Category Archives: Alumni & Friends

Dunwoody Welding fabricates sculpture for City of Minneapolis

Instructor, students, and alumni gain life-changing experience, carry on Dunwoody legacy

Accepting the challenge

 This past May, Welding & Metal Fabrication Senior Instructor Denise Bailey was approached with quite the opportunity: to fabricate a 45-foot, 18,000-pound sculpture.

Designed by visual artist Tristan Al-Haddad of Atlanta, GA, the sculpture – titled Nimbus – was commissioned by the City of Minneapolis as an extension of the Nicollet Mall redesign.

A rendering of what Nimbus will look like in the evening (Courtesy of

The job was once in a lifetime but would come with challenges.

Due to a local Minneapolis welding shop’s difficulties with heat distortion, the sculpture would have to be fabricated near the designer at Formations Studios in Atlanta. And this would require an immense amount of travel and time commitment.

But Bailey said it wasn’t long before she was sold.

“I spoke with the designer, Tristan, on the phone about the project, and 20 minutes later he had convinced me to hop on a plane to Atlanta the following week to check it out,” Bailey said. “His passion is contagious and familiar. When I got there, I knew that this project was going to be a part of my life.”

Bringing in Dunwoody

Fabricating the project alone, however, wouldn’t be realistic.

From L to R: Jane Thompson, Denise Bailey, and Tiara Hill

“The designer asked if I would like to bring a couple students down to Atlanta to help me with the project,” Bailey said. “It was an instant ‘yes.’ This is such an amazing opportunity for welders/fabricators — especially those new to the industry — to experience.”

Bailey recruited Industrial Engineering Technology student Tiara Hill, ’18 Welding Technology alum Jane Thompson, and ’18 Welding Technology alum Madison Vail to join her after seeing the three of them thrive during a previous art installation.

Jane Thompson grinding the weld so it is flush to the surface. The project required all visible welds to be ground.

Thompson was immediately on board.

Having the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and to work hard on a project in my chosen field straight out of college is absolutely unheard of,” she said. “I could not think of a better way to discover yourself professionally, learn your field, and be certain through trial that you are doing something that is motivating, inspiring, and exciting to you.”

So on June 11 the Dunwoody team boarded a plane to Atlanta and got to work…and have been busy ever since.

“This kind of project is exactly what Dunwoody and carrying on a legacy is all about,” Bailey said. “Nimbus will be one of the most visible sculptures in the City of Minneapolis.”

Project tests, rewards Dunwoody team

Although worthwhile, the project hasn’t been easy.

Tiara Hill putting finishing detail work into the piece.

After passing a 3G Flux-Cored Arc Welding (FCAW) test, the welders got to work metal forming with 8 and 10 gauge corten steel, tackling, welding, grinding, and fixturing.“

The average work week involved 50-60 hours at temperatures of 100 degrees in the shop,” Bailey said.

But the pros have definitely outweighed the cons for Thompson.

“Learning by doing, trial and error, and actually getting your hands dirty will teach you things about yourself and your profession that a classic education will not,” Thompson said. “I can say wholeheartedly that I gained more confidence in myself as a professional in one year at Dunwoody than I did getting my bachelor’s at another four-year college.”

Thompson finished up her portion of the work at the end of July. Since then, Bailey has spent her weekends working in Atlanta. The next steps of the project include finishing the outside skin of the structure and fabricating the structural supports.

The sculpture will be installed this fall.

A rendering of what Nimbus will look like in the daytime (Courtesy of

Bailey has plans for her current second semester class to observe and possibly assist in the process.

“It is such an amazing experience to be able to not only give to the students, but to also give to the city I call home,” Bailey said. “The thing that I take the most pride in is that my team was an all-woman crew coming from a school that was founded on providing education for everyone.”

#DunwoodyDetermined: A joint project in the high-tech world of medical manufacturing

It was just another day at Dunwoody, when Ken Weis, a ‘15 Tool Technology and ’17 Engineering Drafting & Design alum, was approached with the project of a lifetime: to build parts for a prosthetic foot that would allow athletes to participate in high-impact sports.

The project would be in partnership with Minnesota native Mike Schultz, a professional snowmobile racer who lost his leg above the knee in a 2008 race injury.

Determined to race again, Schultz had created a prosthetic knee unit that allowed him to competitively ride. Known as the Moto Knee, the device earned him a motocross adaptive silver medal at the 2009 X Game.

Recognizing the need for — and the success of — his prosthetic knee, Schultz launched his own company, BioDapt, in 2010 with a mission to design, manufacture, and distribute lower limb prosthetic components for action sports.

Robotics & Manufacturing Dean E.J. Daigle and Mike Schultz

Five years later, he was on his next mission: to create a prosthetic device that would allow any amputee to downhill ski.

“All you need is the motivation to come up with something and then find and use the tools to create it,” Schultz said. “I felt that working with students to help out with this prototype project would be a perfect fit. I knew it would be a fun and very challenging project for them and could really help us bring our equipment to the next stage of development.”

Dunwoody partners with professional athlete Mike Schultz

So, Schultz passed along his project proposal to Luke Becker, his brother-in-law, local educator, and Dunwoody supporter, who brought it to Dunwoody’s Robotics & Manufacturing department.

Robotics & Manufacturing Dean E.J. Daigle then brought the project to Machine Tool Technology Instructor Brian Nelsen.

“E.J. sent Brian the prints, asking him if this was something we could do,” Weis, who was Nelsen’s student worker at the time, explained.

“Brian then handed them to me and asked me what I thought and what my concerns were—he was testing me, I think. We spent a few days discussing how we would produce the parts given our capabilities. We ultimately decided that creating the parts would be a huge challenge…so naturally we said ‘yes’,” Weis said.

“One of the amazing things about working with Brian is that, even though you are his student worker, he is open-minded to your ideas. He made me feel part of the process and gave me a feeling of responsibility for the project.”

So, at the start of the spring 2015 semester, Nelsen and Weis got to work.

Over the next year, the Dunwoody team designed and manufactured four parts to the final unit, including a foot base, shock mount, shock pivot, and shock rod, which would connect to Schultz’s original Moto Knee.

The project was immensely gratifying.

“It was an honor to work on a project that would help people who would not normally be able to do things due to an amputation,” Nelsen said.

Special project inspires Weis to continue his education

The undertaking, however, wasn’t easy. Since it was a completely extra-curricular project, Nelsen and Weis spent hours before and after class talking plans, creating parts, and running programs.

“Finding time for a project like this was a struggle, but nothing good is easy,” Nelsen reflected.

In the midst of the project, Weis graduated from the Machine Tool Technology program and began working second shift at Multisource in Burnsville. But leaving the project behind wasn’t an option.

“I would come in on Friday mornings, after a nap, and work on the parts. I was invested in the project and wanted to see it to its conclusion,” Weis said.

And it wasn’t long before Weis found further inspiration in the project: a new career path.

“Working production on this project after graduation opened my eyes to a previously dismissed career path,” Weis said. “I started talking to E.J. about possibly coming back to school. The following fall, I enrolled in the Engineering Drafting & Design program.”

Dunwoody team, project reaches major milestones

A prototype of the Versa Foot

In early 2016, the project was finally complete, and six full units were created and distributed. One of those units went on for testing in future winter and summer sports, one unit was given to Dunwoody, and the final four units were given to Schultz and the USA Paralympic downhill ski team.

In May of 2017, another milestone was reached: Weis earned his second Dunwoody degree in Engineering Drafting & Design. Shortly after, he began to work in the Engineering department at Engel Diversified Industries, Inc., where he still works today.

And in March 2018, Schultz and the USA Downhill Ski team competed in the PyeongChang Paralympics, using an evolution of the foot prototype Dunwoody helped create.

It was also there that Schultz won his first Paralympic gold medal in Snowboard-Cross.

The final design and unit created by Schultz was later named the Versa Foot and joined his product line alongside the Moto Knee.

“This year was definitely a highlight for my company and I, with all the success we had during the Paralympic Games in South Korea,” Schultz said. “Fifteen athletes from around the world competed at the games using our Moto Knee and/or Versa Foot, and between all of us we brought home 11 medals!

“I can’t thank Ken and the crew at Dunwoody enough for the outstanding work done.  I was extremely happy with how everything turned out and the components are still being used by me and a couple others,”

The experience has also left a lasting impression on Weis.

“I first came to Dunwoody at the age of 39,” Weis shared. “It had been 21 years since I had been in school. I was given the opportunity to be the student worker at the end of my first semester, which turned out to be one of the best experiences in my life. Dunwoody has left a lasting impression on my life that will never fade.”

Dunwoody graduates continue to be in high demand

Finding a job after graduation is not a problem for Dunwoody College of Technology graduates. Deciding between multiple offers and options tends to be the norm – not the exception.

According to the recently released 2017-2018 job inquiry report, the career outlook for Dunwoody graduates continues to be impressive. In fact, for the 2018 academic year, the overall job inquiry per Dunwoody graduate was 11.1.

The full career services report, including placement rates and average salaries, won’t be available for release until after the first of the year. But this early indication of continued high-demand demonstrates the value of a Dunwoody degree.

“My phone rings off the hook from employers seeking Dunwoody grads,” said Associate Director of Career Services Rob Borchardt. “There is far more demand compared to the number of students.”

