Sakshi Soneji: 2020 Dave Schroeder Outstanding Student

Sakshi Soneji

Individualized Studies major recognized with annual award

Sakshi Soneji, a 17-year-old sophomore at Dakota County Technical College, has received the college’s 2020 Dave Schroeder Outstanding Student Award. Sakshi is earning an Associate of Science (A.S.) in Individualized Studies at DCTC.

Sakshi was honored to be recognized for her exceptional work inside and outside the classroom. “Do your best, strive for success and nothing will stop you from achieving your goals,” she said.

Each year, DCTC recognizes outstanding students in honor of the college’s first president, Dave Schroeder, who served from 1970 to 1999. Students are nominated by faculty and staff for their involvement in college initiatives and activities, academic performance and service to the community.

Three words that describe you as a college student:

More about Sakshi…

LeadMN Conference

Sakshi came to the United States from her home in Dubai, a world-famous metropolis in the United Arab Emirates, in July 2019 with the goal to attend college. Dubai is the most populous city in the UAE with an estimated 3.38 million residents.

Sakshi Soneji

A 2018 graduate The Oxford School in Dubai, Sakshi took on a range leadership roles in the DCTC campus community. She serves as a student ambassador, Student Senate secretary, We:LEAD president and Campus Lions Club president. She also belongs to Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) and the Multicultural Student Leadership Association (MSLA).

Sakshi serves on the college’s Alumni Advisory Board, Auxiliary Committee and Student Life Budget Committee. She also advocated to keep Minnesota Transit Valley Authority bus service on campus.

As a member of LeadMN, Sakshi received the Mark M. Welter World Citizen Award and the Mark M. Welter 100% American Scholarship. She was honored at the LeadMN 13th Annual Scholarship Gala in January 2020.

“I will be transferring to Rutgers University–New Brunswick in fall 2020 to pursue my Bachelor of Arts in Political Science,” Sakshi said. “After completing my bachelor’s, I aspire to study law and become a corporate lawyer in New York City.”

Sakshi is an only child. Her parents live in Dubai. “My father, Rajesh Soneji, is a regional manager in financial markets infrastructure,” Sakshi said. “He handles Africa and Middle East at Standard Chartered Bank. My mother, Babita Soneji, is an accountant with fifteen years of work experience. She graduated from Mumbai University with a bachelor’s degree in commerce in 1994.”

In her free time, Sakshi enjoys reading, painting and photography. “In the near future, I would love to adopt puppies and take care of them,” she said. Sakshi resides in Farmington, Minnesota.

Faculty perspective…

Brett Kolles, English faculty at the college, nominated Sakshi for the award. As her faculty advisor in the DCTC Campus Lions Club, Brett was impressed by Sakshi’s drive and leadership skills as the club’s president.

Sakshi Soneji is in my Composition 1150 class and is one of the top performers. This is not surprising as she has maintained a 4.0 GPA at DCTC. Sakshi’s talents are of a wide range. She is an outstanding student and has a remarkable drive for success. She has built a high level of trust and respect among peers and faculty as she executes her classwork with enthusiasm, determination, and creativity. She is respected by everyone she comes in contact with at the college as she has a perpetual willingness to help others, and does so with alacrity.

Sakshi’s work ethic, intelligence, empathy, kindness to others, and active classroom participation are very apparent to fellow students. Her attention to detail and impressive class preparation has a positive effect on others, and many observed her academic success and modeled their actions and behavior after hers.

“Sakshi has told me and others of her meaningful, productive, and inspiring time at DCTC, and there is no doubt our college will be greatly honored to one day refer to Sakshi as ‘one of ours.'”
Brett Kolles
English Faculty
Lions Club Faculty Advisor

Sakshi is our DCTC lions Club president, of which I am the advisor. Our Lions Club Board of Directors quickly saw in Sakshi what one might call a “pragmatic visionary,” that is, she has ideas that inspire us to reach new heights in service to the community, but are also grounded in reality.

This is part of the reason, I believe, Sakshi won the election and became our 2020 Lions Club President. Despite her rise to the role of president of the club, she maintains a remarkable level of humility, which demonstrated her integrity and character. This also makes her a very charismatic leader for the club.

