Education through a Fast Lens

Photography student Ellie McNamara takes a running start at college

Ellie McNamara

How many students graduate high school in the spring and start college in the fall with 19 college credits? Any number of higher ed research analysts might know the answer, but Dakota County Technical College has one for certain, Ellie McNamara, 19, a 2014 graduate of Hastings High School. As a Post-Secondary Enrollment Options, or PSEO, student at DCTC, Ellie earned 15 college credits while still in high school. The summer after graduating she earned another four credits by taking a couple more college courses, including Advanced Photo Lighting Techniques.

Having been a straight A student in high school, Ellie was up to the challenge of college-level learning. “I didn’t find the classes that much different,” she said. “I liked that scheduling was flexible because I also work as a teller at a bank in Hastings.”

Ellie chose to attend DCTC full-time as a student in the Photography program because she loves the atmosphere on campus and was impressed by the faculty, especially Bill Eilers, one of her photography instructors.

“I like the way Bill Eilers teaches,” Ellie said. “You don’t just memorize facts in his classes; he makes sure you incorporate what he teaches. Learning is hands-on and you take it with you.”

Bill Eilers considers Ellie McNamara a remarkable student. “Ellie is bright and talented,” he said. “She’s a full-time student who also works. She hopes to graduate from DCTC in record time with high marks—and she’s got the drive, dedication and work ethic to do it.”

Ellie’s favorite type of photography is shooting landscapes, particularly sunsets. “I love the colors,” she said. “I love capturing the moment and sharing the beauty of the world with others.” She shoots with a Canon Rebel, likes her 50mm lens and appreciates the work of Art Wolfe, a renowned American nature and cultural photographer.

Two of Ellie’s photos won big in the 2014 Rivertown Days Photography Contest and were featured in the Hastings Star Gazette. Ellie took first place in the Historic Hastings category and second place in the Landscape category.

© Ellie McNamara

First place: Rivertown Days Photo Contest: Historic Hastings

© Ellie McNamara

Second place: Rivertown Days Photo Contest: Landscape

Ellie grew up in rural Hastings and is a farm girl at heart; her grandfather was once a farmer. She loves dirt bikes and four-wheeling and working on her Chevy Silverado. She also enjoys painting, both acrylic and watercolor, reading novels of all kinds, and writing, the latter talent something that comes to her naturally.

After graduating from DCTC, Ellie plans on transferring to Minnesota State Mankato with the goal to earn a B.F.A. in graphic design. She has centered her career plans on becoming a professional graphic designer. Augmenting her photography skills can only accelerate her prospects for success. The same principles apply—and awesome photography invariably relies on an exceptional eye for design.

Ellie McNamara photography gallery

All images © Ellie McNamara

For more information about Photography at DCTC, contact:

Women’s Soccer Update

Blue Knights 1–2 as of Sept. 5

Blue Knights vs Trailblazers

The women’s soccer team at Dakota County Technical College faced some tough competition in the early going of the 2014–2015 season, losing 2–3 to the Rochester Community and Technical College Yellowjackets, ranked seventh in the latest NJCAA Top 20 National Poll for Division III women’s soccer, and 0–9 to the Lewis & Clark Community College Trailblazers from Godfrey, Illinois, ranked 17th in the NJCAA DI poll.

DCTC started the season Aug. 21 away from home in La Crosse, Wisconsin, in a scrimmage against the Viterbo University JV, losing 1–3. The Blue Knights then played a strong game against RCTC at home Aug. 23. During the Minnesota Kickoff Classic, hosted for the fifth year by DCTC at the Ames Soccer Complex, the Knights played two games, starting with Lewis & Clark Aug. 30. The team wrapped up the tournament Sept. 1 against the Red River College Rebels from Manitoba, Canada, winning  2–1.  A game against the College of Lake County Lancers from Grayslake, Illinois, was cancelled.

Women’s soccer preview
Mark Obarski

Mark Obarski

The Blue Knights will be an unproven team to start the season, having just four returners from last season. The returning players will guide the team during the early schedule. Mark Obarski is the team’s first-year head coach. Obarski came to DCTC after coaching varsity soccer at Eagan High School in Eagan, Minnesota, for 14 years.

