Student Spotlight: Dorothy VanHale

Dorothy VanHale

Executive Administrative Specialist major transferring to University of Central Florida

Dorothy VanHale, 21, is earning an Executive Administrative Specialist A.A.S. degree and Microsoft Office Applications Management certificate at Dakota County Technical College. Scheduled to graduate from DCTC this May, Dorothy maintains a 4.0 GPA. She recently took third place on Certiport’s Microsoft Office Specialist 2023 Minnesota State Championship Fall Quarter Microsoft Word (Microsoft 365 Apps) Exam.

“This test was the most nerve-wracking for me,” Dorothy said, “and was the last certification I needed to accomplish. I took all the practice tests I could and looked for additional study material online. All the extra work helped, and this test turned out to be my favorite one.”

Along with her Microsoft Word certificate, she has earned Microsoft Office Specialist certifications for Excel 2019, PowerPoint 2019, and Outlook 2019.

According to Nancy Tandy, business strategy manager at Worldwide Learning, completing the Microsoft application required technical coursework “demonstrates that you’re proficient in the specific, real-world skills associated with recognized industry roles. It verifies that you know how to apply technical knowledge to solve today’s business challenges. And it helps you keep up with industry changes, because the training is always being updated and new certifications are being added all the time.”

After earning her associate degree and certificate at DCTC, Dorothy is looking forward to moving 1,500 miles south to Orlando, Florida, where she plans on attending the University of Central Florida as a marketing major. She lived in Florida for six months in 2022 when she participated as an intern/cast member in the Disney College Program.

“The internship was exciting,” she said. “I got to meet people from around the world and interacted with them daily. My job was bringing magic and happy smiles to the faces of visiting families. I was selected as a cast member in the World Showcase West at Epcot with its featured countries. I was assigned to the France Pavilion covering merchandise, so I worked anywhere from register to stocking to bartending. I plan to get a job at Disney, hopefully using my DCTC degree—something in an office, but still within executive administration.”

Faculty perspective: Amy Evanson

Amy Evanson

“I’ve had the pleasure of teaching Dorothy in several classes during her pursuit of both the Executive Administrative Specialist Associate in Applied Science degree and the Microsoft Office Applications Management certificate.

“Since the first day of class, Dorothy has exhibited many traits that will contribute to her success in this career field; she’s hardworking, organized, and has excellent time management skills—just to name a few!

“Dorothy’s talented and excels in so many of the concepts we’ve covered in the classes at DCTC. It’s not surprising that she scored high in her certification exam given the drive and determination I’ve seen her demonstrate, attributes that have also contributed to her earning and maintaining a 4.0 GPA. I can’t wait to see what is in store for her future!”

Amy Evanson
Administrative Technology Faculty
Dakota County Technical College

More about Dorothy…

Originally from Burnsville, Minnesota, Dorothy graduated from Lakeville North High School, Class of 2020. She works while attending DCTC as a sales associate at Clothes Mentor, putting in 22 to 29 hours a week on top of her college coursework.

Dorothy’s mom, Elizabeth, is a preschool teacher, and her dad, Joseph, is a carpenter in Minneapolis. Dorothy has three siblings, an older sister, Meaghan, 24, who is following in her mom’s footsteps and working in childcare, and two younger brothers, John, 19, who lives in North Dakota with plans to start college in the fall, and Thomas, 16, a sophomore at Lakeville South High School.

“My mom got to watch my sister and me when we were small,” Dorothy related. “From the stories my dad tells, his job seems more like interior decorating.”

In her free time, Dorothy loves to read. “I’ll read any book, but I’m very much into dystopian themes,” she said. “I also like to be outside, especially going on hikes. I’ve hiked with my family since I was a little kid. I got to explore so much of Minnesota and Wisconsin this way. And it seems like I have a new story on every hike. From almost dying to the way we get lost.”

Dorothy resides in Burnsville.

Dorothy VanHale Q & A

Dorothy VanHale

What do you find most interesting about the Executive Administrative Specialist program?

I find it interesting how all the classes prepare you for office life. It teaches practical skills you will use in the working environment. Everything taught will be brought up in your career; nothing feels unnecessary.

