this so that I can build a better future for my family.”

One thing that helped was receiving scholarship support, including being named a Whitney and Elizabeth MacMillan Scholar, as well as being able to participate in the Women in Technical Careers (WITC) program, which also offered a peer support network.

“The dynamic of the WITC group has been uplifting,” Madison said. “I was able to meet and be around other likeminded women — some of who faced similar obstacles — and get support on an ongoing basis.”

She also enjoyed her classes, including interacting with instructors, fellow students, and industry professionals.

“I have enjoyed being able to be a part of a team that has designed and built projects that are still standing today,” she said. “I have also appreciated being able to learn from instructors that are experts in the field of architecture.”

Madison’s favorite studio project was one located in a highly sought-after part of South Minneapolis.

“The project site was no longer affordable for the individuals who have lived within this community, even though, according to U.S. Census, most people were employed and had a college education,” she said. “Not only did this project address affordable housing and design, it also addressed common challenges that are currently present in our communities.”

According to Madison: “the most critical, yet fundamental, elements of this project included demographic research, which proved that people are not losing their homes because they are ‘lazy’ (as some would describe this community). In fact, this community is made up of the working middle class. Some individuals even work a second job just to make ends meet. The takeaway is that it is important to understand the bigger picture when it comes to building.”

Madison currently works at RSP Architects as a Senior Technician, where she is part of the Target/National Retail Team focusing primarily on Target exterior store remodels. She is excited to take the rest of the steps needed to become a licensed professional architect (including six exams!) and hopes someday to open her own firm that provides housing and related resources to low-income families.

Academic Excellence Award: Keven Halloran

Keven Halloran
Industrial Engineering Technology
Simi Valley, California


Keven Halloran was looking for more than just a job in life – he wanted a career. While serving in the Army, he found himself stuck in a cycle of deploying and then working random jobs when he returned home. He wanted a change and knew he needed an education to make that possible.

His father-in-law is a Dunwoody alum and suggested Halloran visit the school.

“Jim (Marold) had attended Dunwoody, and I knew how well that turned out for him,” Halloran said. “Asking around I heard time and again how well respected this school is in the community.”

Halloran liked the focus and direction he found at Dunwoody.

“I saw a very clear path that took me from point A to B,” he said. “Obtaining a degree in a technical field would result in having the opportunity to obtain jobs that are very in-demand and well paying. I found some ambiguity when looking at where some other non-technical degrees might take me. But I knew where a Machine Tool Technology degree would take me. After receiving that degree from Dunwoody, it was an easy choice to stay another two years and obtain my bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering Technology.”

Earlier in life, Halloran had taken a few classes at a college in the Los Angeles area, but the experience hadn’t been what he was looking for. His time at Dunwoody has been different.

“When I arrived at Dunwoody, I was given a clear sense of what my possibilities were and how exactly I could accomplish my goals,” Halloran said. “From day one, the school’s entire focus felt like it was about what was best for me.”

The hands-on projects and experiential learning wasn’t only the right fit – it was also fun.

“I never thought I would have a chance to do the variety of things we did during my courses here,” he said. “I felt like a kid in a candy store being able to weld, machine materials, wire-up electronics, design parts, program machines – so many things.”

The dedicated instructors and an educational journey designed with an end result in mind were also great motivators during Halloran’s time at Dunwoody.

“I always had the impression that this school’s main goal was to make me highly successful in my professional career,” he said. “The way classes are designed, the equipment, curriculum, instructor experience – everything felt geared toward this goal. This constant sense of why I am here and what is at stake was what motivated me.”

With graduation now in front of him, Halloran said he is excited to begin his professional career in the engineering field. He plans to continue learning as well and has already thought about earning a master’s degree.

“I want to keep progressing, always be learning and getting better,” Halloran said. “I want to make education a staple of my professional career and hopefully impart that desire onto others. I am very open to the field and type of working environment I will end up in, as long as I can continue to improve and make a real difference.”

His time at Dunwoody has also taught him to keep asking “why” and not accept the status quo. “This is what leads to innovation and continuous improvement,” he said.

Halloran said he was humbled to receive the Academic Excellence Award, pointing to the high caliber of his fellow students.

“I see the caliber of my fellow students and sometimes cannot even imagine being compared favorably to them,” he said. “I see myself as only a reflection of all the hard work others have put into me; be it group work with fellow students, personal investment from instructors, or the love of my family.”

Academic Excellence Award: Tyler Bares

Tyler Bares
Architecture, ‘18
Buffalo, MN


Tyler Bares always knew he wanted to be an Architect.

“I have always enjoyed looking at homes,” Bares said. “I grew up in the same house for my entire childhood. So I know the impact that ‘home’ has on families.”

Following high school, Bares enrolled at a traditional university — one that offered a Bachelor of Science in Architecture. But just a few days into his first semester, Bares said he quickly discovered it was not the type of education he was looking for.

