PSEO Student Spotlight: Emily Westerdahl

Graphic Design Tech major launching her own small business

Emily Westerdahl, 18, started attending Dakota County Technical College as a Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) student from Rosemount High School. Emily graduated from RHS in spring 2020. She is continuing her education at DCTC, majoring in Graphic Design Technology.

“I chose DCTC because I had gone to DCALS [Dakota County Area Learning School] on the DCTC campus,” Emily said. “I was previously doing PSEO at the college. I had a good thing going so I just stayed! Also, the college has a lot of resources that help put me through school.”

Emily is on track to graduate from DCTC with her Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Graphic Design Technology in 2022. She has already started her own small business, MindfullyAsleep.

“I do freelance graphics and Web design,” she said. “I plan to travel as well and grow my business far and wide using mostly online platforms.”

When asked what she likes best about the Graphic Design Technology program, Emily said: “I like that I can do my art and present it to the world in a way that reaches many people. I also enjoy the fact that I can help people with their work and businesses as well. I finally found something that doesn’t fully feel like work and allows me to really focus on my entire life.”

What advice would you give students thinking about PSEO?

“Stay on top of your game. I understand this portion of schooling is free, but think about it like this: you still pay for the classes you fail if you’d like to take them again.

“Also, if you don’t use this time now you’ll waste that opportunity to save so much money and time on schooling.”

Emily Westerdahl
Former PSEO Student
DCTC Graphic Design Technology Major

More about Emily…

Emily Westerdahl is originally from Apple Valley, Minnesota. In her free time, she enjoys art in all mediums, including photography, canvas, tattoo templates, pendants and more.

Emily resides with her dad in Apple Valley. She’s making plans to move out and get her own dog. The dog in the photo below was one of Emily’s personal favorites at the dog kennel where she once worked. The kennel featured show dogs for breeding, and she really liked how the animals were treated.

“The dogs were like family,” Emily said. “We don’t have any pets right now, sadly, but I’m looking forward to getting a new puppy when I have my own place.”

More about PSEO at DCTC…

Dakota County Technical College offers programs that allow you to earn college credits for free while you are still in high school. As a qualifying high school student, you can earn credit for college-level courses taken at DCTC through Post-Secondary Enrollment Options, or PSEO.

The credits you earn at DCTC will apply to both high school graduation requirements and a college transcript. You will be able to seamlessly transfer the credits you earn to nearly any college or university in Minnesota, as well as many others nationwide.

Am I Ready for PSEO?

Successful Traits

Successful PSEO students exhibit the following qualities:

  • Independent learning style
  • Good time-management skills
  • Willingness to seek help when needed

As a PSEO student, you will need to commit two to three hours of study time for every hour you are in the classroom. When deciding if you are ready for PSEO, you will need to take into account how many hours a week you spend working, participating in after-school activities and pursuing your social life.

Missing class and turning in late assignments due of high school obligations such as band or sports are generally not accepted in PSEO.

As a successful PSEO student, you won’t need to take all your classes at DCTC. You can take only one class or have your entire schedule based at the college.

You will be expected to take responsibility for your college classes, participate in group work, and seek out your instructors for clarification of class discussions and homework.

Best of all, you will get a head start on your college career and save money in the process.


Emily Westerdahl Q & A

Emily Westerdahl

What did you like best about PSEO?

I liked that I had the opportunity to learn for free. I’m a forever learner, and I don’t have a lot of money to do so. PSEO was a great opportunity.

How did PSEO help you succeed in college?

Being able to speak to all my teachers and learn the ropes and make my big mistakes before really having to pay. PSEO helped me find what I wanted to do without putting me in debt.

How did PSEO help you choose your career path?

Like I said, PSEO helped me because it’s free, and I could make the mistakes that almost everyone has to make to figure out their path. That’s an amazing opportunity.

Three words that describe you as a college student:

What is your greatest strength as an artist?

I believe that it’s my ability to put my emotion and my story and the story of others into my work. A picture holds 10,000 words and everyone has a different vocabulary. It’s important to understand your work will be perceived in many ways.

Why have you chosen a career as an entrepreneurial Web designer and graphic artist?

This career will allow me to show the world my story in a way that’s not just telling a story, but using it to help people through their struggles as well. Also, I simply want to be my own boss.

What person has influenced you the most in life?

Probably my DCALS teacher, Adam, or quite honestly myself. Adam has always pushed me when I wanted to give up, or I felt like I wasn’t good enough.

But I do remember to give myself credit as I was the one who got myself up every morning, and I was the one who trained my mind to push through the hard times ‘cause “I got work to do.”

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?

With my own business and still traveling.

More about Graphic Design Technology at DCTC…

You have a creative vision. Learn how to bring it to life with the college’s Graphic Design Technology program.

As a student in this program, you will master the latest design tools, including Adobe Creative Cloud with InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop and more. Learn to communicate effectively in print, Web and interactive media while developing skills and knowledge in design concepts, typography, layout, illustration, animation and Web content.

Our instructors are talented professionals with years of industry-related experience. They will teach you how to design and deliver visual solutions to communications challenges.

The 70-credit Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Graphic Design Technology delivers a full spectrum of courses created to enhance your technical skills, including:

  • Adobe Photoshop I & II
  • Adobe Illustrator I & II
  • Adobe InDesign I & II
  • Typography and Layout I & II
  • Web Page Construction I & II
  • Introduction to Photography
  • Print Processes and Production
  • Graphic Design Career and Portfolio
  • And more…

In your career as a graphic designer, you will be performing much of your work on a computer, working closely with internal and external clients on advertising, marketing and promotional projects for a myriad of organizations and businesses.


One word that best describes your experience at DCTC:


Emily Westerdahl 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: Volleyball
  2. Place you would most like to visit: Amsterdam
  3. The most exciting thing you’ve ever done: I’ve done a lot, but we are going to go with zip-lining, lol
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Put my parents in a nice crib 2) Set myself up nice using the money for my business 3) Live life
  5. Favorite TV show you’re watching now: Supernatural or Connected
  6. Best movie you’ve seen lately: Not sure…I don’t watch a lot of movies
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: Start my own business
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: It would have to be the peacock
  9. Dream occupation: Being my own business owner for MindfullyAsleep
  10. Person you would most like to meet: The members of The Beatles or Harriet Tubman
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: My people skills and artistry skills
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: I think it would have to be judgement. People are way too quick to judge when it comes to others’ lives and why/how they live their lives.

    At the end of the day, we have no idea unless we walk through their whole life with them, which is impossible.

    Also, we can only see things through our own perspective, so trying to judge someone else’s life would be like  looking through a very distorted dirty piece of glass and trying to make out the portrait behind it.
Learn more about PSEO at DCTC by contacting:

Natalie Shrestha
Academic and Financial Aid Advisor

Learn more about Graphic Design Technology at DCTC by contacting:

DeAnn Engvall
Graphic Design Technology and Web Design Faculty

Andi Fink
Graphic Design Technology Adjunct Faculty

Anika Stafford
Academic and Financial Aid Advisor