Student Spotlight: Robert Miklya

HVAC/R Tech major named to PTK All-Minnesota Academic Team

Robert Miklya, 41, is earning in his Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in HVAC & Refrigeration Technology at Dakota County Technical College. Robert was recently recognized as a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society All-Minnesota Academic Team.

Along with fellow DCTC student, Jarred VanHorn, he was honored at the All-Minnesota Academic Team Recognition Luncheon Friday, March 24, 2023, at the Como Park Rainforest Auditorium.

Jarred VanHorn and Robert Miklya

“I didn’t expect to be selected or even realize what I was applying for when I submitted this scholarship application,” Robert said. “I came to find that it is an award only two members are selected for at my college level, and that I was also eligible to participate in the nomination process for the All-USA Academic Team.”

Robert added that he’s not used to being honored or recognized for his abilities and accomplishments.

“It’s nice to know that others acknowledge my efforts and contributions,” he said. “I am blessed to have the support of a campus with staff and faculty who genuinely care and go out of their way to not only help you be successful in your academics but also provide resources to help you get through hard times in your personal life. I may be the one putting in the work, but there are many people who have helped me on the way to utilize my potential, which has gotten me to where I am today.”

A highly engaged student at DCTC, Robert participates in Student Senate, Budget Committee, Wellness Club, Rotaract Club, and Phi Theta Kappa. He also serves as a student ambassador. He has completed Heart of a Leader training and earned Mental Health First Aid certification.

After graduating from DCTC, he plans to continue learning more through experience in the HVAC field and get a boiler operator/engineer license.

“I am focusing on a career in building utility maintenance or a stationary engineer position at a hospital, school, or other large facility,” Robert said, noting that he completed the Building Inspections summer program at Inver Hills Community College. He has also studied building codes, blueprint reading, and cement technology.

Robert attended the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute (MMI) in Phoenix, Arizona, where he focused on mechanical engineering, studying engine theory, maintenance, diagnostics, and replacement repairs. He has extensive experience in retail sales and customer service, having worked at Duluth Trading, Lowe’s Home Improvement, and AMC Theatres, the latter as a film crew supervisor.

Faculty perspective: Torry Jeranek

Torry is Robert’s academic advisor at DCTC.

“Robert dedicated and humble. He is a role-model student. He’s active within the college, and he’s always on time for class and always willing to help when help is needed.”

Torry Jeranek
HVAC & Refrigeration Technology Faculty
Dakota County Technical College

Staff perspective: Xuong Tran

Xuong is Robert’s TRIO/Student Support Services advisor.

“Robert has been a wonderful addition to the TRIO/SSS program. He is a very helpful, reliable, and dedicated student when it comes to helping others in the Center for Student Success. As a student ambassador, he brings a calm demeanor and willingness to learn that makes it easy to work with him and be successful.”

Xuong Tran
TRIO/Student Support Services Advisor
Dakota County Technical College

Staff perspective: Anna Voight

“I have worked with Robert through his roles a student ambassador and student senator. As a student ambassador, Robert has played a vital part in helping welcoming new students to campus through events such as New Student Orientation and Ready, Set, Go!, as well as helping students get connected to campus resources such as TRIO/Student Support Services and the Food Pantry.

“As a student senator, Robert advocates for student interests. He always asks great questions, offers thoughtful suggestions, and considers how decisions will impact the broader campus community. Robert is reliable, thoughtful, kind, intelligent, and has a bright future.

“I know he will be successful in his future HVAC career and will continue to make a positive impact on others and the community. I am glad DCTC was a part of his journey and our paths crossed. DCTC is a better place because of student leaders like Robert!”

Anna Voight
Associate Director of Student Life
Dakota County Technical College

Faculty perspective: Brett Kolles

“Robert has been a vital member of our new Rotaract Club.  His positive attitude and willingness to help out are hallmarks of his character.  We’re fortunate to have him an active member.”

Brett Kolles
English Faculty
Rotaract Club Faculty Advisor
Dakota County Technical College

More about Robert…

Originally from Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, Robert graduated from Simley High School, Class of 2003. He shares a house with immediate family members, including his mom, his second younger sister plus her husband and her daughter, her cat, and her two Chihuahuas.

“I have three younger sisters,” Robert reported. “The oldest is married and has three boys, two girls, a cat, and four Chihuahuas. The youngest lives alone with a pit bull, a tarantula, a hamster, three birds, and more than fifty fish.”

In his free time, Robert enjoys going to the Renaissance Festival, concerts, fairs, and Monster Jam. He also likes playing cards and video games, watching movies, reading books, grilling, bonfires, fishing, camping, and spending time with my family and friends.

Robert resides with his family in Inver Grove Heights.

Robert Miklya life, family, and college gallery

One word that best describes your experience at DCTC:


Robert Miklya Q & A

Robert Miklya

Why did you decide to enroll in the HVAC/R Technology program at DCTC?

After I returned home from studying at MMI in Arizona, my mom’s furnace stopped working. I was working at Lowes where I met a part-time coworker who was an HVAC technician. Being that I am mechanically inclined and familiar with electrical circuits, I was able to diagnose and troubleshoot most of the problems with my coworker’s assistance and some YouTube videos.

More problems with the furnace persisted over the course of a few years, but I was able to fix the problems most of the time myself with the help of my coworker. The one time my mom called a service company to come out due to a part not arriving on time, the technician recommended replacing the furnace because it was more than 15 years old.

