Student Spotlight: Deb Soderman

Deb Soderman
Deb Soderman

Future interior design graduate accepts job at Ethan Allen

Originally from the Crosby-Ironton area in the Cuyuna iron range in Crow Wing County, Minnesota, Deb Soderman, 62, is graduating from Dakota County Technical College in May 2018 with her Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in Interior Design.

Deb commutes from Aurora, Minnesota, a town of 1,700 residents near Superior National Forest in St. Louis County, to attend classes at DCTC. During school, she stays in Apple Valley about five miles away from the college’s main campus in Rosemount.

Deb decided to get a college education after a career journey that started at a country market store and went on to include time as a staffing specialist, HR professional and even a maintenance scheduler at a large taconite plant.

Because the mining industry is subject to periodic downturns, Deb lost her job at the taconite plant three years ago, but she was able to finance her education at DCTC thanks to a federal program called Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA).

Deb always enjoyed doing design projects. She had a knack for making those projects come together, but she was never sure why the things she did worked. Getting a college degree in interior design seemed like the perfect way to add know-how to her natural talent.

Three words that describe you as a college student:

“After deciding to pursue my dream, I researched where to get the education I desired,” Deb said. “No programs were available in my area so I looked at other options. Through my daughter-in-law, Libby, I was directed to an instructor newly retired from the Interior Design program at Dakota County Technical College. After a positive telephone conversation, I decided to visit DCTC and see how the atmosphere felt. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I had never attended college. I am a first-generation college student.”

Deb was pleasantly surprised by the college’s comfortable, welcoming campus. She was also impressed by the college’s staff, who were exceptionally kind and helpful. She opted to enroll in the Interior Design program for two key reasons: she happily discovered she would not be the oldest student at the college and her new program is accredited by the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA).

“I have never been disappointed in my decision to attend DCTC,” Deb added. “The instructors are so personable, industry-minded, knowledgeable and dedicated. I feel fortunate to be a student under their direction. I can only hope that other interior design-minded persons will have the same opportunity in the years to come.”

Internship at Ethan Allen

As a significant part of her education in the Interior Design program, Deb is interning at Ethan Allen in Woodbury, Minnesota. Ethan Allen is a high-end American furniture company with more than 300 stores and 5,200 employees across the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Headquartered in Danbury, Connecticut, the company reports 2017 total assets approaching $570 million.

Deb's coworkers at Ethan Allen

Deb’s coworkers at Ethan Allen

“I have been with Ethan Allen since January 2018,” Deb said. “I have been offered a full-time interior designer position once I graduate from DCTC. Ethan Allen is a wonderful place to work. The staff at the Woodbury location are so knowledgeable and fun—and they love what they do. I look forward to all I can learn from them to add to my education.”

Deb is proud to work for a company with a top-quality product, core values and a philosophy she can appreciate. She also admires the company’s strong sustainable initiatives.

“I really feel I fit here at Ethan Allen!” she said.

Deb Soderman gallery

Faculty perspective

Anne Farniok is one of Deb’s instructors in the Interior Design program. Anne also serves as the program’s director. She started her teaching career at DCTC in 1998 and was involved as an adjunct and advisory board member until 2007, the year she became a full-time faculty member.

Anne Farniok

Anne Farniok

Anne has a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Interior Design from the University of Minnesota. She has more than 20 years of experience in the interior design field with real-world work expertise in both commercial and residential interiors.

She is a Certified Interior Designer (CID) in the state of Minnesota. She is also a LEED AP, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional.

“Deb is an inspirational student with amazing conceptual design skill,” Anne said. “She is a team player with an upbeat attitude that will serve her well as she continues following her interior design career path.”

Anne pointed out that the DCTC Interior Design program has been providing the design community with excellence in education for more 45 years.

“One of the best things about our program is the diversity in our students be it age, gender or culture,” she said. “These various attributes make for a rich learning environment.”

More about Interior Design at DCTC…

This award-winning program is a challenging course of study that prepares you to enter an exciting and dynamic profession. Emphasis is placed on providing the hands-on knowledge and skills to design functional and aesthetically engaging environments.

The curriculum is architecturally based and explores spatial design and its embellishment. All aspects of space—scale, proportion, configuration, and lighting, as well as textures, materials, and color—are studied in relation to their effect on human well-being.

