Alumna/Staff Spotlight: Caroline Harris

Caroline Harris
Caroline Harris

1999 DCTC grad worked for college from 1974 until 2001

Caroline Harris, 78, worked for Dakota County Technical College for nearly 27 years, starting in August 1974 and retiring in January 2001. During that time, Caroline held several secretarial and administrative assistant positions.

“I was the secretary for Adult Basic Education (ABE) night and then day classes when I first started,” she said. “We would fill almost every room on campus with adult students taking night courses.”

Caroline went on to work in Customized Training (CT) as the administrative assistant to the CT vice president, the CT dean and a CT coordinator. She facilitated numerous room rentals to outside groups on evenings and weekends, earning income for CT and the college. While working with the Human Resources office, she developed a database of employees, former employees and retirees who would be invited to DCTC Showcase.

“I worked with the Dakota County Quality Council, Minnesota Women in Community and Technical Colleges, and the DCTC Foundation,” Caroline said. “I served as the proctor for the certified nursing assistant written test and the ACT given to high school students.”

Earning her associate degree…

In May 1999, Caroline graduated from DCTC, earning her Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Supervisory Management.

“This was a joint degree from DCTC and Inver Hills Community College,” she said. “DCTC didn’t offer general education courses at the time. I took those classes on the Inver Hills campus.”

While earning her degree, Caroline worked full-time at DCTC while raising three children as a single parent. Her husband, Allen, who worked at the Xcel Energy Black Dog Generating Station, died suddenly of a heart attack at age 49. Their youngest child, John, was only 13.

“The doctor said he couldn’t have saved Allen even if he had been there,” Caroline said. “I stopped working nights at DCTC then. I needed to be home with my children.”

During her student days, Caroline joined Phi Theta Kappa at Inver Hills—DCTC didn’t have a PTK chapter yet. She was also was a member of the National Vocational-Technical Honor Society. Forty years before she graduated from DCTC, Caroline completed a Private Secretarial course at the Minnesota School of Business. She graduated from Hammond High School in Hammond, Wisconsin, in 1958.

The bat and the chancellor…

After retiring, Caroline was often back on the DCTC campus subbing in various administrative assistant roles. On one occasion, Chancellor Morris Anderson of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (now Minnesota State) was scheduled to take a tour of the DCTC campus.

“Ron Thomas was the DCTC president then,” Caroline said. “Several vice presidents and deans were assembled at the front entrance to greet the chancellor when a bat showed up from nowhere. I have never seen so many grown people fly into a panic.”

Caroline reported that Paul DeMuth, the college’s operations director, assigned some of his workers to the problem, and the bat was relocated before the chancellor arrived.

More about Caroline…

Caroline has three children. Her son Paul is married and his wife’s name is Loralee. Caroline’s son, John, is also married and his wife’s name is Michele. Caroline has four grandchildren, Zach, 23, and Mandy, 21, and twins, Tyler and McKenna, almost 12.

Caroline’s daughter, Ann, graduated from DCTC with Office Occupations degrees in Information Processing Specialist, Clerical Skills Specialist and Clerk Typist. Ann has been with Center Point Energy for nearly three decades.

Caroline has held several part-time positions since her retirement, including a lot of substitute work at DCTC.

“I was a daycare provider for my twin grandchildren for ten years,” she said. “I enjoy tutoring at Rosemount Elementary School, particularly in kindergarten. I have taken my grandchildren (in one group or another) on vacation for fifteen years. I enjoy adult coloring books, extreme dot-to-dot books and my water exercise classes.  I also volunteer frequently at my church and have been involved in many activities there.”

Caroline has resided in Rosemount, Minnesota, since 1971.

Blizzard whiteout and overnight stay at DCTC…

One weekday evening in the 1980s, Caroline was on the DCTC campus along with Jack Powell, the Adult Education evening supervisor, and adult students taking night classes when they got snowed in during a memorable blizzard.

“We had a total whiteout,” she said. “Dave Schroeder, the college president at the time, tried to drive to a meeting, but he thought better of the idea when he noticed he couldn’t see his garage door from the end of his driveway.”

President Schroeder asked Caroline and Jack to stay put at the college along with however many students and evening custodial staff also wished to stay. The president told Caroline to keep the students safe and had her open the campus snack bar so everyone could get something to eat. Approximately, 40 students and several instructors chose to stay.

“A Dakota County deputy sheriff came out on a snowmobile to check up on us,” Caroline said. “A few students tried to get home—and we found out later they were on the road for hours. The weather was hideous.”

DCTC Proud History gallery

Caroline Harris Q & A

Caroline Harris

Caroline Harris

Why did you originally choose DCTC for your college education?
As an employee, it was the natural thing to do. At that time, employees could take classes tuition free on a space available basis.

What is one thing every technical college student should know?
Because of the college’s knowledge of the ever-changing job market there is a job in your field of study when you apply yourself and earn that degree!

What did you like best about the Supervisory Management program?
After taking an aptitude test, it was clear that this was a strong program for me. I had excellent instructors and advisors. I was also given credits for past experience. Classes were flexible and many were offered evenings and weekends which was the only time I could take them.

Three words that describe you as a DCTC alumna:

1) LOYALTY: To the school and its educational goals

2) APPRECIATION: I made use of the skills learned in my work at DCTC and in things I have done since retirement

3) THANKFUL: For good, highly qualified instructors as well as friendships made along the way

What did you like best about working at DCTC?
The campus was close to home, the job offered good benefits and, at the time, offered working hours that fit my family schedule. I formed many close friendships—many of which continue today. Good supervisors and administrators.

How has the college changed since you went to school there?
It is completely re-designed—no more orange carpet!!!!!!!  There are many new programs and much more opportunity for online classes which were nonexistent while I was going to school.

What advice would you give students thinking about going to a two-year college?
If you find there a course of study that fits your needs and goals, it can be just as productive and satisfying as any four year college, with less time and money spent to achieve success.  Most of the skills taught are so needed in our world today.

What is your favorite memory from your time at DCTC?
The many friendships made and still continue.  I remember fondly the people I worked with.

One word that best describes your experience at DCTC:


Caroline Harris 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: My water exercise classes twice a week
  2. Place you would most like to visit: I would love to take an Alaskan cruise
  3. The most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Probably getting a college degree at age 59 after five years of attending classes part-time while working full-time and being a single parent. 
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Help my children and grandchildren 2) Donate a lot of it where I thought it would do the most good for the most people, particularly children and students 3) Help my community, especially the Rosemount Family Resource Center
  5. Favorite TV show you’re watching now: I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I do enjoy Jeopardy.
  6. Favorite volunteer activity: I love tutoring kids at Rosemount Elementary School; I work with children who need the most help catching up—they try so hard to learn when they discover someone really cares about their education; one-on-one time is vital.
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: Some has already been accomplished—I have seen my three children grow up to be responsible, productive citizens; I am hoping the same for my grandchildren: one is already out of college and has a good job; the second is a junior in college and the twins have just entered middle school and are doing well.
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: It would still have to be the bald eagle.
  9. Dream occupation: I have it—retired and doing what I want when I want!
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Alex Trebek
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Playing the piano
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: There are so many—gun control, immigration and racial issues that still seem to divide us at times.
Learn more about enrolling at Dakota County Technical College by contacting:

Enrollment Services Room 2-110

¹ From my educational experience, but also from the many students/customers I encountered along the way.

1989 State Fire School