AlumKnights Newsletter January 2021

DCTC campus community looks forward to the new year

Industry Partner Spotlight: Terex Corporation

Global manufacturer donates $150,000 in equipment to HCET program

Terex Corporation, a global manufacturer of lifting and material processing products, recently donated $150,000 in equipment to the Heavy Construction Equipment Technology (HCET) program at Dakota County Technical College.

HCET students with Terex donation

Jeff Borchardt serves as HCET faculty at the college. Jeff welcomed the Terex donation, which includes two 2018 6.7 Cummings engines with full Tier 4 Final exhaust aftertreatment. Tier 4 Final ranks as the strictest EPA emissions requirement for off-highway diesel engines.

“The Cummings engines represent the newest technology HCET features in our labs,” Jeff said. “Terex also donated ten complete axles from their mobile cranes.”

Lacy Juarez serves as a talent acquisition specialist for Terex Aerial Work Platforms-Utilities based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Lacy worked with DCTC and the HCET program to facilitate the equipment donation.

Lacy Juarez

“One of the great things about working for Terex is the commitment across the company to our core values, including Citizenship,” Lacy said. “This equipment donation was a great opportunity to demonstrate Citizenship by giving back while also supporting the future of our industry.”

Lacy explained that Terex anticipates growth throughout its service center locations over the next several years, and that she is excited that her role allows her to share her passion for the Company, as well as her dedication to connecting students with career opportunities.

“I was so excited to connect with Jeff Borchardt and talk about ways Terex could contribute to the future of the students at DCTC,” Lacy said. “I realized that one way we could support the HCET program was through donation of some of our obsolete material. These items can offer such a great opportunity for students to get their hands on the type of equipment our service team sees at the shop and out in the field, preparing them to enter into a fantastic career path.”


Day of Service October 2020

Giving back to communities supporting Inver Hills and DCTC missions for 50 years

Dakota County Technical College and Inver Hills Community College partnered to host the second-annual Day of Service Friday, October 9, 2020. The volunteer event brought together students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni and community members for the purpose of giving back to area communities that have supported the missions of both colleges for 50 years.

Starting at eight o’clock in the morning, Day of Service activities took place throughout the day and included several virtual sites and a midday celebration via Zoom. Indoor and outdoor projects were available on both campuses as well in the community at large. Opportunities were offered for people with different physical abilities. All projects followed appropriate social-distancing protocols; mask use was required.

Examples of service projects included:

  • Packing food at Feed My Starving Children
  • Making cards for military service members
  • Yard clean up with Laura Baker Services
  • Helping with a poetry project for the Minnesota Prison Writers’ Workshop
  • Fall crafts for residents at Timber Hills Presbyterian Homes
  • Park clean up at Rock Island Swing Bridge Park


Alumna Spotlight: Arlette Cuevas-Renteria

Arlette Cuevas-Renteria with daughter, Itzayana

2018 graduate pursuing B.S. in HR Management at Metro State

Arlette Cuevas-Renteria, 37, graduated from Dakota County Technical College in 2018 with her Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Technical Management. Arlette earned her college degree as a nontraditional undergraduate, also known as an adult learner. She completed her A.A.S. while raising three children and working as a bilingual staffing specialist at Doherty Staffing, a woman-owned, workforce solutions agency.

day, Arlette is pursuing her Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Human Resource Management at Metropolitan State University. She is also working full-time as a human resources specialist at the Minnesota Department of Revenue. She loves her job and enjoys working directly with people from all areas of the department, which manages more than 30 different taxes and collects more than $25.2 billion annually.

“The favorite part of my job with MNDOR has always been interacting with our employees,” Arlette said. “From onboarding to promotions, and even the investigations—being able to conversate and share in those experiences is very rewarding and never dull.”

Arlette’s long-range career plans are centered on advancing in the human resources field. “I would like to be an HR director with my current employer,” she said, “or I would like to work in HR with a multinational company like 3M or Ecolab, helping set up new facilities/branches as well as onboarding employees.”


Student Spotlight: Brandon Folson

Brandon Folson

South Dakota native excelling as a triple major at DCTC and Inver Hills

Brandon Folson is a highly motivated student at both Dakota County Technical College and Inver Hills Community College. Brandon is earning an Automotive Technician diploma and a Business Management Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) at DCTC. He is also earning his Associate of Arts (A.A.) at Inver Hills.

Brandon is on track to graduate from DCTC in spring 2021 and Inver in fall 2021. He is exceptionally engaged at both schools, serving on the DCTC and Inver Hills American Indian Advisory Committees. He serves as Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) president at DCTC and is a PTK member at Inver Hills. He also serves on the Inver Hills Diversity Council. He completed Heart of a Leader training at DCTC.

“The Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society recognizes students’ academic achievements,” Brandon said. “PTK gives high achieving students the opportunity to collaborate with the larger student body and faculty to promote academic excellence.” PTK also offers students leadership training transfer scholarships. I recommend eligible students take advantage of every opportunity afforded to them. They have worked hard, and they deserve recognition.”

Brandon is looking forward to transferring to Loyola University Chicago after graduating from DCTC and Inver Hills.

“I have been accepted to Loyola with an academic scholarship,” he said. “My plan is to complete my B.A. in Economics and then transition into the M.B.A. program at Loyola’s Quinlan School of Business.”


GM Donates Five Diesel Pickup Trucks to GM ASEP

$211,000 donation represents the largest single contribution in program’s history

General Motors (GM) recently donated five 2019 diesel pickup trucks to the GM Automotive Service Educational Program, better known as GM ASEP, at Dakota County Technical College. The in-kind donation of approximately $211,000 represents the largest single contribution in the automotive program’s history.

Michael Berndt, president of Dakota County Technical College and Inver Hills Community College, welcomed the support from General Motors, one of the largest vehicle manufacturers and marketers in the world, with operations on six continents and total assets approaching $230 billion. Major GM automobile brands in the U.S. include Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC.

“GM ASEP at DCTC is an excellent example of the kind of robust and ongoing partnerships we want with industry,” President Berndt said. “We value employers who invest with us in our students with the goal to hire and continually develop workers with leading-edge skills.”

Click image above to watch video on DCTC Facebook


Blue Knights Athletics Receives Innovative Student Affairs Program Award

Minnesota State Academic and Student Affairs recognizes DCTC sports program

The Blue Knights Athletics program at Dakota County Technical College received the Innovative Student Affairs Program Award from Minnesota State Academic and Student Affairs. The award recognizes innovative programs that use new ideas, methods, or techniques that result in improved educational or developmental activities, services, or management for a college or university community.

These programs or activities must have been in operation for at least two years. The following criteria were used to evaluate nominations:

  • Demonstrate financial creativity or cost effectiveness
  • Encourage diverse and/or multiple subgroups to participate
  • Be adaptable to other institutions
  • Address a demonstrable need on campus
  • Contain an evaluation component
  • Involve collaboration with other college or university departments
  • Enhance student learning or development

“I am so proud of the Blue Knights Athletics program and the campus community,” said Marki Struensee, the college’s athletic coordinator. Marki also serves as an academic and financial advisor as well as an Individualized Studies and athlete advisor. “A special shout out to our student-athletes who work so hard to make this all possible! It’s a great day to be a Blue Knight!”


Michael Birchard Receives ASA Distinguished Diversity Leadership Award

Michael Birchard on Day of Service November 2019

Associate vice president of equity and inclusion recognized by Minnesota State

Michael Birchard, associate vice president of equity and inclusion at Dakota County Technical College and Inver Hills Community College, has received the Minnesota State Academic and Student Affairs Distinguished Diversity Leadership Award.

AVP Birchard was nominated by Jeremy Clark, Inver Hills academic advisor, Emily Johnson, Inver Hills director of career development, and leaders of the Indigenous Men and Men of Color Workgroup.

“I’m humbled by your confidence in my abilities, and I promise to continue doing my best work,” Michael said. “Thank you for believing in the work we are embarking upon at Minnesota State, DCTC and Inver Hills related to equity, inclusion and anti-racism. It’s challenging work but very meaningful. It is so impactful for our communities.”

More about the award…

Minnesota State colleges and universities are embracing Inclusive Excellence as a model for institutional transformation and educational equity. Inclusive Excellence practices promote student success, advance educational equity, create safe and inclusive campus climates and diversify the workforce.

The Distinguished Diversity Leadership Award is for college and university leaders (president, vice president, dean, chief diversity officer, chief academic officer and chief student affairs officer) for exemplary achievements, contributions to inclusive excellence and institutional transformation.


Veterans Day at DCTC

Federal holiday Wednesday, November 11, 2020 Honoring All Who Served

Veterans Day is observed on the 11th day of November every year irrespective of what day of the week the federal holiday lands. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the significance of November 11 dates back to 1918 when an armistice between Allied forces and Germany took effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of that year. November 11, 1918, is customarily recognized as the conclusion of “the war to end all wars.”

Today, Veterans Day represents an annual celebration remembering and honoring U.S. Armed Forces veterans for their sense of duty, love of country, and readiness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

Dakota County Technical College is dedicated to meeting the needs of veterans and active-duty service members attending our college and residing in our communities. Some veterans face personal, relationship, education and employment challenges. Families of veterans may need support while their loved ones serve overseas and when they return home.

Working with the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs, DCTC provides additional training on supporting veterans to the college’s counselors, student affairs staff, faculty and administrators.