Borchardt said he tracked more than 4,900 job leads for this year’s graduating class of 440 students.

And that only includes job leads for paid positions directly related to a Dunwoody major.

“If it isn’t a job that would require someone to hold one of our high-skill, technical degrees, then I don’t count it as a lead,” Borchardt said. “We track job inquires that way to ensure that when a student enrolls in a Dunwoody program, they can be confident that there is high-demand in industry for the skills they are acquiring.”

Borchardt leads the College’s Anthony L. Ferrara Career Services Center on campus. The Center provides free lifelong employment assistance to all students and alumni. This starts with helping students find paid internships and part-time work while they are still in school, and culminates with helping them through the job search process upon graduation (and beyond).

Besides maintaining an online job-board and database, Borchardt is also available to help students develop their resumes and cover letters, create professional online profiles, practice for job interviews, and prepare for the College’s twice-yearly career fairs and networking events.

Find more information about the Career Services Center and the services it offers. You can also contact Borchardt directly at

Dunwoody provides life-changing experience for 2018 graduate

Dunwoody Electrical Construction Design & Management alum Jessica Hart would not describe her path to Dunwoody as easy. But she would describe it as worthwhile.

Having previously attended a local community college and experienced difficulties in finding a job that fit her degree, Hart was hesitant to go back to school. But the desire for a successful career pushed her to research Dunwoody.

Deciding Dunwoody

“I looked into Dunwoody because I had heard it has a reputation for turning out the best graduates among all the technical schools in the State,” Hart said. “Its focus on employable skills and connections to industry as well as its location right off downtown Minneapolis sweetened the deal.”

Dunwoody also had the program Hart wanted.

“I’ve always had a fascination with infrastructure — whether it’s the flow of traffic according to signals or what’s actually happening when you plug a lamp into the wall,” Hart said. “My mom tells the story of how the lights once flickered on and off during a church service because four-year-old me was in the hallway thinking ‘what does THIS one do!?’

“Getting to be a part of the magic of electricity is super fulfilling for me.”

So Hart made the difficult decision to give college a second try. And in the spirit of change, decided to take another leap of faith — and enroll under a name and the pronouns she had always preferred.

“The fact that Dunwoody was completely accommodating to me, before I’d even taken steps to legally correct my identity, was absolutely instrumental in keeping me alive and determined to complete my degree,” Hart shared.

Having immediately connected with her program and teachers, Hart felt like she was finally on the right path. But just a few weeks into the program, she found herself face to face with another challenge.

“Not two months into Dunwoody, I lost my home,” Hart said. “I spent weeks living at the homeless shelter just off Hennepin, changing clothes every day in a tiny storage unit across from Target Field. I definitely wouldn’t have made it if not for my amazing instructors and newfound friends.”

The Dunwoody family

Hart presents to industry representatives on her semester project in February of 2018

Perhaps the most influential of those instructors were Electrical Construction & Maintenance Assistant Professors Polly Friendshuh and Jeff Chase, and Electrical Construction Design & Management Senior Instructor Nick Bohl.

“Polly’s care and understanding gave me the courage to persevere — to become a master of the bus network to get myself around town, to never once miss class or be late, and to navigate the legal system to set my real identity in stone,” she shared. “Jeff encouraged me to open up more and try new things. And Nick’s connections in the industry landed me my current job at exactly the moment I needed it.”

Two years later, life for Hart looks much different. Serving as the Electrical Database Specialist for Egan Company, Hart is now responsible for maintaining the database behind Accubid Enterprise estimating software.

“Dunwoody was the single most transformative experience of my life,” Hart said. “I started out with no home, friends, or future, and now I have a career, an apartment, and a degree! The connections I made at Dunwoody are the most fruitful I’ve ever had.

“Polly once told me that you aren’t just getting a degree when you come to Dunwoody, you’re getting a second family—and that is so true. We take care of each other.

“I couldn’t be prouder to be a Dunwoody alum.”

Q&A with a Dunwoody Automotive Service Technology Alum

Dunwoody alumni are innovators, entrepreneurs, top technicians, and skilled workers.  Here is a quick Q&A with just one!

Austin Lutz, ’02 Automotive Service Technology
Owner of BAM Automotive

Q. Where is the weirdest place you have ever met a fellow alum?

A. At a concert in First Avenue’s Mainroom.

Q. Has there been a moment in your career when you thought “My job is awesome!”? What was that moment?

A. Every day at my shop is a moment that reminds me how awesome my job is. During the summer months we grill out most days, and I love all my coworkers. I’m a lucky guy.

