Vet Tech Faculty Honored by MAVT

Nicole Nieman: MAVT president-elect; Meri DuRand: MAVT Vet Tech of the Year

Nicole Nieman, director of the Veterinary Technician program at Dakota County Technical College, was elected Minnesota Association of Veterinary Technicians (MAVT) president-elect. Nicole will serve a two-year term in this position, followed by two years as MAVT president. She will also co-chair a Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA) committee, representing veterinary technicians across the state.

Nicole reported that she was nominated by an old friend, Jennifer Benson, and winning came as a surprise. She welcomes the opportunity to serve and is looking forward to the next four years.

“I think everybody needs to be involved and volunteer in our profession,” said Nicole, who attended the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) Leadership Summit in January in Chicago. “We need a strong sense of community. We teach our students to stay engaged beyond their jobs as vet techs. We have a small profession and we need to rely on each other.”

Meri DuRand, an instructor in the Veterinary Technician program, was named 2018 MAVT Veterinary Technician of the Year. “I was humbled to be nominated for the award and then selected,” said Meri, who serves as the NAVTA advisor to DCTC. “I don’t think I’m special. I do what I do because I love it.”

Both Nicole and Meri were honored at the 44th Annual MAVT Convention February 7–9, 2019, at the Minneapolis Hilton.

More about Nicole Nieman, CVT…

Nicole Nieman, CVT

Nicole Nieman, CVT

Nicole Nieman grew up in Stacy, Minnesota, and graduated from North Branch High School. Nicole earned a B.S. in Computer Animation from the Minneapolis Institute of Art in 2004 and went on to earn an A.A.S. in Veterinary Technology from Argosy University. She became a certified veterinary technician (CVT) in 2006.

Nicole’s industry and teaching experience is extensive. She worked her way through school as a pet care specialist at PetSmart and later became the practice manager and lead veterinary technician at Banfield Pet Hospital in St. Paul. She taught in the Veterinary Technology program at Argosy from 2007 to 2010; she also worked as a lead data analyst at Midwest Veterinary Supply.

Before coming to DCTC, Nicole served as executive program chair for the Veterinary Technology program at Globe University. She has experience working as a surgical research technician at Surpass, Inc., a contract research organization (CRO) specializing in preclinical services for medical devices, pharmaceuticals, biologics and combination products.

Teaching philosophy

“The big thing is we are here for our students—they come first. I want to know their wants and desires as a way of making sure they are successful in their careers and assets to our industry.”

What Nicole loves best about teaching…

“I learn so much from interacting with my students. The people drawn to our profession have strange and strong personalities that really work well together.”

Nicole Nieman, CVT, Director, Veterinary Technician Program
Dakota County Technical College

Nicole resides in Somerset, Wisconsin, with her fiancé, Jayson Palmer, who manages a PetSmart in Forest Lake, Minnesota, and her 10-year-old daughter, Paige, who loves four-wheeling, snowmobiling and riding her Honda scooter. The family has two chinchillas, Merry and Pippin, and a gray-and-white bunny called Thumper. When she’s not teaching or working, Nicole loves to work out on her elliptical machine. She also enjoys crocheting, woodworking, knitting and painting. She recently bought a Honda Rebel motorcycle; she wears a Star Wars helmet.

About MAVT

The Minnesota Association of Veterinary Technicians (MAVT) is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1975. MAVT is one of the largest state associations, representing more than 800 veterinarian technicians working in a wide variety of veterinary-related fields. MAVT is a volunteer-run organization.

Learn more at MAVT.

Day at the Vet Tech labs gallery

More about the Veterinary Technician program…

The Veterinary Technician program at DCTC is academically rigorous. You must be a highly motivated individual with better than average ability to master a significant course load of scientific and medical material in a relatively short time. Experience with animals and an understanding of the field of veterinary medicine is ideal. As an applicant to the program, you are strongly encouraged to spend at least one week observing or working in a veterinary clinic with a veterinary technician.

A veterinary technician is a key component of the animal healthcare team. Veterinary technicians perform medical tests under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian to assist in diagnosing injuries and illnesses of animals. Vet techs are able to perform vital tasks, including:

  • Evaluating an animal’s condition
  • Collecting and evaluating biological samples
  • Educating clients on nutrition and behavior
  • Administering and monitoring anesthesia
The Veterinary Technician program prepares you for a career caring for animals in vet clinics, animal research or wildlife rescue. Learn more…

More about Meri DuRand, CVT, RLATG…

Meri DuRand, CVT, RLATG

Meri DuRand, CVT, RLATG

Meri DuRand began teaching in the Veterinary Technician program at DCTC in January 2018. She graduated from Globe University in 2011 and began working at Research Animal Resources (RAR) at the University of Minnesota the same year.

“Biomedical research has been my life since 2011,” Meri reported. “I have been a certified veterinary technician (CVT) since 2013. I also have my Registered Laboratory Animal Technologist certification (RLATG).”

Meri is working on her Laboratory Animal Technician certification (LAT). She volunteers with the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) and serves as the state representative for the Minnesota Association of Veterinary Technicians (MAVT).

