Designer Spotlight: Julie Tuerk

Interior Design major receives New Century Workforce Pathway Scholarship

Julie Tuerk, 40, a sophomore in the Interior Design program at Dakota County Technical College, is the recipient of a New Century Workforce Pathway Scholarship. The scholarship program is sponsored by The Coca-Cola Foundation, The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, the American Association of Community Colleges and Phi Theta Kappa. Along with fellow student, Ana Khakural, Julie is a member of the college’s All-Minnesota Academic Team.

“I am honored to receive this scholarship,” Julie said. “In returning to school, I set a high bar for myself academically, wanting to squeeze out every drop of value. I truly appreciate the recognition of the hard work and the investment in my education.”

Phi Theta Kappa reports: “The student receiving the highest All-USA Academic Team application score in each state is named a New Century Workforce Pathway Scholar or a New Century Transfer Pathway Scholar. Students nominated for the Workforce Pathway should be planning to enter the workforce after completing a certificate or associate degree, and students nominated for the Transfer Pathway should be planning to transfer to a four-year college after graduation.” ¹
Learn more…

“Julie embodies an ideal student translating into an ideal employee. Julie is a professional. She is a dedicated leader and team player with a great work ethic and design skills plus an infectious, compassionate and positive attitude.”
Anne Farniok, CID, LEED AP, Interior Design Faculty
Dakota County Technical College

A native of Owatonna, Minnesota, Julie graduated from Owatonna High School in 1997. She attended the University of St. Thomas, earning a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Marketing and a B.A. in Journalism with a Concentration in Advertising in 2002.

“I was pursuing a career in advertising, but after exploring the industry I realized the work environment, which can be overly competitive and highly stressful, was potentially not going to be the best fit for me,” Julie related. “I worked in a financial planning firm right out of school, and then started working for Cargill in Minneapolis as an independent contractor.”

Julie went on to work for Cargill for nearly a decade, first as a coaching and performance coordinator and later as an employee experience and performance consultant. She loved the work, especially coaching leaders in support of their development. Her work connected her with employees and leaders at all levels of the privately held conglomerate, the largest in the United States. Cargill has more than 180,000 employees worldwide; 2018 revenues approached $115 billion.

“I initially worked on a team developing an internal IT project,” Julie reported. “That role turned into a job in Cargill’s Human Resources department, focused on talent development. I stayed in the talent area of HR the rest of my time there. My boss for a majority of my Cargill career was a PhD and brilliant. She was also a wonderful mentor. I worked on a dream team—and we were like a little family. Our work at Cargill broke through a lot of barriers, and we won awards, but most importantly I believe we were helping people reach their full potential, both personally and professionally.”

“Julie’s selection as a New Century Workforce Pathway Scholar is an incredible honor. Julie represents DCTC as a member of the All-Minnesota Academic Team along with Ana Khakural. Both Julie and Ana are invited to attend the All-Minnesota Academic Team Celebration April 26 at the Gorecki Center at the College of St. Benedict.”
Vicky Knickerbocker, PTK Minn-Kota Regional Coordinator
Sociology and Humanities Faculty, Inver Hills Community College

Transitioning to interior design…

Cargill went through a time of transition and reorganization, which a left choice for Julie—stay and carve out a new place, or follow her passion for design. She decided to leave Cargill, take the summer off and was all set to study interior design, assuming it would be at the University of Minnesota. She was meeting with professionals in the field when they suggested she should look at enrolling in the Interior Design program at DCTC instead.

“They pointed out that since I already had undergraduate degrees, jumping into a four-year program would be redundant for me in a lot of ways,” Julie said. “I hadn’t even considered a two-year program at that point. They also said the DCTC program specifically was very strong and has a great reputation in the interior design community. They added that the instructors emphasize the technical side of design as opposed to focusing on theory, as some of the other schools did.”

Julie added that theory is absolutely important and necessary, but she was looking for a skill set and education that would immediately allow her to hit the ground running.

“DCTC offers an industry-applicable, hands-on experience,” she said.

“We’ve gone on a number of student field trips to gain exposure and connections within the industry. One of the most memorable was the one we took to ESG Architecture & Design in Minneapolis. We toured The Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel at The Depot. Looking at some of the hotel interiors was like viewing the inside of my brain. It was the first time I really started to consider commercial design (vs. solely residential) as a possibility for me.”
Julie Tuerk, Interior Design Major, Dakota County Technical College

Julie started at DCTC in the fall of 2017. She has a 4.0 GPA, belongs to Phi Theta Kappa, serves as president of Design Connexion, a student club, and is a student member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) and the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA).