Diploma and degree options

Residential Interior Design: Diploma: 39 credits
+ Technical Management: A.A.S. Degree: 60 credits
+ Individualized Studies: A.S. Degree: 60 credits

To learn more, visit Interior Design.

More about Deb…

A graduate of Crosby-Ironton High School, class of 1974, Deb has resided in Aurora for four decades. She and her husband, Mark, have been married 44 years.

“Mark has worked in the mining industry as a drill operator for nearly forty years,” Deb said. “He lost his job during a downturn in the 1980s and decided to study nursing at The College of St. Scholastica. He earned his bachelor’s degree and became a registered nurse.”

When the mining industry improved, Mark returned to his job as a drill operator. He also works as a paramedical examiner. He has plans to retire when Deb graduates and starts her career as an interior designer. They have plans to relocate to the Twin Cities.

Deb and Mark have one married son, Jason, 44, a painter on the journeyman pathway, and two married daughters, Lisa, 41, a Realtor with two daughters, Ayania, 18, and Paige, 15, and Carrie, 40, a dental industry executive with three children, MaryJane, 11, Brady, 8, and Jiliyan, 6, with one child on the way.

In her free time, Deb enjoys sewing, decorating, scrapbooking, painting, reading and landscaping.

Deb and Mark Soderman

Deb and Mark Soderman

“There are so many factors that have made it possible for me to pursue my dream. So many personal challenges and much self- reflection and, yes, numerous ‘pity parties for one’ have taken place. But this dream of mine would not be as attainable without the love, support and encouragement from my husband and family!

“They are my rock, they are my sounding board, they are my wake-up call and my ‘suck-it-up, buttercup’ voices. Without them, I would not have had the courage or endurance to live away from home for two years. To carry on when the college course load was tough, when my brain was taxed with new programs and verbiage. My family, my friends, instructors and classmates, with all their encouragement, have driven me to succeed and to strive for my best.”

Deb Soderman, Future Interior Design Graduate, May 2018

Deb Soderman Q & A

Deb Soderman

Deb Soderman

Why did you choose interior design as your career field?
I have always been interested in design—making things work well together, whether staging, decorating, sewing or scrapbooking.

What do you like best about DCTC Interior Design classes?
I feel comfortable here because of the diversity of ages. My instructors have such great knowledge to share and they want you to succeed.

Do you prefer residential or commercial interior design and why?
Residential—I am a people person.

Three words that describe you as an interior designer:

What surprised you about your interior design coursework?
The coursework is quite demanding and diverse. The computer programs are challenging and they are taught very quickly. Note: During her time in the Interior Design program, Deb has become proficient in a number of career-critical applications, including:

What has been your toughest challenge in life?
Time management

What is your greatest accomplishment?
I have a beautiful loving family!

What person has influenced you the most in life?
There are many strong women who have been my mentors—my grandmother, my husband’s grandmother and two previous bosses.

Deb Soderman | 21 Answers

  1. Favorite season: I love all seasons, but in particular the fall.
  2. Favorite natural feature (e.g., waterfalls, oceans, mountains, etc.): Oceans
  3. Favorite sport or physical activity: Curling
  4. Your national bird if you could have one: Hummingbird
  5. Place you would most like to visit: Mediterranean
  6. Favorite holiday: Christmas
  7. Your national mammal if you could have one: Dolphin
  8. Favorite actor or actress: Sean Connery
  9. Favorite band or performing artist: Ed Sheeran
  10. Your personal motto if you had to have one: “You never learn out.”
  11. Coolest thing in the world: Birth of a baby
  12. Scariest thing in the world: Snakes
  13. Favorite all-time TV show: Days of Our Lives
  14. Favorite all-time movie: Sense and Sensibility
  15. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: Role model to my family; you can accomplish anything if you want it bad enough and work at it hard enough.
  16. Most precious material possession: Wedding ring—signifies that commitment of 44+ years.
  17. First thing you would buy if you won the $1.5 billion Powerball: Family vacation
  18. Dream occupation: Interior designer
  19. Person you would most like to meet: Jesus
  20. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Control of emotions
  21. Humankind’s greatest challenge: Outcome vs power
To learn more about Interior Design at DCTC, contact:

Anne Farniok
Interior Design Director and Faculty

Anne Painter
Architectural Design Faculty

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