“I was expecting to learn [things about Architecture] that were not even mentioned,” he explained. “The first class was about the theory of design — it wasn’t what I was ready for. I hardly went to class, and I didn’t enjoy it. At the end of the year I was debating, ‘do I change schools?’ ‘Do I change majors?’ Because I just could not stand it. And that’s when I toured Dunwoody.”

After receiving a tour from Architectural Drafting & Design Senior Instructor Paul Strother, Bares said he was sold.

“All of the projects and the graphics I was seeing — that’s exactly what I wanted,” he said.

Fast-forward 5 years later, Bares not only received his associate’s degree in Architectural Drafting & Design from Dunwoody, but he is also about to earn his Bachelor of Architecture degree later this month.

He is also the 2018 Academic Excellence Award recipient for the Construction Sciences & Building Technology department.

“I’m completely grateful [to receive the award],” Bares said. “It’s really motivating and reassuring that all of the work, and the efforts, and the time I’m putting in — it does pay off.”

It’s also validation that transferring to Dunwoody was the right decision.

“I don’t think you will ever find a class or a group of students that are as close as we are — especially in a large, university setting. When you are friends with someone, you care about them. And in our class, that is very evident. We all want each other to succeed, and we all are willing to help each other out. It has created an atmosphere that has enhanced our education in more ways than we can even think of.”

Following graduation, Bares will begin to work full-time at his current employer, Alliiance, a local architecture firm in Minneapolis. He also has plans to travel to places like Puerto Rico, that need rebuilding help.

First Dunwoody Architecture Class Prepares to Graduate

Six Dunwoody students to earn a Bachelor of Architecture degree May 17.

Six Dunwoody graduates will take a step closer to becoming architects as they walk across the stage May 17 at the College’s 2018 Commencement Ceremony. The students are the first to graduate from Dunwoody’s Bachelor of Architecture program.

The degree — which launched in fall of 2015 — is structured as a plus three stackable credential. Students enter the program with an Associate of Applied Science in Architectural Drafting & Design (or a related two-year architectural degree) and leave with a comprehensive, professional Bachelor of Architecture degree after the final three years.

Dunwoody is one of the only schools in the nation to use this structure.

Several Dunwoody Architecture graduates at a final project presentation in 2015.

Several Dunwoody Architecture graduates at a final project presentation in 2015.

“Graduating our first class is a significant milestone in the academic and professional communities throughout our region,” said Architecture Program Manager John Dwyer.

“This is the first new school of architecture in more than 100 years in Minnesota and the only Bachelor of Architecture in the state. The significance of this moment cannot be understated, particularly as our city continues to rapidly grow.”

A new approach to architecture education

 Since day one, Dunwoody’s Bachelor of Architecture has flipped the standard model of architectural education.

Instruction from actively practicing faculty; real, hands-on projects; and training on current design software and equipment gives Dunwoody Architecture students a more practical and focused education than traditional Architecture degrees — a selling point for many of the College’s students.

Tyler Bares mapping out plans for the IFP Minnesota project

Tyler Bares mapping out plans for the IFP Minnesota project

“I knew I wanted to be an architect,” soon-to-be Architecture graduate Tyler Bares said. “It was between a couple of schools and I ended up at a more traditional, 4-year college. And there, I was expecting to learn something that was not even mentioned. The first class was about the theory of design — it wasn’t what I was ready for. I hardly went to class, and I didn’t enjoy it. At the end of the year I was debating, ‘do I change schools?’ ‘Do I change majors?’ Because I just could not stand it. And that’s when I toured Dunwoody.”

The approach has also reassured students that what they are learning is valuable and relevant.

“Learning about the technical side of architecture — the software used and various building methods — before theory, makes students more employable early on,” Bares said. “I started my first job in the architecture field just after my first year.”

Ensuring students find jobs in their field during school — and immediately after — is another building block of Dunwoody Architecture. During the 2016-17 school year, each Architecture student received an average of 14.2 job inquiries.*

“Oftentimes employers prefer to hire Dunwoody students and alumni because they are confident they are going to be working with someone who has a solid technical education,” soon-to-be Architecture graduate Gianna Madison said. “The field of architecture cannot and should not be taught in a vacuum. The quality and richness of Dunwoody’s Architecture curriculum is invaluable.”

A look back

Over the last three years, Architecture students have worked on a number of real assignments with real clients, including:

Renderings from the Veterans’ Journey Home project

Renderings from the Veterans’ Journey Home project

Projects from these partnerships have ranged from developing construction documents for veterans’ housing, to building acoustic sound panels, to designing an eco-friendly kitchen and dining hall.

The students have also studied in culturally rich places like Cuba, Barcelona, Italy, New Orleans, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco.

In 2017 and 2018, students and faculty contributed to hurricane relief in Puerto Rico.

It’s been quite the journey. And after five years, Commencement is finally in site for the Dunwoody Architecture graduates.

“I am elated to be graduating,” Madison said. “Graduation to me signifies that a huge milestone has been reached.”

