Energy Tech Student Wins Grainger Scholarship
Former Navy submariner Don Alveshere aiming for career in nuclear industry
In August 2013, Don Alveshere, a student in the Energy Technical Specialist–Nuclear program at Dakota County Technical College, was awarded a $2,000 Grainger Tools for Tomorrow scholarship from W. W. Grainger, Inc., a Fortune 500 industrial supply company. Alveshere, 42, a native of Devils Lake, N.D., was one of 129 students enrolled at 70 community colleges nationwide (and one of three students in Minnesota) to receive the scholarship. Half the scholarships were awarded to U.S. Armed Forces veterans. Alveshere served in the U.S. Navy as a YN3 (SS), or yeoman third class (submarine service), and earned the prestigious Dolphin insignia that is the hallmark of the Navy’s submariners. When he graduates from DCTC, Alveshere, like his fellow scholarship winners, will receive a customized $1,500 Westward toolkit from Grainger as a way to help launch his new career as an in-demand worker in an industrial skilled trade.
Born into the Great Sioux Nation, Alveshere graduated from Oak Grove Lutheran High School in Fargo, N.D., and joined the Navy in 1990. He did basic at the Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois and attended Naval Submarine School in Groton, Conn. He also attended Naval Guided Missile School in Dam Neck, Va., and was designated a strategic weapons systems electrician (NUC). He served aboard USS Buffalo (SSN-715), a Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered fast attack submarine based out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and remained in the Navy Reserves until 1998.
After the Navy, Alveshere worked as a computer technician for Hewlett-Packard in Loveland, Colo., and later as a broadband satellite communications specialist at NASCAR and NHRA events. As a successful entrepreneur, he owned and operated his own jewelry fundraising company for five years, working in collaboration with hospitals in his area. His wife, Andrea, who has a doctorate in anthropology and teaches human genetics and forensics at Western Illinois University, talked him into going to college and earning a degree.
“I chose DCTC because the college is accredited and the campus [at the time] was close to our home,” Alveshere said. “But what really sold me is the college’s Energy Technical Specialist–Nuclear program, which was exactly what I needed to pursue a career in the nuclear power industry.”
Alveshere was not deterred by a fairly long waiting list. He enrolled in the program and is set to graduate in December 2014 with his ETS–Nuclear A.A.S. degree. He foresees building a career at a nuclear power generating plant. He is also making plans to go on and earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering from WIU, a decision that will allow him to join his family in Illinois. The Alvesheres have three children, Nathan, 20, Cody, 12, and Lachlan, 2.
“The instructors in DCTC’s Energy Technical Specialist program prepare you just like the Navy does,” Alveshere said. “They make sure you have a firm understanding of power generation theory and power plant operations. You learn why steam flows through a pipe and why turbines turn and how electricity is created. You get a solid foundation regarding all energy sources. You learn how different energies are generated and used in various industrial applications.”
About the Energy Technical Specialist program
ETS Instructor Gordon Gibis has extensive experience with nuclear power generation both in the U.S. Navy and the private sector. Gibis did a six-year tour in the Navy, graduating from the Navy Nuclear Power School in Orlando, Fla., in 1988. He went on to serve as a nuclear mechanical operator aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered supercarrier, and later as a nuclear-qualified supervisor. After the Navy, he earned a B.S. in Manufacturing Engineering Technology from Minnesota State University Mankato, becoming the first person in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree. He went on to work as a system engineer at DTE Energy’s Fermi 2 Nuclear Power Plant in Newport, Mich., on the shores of Lake Erie. From DTE, he went to work for Xcel Energy at the Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant in Monticello, Minn. Gibis joined the faculty at DCTC in spring of 2011.
“I always wanted to teach at the college level,” Gibis said, “and the Navy did a great job preparing me to be an instructor. Our program focuses on training and educating our students for a career, not just a job. Our graduates are prepared for a variety of positions that require knowing how to troubleshoot and repair power plant systems. They have the knowledge and capability to move between and within industries.”
Mike Opp, dean of transportation and technical careers at DCTC, reported that the manufacturing sector is an ideal fit for the program’s graduates due to their solid foundations in the energy technologies that support manufacturing operations, including hydraulics, pneumatics, circulating water systems, electric motors and pumps, gas turbines, digital electronics, mechanical systems, process controls and instrumentation, programmable logic controls, and sensors.
“Our ETS students acquire the skill sets to not only be successful in both traditional and renewable energy fields, but also to excel in the manufacturing industry,” Opp said. “This means our graduates have a broad range of career options that include manufacturing plants, factories and mills that use power-driven machines and materials-handling equipment as well as operations centered on creating energy such as coal-fired electric power generation, natural gas distribution, ethanol production, biodiesel production, wind turbine maintenance, and solar power.”
DCTC also offers additional training in nuclear energy maintenance technology that meets Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) standards. Students pursuing the ETS–Nuclear A.A.S. degree will graduate with the skills and knowledge necessary to obtain entry-level employment in the nuclear energy industry.
Gordon Gibis added that students entering the ETS program should have a strong mechanical aptitude backed by a powerful desire to learn. “Energy technologies are always advancing,” he said. “To stay current, you need to be hungry for knowledge. I’m not happy unless I’m learning something new every day.”
Founded in Chicago in 1927, W. W. Grainger, Inc., with 2012 sales of $9 billion, is North America’s leading broad line supplier of maintenance, repair and operating products, with expanding global operations. To promote the innovation and importance of careers in the industrial skilled trades, Grainger, in conjunction with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), launched the Grainger Tools for Tomorrow scholarship program in 2006 to help students realize their educational and career goals.