New Student Spotlight: Chelsea Sagers

Chelsea Sagers

Interior design major starting fall semester 2020

Chelsea Sagers, 28, is heading back to school this fall at Dakota County Technical College. Chelsea is majoring in Interior Design at DCTC with the goal to earn her Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) She will add that degree to a Bachelor of Studio Arts (B.S.A.) from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee (2018) along with an Associate of Arts (A.A.) and Certificate of Event Coordination, both from Front Range Community College in Fort Collins, Colorado (2013).

“I plan on completing the Interior Design program with flying colors!” Chelsea said. “Each time I’ve gone to school, my study skills and grades have improved. I’ve started setting up a home office so that I have a proper place to do homework and study. I hope to keep this upward trend going. I’m really looking forward to participating in an internship.”

Chelsea Sagers

To help pay for her schooling, Chelsea received a $12,500 J & J Trujillo Memorial Scholarship. Established by Amy and Anna Trujillo, the scholarship program is administered by Scholarship America. Applicants must be residents of Arizona, New Mexico or Minnesota.

Chelsea qualified for the scholarship as a current postsecondary undergraduate with plans to enroll full-time at an accredited technical college.

“Receiving the J & J Trujillo Memorial Scholarship is truly life-changing!” Chelsea said. “Prior to this, I had been working two jobs to save money for tuition—I have used up all of my possible government loans pursuing my bachelor degree. I was very stressed about being able to save up enough. This really eases my financial tension.”

Chelsea added that she can now reallocate her savings to go toward living expenses while enrolled at DCTC. That approach will allow her to cut back on her employment workload.

“In the past I’ve had to work full-time while in school, and it’s utterly exhausting,” she said. “This scholarship allows me to focus on my studies like never before.”

The scholarship also gives Chelsea more flexibility when it comes to extracurricular activities at DCTC. She is open to joining Design Connexion, the Interior Design program’s student club.

“The opportunity to network with students and industry professionals could be invaluable,” she said. “After my first semester, I’d definitely like to join Phi Theta Kappa. I want to be successful in the interior design field. I hope that my fine arts and event planning background are seen as an asset in the hiring process.”

Chelsea works as a production and design assistant at a shop in St. Paul, Minnesota. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected her hours at her other job as a host in a Minneapolis restaurant.

More about Interior Design at DCTC…

The award-winning Interior Design program is a challenging course of study preparing you to launch a career in an exciting and dynamic profession. Emphasis is placed on acquiring the hands-on knowledge and skills you need 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 well-being.

You will gain technical skills in the latest computer-aided design (CAD), building information management (BIM) software, and 3D visualization and graphics. Current software includes: AutoCAD, Revit, SketchUp, 2020 Design, Photoshop and InDesign. These skills allow you to produce professional presentations and construction documents.

You will work closely in small groups with your instructors/ industry practitioners on projects that develop in size and complexity. Service-learning and interdisciplinary projects provide a real world experience.

As a graduate of the program, you will have a solid technical foundation along with the skills to collaborate with fellow professionals and deliver sustainable interior environments matched to the needs of your clients. You will also have options to transfer your Interior Design credits to a four-year institution.


Program Accreditation

The Interior Design program at DCTC is accredited by the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA).

More about scholarships…

As a DCTC student, you are strongly encouraged to apply for scholarships to help pay for your college education. You can apply for scholarships via the DCTC Foundation or from sources outside the college.

Here are two links you can follow to get your scholarship ball rolling:

Scholarships via the DCTC Foundation

Outside Scholarship Opportunities

Learn more about applying for scholarships to DCTC by contacting:

Amy Eppen
Foundation Development Director

More about Chelsea…

Originally from Maquoketa, Iowa, Chelsea graduated from Maquoketa Community High School in 2010. She is engaged to be married and her fiancé, Mark, works in digital marketing. Mark and Chelsea have a 2-year old, mix-breed dog (possibly part basenji or cattle dog) named Winston.

In her free time, Chelsea enjoys drawing, painting, sewing, baking, crafting, cooking, refinishing furniture, decorating her home, working out, snuggling with her dog, dancing, gardening, and makeup and skincare. She resides with Mark and Winston in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Interior Designers

Plan, design, and furnish the inside of buildings.


This career pays above the statewide median wage of $20.95/hour


Median: $27.59/hour
High: $35.83/hour

Seven-county Twin Cities metro

Median: $28.25/hour
High: $36.49/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.

  • Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services
  • Merchant Wholesalers, Durable Goods
  • Construction of Buildings
  • Furniture and Related Product Manufacturing
  • Furniture and Home Furnishings Stores

Minnesota State CAREERwise Education

Chelsea Sagers Q & A

Chelsea Sagers

Why did you choose DCTC?
When I decided I wanted to go back to school for interior design, I began researching my options near the Twin Cities. I have already spent the greater part of the last decade in college, so I knew I didn’t want a four-year program that I had to start from scratch. I created a list of possible schools and reached out to their admissions departments. I had narrowed it down to two possible schools: DCTC and one other.

Honestly, the responses from the DCTC Admissions department that solidified my decision. The faculty at DCTC were super helpful and informative. I think that says a lot about an institute. Communication is everything. If it’s a good place to work, it’s probably a good place to learn.

Natalie Shrestha [Chelsea’s academic advisor at DCTC] has a wealth of knowledge about academia and financial aid. She is actually the one who recommended that I apply for the J & J Trujillo Memorial Scholarship. Without her, I wouldn’t have even know that the scholarship existed.

