Alumna Spotlight: Giulia Occhino

Giulia Occhino with sons, Beau and Jimmie

U.S. Navy veteran earning RN-BSN from Presentation College

Giulia Occhino, 50, graduated in May 2019 with a diploma from the Practical Nursing program at Dakota County Technical College. Giulia is a U.S. Navy veteran. She was deployed overseas during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm in the Gulf War in the early 1990s. Her rate was electrician’s mate (EM).

Giulia Occhino, USN Veteran

Originally from Seattle, Washington, Giulia joined the Navy when she was 18. She served aboard USS Samuel Gompers (AD-37), a destroyer tender out of Alameda, California. The Navy didn’t allow females to serve on combatant vessels at the time.

As an electrician’s mate, Giulia was responsible for electrical power generation systems, lighting systems, electrical equipment and electrical appliances. During her time in the Navy, she received life-saving, survival-skills and battlefield first-aid training.

“My best memory from my time in the U.S. Navy is pulling into every port in dress whites while manning the rails with hundreds of other sailors,” Giulia said. “No words can describe the pride I felt being part of something so great.”

While going to school, Giulia worked on campus at the college’s Military and Veterans Service Center. She credits the services provided by the center as integral to her success at DCTC.

“The personnel that assist student-veterans showed me what I needed to do and where to start,” she said. “I was lost when I first came to the school and they showed me the way.”

Kathy Bachman serves as the MDVA higher education regional coordinator at the Military and Veterans Service Center. Giulia considers Kathy her mentor and the first person to ever make her feel like she could earn a college degree.

“Kathy was also vital in getting me connected to other veteran services,” Giulia said. “She put me in touch with Joel Hendrickson, Dakota County veteran’s service officer, who helped me navigate my way through many VA-related obstacles and resources, and Jefferey Dexter, Dakota County veterans employment representative, who helped me with my resume, prepare for job interviews and find my first job as an LPN.”

Kathy Bachman: MDVA Coordinator perspective

I remember meeting Giulia for the first time when she came into the Military and Veterans Service Center. We hit it off right away. I like to talk to students and get to know them and what their career goals are before I go into explaining what they are eligible for. I found out that Giulia was no longer eligible for the GI Bill because it had expired, so we began talking about ways for her to tap into other VA benefits.

Kathy Bachman

I found out Giulia was a single mom and could use some extra income. I asked her if she would be interested in the work-study position at the Service Center. She was interested, although she didn’t know all the services provided by the Center. I explained to her the services of each provider, and when they came to the Center, I introduced her, and she met with them one on one.

Part of her job as work-study was to assist campus staff with veteran-related events. Giulia is very organized and very creative and was such a huge asset. She helped create the decal that is on the window to the Center. Since my position requires me to travel to other campuses, Giulia was the point of contact at DCTC for the decal designer.

It is evident that DCTC is a military-friendly college. Without the collaboration between on-campus services and faculty as well as the backing of the college’s administration, the Military and Veterans Service Center would not be as successful. Everyone at DCTC goes the extra mile to ensure our veterans, current military and their family members are successful.

I find that the more students get involved on campus the more successful they are. Veterans like to keep to themselves; they want to go to class go to work and go home to their families and some do have it all figured out, especially if they are Minnesota natives.

However, if they are not native to Minnesota, I encourage them to reach out and take advantage of the services that the Military and Veterans Service Center and DCTC have to offer. This semester the Service Center is closed, but we hope to reopen next semester if all goes well.

Kathy Bachman
MDVA Higher Education Regional Coordinator
Dakota County Technical College

Giulia Occhino was recently quoted in the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs 2019 Annual Report:

When I started school in the Practical Nursing program, the on-campus Military and Veteran Services Center pointed me in all the right directions, from how to start applying for grants and scholarships to how to navigate the Veterans Assistance program.

I was introduced to people who were vital in helping me get my job as an LPN. I spent many hours at the Student Veterans office studying in the computer room. I believe that MDVA’s Student Work Center was my push to success. I could not have done it without them.

Giulia Occhino, LPN
2019 DCTC Alumna
U.S. Navy Veteran Proud

See page 8 for Giulia’s quote.