“I’m the secretary for the Society of Laboratory Animal Veterinary Technicians (SLAVT),” Meri added, “and a board member on the Minnesota branch of the American Association of Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS).”

Teaching philosophy

“I definitely like to give my students hands-on training. I help them learn from my experience in school and at work. I teach my students what to expect in their careers. I give them the knowledge they need to avoid mistakes they don’t need to make.”

What Meri loves best about teaching…

“I want to be a positive light for my students and help mold them into successful vet techs. I love being able to see them learn and do something they’ve never done before.”

Meri DuRand, CVT, RLATG, Faculty, Veterinary Technician Program
Dakota County Technical College

Meri has started a new NAVTA student chapter (SCNAVTA) on campus. “It’s important for students to put themselves out there and volunteer,” she said. “By getting involved, you set yourself apart from people who don’t show the same dedication to our field.”

When she’s not working and volunteering, Meri loves drag racing at Brainerd International Raceway & Resort. She was inspired by her uncle to start racing when she was in high school. She raced Ford Mustangs, a 2002 and 2005, but is now restoring a 1955 Chevy big-window pickup she plans to race this coming summer. She runs in Stock Eliminator and is aiming at 11 seconds for the quarter-mile.

Meri’s fiancé, Troy, manages a lawn care business in Inver Grove Heights. The family has two young children, Shelby, 2, and Axel, 6 months. The family dog is a 12-year-old German shorthair pointer named Willow. Meri enjoys attending car shows, fishing at the family cabin, and doing crafts of all sorts during the winter months.

Vet Tech Student Spotlight: Alexis Odegaard

Alexis Odegaard

Alexis Odegaard

Originally from Montgomery, Minnesota, Alexis Odegaard, 20, graduated from New Prague High School in 2017. Alexis is a freshman at DCTC earning an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in the Veterinary Technician program. She is on track to graduate fall 2022.

Alexis is looking forward to a career as a certified veterinary technician (CVT). Her goal is to work for a veterinary practice focused on caring for large animals. She raised six calves when she was growing up and enjoyed the experience. She also has experience taking care of horses.

She works while going to college at Menards in Dundas, Minnesota. She also works as a personal care assistant (PCA) caring from her boyfriend’s mom. Her boyfriend, Derek, 24, operates his own company, Homrak Construction, in Mankato, Minnesota. Alexis has three younger siblings, Jonathan, 15, Alivia, 13, and Mason, 4.

In her free time, Alexis keeps busy looking after 27 egg-laying chickens, six barred rocks, six white leghorns, six Sussex and nine miscellaneous. Her family also has two dogs, Bucksnort, a purebred yellow lab, and Atlas, an Eskimo dog. Alexis resides in Lonsdale, Minnesota.

Alexis Odegaard Q & A

Alexis Odegaard

Alexis Odegaard

Why did you choose veterinary technician as your career path?
I’ve wanted to be a vet tech since I was 10 years old. Now I’m doing what I want to do.

What do you like best about the Veterinary Technician program?
I feel very at home with the program. You build a connection with the teachers. They want you to succeed. They’re very good at what they do.

What is the most challenging part of the Veterinary Technician program?
A lot of different things, including the number of parasites animals can get. You need to study—you need to develop a learning strategy.

Three words that describe you as a college student:

Would you rather work for a large animal or small animal veterinary practice?
Large animals—I love cows and horses. Some vet practices take care of both so that would give you more variety and experience.

What is your favorite breed of dog?
I grew up with Labradors and I love them. I also like great Danes.

What is your favorite breed of cat?
I don’t mind cats, but I’m a dog person.

What is your favorite domestic pet?

What one word best describes your experience at DCTC?

Alexis Odegaard 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: Soccer
  2. Place you would most like to visit: Thailand
  3. The most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Applying to college; I’m very proud to be here.
  4. Your personal motto if you had to have one: “Go for it.”
  5. Favorite all-time TV show: The Vampire Diaries
  6. Favorite all-time movie: Mr. & Mrs. Smith
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: Become a CVT
  8. Your national bird if you could have one: Parakeet
  9. Dream occupation: Large animal CVT
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Angelina Jolie
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Math
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Politics
Learn more about the Veterinary Technician program at DCTC by contacting:

Nicole Nieman
Vet Tech Program Director

Christy Hutchins
Vet Tech Resident Veterinarian

Leslie Epstein
Vet Tech Instructor

Meri DuRand
Vet Tech Instructor

Vet techs love animals

Dogs and cats from rescue shelters are cared for by DCTC vet tech students under the supervision of a veterinarian. Not only do the cats and dogs receive a full regimen of exemplary care, they also greatly increase their chances of getting adopted by a human family.

Veterinary Technologists and Technicians

Perform medical tests under the supervision of a veterinarian.



Median: $17.37/hour
High: $20.10/hour

Seven-county Twin Cities metro

Median: $17.92/hour
High: $21.20/hour


This career is seeing very high growth compared to other careers. Growth rate is 22.3 percent, or well above statewide average. There will be a need for about 2,677 new Veterinary Technologists and Technicians to meet market demand between 2016–2026. This includes the demand due to replacement (workers leaving the occupation or retiring) as well as growth.

Minnesota State CAREERwise Education