Tag Archives: Dunwoody College of Technology

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: 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.”

Changing Lives Through Scholarships: Danny Treat

Scholarship Spotlight
Danny Treat, Engineering Drafting & Design
Expected Graduation: May 2017
Owen Family Fund for Prosperity Scholarship

Danny Treat has always had a lot of interests in life. But Dunwoody College of Technology has given him the focus and drive he needed to steer those interests onto a promising career path.

Growing up in San Diego, Treat struggled with traditional high school, but found success at a charter school that emphasized real work experience.

With interests that spanned a wide spectrum of fields, Treat explored multiple options at a community college before admitting he just wasn’t ready for more school.

Treat was interested in several service-learning programs available through non-profit organizations. He eventually settled on a three-month commitment with Catholic Charities, helping rebuild homes in New Orleans. He continued that work with AmeriCorps, eventually serving as one of the project managers and volunteer coordinators.

A hands-on learner, Treat enjoyed the carpentry and construction aspects of the job, but he also liked the idea of helping design a project. With those interests in mind, Treat enrolled at the University of New Orleans in the naval architecture and marine engineering program.

But the four-year, traditional college model wasn’t a good fit. “There was no ‘hands-on’ learning,” Treat said, adding that it wasn’t until the final year of the program that you got to do the “fun stuff.”

By this time, Treat had met his now fiancée who was from the Twin Cities and wanted to move back to start her teaching career.

The couple moved to Minneapolis and Treat found work installing closets, and looked into joining the electrical union. It was his fiancée’s mother, who happens to be a career counselor, who first suggested Dunwoody as an option.

So Treat attended an open house and checked out a number of programs before hearing about the Engineering Drafting & Design program.

“When I saw the 3D printers and heard about the program I knew that was it,” Treat said.

It was decision he never regretted. “I felt more at home here than I did at either the community college or the four-year university,” Treat said. “I connected more.”

Treat was impressed with all of the hands-on work, and with a 3.96 GPA, he has excelled in all of his coursework. Treat is also one of the 2016-17 Owen Scholarship recipients.

“I haven’t had a day when I haven’t wanted to come to school,” Treat said.

He already has an internship with Proto Labs, an on-demand manufacturer of custom prototypes using CNC machining, injection molding and 3D printing.

After graduating, Treat wants to find a career that allows him to utilize all of the skills he’s learned – from design to build. “I want to design the stuff and then help make it,” Treat said.

If you’d like to help someone like Danny with a scholarship gift, donate online at www.alumni.dunwoody.edu/donate-now or contact Mary Meador at 612-381-3048 or mmeador@Dunwoody.edu.

Developing a Leadership Mindset: Five Points

Ted Ferrara, ’77 Refrigeration, describes his personal leadership as a “work in process,” not a “work in progress.”

Photo of Ted Ferrara speaking at Dunwoody.

Ted Ferrara, ’77 Refrigeration, was the April 2016 Leadership Lecture speaker at Dunwoody.

“Some days progress, some days regress, but all days are part of a process,” Ferrara said. One of the owners of Standard Heating & Air Conditioning, a local, family-owned business, Ferrara shared his thoughts on leadership during the April 7 C. Charles Jackson Leadership Lecture Series at Dunwoody College of Technology.

The Dunwoody alum and immediate Past Chairperson of the Board of Trustees, Ferrara also holds a B.A. and B.S. in Applied Mathematics from Metropolitan State University and an MBA from Harvard University.

During his talk, Ferrara defined “Leadership that Matters,” as “Helping people get to a place they would not have otherwise been inclined to go,” and touched on five main points.

  1. Be a Good Follower.  Know what it is to be a good follower.  It is an active pursuit, not a passive one. Ask yourself, “Would I want me as a follower?” Good followers push back when they disagree and help ensure that their leaders are successful. Becoming a good follower helps future leaders develop understanding and empathy.
  2. Take Ownership. The organization you work for is an extension of yourself and taking ownership means going beyond the job description and taking responsibility to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. At the same time, don’t take on everyone’s problems. Instead, empower others to become problem solvers.
  3. No Excuses. Leadership is difficult and risky personally, and things don’t always work out, but nobody buys excuses. Instead, ask yourself if you had a “do-over” knowing what you know now, would you have done anything different. By adopting a “no excuses” mentality you put your best efforts forward and unleash a lot of creative problem solving.
  4. Define Reality. Whether it’s an established and well-functioning enterprise or a total turn-around, a leader’s job is to first figure out where the organization is at and then help others understand that reality.
  5. Lead With Values. Define and communicate your core values. In an uncertain world, this is where you find certainty.  Shared values are the strongest reasons for people to follow you.

Watch the video

Honor Roll Spotlight: Gary N. Petersen

Gary N. Petersen
Retired President and COO of Minnegasco
Dunwoody Board of Trustees
1990-present

Photo of Gary N. Petersen

Gary N. Petersen

Gary Petersen has always approached his service to Dunwoody College of Technology with a “never say no” philosophy.

For the retired President and Chief Operating Officer of Minnegasco (now Centerpoint Energy) this has translated into 25 years of volunteer service as a member of the Dunwoody Board of Trustees, including two years as Chair and another two years as Treasurer. In addition, Petersen has served on numerous committees and even chaired the Good to Great Capital Campaign, which ran from 2001-2009.

Petersen’s long history with Dunwoody first began in 1990. As the new Chief Operating Officer for Minnegasco, Petersen was proud of the company’s long history of hiring Dunwoody grads.

“Dunwoody has always provided the best technicians,” Petersen said.

So when he was asked to join the Board of Trustees, Petersen was happy to say “yes.”

“When I joined, the Board had so much great experience and leadership,” Petersen said. “It took me a couple of years to figure out how I could contribute.”

Of the 160 individuals who have sat on the Dunwoody College of Technology Board of Trustees over the past 101 years, Petersen has had the pleasure to know and serve with 81 of them.

A Certified Public Accountant, Petersen graduated from Iowa State University with a B.S. degree in Computer Science. His career first began in public accounting, which led to his work with public utilities and then to senior management. His background in finance meant Petersen was a natural fit for the Finance and Audit Committee at Dunwoody.

In addition, Petersen’s leadership experience in the areas of strategic thinking and planning led to his involvement in developing Dunwoody’s formal program evaluation system, which is still used by the Board to this day.

In 1998, Petersen retired from Minnegasco and became an independent consultant. Even after his departure from the utility company, Petersen has remained a valued and active member of the Board of Trustees.

Besides giving of his time and talents, Petersen and his wife Barbara have also donated generously to the College. “There is definitely a joy of giving” Petersen said, adding that his affinity to Dunwoody comes from knowing that there really is a Dunwoody Difference that can be seen in the students and graduates who leave here ready to work from Day 1.

In addition to his volunteer service to Dunwoody, Petersen also served as a Board Member for the YMCA for more than 20 years and held several volunteer roles with his church. In fact, through his involvement with all three organizations, Petersen has been directly involved in eight different capital campaigns.

And when he is not serving on Boards or giving back to his community, Petersen is an avid sports fan who enjoys spending time with his family.

When he looks to the future, Petersen is excited about the direction that Dunwoody is heading, with the addition of more 4-year Bachelor of Science degrees offered through its new School of Engineering.

“We’re on the cusp of taking off in the next 100 years,” Petersen said.

Read more spotlight stories in the 2015 Annual Report.