Alum Knights Newsletter June 2020

College community adapts to COVID-19 pandemic

Michael Berndt Named Permanent President

President Michael Berndt

President Michael Berndt

Chancellor Malhotra recommends appointment to Minnesota State Board of Trustees

The Board of Trustees of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities named Michael Berndt to serve as president of Dakota County Technical College (DCTC) and Inver Hills Community College (Inver Hills). The new appointment took immediate effect March 18, 2020.

“Michael has a long history with Minnesota State that is full of professional and personal accomplishments, and he has performed admirably as interim president of DCTC and Inver Hills,” said Devinder Malhotra, chancellor of Minnesota State. “He understands the importance and benefits of fostering and deepening connections between DCTC and Inver Hills, as well as building relationships with their local communities. He recognizes that we must celebrate the two colleges’ distinct programmatic orientations and identities: one as a technical college and the other as a community college. I know he will lead with the same inexhaustible capacity for hard work, positivity, and passion that has served him in all his roles.”

President Berndt has served Minnesota State for 20 years. He took on his role as interim DCTC and Inver Hills president in the summer of 2018. A few of his key accomplishments during the interim period include:

  • Expanding equity and inclusion work
  • Increasing high school engagement
  • Supporting academic excellence
  • Engaging community partners in workforce development planning


Teaching and Learning Online during Crisis

Faculty, students and staff adapt to COVID-19 pandemic

On Thursday, March 12, 2020, Chancellor Devinder Malhotra announced that 30 Minnesota State colleges and universities would suspend their in-class instruction due to the COVID-19 global outbreak. Dakota County Technical College and the Minnesota State system office continue to take action to limit the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

Students, faculty and staff at DCTC have worked together to make the transition from on-campus instruction in classrooms and labs to teaching and learning online. Technology Services at the college is showing students how to succeed via alternative modes of learning, including D2L Brightspace and Zoom Web-conferencing. Information regarding reduced-cost computers and laptops, reduced-rate data services, and free and reduced-cost software is also available.

Minnesota State is delivering support via Student Technology Help during COVID-19. Guides for students cover D2L Brightspace, Kaltura MediaSpace, Zoom and Office 365. The Minnesota Office of Higher Education offers Resources for Colleges, Faculty, Staff, and Students for COVID-19.


Branko Tambah: 2020 Alumnus of the Year

Branko Tambah at DCTC Commencement 2019

DCTC and Inver Hills graduate runs own business and nonprofit organization

Branko Tambah, 42, has been named Dakota County Technical College’s 2020 Alumnus of the Year. Branko earned three degrees from Minnesota State two-year colleges: an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Individualized Studies (2017) and an A.A.S. in Management for Technical Professionals (2015) from DCTC and an Associate of Arts (A.A.) from Inver Hills Community College (2017).

“I am honored to be recognized as the DCTC 2020 Alumnus of the Year,” Branko said. “I can best express my appreciation by quoting Denzel Washington: ‘Don’t just aspire to make a living. Aspire to make a difference.’”

While attending DCTC, Branko received the 2015 Dave Schroeder Outstanding Student Award, which is given to honor the college’s first president, Dave Schroeder, who served from 1970–1999. Branko also received the Mark M. Welter World Citizen Award from LeadMN. He served on campus as a student ambassador and president of the Multicultural Student Leadership Association (MSLA). He was a member of DCTC Christians on Campus and the DCTC Lions Club. In 2019, he addressed graduates at the commencement ceremony along with co-speaker, Julie Tuerk.


Alumna Spotlight: Kailee Klevan, AKBD

Kailee Klevan, AKBD

2015 Interior Design grad working at Beyond Kitchens in Rochester

Kailee Klevan, 26, graduated from the Interior Design program at Dakota County Technical College in 2015, earning her Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.). Kailee is a certified Associate Kitchen and Bath Designer (AKBD) through the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA). While at DCTC, she was active in Design Connexion, a student club that provides professional networking opportunities for students seeking careers in the interior design profession.


“My education at DCTC set me up with the technical skills and knowledge I need to succeed in the interior design industry,” Kailee said. “I truly believe my education is what has brought me my successes thus far. My knowledge and understanding of a variety of drafting programs has allowed me to jump right into kitchen and bath design.”

Kailee added that her A.A.S. degree gives her a career advantage. “Sure, there are people in the interior design industry without a degree, but the knowledge and skills that I have because of my education is part of what sets me apart from the rest,” she said. “Technology isn’t going anywhere, so it’s important to have that skill set!”


Industry Partner Spotlight: Dakota Electric

Not-for-profit electric cooperative supports DCTC and Inver Hills

Dakota Electric Association®, a not-for-profit electric cooperative serving farm, residential and business customers in Dakota County and portions of Goodhue, Scott and Rice counties, is a longstanding industry partner with Dakota County Technical College and Inver Hills Community College.

“Dakota Electric® has a tremendous history of providing essential support and service to both colleges,” said Michael Berndt, president of DCTC and Inver Hills. “Greg Miller, Dakota Electric president and CEO, joined the DCTC Foundation Board in 1998 and served as chair until 2013. Greg received the DCTC Advocacy Award in 2008. This year, Doug Larson, the association’s vice president of regulatory services, is serving as chair of the Inver Hills Foundation Board.”