The Blue Knights will focus on an attacking style of soccer while relying on a more cautious approach to defense. The goalkeeper position will be a competition between returning starter Hannah Smith and newcomer Jordyn Briebarth. The midfield will be under the control of Kenya Macias and Anna Giles, both incoming freshmen. Mary Gonzalez and Stephanie Walters, both returners, will lead the defense. The Blue Knights play a tough schedule that will ultimately benefit the team during the always difficult regional playoff in late October and November.

Head Coach Mark Obarski and Assistant Coach Chris Petersen are excited to work with a college-level team with so much promise. They coached together for 11 years at Eagan High School. “Our team is young and inexperienced in a number of positions,” Obarski said. “That showed against Rochester and Lewis & Clark. We played very well against Red River. Our goalkeep, Jordyn Briebarth, played an exceptional game.”

Blue Knights vs Trailblazers gallery

For more photos from the game, visit DCTC on Flickr.

Player spotlights…

Mary Gonzalez

Mary Gonzalez

Mary Gonzalez

Sophomore defender

  • Age: 19
  • High school: Apple Valley
  • Hometown: Minneapolis, Minn.
  • Current residence: Apple Valley, Minn.
  • Academic program area: General education courses with a focus on Exercise & Sport Science
  • Jersey number: 9
  • Playing experience: Played fours years for Apple Valley, two on varsity; club soccer with Valley United and Lakeville; freshman year at DCTC
  • Favorite part of soccer: Knowing that really playing as a team allows you to match the skill and experience of a stronger opponent
  • Favorite soccer team: Chivas (CD Guadalajara)
  • Favorite player: Leo Messi, FC Barcelona
  • Career plans: Transfer to St. Catherine University and earn her doctorate in physical therapy and exercise science; hopes to play soccer for the Wildcats
  • Family: Two sisters, one older and one younger; older sister has two children, making Mary an aunt with one niece and one nephew
  • Pastimes and hobbies: Relaxing and hanging out with her boyfriend, Jose Andriano, a midfielder on the Blue Knights men’s team

What brought you to DCTC?
“I wanted to play college soccer and DCTC has an Exercise & Sport Science program.”

What do you like about the college?
“I really like my classes. My instructors are great. My physics instructor was amazing. I got an A in the course.”

Quote about upcoming season:
“We need to work as a team. When we connect as a team, we will succeed.”

Mikaela Reisgies

Mikaela Reisgies

Mikaela Reisgies

Sophomore forward

  • Age: 19
  • High school: Rosemount
  • Hometown: Rosemount, Minn.
  • Current residence: Apple Valley, Minn.
  • Academic program area: General education courses with a focus on health care
  • Jersey number: 2
  • Playing experience: Freshman year at DCTC; ran 100 meter and 200 meter on track team at Rosemount H.S.
  • Favorite part of soccer: Sees team as family; loves the footwork and shooting
  • Favorite soccer team: Arsenal
  • Career plans: Transfer to the Minnesota Alliance for Nursing Education (MANE) at Inver Hills Community College after DCTC; eventually earn her BSN and become an RN in hospice care
  • Family: Twin sister, Marisa, attends the University of Kansas; three brothers
  • Pastimes and hobbies: Eating chicken wings and ice cream; hanging out with boyfriend, Titus, a nutrition major at Inver Hills

Why did you go out for soccer at DCTC?
“Cam [Stoltz] asked me to join the women’s soccer team my freshman year at DCTC. I said yes, but I was nervous at first. I needed to learn the basics. Now I love it.”

What do you like about the college?
“I enjoy working in the college’s Athletics department. We support each other.”

Quote about upcoming season:
“We go out to win every game.”

The Blue Knights compete as an independent in NJCAA DI women’s soccer. All home games are played at the Ames Soccer Complex on the DCTC main campus in Rosemount, Minn. The DCTC Alumni game is scheduled at Ames Saturday, Sept. 6, at 7 p.m. The next home game is against the Bismarck State College Mystics Sunday, Sept. 14, at noon.