Nursing career path…

Giulia has earned a number of healthcare certificates, including Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Phlebotomy, Trained Medication Aide and Massage Therapy, the latter from the Minnesota School of Business in St. Cloud, Minnesota. She completed her licensed practical nursing (LPN) internship at the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis.

Giulia is earning her RN-BSN at Presentation College in Aberdeen, South Dakota. She is a junior on track to graduate in 2021 as a registered nurse. While completing her BSN online, she is working as an LPN at Presbyterian Homes & Services in Prior Lake, Minnesota.

“Presbyterian Homes is an assisted living facility,” Giulia said. “I work mostly with memory care and I love it. Ultimately, I would love to get a nursing job at the VA hospital in Minneapolis after I get my BSN. I am hoping to work in hospice care. I want to serve those who served our country.”

Renee LeMieux

Renee LeMieux: Practical Nursing director perspective

Giulia brought a great deal of character with her into the Practical Nursing (PN) program.  She began school while going through a major life transition as many of our students do.

She balanced family, work and a rigorous program never losing her sense of humor. She was an advocate for her peers, and has been a preceptor for other DCTC nursing students, which makes us so proud. I believe completing the PN program and passing her NCLEX really showed Giulia what she is made of.

Renee LeMieux MSN, RN, PHN
Director of Nursing
Dakota County Technical College

Giulia nursing gallery

More about Giulia…

Giulia is a Seattle native who spent most of her life in the southeastern United States. She graduated from Prior Lake High School, Class of 1989. While at DCTC, she belonged to the Veterans Club and Christians on Campus.

Giulia got married during the summer of 2020. Her husband, Dan, works in the shipping and receiving department at a local steel manufacturer. She has three sons. Marc, 29, is a Florida State University graduate working in Big Lake, Minnesota, in the computer networking field. Beau, 18, is a 12th-grader diagnosed with autism; Beau is saving money for a Del laptop so he can watch YouTube videos about welding and garbage trucks. Jimmie is a 13-year-old, middle-school student with a very successful dog-walking business in his neighborhood.

“Our fur baby is Zen, a 5-year-old Shih Tzu who lives for treats,” Giulia said.

In her free time, Giulia enjoys hunting deer and grouse, four-wheeling, reading any historical biography about European royalty, paddle-boarding, canoeing, and fishing for smallies and walleye in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). She also likes building Star Wars™-themed Lego sets.

Giulia resides with her family in Prior Lake, Minnesota.

Giulia family gallery

Giulia Occhino Q & A

Giulia Occhino

What are your favorite memories from your time at DCTC?

DCTC is very near and dear to my heart. I am very proud and fortunate to be a DCTC alumna. DCTC is where I finally found myself and discovered I had the potential and drive to work toward my degree.

Renee LeMieux, Janet Rainford, Brenda Arneson and Karen Johnson in the Practical Nursing department were magnificent instructors and influencers. I give all the credit to DCTC staff. If not for this school—and I wholeheartedly mean it, I would not be where I am today.

What did you like best about the Practical Nursing program?

The DCTC Practical Nursing program did a great job of preparing me for my job as a nurse in the “real world.” If you did not understand something, the instructors would make sure you knew what you needed to know before a test.

How did your service in the U.S. Navy prepare you for college and your career path to become a registered nurse?

The military has taught me to utilize a chain of command, time to lean, time to clean and ALWAYS call my residents who are retired officers “Sir.”

What advice would you give military veterans thinking about earning a college degree?

No matter how old you are or on what path life has taken you, good or bad, you are worthy of a good life. College is a start to a new beginning.

Three words that describe you as a college student:

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your role as a healthcare professional?

COVID has done nothing but made me want to be a nurse even more. People I help care for are my family, and I will not let COVID-19 scare me away. I work with a wonderful staff who are inspiring and have really demonstrated what they are capable of.

Why did you choose nursing as your career path?

As a veteran, it is hard to escape that need to “serve.” Becoming a nurse was the next best thing. I want to help in healing and comforting those who are sick. A nurse by all means is a soldier.