Q. What would your classmates be surprised to know about you now?

A. That I worked as an instructor at Dunwoody for 10 years.

Q. What is your favorite memory of Dunwoody?

A. All of the picnics with fellow students and staff.

Industrial Engineering graduate puts degree to work in the medical device field

Photo of Dunwoody Industrial Engineering alum Tim TrembulakTwo months before receiving his diploma in Industrial Engineering Technology from Dunwoody College, Tim Trembulak accepted his first position as a manufacturing engineer.

The May 2018 graduate is now working for Coloplast in Minneapolis, a medical device company based out of Denmark.

“Dunwoody prepared me for my current position by providing excellent instruction in several relevant areas,” Trembulak said. “The various classes provided a solid foundation for my current position. I was able to contribute on the first day as a manufacturing engineer because of the practical, real-life learning at Dunwoody.”

Work ready, day one

In his new position, Trembulak works on new equipment validations, process improvements, and process simulation.

“Each and every day there are new challenges and opportunities to make things more efficient,” he said.  “While it is not my primary function to focus on continuous improvement, I am encouraged to think of improvements and ways improvements can be implemented which is something I really enjoy.”

This is the second Dunwoody degree for Trembulak. Prior to earning his bachelor’s completion degree in Industrial Engineering Technology, Trembulak graduated with an associate’s degree in Electronics Engineering Technology in 2016.

“I found the hands on practical approach the most beneficial about my education at Dunwoody,” he said. “I learned things that I could apply right away when I started my new position. Even before I finished the program at Dunwoody, I felt well prepared to start a role as a manufacturing engineer.”

Continuing his education

Trembulak isn’t finished with his education yet. He is already pursuing a master’s degree in manufacturing engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Stout, which he hopes to complete in the spring of 2020.

“As I continue my career I would like to move into engineering management. I am also interested in teaching down the road so that I can take what I have learned in industry and share some of that knowledge and help prepare other engineers for the field.”

Find out more

For more information about the bachelor’s completion degree in Industrial Engineering Technology, visit:

Learning about Leadership in Today’s Technology Fields

Mitch DeJong speaking at Dunwoody
March Leadership Lecture featured
Chief Technology Officer from Design Ready Controls

Multi-generational workforce development, embracing conflict and harnessing diverse perspectives to find creative solutions were just a few of the topics Mitch DeJong spoke about at Dunwoody’s March 1 C. Charles Jackson Leadership Lecture.

The Chief Technology Officer at Design Ready Controls, DeJong shared leadership lessons he’s learned from a career that has spanned the automotive, environmental and manufacturing sectors.

“Embracing passion equals embracing conflict,” DeJong said during his lecture, explaining that when you can embrace conflict between two diverse viewpoints, rather than trying to build a middle-ground consensus that doesn’t make either side happy, you can arrive at a better solution.

Mitch DeJong with Dunwoody President Rich Wagner and VP of Institutional Advancement Brian NelsonDeJong has a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in Natural Resources Science and Management and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from North Dakota State University.

His career and research have focused on multi-perspective design in a variety of fields, including: automotive design, expert systems software architecture, natural resources planning, and most recently, multi-generational workforce development.

Design Ready Controls is a growing manufacturing company headquartered out of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.


Dunwoody College Names Vice President of Institutional Advancement

Dunwoody hires Brian Nelson to lead College’s
strategic advancement efforts

Brian NelsonFor more than 30 years, Brian Nelson has helped non-profit organizations grow and donors support organizational missions. And now, he brings his skills and passion for fundraising to Dunwoody.

Serving as the Vice President of Institutional Advancement, Nelson will lead advancement efforts for the College, including fundraising, alumni engagement, and industry partnerships.

“Dunwoody is a Midwest landmark for high quality technical education with a rich tradition and bright future,” Nelson said. “I look forward to being a part of a forward thinking, goal-driven team, and I am excited to work with industry leaders who are passionate about the impact Dunwoody has had on the community and their lives.”

Nelson comes to Dunwoody from the Pinky Swear Foundation, where he served as the organization’s President/CEO. During his time there, he grew the Foundation’s annual revenue from $900,000 to $2.8 million and expanded service to families in all 50 states. His portfolio includes working for William Mitchell College of Law, Children’s Cancer Research Fund, Allina Hospice Foundation, Memorial Blood Centers, and the American Cancer Society.

“I truly enjoy the interaction with donors,” Nelson shared. “It is amazing to learn about their lives, their connections to the institution, and how philanthropy can help shape their dreams and visions.”

During his spare time, Nelson enjoys playing golf, fishing, reading, remodeling and fixing things, and spending time with his family.

“I hope to provide value in building on Dunwoody’s culture of philanthropy and alumni engagement,” Nelson said. “And I look forward to helping further the mission of this institution.”

Nelson will replace current Vice President of Institutional Advancement Stuart Lang, who will retire later this year. Lang has been with the College for five years.

Nelson can be reached at or at 612-381-3042.