I recommended that my mom only have the inducer motor replaced, which cost about $2,000. I could have got it done for under $1,000, but all said and done, it’s basically a new furnace, and I saved thousands of dollars for my mom.

I took that as a sign that maybe I should get into this field. After some research, I decided to follow up by going into a technical program that would help me develop my skills and give me the potential to make a better life for myself.

What do you like best about the HVAC/R Technology program?

I’ve always liked math, science, physics, art, problem-solving, working with my hands, and designing. All of these apply to the HVAC/R industry.

What do you find most interesting about your role as a student ambassador?

As a student ambassador, I am most intrigued by meeting everyone on campus, from students, staff, faculty, admissions, information technology, warehouse, operations, the college president, and everyone in between.

Three words that describe you as a college student:

What were the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your Heart of a Leader training?

The most challenging part of the Heart of a Leader is that it is a solid two days of very high energy and opening up to a large group of strangers. Each day of attending concluded with the best sleep I ever remember having.

The most rewarding things I got from this training were learning to confront your weaknesses, facing the challenges that are holding you back, building confidence, and creating the energy you want to bring to the room. Work hard, stay focused, and have fun!

What have you enjoyed most about your participation in Rotaract Club?

Prior to joining the Rotaract Club, I always thought I was too busy to participate in volunteering, and I never took the time to investigate opportunities to help my community. That’s what is great about this club—the research has been done and you are not forced to feel obligated to volunteer if your schedule is too busy.

I was a bit hesitant to join at first because I have taken on a lot since starting my program at DCTC, yet I have found it to be worthwhile, and I really enjoy that I get to meet other people from all walks of life, both in the club and other volunteer groups on site. They want to do something meaningful by giving back and paying it forward through simple acts of kindness with no expectation of compensation.

It’s not an easy concept to think that you can work for free and still have a life that makes you happy, but that’s what volunteering with the Rotaract Club means to me.

What advice would you give students thinking about joining a student club or organization?

Express your interest, reach out to the Student Life Center, attend club meetings, and ask questions! I come from a background where asking for help was frowned upon, while at the same time being told that “only the squeaky wheel gets greased” for not knowing how to ask for things. What a conundrum.

The hardest challenge to overcome for me was finding a way to assert myself. Becoming a student ambassador and student senator, and not only joining, but also helping to establish clubs has been an important part of attending college and has given me more support than I have ever known throughout my life.

What person has influenced your life the most and why?

My grandma and stepdad are the biggest influence in my life. They had been through so much in their lives and yet were the most patient, compassionate, and generous people I have ever known. They both showed me what it is like to be loved unconditionally, which above all is the greatest blessing of my life.

Where do you hope to find yourself in 20 years?

Twenty years from now I hope to build a secure retirement plan, live somewhere with a warmer climate, and provide a better life for myself and my family.

View All-Minnesota Academic Team Recognition Luncheon event photos by visiting the photo album on DCTC Flickr.

Robert Miklya 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: Hockey
  2. Place you would most like to visit: Australia
  3. Most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Moved to Phoenix, Arizona
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Travel 2)  Make sure my family is taken care of 3) Give back by donating scholarship funds and supporting our veterans
  5. Best book or movie you’ve read or seen lately: The movie Amsterdam
  6. Time period (past or future) you would explore if you could time travel: America in the 1300s prior to its discovery by eastern countries
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in your life: To have more freedom
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: The Hoatzin is quite unique; I also find the Philippine eagle and raven to be good candidates as well
  9. Dream occupation: Something that involves traveling, helping people, and preserving nature
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Salvador Dali
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Being fluent in Spanish
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Overpopulation
Learn more about HVAC & Refrigeration Technology at DCTC by contacting:

Room 2-110

More about the HVAC & Refrigeration Technology program at DCTC…

The Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration program provides you with the entry-level knowledge and skills you’ll need to safely install, maintain, troubleshoot, and repair today’s technologically advanced HVAC/R systems.

Through group discussions, lectures, and hands-on laboratory experience with actual HVAC/R equipment, you will learn what it takes to launch a successful career in this exciting and challenging industry career.

The program will prepared to take and pass the required EPA Section 608 refrigerant handling certification exam.  You should bring strong basic math skills and a mechanical aptitude.

Work conditions…

HVAC/R technicians must be able to work independently in extreme conditions at all hours of the day and night. Technician work in attics, basements, and crawlspaces and on rooftops, experiencing the cold of winter and the heat and humidity of summer.

Occasional heavy lifting, working off ladders or scaffolding and being comfortable with heights are also potential requirements. HVAC/R technicians should expect to be on call and work after hours and some weekends.

Potential job titles
  • Residential and/or Commercial HVAC/R Service Technician
  • Residential and/or Commercial HVAC/R Installer
  • Sheet Metal Fabrication and Installation
  • HVAC/R Equipment and Parts Salesperson

Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers

Install, repair, and maintain the building systems that control temperature.

This career pays above the statewide median of $23.81/hour


Median: $30.49/hour
High: $38.13/hour

Seven-county Twin Cities metro

Median: $32.43/hour
High: $38.41/hour


In Minnesota, there are 4,140 workers employed in this medium-sized career. There will be a need for about 3,988 new Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers to meet market demand between 2020–2030 This includes the demand due to replacement (workers leaving the occupation or retiring) as well as growth.

— Minnesota State CAREERwise Education (March 27, 2023)