For more information about women’s soccer at DCTC, contact:
For more information about NJCAA athletics at DCTC, visit GoBlueKnights.com, or contact:
  • Cam Stoltz
    Athletic Coordinator
    Men’s Soccer Head Coach





DCTC Basketball Looks Strong for Upcoming Season

Five returning players and excellent recruits bring stacks of talent

Blue Knights Basketball

The men’s basketball program at Dakota County Technical College is geared up for the 2014–2015 season with a core unit of returning players plus a solid recruiting class that includes exceptionally skilled local and out-of-state players.

“We have a great group of incoming players with a lot of talent and athleticism at all positions,” said Head Coach Ben Davis. “We are also returning five guys from last year’s team who all work hard and have a good understanding of what we want to accomplish on and off the court. The returners will set the tone and lead the way for the upcoming season.”

One returning player is Andrew Aakre, a 5’11 guard from Champlin Park who led the Blue Knights in scoring last year with 12 points per game. Aakre also led the team in steals and minutes played. He was named to the NJCAA All-Region 13 Team and is a candidate for NJCAA DII All American honors. A polished outside shooter, Aakre knocked down 61 three-pointers during the 2013–2014 season—a school record.

“There are very few guys who shoot the ball like Andrew,” Davis said. “He consistently knocks down shots and is a great ball handler. He has worked very hard this summer in the weight room and on the court. We are counting on Andrew to be a big part of our success this season.”

In the off-season, Coach Davis challenged his returners to step up as leaders. Sophomores Jamar Kelly and Tim Lott met the challenge. Lott is a 6’5 guard/forward from A&M Consolidated in College Station, Texas; Kelly is a 6’3 guard/forward from Cretin Derham Hall in St. Paul.

“Tim and Jamar have both developed into strong leaders,” Davis said. “They took the initiative during the off-season, leading by example to make sure everyone is working extremely hard to improve their game. They’ve also gone out of their way to make connections with our incoming players—a very talented group, but young. It’s a great feeling knowing that we’ve got great leadership in players like Tim and Jamar.”

(left to right) Andrew Aakre, Tim Lott, Jamar Kelly, Cole Piepkorn, Brandon Drexl-Strickland

Cole Piepkorn, a 5’11 sophomore guard from Christ’s Household of Faith in St. Paul, is another Blue Knights success story. Piepkorn didn’t get much playing time in the first half of last year due to injuries, but returned to the lineup in December against Vermilion Community College, scoring 23 points with four assists. He started the rest of the season and stood out as one of the team’s top players. Piepkorn also did well in the classroom, finishing spring semester 2014 with a 4.0 GPA.

“Cole has a simple formula of working hard every day and never complaining,” Davis said. “As a result, he improved more in one season than any player I’ve ever been around. Watching Cole excel during the second half of the season was a lot of fun—and we are looking forward to making him a big part of this year’s team.”

Sophomore Brandon Drexl-Strickland, a 6’3 guard from South St. Paul, missed much of the 2013–2014 season due to ankle injuries. Despite his injuries, Drexl-Strickland stayed committed to the DCTC basketball program, worked very hard during rehab, and continued to build on his talent. He is expected to be an essential contributor to the Blue Knights this season.

“Brandon has worked through multiple injuries,” Davis said. “After the second and third setback, I think a lot of guys would have given up. Brandon was usually the first player in the gym at practice whether he was healthy enough to participate or not. Now that he’s healthy, we are very excited to see what he can do this season.”

Davis went on to mention two promising freshman, Noble Fahnbulleh, a 6’2 guard from Hopkins, and Rajon Herbert, a 6’8 forward from Cherry Creek, Colo. “We recruited players with height in mind,” Davis said. “Our incoming class has a number of players in the six-eight range.”

Player spotlights…

Tim Lott

Tim Lott

Tim Lott

Sophomore guard/forward

  • Tim LottAge: 21
  • High school: A&M Consolidated, College Station, Texas
  • Hometown: Chicago, Ill.
  • Current residence: Eagan, Minn.
  • Academic program area: Individualized Studies
  • Degree: A.S.
  • Jersey number: 24
  • Height & weight: 6’5, 195 pounds
  • Playing experience: Played varsity senior year at A&M Consolidated; streetball; freshman year at DCTC
  • Favorite part of basketball: Going on the road and hanging out with teammates; it’s like a brotherhood
  • Favorite NBA team: Chicago Bulls
  • Favorite NCAA DI team: UCLA Bruins
  • Career plans: Radiologist
  • Family: Four sisters in Chicago and Texas
  • Pastimes and hobbies: Listening to all types of music, from country to hip hop to gospel; helping out homeless people in Apple Valley, Minn.