Bernie Kolnberger, utility services manager at Dakota Electric, serves on the DCTC Foundation Board. Bernie started at the cooperative in 1996. His ground-up, hands-on approach has served him well both in learning and in educating others in the field along the way.

President Berndt reported that Dakota Electric’s contributions over the years to both colleges are just shy of $670,000 with most of this coming from unclaimed capital credits.


2020 Student Writing Contest Winners

Jeremy; Mazda B3000

1st Place: “Jeremy; Mazda B3000” by Taylor Lupkes

The annual DCTC Student Writing Contest received a record-setting 21 entries this spring. The contest’s theme centered on stories and essays demonstrating personal growth. Taylor Lupkes, a Veterinary Technician major, took first place with her entry, “Jeremy; Mazda B3000.” Mya Smith, a Business Administration major, took second place with her entry, “The Making of a Monster.” Sophia Legare, an Individualized Studies major, took third place with her entry, “Calm Through the Leash.”

Taylor received a $300 scholarship for spring semester 2020 along with a $40 DCTC Bookstore gift card; Mya received a $200 scholarship along with a $30 gift card; Sophia received a $100 scholarship along with a $30 gift card.

Jim Kosmo, author of Monsters in the Hallway and Still Standing: The Story of SSG John Kriesel, sponsored this year’s contest. A retired riverboat captain, Jim has won 16 national literary awards and was recognized twice as a national editor of the year.

“As a writer I greatly enjoyed the spirit, talent and quality of entries in this year’s contest—they’re all winners,” Jim said. “Good writing is cathartic for the maker and reader. Thank you.”


Commencement May 2020

Posted by Darrell Tangen on Sunday, June 14, 2020

Dual celebrations honor 2019–2020 graduates

Spring semester 2020 was anything but typical. Following Governor Tim Walz’s executive orders, DCTC converted to teaching fully online March 30, 2020. Students faced additional and unexpected challenges as they finished the year, including loss of income, helping their children study from home while continuing their coursework, and safeguarding their own health and the health of fellow Minnesotans. Despite the inability to offer a large-scale graduation ceremony, DCTC recognized the determination and achievements of our 2019–2020 graduates.

The first of two events took place Friday, May 15, with an outdoor campus drive-by event. Staff, employees and administrators lined both sides of the front drive, holding signs, waving and congratulating students by name as “Pomp and Circumstance” played in the background. A total of 138 cars participated.  DCTC-branded T-shirts and Alumni Association luggage tags were distributed as graduates enthusiastically drove through campus. Accounting and Technical Management graduate, Anne Pearce-West, shared her video of the event.

On Sunday June 14, DCTC graduates were honored during a first-ever virtual graduation ceremony. President Michael Berndt provided a welcome message. Daisy Mairura, student senate president, served as the ceremony’s student speaker, encouraging fellow students to continue “embracing the waves” of change. Degrees were then conferred.

Students were invited to personalize their information for roll call with photos and words of appreciation for support along the way. Commencement programs with a list of graduates are available at DCTC 2020 Graduation Program.

In total, 521 students earned degrees, diplomas and certificates. More students will graduate later this summer after completing practicums, internships and final courses.

Graduate Drive-By Celebration 2020 gallery

View more event photos at the DCTC Flickr album:

Graduate Drive-By Celebration 2020

DCTC drive by graduation

Posted by Dakota County Technical College on Friday, May 15, 2020

Alumni on Front Lines of Pandemic

Brandice Carlson

Brandice graduated from DCTC in May 2013. She works as a certified medical assistant (CMA) at both Shriner’s Hospital for Children and Veteran Affairs Medical Center Hospital in Minneapolis.

“Being a Navy veteran definitely has helped me adapt to constant ‘new-normal’ changes as well as being able to tolerate the additional heat and visibility complications that come with the extra PPE,” Brandice said. “Everyone’s safety is the number one concern, and when I look at the overall picture, I am blessed to have the opportunity to provide care during this time.”

Christine Reinhold

Christine graduated from DCTC in 2014. She works as an IT technician at the college.

“I still have a responsibility to help keep the campus technology up and ready for the students, staff and faculty for when they are able to return as well as the task of keeping resources flowing until that time,” Christine said. “I would have to say that the biggest difference pre- to post-pandemic is that I have to be more flexible with my time and take things day by day.”

Christine added that her regular responsibilities had to become secondary because everything has been turned upside down. “We are in unknown territory,” she reported. “I am fortunate to be surrounded by great coworkers as well as users that have made this transition less painful.”

Hans Gunderson

Hans graduated from DCTC in 2020. He works as a biomedical equipment technician (BMET) at United Hospital in St. Paul.

“We missed a portion of one of our more hands-on courses, but our instructor adjusted our curriculum in a way that allowed us to grasp the information well through PowerPoint and instructional videos,” Hans said. “I repair, calibrate and maintain general medical equipment to include IV pumps, sequential compression devices, pulse oximeters, etc. My role has not changed much due to the pandemic aside from an initial lull in broken equipment due to the cancellation of elective surgeries. This has normalized now.”

Hans added that the pandemic has brought additional changes to the BMET work routine, including the use of masks and the extra precautions taken to sterilize equipment before and after repair and maintenance.

Learn more about the Alumni Association by contacting:

Amy Eppen
Foundation Development Director
DCTC Alumni Association on Facebook
DCTC Alumni on LinkedIn