Category Archives: Academic Excellence Award

Academic Excellence Award: Donald Posterick

Donald Posterick
Electronics Engineering Technology
Grand Rapids, Minnesota

Described by faculty as a student who demonstrates “a focused determination to succeed and an outstanding desire to excel,” Donald Posterick earned not only the Academic Excellence Award in Robotics & Manufacturing, but he also received this year’s Student Leadership Award from the Dunwoody Alumni Association.

“Donald reminds me that the best Dunwoody students not only challenge themselves, but also challenge us as instructors to push harder and farther,” Dean of Robotics & Manufacturing E.J. Daigle said.

Posterick’s love for electronics and engineering started back in high school when his natural curiosity prompted him to join the Robotics Team and the Shell Eco Marathon Team.

When nobody on the Robotics Team voiced an interest in tackling the electronics and programming side, Posterick stepped up and took on the challenge. He then went on to develop a speed controller for the Shell Eco Marathon Team’s prototype electronic vehicle.

“I began to learn how to program using online resources – and a lot of trial and error,” Posterick said. “At first it was hard, but I was determined, and I didn’t let anything slow me down.”

That hard work and determination has also helped him succeed here at Dunwoody.

Originally from Grand Rapids, Minn., Posterick discovered Dunwoody College while out talking with companies about sponsoring the Robotics Team. The vice president of the local Chrysler dealership happened to be the former IT director at Dunwoody and encouraged Posterick to check it out and connected him with Daigle.

Posterick followed up on the advice and applied for the College’s Youth Career Awareness Program.

“I was impressed by all that Dunwoody had to offer – from the fully equipped labs, experienced faculty, and interesting extra-curricular activities. I knew that this was the school for me,” Posterick said. “I was luckily accepted into YCAP. The scholarship from YCAP made it possible for me to attend Dunwoody, and after spending the five weeks over the summer at Dunwoody, I wouldn’t have wanted to go anywhere else.”

During his time at Dunwoody, Posterick has enjoyed the project-based approach to education.

“Here at Dunwoody the material we cover in our theory classes we immediately apply in our labs to build and reinforce the skills that we will need in the future,” Posterick said.

Posterick has excelled beyond the classroom as well. He served as the lead programmer for Dunwoody’s autonomous snow plow teams, resulting in third and second place finishes during the past two years, among 12 of the top engineering universities in the Upper Midwest.

In addition, Posterick and his teammates went above and beyond assisting other colleges and university teams with repairs to their own snowplows, ensuring they could compete – and earning the Professor Nattu Sportsmanship Award.

Posterick is graduating from the Electronics Engineering Technology program and is planning to return this fall as a student in the Software Engineering program.

After two years and hundreds of hours of software design for the autonomous snowplows I have realized that my true passion is not just electronics, but bringing together electronics and software,” Posterick said. “My plan is pursue a bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering from Dunwoody over the next four years and continue studying and developing autonomous navigation software to be used by our snowplows, but also to create a versatile system capable of autonomous flight control and obstacle avoidance in multirotor platforms.”

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.

Academic Excellence Award: Luke Smith

Luke Smith
Web Programming & Database Development
Mound, Minnesota


Leaving a job he’d held for 15 years and going back to college was a big decision for Luke Smith, but earning a degree in Web Programming & Database Development and securing a new position as a Digital Content Developer has made everything worth it.

Originally from Northern Minnesota, Smith attended Eveleth Gilbert High School and enrolled at a local community college for computer science right after graduation. For two years, Smith diligently went to his college classes, earned good grades, and believed he was working toward a degree. But what he found out after completing his requirements was that the program wasn’t approved yet, which meant he wouldn’t be receiving a degree after all.

Not wanting to give up on his dream of earning a college degree, Smith explored a neighboring university where he was told his general credits would transfer – but they didn’t. To avoid starting over, Smith decided to enter the working world instead.

He took a job as the manager of a direct mail company in the Twin Cities, and spent the next 15 years making a living, but also realizing he wasn’t on the right career path. 

“My son has been my inspiration,” Smith said about his motivation to return to college. “Had he not been around, I don’t think I would have paid attention to how much I needed to make a career change. Going to school and getting a good education makes a big difference.”

Smith had two friends who were instructors at Dunwoody, and they encouraged him to attend an open house and check it out.

