Former Vet Tech student studying Biology at Inver Hills
Kathy Bertram, 45, is a U.S. Air Force (USAF) veteran with tremendous experience as a fitness and yoga trainer, bodybuilder, public speaker, and small business owner, the latter as the owner/instructor of a Sculpt Yoga fitness studio. Kathy loves animals and while a student in the Veterinary Technician program at Dakota County Technical College, she found her calling in biology.
Kathy enrolled at Inver Hills Community College and is earning her Biology Transfer Pathway A.S. with plans to graduate in May 2024. She was motivated to seek a college degree by the need to change her career path in a post-pandemic world.
“My emphasis is on animal science,” Kathy said. “After I graduate from Inver, I would like to transfer to the U of M St. Paul campus with the end goal to work in the veterinary field. Perhaps I will keep going and pursue a full degree in veterinary medicine.”
Kathy Bertram: In her own words…
No doubt my work experience does not look like the average person’s. Straight out of high school, I joined the USAF. Truly, the best decision I have ever made in my life. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do and zero interest in school. For me, it was the right fit at the right time.
I was trained as a munitions systems apprentice specializing in the repair, maintenance, storage, and transport of bombs and missiles. While stationed on the island of Okinawa, Japan, I met my husband, Jason. We were married on the island and lived there for another two years. I got out of the military while he stayed in.
We then got stationed at Keelser AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi. While there, I went to the Blue Cliff College of Massage and became a certified massage therapist. I worked that job on and off for about 15 years. I knew that while my husband was serving in the military, we would be moving around quite a bit, and that job was easy for me to transfer.
Once our time in Biloxi came to an end, we moved to Homestead, Florida. My husband parted ways with the military and got a job at a USAF reserve base. I practiced massage therapy working at a spa and also as a self-employed therapist. While we were in the Miami area, I got into a life-changing car accident. As a result of that accident, I had to quit working for a few months and focus on healing.
Also while we were in south Florida, I learned about and got hired by the Next Generation Power Force. A group of athletes who used “feats of strength” as a way to present at school assembly programs. Our message was all about hope and belief in the importance of what you offer to the world. I traveled with the team all over the United States for seven years and did a lot of public speaking.
During my time with the strength team, we got moved back to Mississippi due to my husband’s job. At this point in my life, I had taken a great interest in amateur bodybuilding. I competed at the amateur level for about four years, winning a few local shows.
In 2010, we had the opportunity to move to St Paul, Minnesota. I am originally from Mankato, so I was thrilled to return home. Around the time we moved, I also quit the strength team—it was time for something new. Traveling full-time had gotten exhausting. Due to injuries, I began to practice yoga at CorePower Yoga. After a few months of being a student, I studied to become a teacher. I worked for CPY for just over 10 years. I lead vinyasa, hot, and yoga sculpt along with being part of teacher training programming.
Once the pandemic hit, the studios closed and all the staff was let go. I had about a year to try and figure out my next move. I knew I needed to get out of teaching and into something that would be kind to my body for the long haul. After some time I landed on the Veterinary Technician program at Dakota County Technical College. I never attended an official college—and that was something that had always bothered me. At the ripe old age of 44, I sent in my application to the program. Once accepted, I felt confident that I had made the right call.
After a few months of taking core classes, I realized how much I am interested in biology. Not only was I interested in the subject, I was pretty darn good at it. I have now declared biology as my major at Inver Hills and have set my sights on a four-year degree, two years total between Inver and DCTC, and two years at the U of M.
I am a full-time student—and I fully tip my hat to those who have full-time jobs and families and go to school full-time. I am currently a coach at Orangetheory Fitness on a part-time basis. I am very fortunate to be able to dedicate a decent amount of time to my schoolwork.
I volunteer with MN Pocket Pet Rescue, an animal rescue organization that specializes in small and exotic pets. I not only foster hedgehogs, but also am part of a donation-based nail trim clinic for those who are not comfortable with trimming their pet’s nails. I have been with them for more than four years now, and that experience has become a very bright spot in my life. It’s an amazing rescue that helps place small animals that can go unnoticed and unloved. I have rescued/adopted three of my foster hedgehogs.
More about Kathy…
Originally from Mankato, Minnesota, Kathy graduated from Mankato West High School, Class of 1996. She has been married to her husband, Jason, for 24 years. Jason works for the FAA in Minneapolis. Their family has two Rottweilers, Ike, 7, and Em, 6.
“They are my whole heart,” Kathy said. “I also have four hedgehogs, Rose, Tulip, Spoon, and Petunia. My hogs and dogs keep me busy, but mostly they all keep me smiling. Jason and I do not have children, so the animals fill that role in our lives.”
When she’s not studying, working, and volunteering, Kathy enjoys working out and staying fit.
“Working out is very important to me as it is more than just trying to look good,” she related. “Fitness is how I manage my stress and anxiety. I also train and work with my dogs. I have a female named Em, who I compete with in AKC Dog Agility. Em is my first agility dog, and I struck gold with her. She is ranked in the top five in the country for 20” Rottweilers. We are headed for the AKC Agility Invitational in Orlando, Florida, December 2023.”