Nursing Alumni Spotlights: Jason Mireri & Venah Onsase

Husband and wife from Kenya serving as nurses during COVID-19 pandemic

Venah Onsase, 30, and Jason Mireri, 35, are graduates of the Practical Nursing program at Dakota County Technical College. Venah earned her Practical Nursing diploma in May 2015; Jason earned his diploma two years later in 2017. Originally from Kisii, a major urban center (1.3 million residents) in southwestern Kenya, Jason and Venah are raising three sons while serving as nurses during the nation’s longest, largest surge of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jason is a 2004 graduate of St. Peter’s Suneka High School Suneka Town, Kisii County, Kenya; Venah is a 2008 graduate Kereri Girls High School, Kisii Kenya. They moved to the United States in 2010.

“Life was not easy,” Jason said, recalling growing up in Kenya. “After I finished high school, I worked with a construction company. After about a year, I managed to join the Kenya Police, where I worked as a drill instructor after graduating from basic training because I was the best recruit in the course.”

Jason added that his favorite places in Kenya are Nairobi, the country’s capital and largest city, Mombasa for vacations and Maasai Mara National Reserve, which harbors lions, leopards, cheetahs, bush elephants, zebras, wildebeests, gazelles and many more iconic animals.

Jason and Venah learned about Dakota County Technical College from a friend and DCTC alumnus. “After enrolling in the Practical Nursing program, I was able to see for myself and experience the wonderful staff, instructors and resources at the college,” Jason related.


1982 Alumni Stay Friends for Nearly 40 Years

Top row: Teri (Rischmiller) Springer, Diane (Moeller) Kraft, Char (Wagner) Nygaard Bottom row: Sandy (Gnan) Panek, , Donna (Karnick) Ackerman, Ruth (Burmeister) Tix

In 1982,  a gallon of gas cost 91 cents, the average new car price was just under $8,000, and the typical house sold for roughly $27,000. That same year, Michael Jackson released Thriller, the best-selling album of all time, Late Night with David Letterman debuted on NBC, Kelly Clarkson was born, Gandhi won the Oscar for “Best Picture,” and Tom Watson took home $60,000 for winning the U.S. Open. In contrast, Bryson DeChambeau walked away with $2.25 million as the 2020 tournament champion.

Nineteen eighty-two was also the year Diane (Moeller) Kraft, Sandy (Gnan) Panek, Char (Wagner) Nygaard, Donna (Karnick) Ackerman, Teri (Rischmiller) Springer and Ruth (Burmeister) Tix graduated from Dakota Count Technical College. All six alumna have stayed friends for more than 38 years.

Diane Kraft related that common interests were a key reason the alumni group originally formed. “We played cards in the college cafeteria during lunch,” Diane said. “We were also members of OEA, or the Office Education Association. Some of us also traveled together to Nashville, Tennessee, for the OEA National Convention.”

1982 ALUMNI GROUP: Back row: Diane (Moeller) Kraft, Teri (Rischmiller) Springer, Ruth (Burmeister) Tix | Front row: Donna (Karnick) Ackerman, Sandy (Gnan) Panek, Char (Wagner) Nygaard

Today, the alumni group meets once a month during the winter to play a card game called Hand and Foot. Some members of the group camp together at least once during the summer around Minnesota and Wisconsin, including St. Croix Bluffs in Hastings, Minnesota, Voyager Village in Park Rapids, Minnesota, and Lake Byllesby in Cannon Falls, Minnesota.

“Having DCTC in common is great,” Diane added. “Our time at the college brings back so many memories when we get together. We always have a good laugh when we look at pictures or reminisce about the days at DCTC. Many of us have children that have attended DCTC or are attending now. I also believe one or two may have met their husband at the school.”


December 2020 Alumni Fund Drive

Austin Nord

50 Years of Launching Essential Careers

Since Dakota County Technical College was first established in 1970, our faculty, staff, and administrators have offered educational opportunities that provide an essential workforce to serve the Minneapolis–Saint Paul and south-metro communities. DCTC graduates proudly secure careers in critical sectors, including health care, transportation, manufacturing, technology, and early education roles. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic served to highlight just how vital our highly skilled, professional alumni are to keep society thriving.

The December 2020 Alumni Fund Drive — 50 Years of Launching Essential Careers — honored the tremendous contributions these alumni have made to our communities and the economy while highlighting the college’s milestone 50th anniversary.  The goal was to raise $8,500 with 100 percent of proceeds providing financial assistance for students enrolled in essential programs.

Each year our philanthropic-minded alumni and industry partners generously support DCTC, and this year was no different. Although falling short of the goal, our graduates stepped up providing $5,540 in gifts. Additionally, essential employers, MVTA of Burnsville and Ziegler CAT of Bloomington, each provided $1,500 to ensure financial resources are available if students encounter hurdles, helping them succeed in their courses, graduate and secure careers in essential professions.

DCTC is grateful for every donor who prioritizes the well-being and success of our students. These gifts ensure more students reach their goals and become the next generation of essential workers in the surrounding area and throughout Minnesota.

If you would still like to provide an alumni gift, donations of any size can easily be made online. Just follow the link below:

2020 Alumni Fund Drive

Learn more about the Alumni Association by contacting:

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