What is the greatest challenge facing your generation?

Credit debt—my generation puts everything on credit. They have no problem putting an entire vacation on a card that they cannot afford and shrug it off as a well-deserved treat. I believe debt is very damaging to my generation.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?

In 20 years, I will be 70, and I see myself with my husband raising chickens and doing hospice work for rural veteran clients in northern Minnesota.

One word that best describes your experience at DCTC:


More about Practical Nursing at DCTC…

As a graduate of the Practical Nursing program at DCTC, you will be equipped with the knowledge and skill set to administer safe, ethical, patient-centered nursing care in traditional and alternative health care settings. The Practical Nurse (PN) role within the nursing process is taught through classroom learning, simulated client care, and instructor-supervised clinical experiences in health care settings.

Employment in this field typically requires successful completion of the NCLEX-PN licensing exam.


The mission of the Dakota County Technical College Practical Nursing program is to provide a program of theory and practice in a supportive environment in which students will develop knowledge, skills and behavior essential for success as a licensed practical nurse.


The Dakota County Technical College Practical Nursing program believes that Practical Nursing is grounded in the biological, psychological, sociological, and spiritual sciences practiced under the supervision of a registered nurse or other qualified health care professional. Nursing is devoted to promoting, maintaining, and restoring the health of individuals as well as promoting a peaceful, dignified death.

Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) care for diverse individuals across the lifespan in a variety of inpatient and community based settings by providing safe, culturally sensitive, individualized patient/relationship centered care and by participating as a member of the health care team.

LPNs recognize that teamwork and interprofessional collaboration among health care professionals is critical to delivering safe, quality patient care. Ongoing quality improvement activities are performed in concert with other members of the health care team. Implementing established evidence based care, skills in informatics, and patient care technology is essential to the delivery of quality, safe, patient-centered care.


Giulia Occhino 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: NASCAR
  2. Place you would most like to visit: United Kingdom
  3. The most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Started college
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Give the Prior Lake VFW money for a new building 2) Pay off loans 3) Build a three-bedroom cabin
  5. Favorite TV show you’re watching now: I’m watching a YouTube video on cellular respiration
  6. Best movie you’ve seen lately: Pride and Prejudice (I could watch it a million times)
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: To make my family happy
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: Spotted owl
  9. Dream occupation: Own my business doing hospice work in rural areas so people would not have to leave their cabins.
  10. Person you would most like to meet: My husband’s father, Richard Stutz [See below to learn more…]
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Cooking
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Neglecting of our older population

More about Richard Stutz…

Richard “Dick” Stutz was born July 21, 1946, in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Dick graduated from Rochester John Marshall High School, Class of 1964.

While attending Rochester Community College, Dick was drafted into the U.S. Army. He served in the 1st Air Cavalry Division in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

Richard Stutz

Dick was involved in 53 air assaults. He was a two-time recipient of the Air Medal. He was awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Infantry Badge. He returned to Vietnam for a second tour with the Americal Division.

Dick was honorably discharged and returned to Rochester, where he married Kathleen Crawley. He served with the Rochester Police Department as a peace officer while working as a farmer. He later transferred to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Later in life, Dick worked toward a master’s degree in psychology at Saint Mary’s University; he completed an internship at the Minneapolis Veterans Center, working with veterans with PTSD.

Dick was an avid trapper, hunter, fisherman, farmer and beekeeper. He was a good steward of the land and enjoyed gardening and planting numerous trees and flowers.

“Dan’s father died June 6, 2016, due to complications from Agent Orange exposure,” Giulia said. “My husband and I chose to be married on June 6, 2020, to honor his father. Richard Stutz is an American hero.”

Learn more about the Practical Nursing program at DCTC by contacting:

Renee LeMieux, MSN, RN, PHN
Director of Nursing/Faculty

Jonathan O’Hara
Academic and Financial Aid Advisor

Learn more about Military & Veteran Services at DCTC by contacting:

Kathy Bachman
MDVA Higher Education Regional Coordinator

Chris Tran
Resources Navigator
School Certifying Official

Justin Wagner
Federal Tuition Assistance Contact