Kathy likes activities that include being with her dogs and hedgehogs. “Hiking in the woods or simply walking through the neighborhood will do,” she said. “Most certainly, I enjoy good times with my friends. We love to play the game Phase 10. It’s hard to beat sitting around a fire with some cocktails and chatting the night away.”
Kathy life and family gallery
Kathy and Em completing an agility run in AKC competition
Appearance on Jay Leno…
About 12 years ago, Kathy appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno for the program’s “Kim Possible Thrills” segment. She performed an amazing strength feat, crushing several 7UP cans between her hands:
DCTC Student Writing Competition
While attending DCTC, Kathy participated in the Student Writing Competition 2023, earning honorable mention for her essay submission, “Hidden Celebrity,” which describes her experience on The Tonight Show.
One word that best describes your experience at DCTC:
Kathy Bertram • Q & A
What inspired you to enroll in the Veterinary Technician program at DCTC?
I love working with animals.
What advice would you give working adults thinking about attending college full-time?
Do not be afraid to ask for help. Get a tutor if you need one. Get ready for things to change—the importance of finding balance can not be understated.
How have your years of experience as a yoga instructor and public school assembly speaker helped you in your college coursework?
I am not nervous to speak up in class and ask questions. I know for many people speaking up or speaking publicly is horrifying. I do not have a problem with it.
Three words that describe you as a DCTC student:
DRIVEN. STRESSED. CURIOUS.
What do you love most about yoga/fitness ?
I have found the healthiest way for me to manage stress and anxiety is through physical fitness. I love the mental challenge it offers as well as the confidence it can give.
What inspired you to excel at strength training?
What has inspired me to excel at strength training is how it offers you the chance to not only change your body for the better, but your mind as well. There are just too many life parallels between what you do in the gym and how you live your life.
What advice would you give people thinking about starting their own business?
Do your research, know your market, ask for help.
What is your favorite memory from your time in the U.S. Air Force?
So many wonderful memories. Mostly, it’s the memories of the guys I worked with. At the time the career field was 90 percent male-dominated. As one of the only ladies in the mix, I had to work extra hard to earn the respect of my male counterparts. Once I did, I felt like I had acquired a big pile of brothers who would do anything for me. The most loyal, the funniest, the most frustrating, and wonderful people ever.
Three words that describe you as a fitness instructor:
MOTIVATING. FUN. COMMUNITY.
What do you like best about AKC dog agility?
What I love about dog agility is the amazing connection I have with my dog. It’s a special relationship that is only created from working together. It’s more special than anything else. When it’s just me and my dog in the ring, everything goes away and it feels like magic. She needs me and I need her. We are so alike and get each other.
What person has influenced your life the most and why?
I have a wonderful younger brother named John. He has Down syndrome and has been the biggest blessing to my family. He has taught me to not judge a book by its cover and not take things so seriously. His take on the world comes from a unique place of purity and innocence. When he has something to say I listen.
Where do you hope to find yourself in 20 years?
In 20 years, I sure better be retired.
Kathy Bertram • 12 Answers
- Favorite sport or physical activity: Dog agility
- Place you would most like to visit: England
- Most exciting thing you’ve ever done: The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
- Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Buy a huge RV and spend a year touring the country 2) Pay off everything; buy three homes, one in Okinawa, one in New Zealand, and one in England 3) Buy a crazy amount of land and take in a crazy amount of animals in need
- Best book or movie you’ve read or seen lately: John Wick 4
- Time period (past or future) you would explore if you could time travel: Late 1700s England
- One thing you most want to accomplish in your life: Financial security
- Your national bird if you were your own country: Parrot, like Hamlet
- Dream occupation: Owner of a small farm
- Person you would most like to meet: Judge Judy
- Skill you would most like to learn and master: Drumming or electric guitar
- Most important issue or problem facing humankind: I have too many to name
Learn more about the Veterinary Technician program at DCTC by contacting:
More about the Veterinary Technician program at DCTC…
The Veterinary Technician program at Dakota County Technical College delivers an academically rigorous curriculum. To achieve success in your coursework, you should be highly motivated with a better than average ability to master a significant load of scientific and medical material in a relatively short period of time.
Experience with animals and an understanding of the veterinary medicine field is ideal if you are applying to the program. As an applicant, you are strongly encouraged to spend at least one week in a veterinary clinic, working with or shadowing a veterinary technician.
More about the role of a vet tech…
As a key component of the animal healthcare team, veterinary technicians perform medical tests under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian to assist in diagnosing animal injuries and illnesses. Vet techs carry out vital tasks, including:
- Evaluating an animal’s condition
- Collecting and analyzing biological samples
- Educating clients on nutrition and behavior
- Administering and monitoring anesthesia
The Veterinary Technician program prepares you for a career caring for animals in veterinary clinics, animal research facilities or wildlife rescue centers. The program provides opportunities for hands-on learning required for work in pharmacology, surgical preparation and animal care. This practical, interactive approach gives you the skills, knowledge and expertise you need to launch your career in the veterinary field.