After his visit, Smith knew he wanted to go back to what he enjoyed – computer programming. In addition, his desire to return to the workforce as soon as possible convinced Smith that attending Dunwoody was the right decision. So in January of 2016, he left his job and started school fulltime.

“Being older, I wanted to get back into the workforce as soon as possible,” Smith said. “I didn’t want to waste time taking a lot of unnecessary classes. I wanted a more focused approach.”

Smith has always been a hands-on learner and wanted an education that reflected that style. The Dunwoody model ended up being a great fit.

“The instructors are fantastic,” Smith said. “They are always willing to give you any help you need and they present the material to you in a way they know you are going to understand. They really make sure that you are learning the things they are teaching.”

Smith shared that when he made the decision to return to college, he set a number of goals for himself.

“I told myself, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to commit everything possible,” Smith said. “I’m going to treat it just like a job and give it everything I have.”

The strategy worked, and Smith has earned not only a 4.0 GPA and a 100 percent attendance record, but also the Academic Excellence Award in Computer Technology.

“Luke was an exemplary student who demonstrated professionalism and leadership amongst his peers,” said Web Programming & Database Development Instructor Chris Fulton. “Luke would go out of his way to help fellow students with questions and provide insight that he felt would benefit the entire class.”

A peer tutor during his time at Dunwoody, Smith enjoyed the time he spent helping other students.

“I try not to be a student who just shows up and goes home, but to use my experience to help others,” Smith said about being a peer tutor. “You’d be surprised by how much you learn by helping other people.”

Smith said his success at Dunwoody can also be attributed to the fact that he is doing something he loves.

“Decide what your passion is – what you like doing,” Smith said. “School is going to be the easiest if you pick something you enjoy doing from the beginning.”

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.

Academic Excellence Award: Kyle Smeaton

Kyle Smeaton
Web Programming & Database Development ‘18
Edina, MN


Kyle SmeatonWeb Programming & Database Development isn’t just a career path for Kyle Smeaton – it’s his passion in life. That excitement and curiosity for his field of study is one of the many reasons why Smeaton was selected as one of two Computer Technology Academic Excellence Award recipients for the Class of 2018.

“I really like programming computers and making them do what I want them to do,” Smeaton said. “And I discovered I could make a living doing it.”

Smeaton attended the Fair School Downtown where he developed an interest in theatre tech. Wanting to give that a try, he attended a community college for one semester, taking classes in stage lighting and sound design.

He liked the field, but wanted to give his main interest a try — computer programming.

Having heard good things about Dunwoody, he decided to attend an open house and soon after made the decision to enroll.

“I liked the idea of a two-year college experience,” he said. “It gets you out in the field faster, and I enjoy the hands-on learning — it’s not just theory. If you really love doing something and you want to get out in the job field, [Dunwoody] is a good way to go.”

Already a hands-on learner, Smeaton had built his first computer back in high school. It was then that he fell in love with Linux, an open-source software operating system.

“My first time talking to Kyle was two months before his first day of school,” said Computer Networking Assistant Professor Curt Gabrielson. “He was so interested in Linux that he contacted me to find out more about the Open Source Club at Dunwoody. He has been involved with the Club since becoming a student and is now the club president. He has also become Vice President of Phi Theta Kappa.”

Smeaton has always liked understanding the science behind what makes things work. In high school, he decided to take apart a large lantern battery so he could turn it into a machine that split water into its component parts using an electric current.

“I get really excited about that kind of stuff,” Smeaton said.

That excitement is evident when Smeaton begins talking about his final project at Dunwoody, which involves another interest — mountain biking. He built a website database that catalogs mountain bikes to make it simple to search for exact specifications.

“I’m kind of loving everything I’m doing right now,” Smeaton said. “I feel like I’ve really grown here. Dunwoody has helped me find myself. It’s really a privilege to get to do something you love.”

Gabrielson said Smeaton is always willing to share his knowledge with others. “Kyle is a pleasure to have in the classroom. He is excelling academically as one of the top students of his cohort, with near perfect grades. He also has a near perfect attendance record and routinely sacrifices time to help other students.”

Looking to the future, Smeaton wants to find a system administration position or a position that includes database work. He also wants to contribute to the programming community and maybe even program a video game someday.

And as with everything he does, Smeaton will bring his self-motivation and his desire to keep improving and learning. “I want to be able to contribute and help other people,” he said.

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.”