Endowed scholarship committee members visit with Civil Engineering Tech instructor
Members of the Douglas Differt Difference Makers (D3M) Endowed Scholarship Committee, traveled to UMore Park to watch civil engineering technology students in action and meet with their instructor, Alan Hancock. Ron Erickson, DCTC interim dean of transportation and industry, and Michelle Krenzke, DCTC Foundation development manager, joined Douglas Differt, P.E., former MnDOT deputy commissioner and chief engineer and the driving force behind the endowed scholarship, Gary Thompson, D3M Committee chair, and Gail Morrison, Inver Hills Foundation executive director, on the fact-finding trip.
Established to inspire and empower future students interested in careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), D3M has raised $486,000 in gifts and $59,000 in matching funds to help finance the education of students at Inver Hills Community College and Dakota County Technical College—students who will go on to become project leaders, troubleshooters and innovators in STEM fields.
“A vision without goals is a dream. Goals without a vision are just hope. Sixty years ago when we began building the nation’s Interstate Highway System, we had the vision and goals to get the job done. We need that same approach to meet the challenges we face today.” — Doug Differt, P.E., former MnDOT deputy commissioner and chief engineer who now serves as a transportation consultant with more than 50 years of experience in the public and private sectors
Ron Erickson noted that one important aspect of D3M is the endowed scholarship’s collaboration with business and industry leaders. “The Douglas Differt Difference Makers (D3M) Endowed Scholarship Committee is a tremendous source of support for our students in Civil Engineering Technology,” Ron said. “With more and more attention being given to our state and country’s aging infrastructure, the skills and competencies being taught in this program are critical to our future economy. The support provided through this scholarship fund will help make it possible for CET students to complete their studies on time and debt-free. D3M really will make a difference!”
Michelle Krenzke reported that the D3M Endowed Scholarship has funded two $1,500 scholarships for CET students. “DCTC and Inver Hills are looking at innovative ways to assist students pursuing degrees that lead to careers in STEM-related fields,” Michelle said. “D3M is a joint effort between the two colleges.”
“Our graduates find great careers with engineering consulting firms, construction companies and government agencies, including MnDOT and the engineering departments of counties and municipalities. We teach the skills our graduates need to impress employers and make their way in the engineering field, including the know-how to apply software civil engineers typically don’t use. Faculty with decades of industry experience have designed our curriculum. They know what works and what doesn’t work. Working with the D3M Committee is another way we can help our students master the skills they need to succeed.” — Alan Hancock, Civil Engineering Technology Instructor
Civil tech student perspectives
- Age: 22
- Originally from South Sudan
- Residence now: Apple Valley, Minnesota
- Already working as an inspector and materials tester at Bolton & Menk, Engineers & Surveyors, in Chaska, Minnesota
“People don’t realize how the infrastructure in their environment is built. I like knowing how things are built. I’m interested in civil engineering technology because the field has so many areas of expertise. Your workday is always changing.”
- Age: 22
- Burnsville, Minnesota
- Interned as a surveyor for the city of Burnsville
- Already working at Stonebrooke Engineering in Shakopee, Minnesota
“I’m taking civil engineering technology because you can get a job right away. I like pointing at stuff and saying I worked on that. I’ve done survey work at Burnsville High School.”
- Age: 22
- Welch, Minnesota
- Already working as a surveyor for Dakota County
“Technicians in civil engineering have reliable employment. You’ll get a good-paying job with a lot of variety working inside and outside.”
More about Doug Differt
For more than 50 years, Douglas H. Differt, P.E., has worked to keep Minnesotans on the road through his leadership and civil engineering skills in the public and private sectors. Doug’s managerial expertise as a professional engineer is matched only by his drive, passion for community service, and a natural ability to define and solve the complex challenges presented by modern transportation.
As MnDOT deputy commissioner and chief engineer under two governors, Rudy Perpich and Tim Pawlenty, Doug was responsible for making sure massive construction projects as well as critical maintenance programs ran like clockwork.
“We have more than five thousand people working at MnDOT,” Doug said. “Only three hundred members of that workforce are civil engineers. Those engineers are supported by other highly trained experts, including chemists, biologists, welders, mechanics, construction managers, accountants, environmental scientists and more. Time was, on-the-job training would be enough to fill those positions. That’s no longer possible due to advances in technology. The work is just too sophisticated.”
The Douglas Differt Difference Makers (D3M) Endowed Scholarship was established to assist students interested in pursuing STEM careers. Scholarship dollars awarded through D3M will help fund the education of students at Inver Hills Community College and Dakota County Technical College. D3M is also designed to introduce students to career paths through internships and industry participation.
“We want to catch students early on and make sure they don’t fall through the cracks,” said Doug, noting that higher education is crucial in a knowledge-based, global economy. “The scholarships give students the opportunities they need to build strong careers in STEM. The benefits for society are tremendous.”
Doug pointed out that transportation infrastructure alone is an enormous economic engine. “For every million dollars expended in a transportation contract, more than forty good-paying jobs are created,” he said, adding that the money moves through a community seven times, bringing prosperity at every level.
Throughout his career, Doug applied a can-do attitude that earned him the nickname “Mr. Fix-It.” A Korean War veteran, Doug enrolled under the G.I. Bill at the University of North Dakota. He used that opportunity to earn a degree in civil engineering that launched a five-decade career in transportation that made a day-to-day difference in the lives of millions of people.
Because mentoring and community service are at the heart of his lifework, Doug knows the next generation of students must be given their chance to help make the world a better place to live.
“I came in when we first built the Interstate Highway System under President Eisenhower,” he said. “Our job now is to make sure we have an educational system that can prepare students for the future so that they can maintain and improve on what we built.”
To learn more about the DCTC Foundation or how you can make a tax-deductable gift* to the Douglas Differt Difference Makers Endowed Scholarship (D3M), contact:
DCTC Foundation Development Manager
* Your scholarship gift may be matched through a special matching grant.
To learn more about Civil Engineering Technology at DCTC, contact:
Civil Engineering Technology Faculty