Sakshi has helped out at many Lions events, and those she could not participate in because of other commitments, she has helped plan. It is unfortunate that several of the events she had planned and organized including “Teen and Adult Challenge” and the annual Chili Cook Off did not manifest themselves due to COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent postponement of these events. However, her game plan for these events will make the execution of them seamless when the college re-opens.

Sakshi will be an alumna that we as educators and as an institution will take pride in. She has has been accepted to Rutgers University and will be attending Rutgers for fall semester 2020. Rarely have I met a student with not just potential, but drive as well. She is determined to go into law, and with her high character, moral footing, and genuine humility, hers will be a remarkable career to follow. Sakshi has told me and others of her meaningful, productive, and inspiring time at DCTC, and there is no doubt our college will be greatly honored to one day refer to Sakshi as “one of ours.”

Sakshi Soneji Q & A

Why did you choose your career path?
I chose to pursue law because I want to bring justice to people who have been treated unfairly and cannot advocate for themselves. Moreover, it is an intellectually challenging, financially rewarding and personally fulfilling career that will be a learning process for me throughout my life.

What is the greatest challenge facing your generation?
One of the greatest challenges facing my generation is the high cost of a college education—and that needs a revamp. It has been tough for many families to manage their expenses in this generation because of the economy, and improving their circumstances requires advocating for education funding and global scholarships.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
In 20 years, I see myself as an established lawyer in New York City, taking on cases for the benefit of my clients and fighting for their rights in court.

More about Individualized Studies at DCTC…

The Individualized Studies A.S. degree gives you the opportunity to custom-design a program to achieve your educational and career goals—goals you could not otherwise accomplish through existing college programs. Individualized Studies is the right program for you if you:

  • Wish to explore potential occupational/technical courses in one or more areas of study
  • Are working and wishing to advance your career
  • Are undecided about your future
  • Are seeking to pursue a baccalaureate degree
  • Have started a technical program, but wish to change direction

More about David L. Schroeder…

Dave Schroeder, former DCTC president

First DCTC president: 1970 – 1999

When he took over as the first director of the Dakota County Area Vocational-Technical Institute in October of 1970, David L. Schroeder brought a philosophy for technical education focused on providing incoming students with effective pathways to rewarding, secure careers.

President Schroeder was taking the helm of a school whose main campus building wouldn’t be completed for three years. Classes ran all year and tuition was free. The first students attended class in rented space across an archipelago of buildings. Enrollment was three shy of 50.

“We started with nothing and created programs that changed people’s lives.”

David L. Schroeder
DCTC President
1970 – 1999

Working three years straight with no time off, President Schroeder put in 60-hour weeks creating programs, hiring faculty and staff, buying equipment and coordinating everything on the fly. When the main building opened in Rosemount, Minnesota, in 1973, enrollment had reached 700 students in some 30 programs.

“By the time I finally took a vacation, I was totally wiped out. I went up north to our family cabin and sat in the woods for two weeks,” President Schroeder remembered with a smile. “But it was a fun time and everyone was up to the task.”

After two name changes, the tech institute, as it was nicknamed, became Dakota County Technical College in 1989. Six years later, when DCTC merged with other higher education institutions in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, Dave Schroeder assumed the role of president of the college.

“From the very beginning, our mission was Education for Employment,” said President Schroeder, who retired in 1999. “When I look back on my career, I feel the strongest about serving students and getting them jobs. We started with nothing and created programs that changed people’s lives. It was hard to leave, but after thirty years it was time. I loved the place.”

Previously on DCTC News:
Abigail Anderson: 2020 Dave Schroeder Outstanding Student

Learn more about Individualized Studies at DCTC by contacting:

Scott Gunderson
Business Management Faculty

Marki Struensee
Athletic Coordinator & Academic and Financial Aid Advisor

Learn more about Student Life at DCTC by contacting:

Nicole Meulemans
Director of Student Life and Activities

Anna Voight
Associate Director of Student Life

Learn more about the DCTC Lions Club by contacting:

Brett Kolles
English Faculty
DCTC Campus Lions Club Adviser