“We’ve gone on a number of student field trips to gain exposure and connections within the industry,” Julie said. “One of the most memorable was the one we took to ESG Architecture & Design in Minneapolis. We toured The Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel at The Depot. Looking at some of the hotel interiors was like viewing the inside of my brain. It was the first time I really started to consider commercial design (vs. solely residential) as a possibility for me.”

In addition to the $1,250 New Century Workforce Pathway Scholarship, Julie has received scholarships from the following sources:

  • PEO International
  • The Owatonna Foundation
  • St. John Lutheran Church

Three words that describe you as a college student:

Julie’s interior design projects…

Julie Tuerk Design Portfolio

Julie Tuerk Design Portfolio

More about Julie…

Julie graduates May 2019 and with an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Interior Design. She will be completing an internship at a design firm this summer. She’s focusing her career plans on working for small firm that specializes in residential design, but enjoys dabbling in creative projects on the commercial side. She’s open to the idea of relocating for her new job and is contemplating the idea of interviewing with design firms in Los Angeles. Her long-range goal is to own and manage her own design shop.

She’s looking forward to passing the National Council for Interior Design Qualification Examination to achieve NCIDQ Certification: “…the industry’s recognized indicator of proficiency in interior design principles and a designer’s commitment to the profession. Professional interior designers who possess the NCIDQ Certification have distinguished themselves by demonstrating a specific set of core competencies, supported by verified work experience and a college degree.” ²
Read more…

When she’s not studying, Julie loves anything that allows her to be active outdoors. She loves animals, horses especially, and had numerous pets growing up. Reading is another of her favorite pastimes; she likes both fiction and nonfiction books. She has one sibling, an older sister, who’s a registered nurse.

More about Interior Design at DCTC…

The Interior Design program provides a challenging course of study that prepares you to launch your career in an exciting and dynamic profession. Emphasis is placed on acquiring 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 wellbeing. Technical skills are gained in the latest software, including computer-aided design (CAD), building information management (BIM), graphic design and 3D visualization. Current software includes:

These software skills allow you to produce professional presentations and construction documents. Learn more…

Julie Tuerk Q & A

Why did you choose interior design as your new career path?
Interior design was a hobby I was doing all the time. I knew I needed to be educated to work at the technical level of a true professional. Interior design is different from interior decorating. I wanted to know how to design a space that actually is better, not one that just looks better. I really love all the technical details.

What do you like best about the Interior Design program?
The passion of the faculty. They are fantastic advocates for our profession. I also love the depth and breadth of the program’s curriculum.

What is your favorite design software?
I like Revit, SketchUp and AutoCAD. I really love working in 3D.

Follow DCTC Interior Design on Instagram…


What is the most challenging part of the Interior Design program?
Basically starting from scratch in terms of acumen. In many ways, the coursework has proven more difficult than my undergraduate studies. It’s an entire area of study I’d had no previous exposure to—you have to think in a different language. I’ve pulled a handful of all-nighters at DCTC, which is more than I did at St. Thomas.

What advice would you give working adults thinking about going back to college to advance a career change?
Try to figure out how to organize your life so you’ll be able to do it—which is no easy task! There will be times when the pivot seems overwhelming, but that’s outweighed by the outcome of a career you truly want. Change is both energizing and exhausting.

What is your greatest strength as a designer?
I love pushing the boundaries of design using color, materials and art as a form of self-expression.

What one word best describes your experience at DCTC?

More of Julie’s work…

Julie Tuerk 12 Answers

Julie at spring 2018 PTK Induction Ceremony

Julie at spring 2018 PTK Induction Ceremony

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: Anything outdoors
  2. Place you would most like to visit: Any city in the Old World or Singapore
  3. The most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Snorkeled with (non-human-eating & very small) sharks.
  4. Your personal motto if you had to have one: “Always look for what’s possible.”
  5. Favorite all-time TV show: Friends and Game of Thrones
  6. Favorite all-time movie: Bohemian Rhapsody
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: Leave the world a better place than when I arrived.
  8. Your national bird if you could have one: Flamingo
  9. Dream occupation: Interior designer (working for a client with an unlimited budget)
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Interior Designer Kelly Wearstler
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Singing
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Lack of curiosity and empathy for things in the world different from ourselves.
Learn more about Interior Design at DCTC by contacting:

Anne Farniok
Interior Design Faculty

Anne Painter
Interior Design and Architectural Technology Faculty

¹ Courtesy of Phi Theta Kappa
² Courtesy of the Council for Interior Design Qualification (CIDC)

Interior Designers

Plan, design, and furnish the inside of buildings.


Above the statewide median of $20.07/hour.


Median: $27.45/hour
High: $35.39/hour

Seven-county Twin Cities metro

Median: $28.56/hour
High: $36.32/hour


There will be a need for about 952 new Interior Designers 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