And while a normal sleep schedule, time to travel, and no more homework are appealing to the grads, their biggest excitement is where their skills and talent will take them next.

 Ready for what’s next
Gianna Madison measuring space for the IFP project installation

Gianna Madison measuring space for the IFP project installation

“Currently, I am employed with RSP Architects, where I intend to continue to work full-time,” Madison said. “At some point in my career, I would like to open up my own firm that provides housing and related resources to low-income families.”

Bares will also begin working full time at his current employer, Alliiance, upon graduation. He hopes to use the knowledge and skills he’s learned to make a difference in the world — especially in places like Puerto Rico.

“After traveling to Puerto Rico last semester and working on a residential design project for a neighborhood—I’ve really grown to love the island,” Bares said. “The people there are so generous, grateful, and welcoming. In their current situation, they need help, and they want help. I really hope I can continue to travel there and help in whatever ways I can.”

This sense of global perspective and responsibility is just one of the many ways these students have made Dwyer proud.

“The graduates have a strong sense of the impact their work and decisions will have on a global community,” he said. “They are poised to apply this in the world as leaders in the profession. I know they will do very well.”

Dunwoody’s Commencement Ceremony will be held at the Minneapolis Convention Center Thursday, May 17, at 7 p.m.

Apply to Dunwoody Architecture.

*2016-17 Dunwoody Career Services Annual Report

Academic Excellence Award: Kyle Larkin

Kyle Larkin
Automotive Service Technology, ‘18
Cottage Grove, MN


Photo of Kyle LarkinJust because Kyle Larkin’s dad, Bob, teaches in the Automotive Department, doesn’t mean it was inevitable that Kyle was going to enroll at Dunwoody. But certainly, spending time in garages from a young age left an impression.

“Being in the garage as a little kid — I always wanted to be as good as my dad,” Larkin said. “I was always taking things apart and figuring out how they worked and how to put them back together.”

What he developed, though, wasn’t just a love for the hands-on aspects of working for cars. Larkin also saw how fixing things has a direct impact on people.

“I think choosing a technical career stems from a desire to help people,” Larkin said. “To take something that didn’t work well and make it work like it did before, or even better. It’s very rewarding. I think it’s an overlooked thing. People in a service industry — their job is to help people.”

That attitude did not go unnoticed by the Automotive faculty.

“Throughout his time here, he excelled at treating each experience as an opportunity to become better at what he does,” Dean of Automotive Steve Reinarts said.

During high school, Larkin participated in the Northeast Metro 916 High School Automotive Program. He also started working at White Bear Mitsubishi at the age of 16. He’s done well enough there to be promoted to Light Duty Technician at White Bear Subaru. And recently, his employer sent him to a week-long training at Subaru’s corporate training center.

“This particular training is designed for seasoned/skilled technicians who demonstrate the trait to become experts in the field,” Reinarts said.

Larkin believes his Dunwoody education and work experience has more than prepared him for what’s next. For now, he hopes to continue to take on more responsibilities at his current position. Eventually, he’d like to lead a service shop or even open up his own store — especially one that supplies after-market modifications, which is a passion he shares with other auto enthusiasts.

Academic Excellence Award: Indigo Isackson-Rod

Indigo Isackson-Rod
Radiologic Technology ‘18
Pine City, MN


Before enrolling in Dunwoody’s Radiologic Technology program, Indigo Isackson-Rod had never considered a career in healthcare. In fact, she had originally wanted to be a Spanish teacher.

But after earning her Associate’s Degree in Liberal Education with a Spanish Emphasis and volunteering as a Spanish teacher aid, Isackson-Rod realized teaching wasn’t her dream.

“I actually read about Radiologic Technology in a magazine at a coffee shop one day,” Isackson-Rod said. “And I just applied out of the blue. I thought I’d try it and if I didn’t like it, I had a back-up plan.”

Her decision to explore the field surprised even herself.

“When I was younger, any career that involved blood or needles would have been an absolute ‘no’,” Isackson-Rod shared. “I hate needles. I would have never seen myself going into this field.”

But, despite its uncertain outcome, her leap of faith paid off. Not only will Isackson-Rod graduate this year, but she is also the Academic Excellence Award recipient for the Radiologic Technology program.

“Indigo has been an excellent student,” Radiologic Technology Program Director David Blake said. “She is competent, efficient, and it all comes natural to her. Technologists treat her like a fellow technologist. I have even been asked if she can graduate early so she can work right now!”

Following graduation, Isackson-Rod hopes to continue her career as a Radiologic Technologist. A path she is certain she will enjoy, thanks to Dunwoody.

“I have loved Dunwoody’s program,” she said. “You’re learning hands-on, gaining experience, and making connections.”

This type of education is also a great way for someone to know right away if this is the job you want to do, she explained — an experience that might have sent her in a different direction earlier in her college career.

But no matter the path, Isackson-Rod is glad it took her here.

“I’m grateful and honored to receive the [Academic Excellence] award,” she said. “And I’m excited for what’s ahead.”