What brought you to DCTC?
“My friends C.J. Goodman and Truman Sweed told me I was too good for streetball. They told me I needed to play college ball and get an education. I chose DCTC for both reasons.”

What do you like about the college?
“I’m playing a sport I love while focusing on the classroom and getting good grades.”

What do you like about the Individualized Studies program?
“All my instructors are ready to help. I’ll ask a question and they’ll take twenty minutes out of their day to give me the answer I need.”

Quote about upcoming season:
“Can’t wait to start playing. It’s going to be a great season. Our goal is to go all the way to the NJCAA DII championship game in New York.”

Andrew Aakre

Andrew Aakre

Andrew Aakre

Sophomore guard

  • Andrew AakreAge: 19
  • High school: Champlin Park, Champlin, Minn.
  • Hometown: Champlin, Minn.
  • Current residence: Champlin, Minn.
  • Academic program area: Individualized Studies
  • Degree: A.S.
  • Jersey number: 0
  • Height & weight: 5’11, 160 pounds
  • Playing experience: Played varsity senior year at Champlin Park; freshman year at DCTC
  • Favorite part of basketball: Winning
  • Favorite NBA team: Portland Trail Blazers
  • Favorite NCAA DI team: University of Wyoming Cowboys; best friend plays on team
  • Career plans: Start own business with dad
  • Family: Four brothers and one sister; closest 14 years older
  • Pastimes and hobbies: Playing NBA 2K on PlayStation; lifting and staying in shape

What brought you to DCTC?
“The opportunity to play college basketball.”

What do you like about the college?
“DCTC is a smaller school. Players on different sports teams all support each other.”

What do you like about the Individualized Studies program?
“The program is a good start toward reaching my goals of playing NCAA ball and getting a business management degree at a four-year.”

Quote about upcoming season:
“I’m looking forward to building a strong bond with my teammates. We are aiming for a national championship.”

About the coach…

Head Coach Ben DavisBen Davis is entering his second year as head coach. Davis came to DCTC from Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, where he was the head assistant coach and head of recruiting for the men’s basketball team. Prior to Clarke, Davis served as assistant basketball coach at Macalester and Carleton colleges. Davis received his bachelor of science in child psychology with a minor in coaching education from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He received his master’s in coaching education from the University of Ohio in 2010. You can learn more about Coach Davis by reading his bio on GoBlueKnights.com.

Blue Knights basketball competes in Region 13 at the NJCAA Division II level. The Knights went 6–20 in the 2013–2014 season. The 2014–2015 season opens Nov. 1 at 8 p.m. at North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, N.D. The team plays the first home game of the season against Western Technical College Nov. 8 at 1 p.m. at Hutton Arena on the Hamline University campus in St. Paul. Home games are played at Hamline and at Clark Danielson College Life Center Gymnasium on the North Central University campus in Minneapolis.

Blue Knights practicing at High Performance Academy

For more information about the men’s basketball team at DCTC, contact:
  • Ben Davis
    Men’s Basketball Head Coach
For more information about NJCAA athletics at DCTC, visit GoBlueKnights.com, or contact:
  • Cam Stoltz
    Athletic Coordinator
    Men’s Soccer Head Coach

Civil Engineering Tech Grad Working in Alaska

Matt Miller lands dream job in nation’s largest state

Matt Miller CET grad in Alaska

Matt Miller graduated from the Civil Engineering Technology program at Dakota County Technical College in May 2014 with a range of career options and a strong desire to work outdoors, applying his new knowledge and skills on actual job sites. He probably could not be more outdoors than the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska, working on a highway project in an area too remote for cell or Internet service.

Kenai Peninsual, Alaska“I had a bunch of job offers before school was over,” said Matt, who worked as a civil tech for Atlas Foundation in Rogers, Minn., when he first graduated. “The opportunity in Alaska came up and I went for it. I wanted to get out of the office and out in the field.”