What motivated you to pursue a career in the administrative support field?

I am a people person, and I like to solve problems when I can. This role would help me with both. I get to interact daily with a smile on my face. And I will be the face of the office. I can help out with any project or problem.

What is your favorite Microsoft 365 application and why?

I like PowerPoint. Once you learn the tricks, it becomes easier to use, and you can let your creativity run. For every presentation you get assigned, you get to design the look to make it appear presentable and professional.

Three words that describe you as a college student:

What advice would give students aiming to improve their Microsoft Office Specialist skills?

Practice with the applications. The more time you spend learning the software, the easier the tasks become. It becomes muscle memory. Even if it comes repetitive, it will stick in your brain better with practice.

What person has influenced your life the most and why?

My little brother, Thomas, has always been my biggest supporter since birth. We’ve just been super-close my whole life. I watched him grow up, and I was the one he ran to after he got off the bus. With that bond, I can always know I can tell him everything. I just wanted to pursue something that could make me happy with a comfortable life. Thomas never questions my choices or decisions. He just supports me.

If you could make one thing happen on Earth right now, what would it be?

Lower the cost of everything. Inflation and the cost of living is hurting everyone.

One word that best describes your experience at DCTC:


Dorothy VanHale 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: Running
  2. Place you would most like to visit: Bora Bora
  3. Most exciting thing you’ve ever done: My Disney College Program internship
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Buy a forever home 2) Buy a brand-new car 3) Find and buy a martini lamp
  5. Best book or movie you’ve read or seen lately: The best book I have read recently was 1984, which I was assigned to read in high school, but I picked it up again, and it’s a good, thought-provoking dystopian book
  6. Time period (past or future) you would explore if you could time travel: I would go back to the 90s; it was close to my childhood generation, but I want to see the differences in lifestyles
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in your life: Have a happy and successful life
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: The bird I would choose would be a parrot; they are super-colorful and intelligent; they can talk back and answer questions
  9. Dream occupation: An author
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Niall Horan
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: I want to learn to speak multiple languages
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: The cost of living and inflation are the biggest problems we face now; it’s so expensive just to live right now; most people don’t have savings as they struggle to live paycheck to paycheck, and prices keep rising
Learn more about the Executive Administrative Specialist A.A.S. and Microsoft Office Applications Management certificate programs at DCTC by contacting:

Room 2-110

More about the Executive Administrative Specialist program

The Executive Administrative Specialist program prepares you for employment in administrative support roles. As a student in the program, you will use computer systems for document processing and file management tasks.

You will also gain the expertise needed for creating and editing documents, spreadsheets, databases, and electronic presentations while learning how to conduct meticulous internet navigation research. Administrative assistants may be called upon to communicate, organize, coordinate, and integrate data.

This is the ideal major if you are currently in the workforce looking for a challenge or a great way to advance your career. You’ll get the opportunity to obtain Microsoft Office Specialist Certification for completing the required certification coursework.

Work environment and potential job titles

As a graduate of the program, you will be prepared to find a rewarding administrative support job in a wide variety of businesses, including but not limited to corporate headquarters, insurance companies, banks, manufacturing firms, nonprofits, and government agencies. Potential job titles include:

  • Administrative Assistant
  • Administrative Clerk
  • Administrative Coordinator
  • Administrative Office Specialist
  • Clerical Office Worker
  • Executive Assistant
  • Executive Secretary
  • Office Assistant

Executive Secretaries

Conduct research, prepare reports, handle requests for information, and perform skilled clerical duties.


This career that pays above the statewide median wage of $24.25/hour.


Median: $33.58/hour
High: $39.73/hour

Seven-county Twin Cities metro

Median: $36.02/hour
High: $39.86/hour


In Minnesota, there are 10,090 workers employed in this large career., which is currently in very high demand.

There will be a need for about 7,975 new Executive Secretaries to meet market demand between 2020–2030. This includes the demand due to replacement (workers leaving the occupation or retiring) as well as growth.

SOURCE: Minnesota State CAREERwise Education (February 23, 2024)