DCTC academic advisor perspective…

I met Chelsea at the end of 2019. She had previously earned her Bachelors of Studio Arts and was looking to add technical skills to her passion for creativity. Chelsea was greatly concerned about the cost of college. She is a working adult and needed a way to afford the cost of living while still managing to pay for the classes she was interested in.

Natalie Shrestha

Because of her previous degree, many financial aid options through FAFSA were no longer an option, and she was looking at having to pay for the entire Interior Design A.A.S. degree out of pocket. While technical colleges can be a very affordable alternative to traditional universities, for students in Chelsea’s position any college expense would be hard to cover.

What I love about Dakota County Technical College is that we are a one-stop shop advising center. Many students don’t realize that academic advisors can help with more than deciding what classes to take. Chelsea was not an accepted student yet and would not be one unless we could help her figure out a plan for how to afford her classes. I suggested applying for the J & J Trujillo Memorial Scholarship.

Chelsea did the work to complete the application, write her personal statement and ensure that strong letters of recommendations were included. I encourage all students to spend time applying for scholarships. If a student spends 40 hours (a typical work week) applying for scholarships and all they get is $1,000, then they just earned what people making $25 an hour make.

Natalie Shrestha
Academic & Financial Aid Advisor, PDSO
Dakota County Technical College
Pronouns: She, her, hers
Schedule a Virtual Appointment with Natalie
Evening hours available on Wednesdays
Virtual walk-in advising: Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
NOTE: You will experience a “virtual waiting room” until a representative is available.

Q & A continued…

Why did you choose interior design as your future career?
I have always been artistically inclined, but it’s been difficult to turn my talents into a viable career, even with a bachelor’s degree. I realized I needed to bring my skill set to the 21st century and learn how to use design software.

My parents co-own a custom woodworking and antique restoration business, Sagers Custom Woodworking. I grew up helping at the shop and surrounded by epic furniture. I developed a deep appreciation for both function and form.

I’ve always been interested in interior design. As a kid, I was obsessed with HGTV. When I played The Sims, I spent most of the time designing the houses instead of playing the actual game. I was always rearranging my bedroom furniture and painting the walls bold colors.

I could go on and on about why interior design is a natural fit for me. I honestly should have just gone to school for interior design in the first place after high school, but it’s better late than never!

Three words that describe you as a college student:

What type of project would you most like to design, residential or commercial, and why?
I would be especially interested in doing commercial design because I’ve worked in restaurants as a server and as the event coordinator since I was 15. I’ve worked everything from fast food to James Beard-nominated chef fine dining. I think my experience would help me make clever, strategic design decisions in any hospitality industry interiors.

Commercial projects seem like they would be about branding with a precise intent, whereas residential seems like it’d more up in the air. I just want to make beautiful, functional spaces for people to enjoy!

What person has influenced you the most in your life?
My Grandma Faye—she taught me that it’s more important to be a genuine person than to be popular. She told me not to “worry about the clucking hens.” My grandma was an amazing listener and a patient teacher. She celebrated my spirited ways and encouraged me to make messes and explore. Because of her, I’m brave enough to speak my truth and try new things.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
In 20 years, I hope Mark [Chelsea’s fiancé] and I own a beautiful home that we’ve made our own over the years. The house will have a hot tub and sauna on the back porch, of course. I’ll own my own design firm and be a big deal in the interior design industry.

HGTV will be begging me to host a show. On weekends, we will cruise around in my MG Midget. During the winter we’ll vacation somewhere warm and during the summer we’ll vacation somewhere else. I don’t really need anything fancy—I just want to be financially secure, have a job that I love, and be surrounded by loved ones.

One word that best describes your hope for the future:


Chelsea Sagers 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: Dance! It’s art and exercise combined! I started dance classes when I was three, was dance team captain in high school, and co-owned a burlesque company in my early 20s. I also really enjoy going to the gym for some light cardio and weights.
  2. Place you would most like to visit: Venice. The art! The History! The FOOD! Or anywhere tropical with a beach!
  3. The most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Performing burlesque … or skinny dipping… or maybe moving from Iowa to Colorado to Milwaukee and then to Minneapolis… or maybe briefly talking to Obama  at the YMCA when I was 16 while he was in town campaigning for the Iowa caucus… getting proposed to…I’m really not sure.
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Buy an abandoned school and convert it into a mansion split into quadrants for my favorite people to live in, studio spaces, the gymnasium as a common area for celebrations, and a greenhouse on the roof 2) Get a total makeover with spa treatment and a new wardrobe 3) Vacation all over the world
  5. Favorite TV show you’re watching now: King of the Hill. It’s nostalgic. Anything Mike Judge touches is pure gold!
  6. Best movie you’ve seen lately: Django Unchained or Society
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: Not living paycheck to paycheck
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: None, I don’t really like birds. But if I’ve got to pick, I’d say a duck, because they have cute bills and webbed toes instead of pointy beaks and sharp talons.
  9. Dream occupation: An imagineer for Disney World in the 60s
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Alive: Seth Rogan | Dead: Josephine Baker
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: I would love to be great at sewing.
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Access to universal healthcare, income disparity and climate change
Learn more about Interior Design at DCTC by contacting:
Director and Faculty
Interior Design, Architectural Technology, Construction Management

Learn more about applying for scholarships to DCTC by contacting:
Amy Eppen
Foundation Development Director