A native of Lakeville, Minn., Matt, 25, graduated from Lakeville North High School in 2007. He is also an Iraq War veteran, having served as a recovery mechanic with the 34th Red Bulls Infantry Division. “We were deployed in Basra,” Matt said. “I look back on the experience as an adventure. I used the GI Bill to pay for my education at DCTC.”

Matt Miller | CET grad in Alaska

Matt Miller in Alaska

When he accepted the job as a construction inspector for EDGE Survey & Design out of Anchorage, Ala., Matt was following in the footsteps of Justin Winter, a 2013 graduate of the CET program. Justin, a St. Paul native, set his sights on moving to Alaska while still in college. During his time in the program, he was impressed by the adjunct instructors who teach the curriculum.

“They are straight from the engineering industry,” Justin said, “and are more than current with the technology students need to know.”

Alan Hancock, the program’s full-time instructor, remembers Justin as a student focused on landing a job. “He was bound and determined to go to Alaska, ” Alan said. “His whole second year he applied with companies in the state. Matt went to Alaska on a whim after Justin invited anyone from the class of 2014. Justin told Matt about life working in Alaska and helped him with the logistics of the move.”

Matt Miller • CET grad in Alaska

Even though they both work for EDGE, Matt rarely sees Justin. “We’re with the same company,” said Matt, who has an apartment in Anchorage, “but we work on different projects. I work as the company’s liaison with Alaska and I’ve traveled all over the state. I’m currently working on the Seward Highway project on the Kenai Peninsula. My duties include surveying, testing, documenting and checking on work progress at the site. I’m doing exactly what I learned in college. As a construction inspector for EDGE Survey & Design, I’m the eyes and ears of Alaska.”

Matt spends his free time hiking, mountain biking, and fishing for rainbow trout and salmon. He misses his family—he has three brothers and three sisters, but the scenery of Alaska is hard to beat.

“I’m so spoiled,” Matt said. “It’s ridiculous how beautiful it is.”

For more information about Civil Engineering Technology at DCTC, contact:
  • Alan Hancock
    Civil Engineering Technology Instructor

Matt Miller | CET grad in Alaska


Five days of fun with learning


Dakota County Technical College hosted the 4th annual Teens eXperiencing Technical Education event July 28 through Aug. 1, 2014, on the college’s main campus in Rosemount, Minn. Linda Foster, DCTC instructional technology director as well as the creator and organizer of TXT, reported that the week-long workshop series gave about 200 girls in grades 5–7 the chance to explore programs in the DCTC Business & Management, Design & Technology, Health & Human Services, Industry Careers and Transportation departments. Dakota County 4H and six area robotics teams also provided experiential learning workshops during TXT.

“TXT is a fun, hands-on way for girls to gain a new appreciation for opportunities in technical career fields,” Foster said. “We get the chance to showcase DCTC programs and faculty—and the girls always have a great time.”

TXT2014 Day 1

Auto Body Collision Technology
Civil Engineering Technology
Heavy Duty Truck Technology
Heavy Construction Equipment Technology
Railroad Conductor Technology
Welding Technology

TXT2014 Day 2

Architectural Technology
Biomedical Equipment Technology
Computer Hardware, Networking and Programming
Electrical Construction & Maintenance Technology
Interior Design

VCOM photos courtesy of Leah Dwinnell

TXT2014 Day 3

Automotive Technician
Exercise & Sport Science
Medical Assistant
Nanoscience Technology

Photography photos courtesy of Leah Dwinnell

Photos from a studio photography workshop taught by Photography Instructor Bill Eilers

All above photos courtesy of Bill Eilers

TXT2014 Day 4

Dakota County 4-H

TXT2014 Day 5

KING TeC–Prior Lake High School
Robotics Blaze–Burnsville High School Robotics
Cobalt Catalysts–Eastview High School Robotics
High Tech Kids
St. Michael Catholic School Robotics
Thomson Reuters

Robotics photos courtesy of Leah Dwinnell

For more photos of TXT2014, visit DCTC on Flickr:

Top photo courtesy of Bill Eilers

For more information about TXT2014, contact:
  • Linda Foster
    Instructional Technology Director