BTYR Challenge Coin Recognition

Honoring veterans as well as employees who support veterans

On Wednesday, November 14, 2018, Dakota County Technical College recognized employees who have served in the U.S. military as well as employees who go above and beyond to support veterans and their families at the college. The recognized employees were presented with a DCTC Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Challenge Coin and a certificate during a ceremony on campus in the Dakota Room as part of Military Appreciation Week.

Torry Jeranek, HVAC faculty, and a U.S. Navy veteran, is a college employee recognized for serving in the U.S. military.

“DCTC and the BTYR committee have done a tremendous job supporting our active duty and veteran population,” Torry said. “Recognition ceremonies are great, and this one was no exception! The Challenge Coin is amazingly well done and it is a piece that I am more than happy to show off.”

Brett Kolles, English faculty and Campus Lions Club faculty advisor at DCTC, is a college employee recognized for supporting the military community on campus.

“It’s edifying to be part of a college that sincerely cares for our heroes in uniform, ” Brett said. “I appreciate the recognition of this.”

DCTC acknowledged the military service of the following employees (not all were able to attend the ceremony) along with additional employees who opted to be recognized privately:

Senior Chief Bruce Kunkel (Ret.), was the keynote speaker at the ceremony. Bruce served in the U.S. Navy from November 1992 until June 2017. Today, he is pursuing an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in the Electrical Construction & Maintenance Technology program at DCTC. He also serves on the college’s Beyond the Yellow Ribbon (BYTR) Committee.

Senior Chief Bruce Kunkel (Ret.)

Senior Chief Bruce Kunkel (Ret.)

Employee support for veterans recognition

Employees were also nominated by students and/or colleagues for going above and beyond to support veterans. The nominations went through a rigorous review process through the campus Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Committee.

The following employees were awarded a DCTC Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Challenge Coin along with a certificate for Outstanding Support of the Military Community.
Anne Johnson
Associate Vice President of Student Affairs

Anne is the administrative champion on campus for veterans. The increase in focus on veteran’s services and initiatives in recent years on campus is due to Anne’s dedication to serve our student-veteran population. Anne wrote the Title III Grant which provides funding for staff positions focused on increasing usage of credit for prior learning, and supports the success of adult learners and veterans.

Anne was also the principle administrative ally who advocated for a larger veterans center space to ensure veterans’ needs were met. The number of visits to the center have tripled since the move to the new location.

Nicole Meulemans
Director Student Life

In 2009, Nicole began collaborating with the campus community as well as the City of Rosemount, to come up with a plan to serve veterans, current military and their family members. The result of her efforts paid off and in 2010 DCTC became the first campus in the metro area to earn the proclamation of a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Campus.

Nicole continued supporting the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon initiative by attending Minnesota State Conferences where she was able to share best practices on how to become a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Campus. Nicole continues to support veterans, current military and their family members by volunteering in her spare time for Flags for Fort Snelling, assisting Rosemount Yellow Ribbon, and packing backpacks for children of service members.

Kathy Bachman
Regional Coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs

Kathy served in the U.S. Navy and has worked in Veterans Affairs for 11 years, dedicating her career to supporting our military community. Kathy supports the success and well-being of veterans through her role on campus managing the Military and Veterans Service Center, ensuring the space is warm, welcoming, and meets the needs of our student-veterans. Kathy was instrumental in securing funding for the current Military and Veterans Service Center.

When Kathy learns of needs that veterans have, she utilizes her support network to meet the need. One example of this is when a student-veteran needed living room furniture and Kathy was able to find someone who had furniture that needed a new home through her network. Meeting this need helped the veteran’s well-being and financial stability.

Brett Kolles
English Faculty

Brett ensures that student-veterans in his classes know where to get support. During his classes, he lets his students know that there is a veterans center on campus, that his door is always open, and if he doesn’t know the answer to a question a veteran has, he will find out it. As Lions Club Advisor, Brett has supported and coordinated campus-wide events on PTSD and suicide awareness.

Brett’s students see him as an advocate for veterans. When one of his students told him she was having issues with the VA, Brett connected her to Veterans Affairs staff on campus, who were able to help get her the answers she needed.

Scott Gunderson
Business Faculty

Scott has been a strong advocate of Credit for Prior Learning and ensuring veterans are awarded credit for their military experience. Scott spearheaded the creation of the Technical Management degree with veterans in mind so they could gain up to 40 credits toward the degree for their military experience. Scott’s students who are veterans say that he is understanding their needs and what they are going through. He always has their best interests in mind and goes above and beyond to support their success inside and outside of the classroom.

Michael Crider
Financial Aid Representative

Michael served in the U.S. Marine Corps and works tirelessly to support the retention and academic success of all DCTC students, and places special emphasis on students with a history of military service.  Michael goes out of his way to engage with students who have served, by making his presence known, being approachable, and making these students feel welcome in the Enrollment Services office. Michael has also helped employees who are veterans transition from being a student to a college employee.

Anna Voight
Associate Director of Student Life

Anna has served as chair of the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Committee since fall 2016 and has done an exceptional job moving initiatives forward in support of our student veterans and their families, including implementing the DCTC Challenge Coin for student-veteran graduates, faculty and staff; adding campus signage about the BTYR designation and reserved parking spaced for veterans; and planning a veterans orientation welcome event for incoming veterans.

Anna has implemented a continuous improvement process for Beyond the Yellow Ribbon committee initiatives and goals to focus on quality, and worked with the campus’s Institutional Research department to create a military-specific program evaluation to help improve programming. With her leadership, DCTC has risen to #6 in the nation and #1 in Minnesota as the best technical college for veterans, according to Military Times magazine.

Click image below for BTYR Challenge Coin criteria:

Challenge Coin

BTYR Challenge Coin Recognition gallery

View more event photos by visiting:
BTYR Challenge Coin Recognition 2018 on Flickr

To learn more about BTYR Challenge Coins and Veterans Services at DCTC, contact:

Kathy Bachman
MDVA Higher Education Regional Coordinator
Military and Veterans Service Center (Room 2-303)

Anna Voight
Associate Director of Student Life

Click image below for BTYR Challenge Coin nomination form: