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Keeping you in touch with Southeast Technical

Transportation building expansion on track for fall 2012

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Part of ongoing efforts to right-size college facilities and provide space for the latest technology, Southeast Technical recently selected a contractor for its transportation building expansion on the Winona campus. La Crosse-based Market & Johnson, Inc. was the low bidder out of 11 bids received. Construction is slated to begin in early to mid-May with completion in the fall.

The transportation building expansion calls for a 25,000 square foot addition to the truck driving training building which, in addition to the Truck Driving program, will house the Auto Body Collision Technology and Automotive Technology programs. Space on the Winona main campus currently occupied by these programs will be given to the Computerized (CNC) Precision Machining Technology, Industrial Technology and Welding Technology programs, which have been renting space at the former airport campus now owned by Plasticomp.

For Luhmann, Individualized Studies was the right choice

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Jason Luhmann

Jason Luhman

Like many Southeast Technical students, Individualized Studies graduate Jason Luhmann may not fit the typical college student mold. Jason, who happens to be audibly impaired, attended Southeast Technical as a single parent to two sons, eleven-year-old Tanner and eight-year-old Tyler. While some may view his circumstances as road blocks to earning a degree, it’s clear from Jason’s accomplishments at Southeast Technical that life’s unexpected twists and turns have been the driving factors behind his success.

A native of Lake City, Minnesota, Jason gave the four-year college track a try after graduating from high school. When parenthood entered the scene, Jason left school to work full time. Jason’s first experience at Southeast Technical was for a machinist training program arranged by his employer. Years later, he remembered Southeast Technical and decided that earning a degree would lead to a better life for his family. Now with an A.S. degree from Southeast Technical in Individualized Studies, Jason has transferred his credits to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire to study material science.

Why Individualized Studies was right for Jason

“Balancing school, work and personal life can be a real challenge,” Jason says, “But I found out more about what I want to do in life because of Southeast Tech. The smaller class sizes and student focus from the instructors really helped me.”

For Jason, Southeast Technical’s Individualized Studies degree—a program that encourages students to develop their career interests while earning transferable general education credits—offered the level of customization and flexibility he needed to get started on his career path.

“The initial appeal was that I could use the credits I earned years ago and apply them to a degree,” Jason notes. “I later realized the full benefits of the Individualized Studies program in that I could tailor the program to work for me, especially once I realized that I indeed wanted to continue on with my education.”

Taking on a leadership role

Taking that initial step to resume his studies as an adult learner has paid off for Jason in invaluable career and leadership-building experiences. “I was able to play a leading role in the Chinese New Year Celebration last year, which would be much harder to do at a larger school,” Jason says. “Southeast Tech, with its smaller campus size, allows you to make connections with everyone.”

One connection Jason made through the Chinese New Year Celebration was with his Chinese culture instructor Yanmei Jiang, who arranged for Jason to job-shadow her brother, a chemistry professor and environmental science consultant, for a 50-day learning experience in China.

“Jason is one of the most critical thinkers I have ever met over my ten plus years of teaching at the college level in the U.S.,” Yanmei remarks. “He also demonstrated amazing leadership during last year's Chinese New Year celebration. Without him, it would not have been as successful of an event.”

What's next for Jason

So what is Jason’s advice for students considering an Individualized Studies degree? “The benefits are affordability and the ability to take baby steps, if you will,” Jason says. “Completing classes at Southeast Tech definitely helped my confidence before going to a four-year school, but I will tell you right now that by no means is that because the classes are easier, but rather because the attention you get from your teachers really helps.”

Backed by that confidence as he studies ways to improve the sustainability of every-day materials, Jason is definitely going places and dreaming big. “I want to be involved in making things better for the world, and many of those advances will come from changing the materials we use. I would also like to pair that with my enjoyment of travel. We will see how they mesh up."

Poetry helps SE-Tech student deal with crash aftermath

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Adrian Torbenson
Southeast Technical student Adrian Torbenson with a copy of his self-published collection of poetry, Love Pain Life.

The road to recovery after a major high-speed collision and traumatic brain injury at the age of 11 is a long and painful one. Just ask Adrian Torbenson, now 21 and a student in Southeast Technical’s Network Administration program.

In a recent profile with the Winona Post, Adrian tells his story in detail, from regaining his memory and mobility after the accident to accepting the emotional aftermath through writing poetry. Poetry, Adrian discovered, was the perfect outlet for expressing both his hopes and frustrations with the recovery process. Encouraged by Southeast Technical English instructors Eric Lee and Mike Larson, Adriane recently completed a collection of 82 poems entitled Love Pain Life, now available in print through self-publishing website Lulu.com.

With a positive outlook on the road ahead, Adrian plans to enter the field of “ethical hacking,” a profession focused on helping companies safeguard private data by identifying security flaws in their network. In a passage from his poem “Go On,” Adrian admits he’s setting the bar for his future high, but overcoming long odds is something he has experience with: “I have to go on with life no matter how hard it can get / I have too many goals and dreams to call it quits.”

Read Adrian’s full profile with the Winona Post.

Students from Africa reflect on their journey to SE-Tech

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Celebrate Africa
Students participating in the "Celebrate Africa" event generously shared personal items and stories with the college community.

Southeast Technical’s Red Wing campus was proud to host a “Celebrate Africa” event this spring. African and African American members of the college’s student body shared personal items representing their cultural heritage such as photos, jewelry, clothing, figurines and tapestries, and reflected on their journey to Southeast Technical. An ongoing slide presentation of South Africa was also on display. An integral part of Southeast Technical’s diverse student body, the college’s African students span seven countries, including Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Ghana.

Participating students very graciously shared their personal stories on a “Voices of Africa” board. Excerpts are provided below.

William Peprah

“I was born and raised in Accra, Ghana. I am of the Twi tribe and can speak Twi, some French and English. I had a great life in Ghana. I hope to be a good nurse and work with people around the world who need medical attention.”

Sarah Ratemo

“I was born in Nairobi, Kenya. My mother was the daughter of a Kissi chief. I can speak Swahili, two native languages, English and some Russian. While I worked with the Red Cross in Kenya, a doctor there encouraged me to go to the United States. I have a business degree and am now a nursing student here at Southeast Technical.”

Marie Jeanne

“I am from the beautiful country of Rwanda. My maternal grandfather was king of Rwanda for many years. I have been in the United States for 17 years and work in a St. Paul nursing home. I am taking general classes towards by R.N. degree at Southeast Technical.”

Lionel Nchamukong

“I grew up in Buea in the nation of Cameroon. In my country there are 250 different ethnic languages. I came to the United States with friends. I truly enjoy my nursing instructors here at the college and have a passion for what I am learning. I miss my home a lot.”

Fred Nyabera

“I was born in Nyamira, Kenya. I am the fourth youngest of 14 children. Our family farmed about 100 acres where we grew corn and tea and milked about 40 dairy cows. There are many poor people in Kenya and this year there is an extremely high unemployment rate. I have two children back in Kenya, 12 and 13 years old. I miss them. I am in the P.N. program here at the college and will graduate in the fall.”

Julius Nyamao

“I was born and raised in Kenya, where my family had a small farm. We used our two oxen to till and plant. I would start at 3:00 in the morning until I had to go to school. After school, we worked late into the evening. I am in the P.N. program here at the college. Each day brings a new learning experience for me. One thing I am sure of, I will always keep my culture. It defines who I am and where I am heading.”

Maxine Pruitt

“I was born in Barton, Arkansas. I went to a grade school where there were 22 whites and three blacks in my class. The white teacher did not acknowledge the black students. I would cry, but my mom said to be strong. We excelled in spite of all odds. I enjoy being a student at Southeast Technical.”

Administrative Support program builds confidence, skills

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Multi-tasker, detail-oriented, tech-savvy. These are all traits employers look for when hiring administrative support. Southeast Technical students Elisabeth Golat and Tarah Sandven know first-hand that they are also qualities at the core of the college’s Administrative Support program. With online and on-campus flexibility, day and evening classes, internship opportunities and career development support, Southeast Technical’s Administrative Support program offered what both students were looking for: a solid path to employment.

Read Elisabeth's story | Read Tarah's story

“I’m not a number here.”

Elisabeth GolatAfter graduating with her bachelor’s degree in marketing communications from a four-year school in 2009, Elisabeth Golat hit the pavement hard in search of her first post-college job. At the height of the recession, the job outlook was dim, and Elisabeth has a box of rejection letters to prove it. Desperate for a paycheck, Elisabeth applied to McDonald’s and a staffing agency. Both called back within days offering positions, and Elisabeth started working full-time through the staffing agency and part-time at McDonald’s.

When Elisabeth was offered a management position at McDonald’s, she knew she needed to make a tough decision: take the promotion and commit to that career path, or go back to school and beef up her résumé with new skills. Choosing the latter, Elisabeth met with a Southeast Technical admissions advisor to explore her options.

“The admissions advisor really helped me through the process and decide what I want to do,” Elisabeth says. “I decided on Administrative Support because I felt it enhanced my four-year degree.”

Going back to school immediately opened new doors for Elisabeth. Because Southeast Technical’s Administrative Support program includes an internship experience, she gained real-world job experience that has strengthened her skills.

“I work at the Family & Children’s Center in Winona doing administrative assistant work and I love it,” Elisabeth says, noticeably beaming as she talks about her internship experience. “I’m in Microsoft Excel and Access classes right now, and at the Family & Children’s Center I use them all the time. Knowing more than the basics has been very helpful and my supervisor liked that I came to work and knew how to do everything. She didn’t have to do a lot of training.”

As a non-traditional student, Elisabeth instantly noticed a different atmosphere at Southeast Technical than at other schools. “Honestly, I chose Southeast Tech because I’m not a number here. I felt like people at Southeast Tech were more accommodating to non-traditional students, and Ramona Coron, my instructor and advisor, has been an absolute help. I feel like I couldn’t have asked for a better advisor, because she helped me find my internship.”

Looking back on her decision to enroll in Southeast Technical’s Administrative Support program, Elisabeth has a positive outlook on her future. “I really feel like I’ve gotten something out of every class here. I’m really glad I did this.”

Elisabeth’s positive attitude and hard work are starting to pay off. After participating in this interview, she was offered full-time employment as a receptionist for Sport & Spine Physical Therapy of Winona. With the help of online classes, Elisabeth will complete her degree this fall semester.

“They made it feel like home.”

Tarah SandvenTarah Sandven, a recent graduate of Southeast Technical’s Administrative Support program, has two reasons to be proud: a new job and a new baby.

Tarah wrapped up her A.A.S. degree this past fall semester by taking classes online while she awaited the arrival of her first son. At the same time, she participated in an internship with La Crescent Middle School.

“The internship made it a reality: this is going to be my career,” Tarah notes. “I just realized how much I liked it and that I made the right choice.”

Making the initial choice to attend Southeast Technical meant Tarah had to do a little course-correction, but she’s happy she changed lanes when she did. “I went to a different school to study in their dental assistant program and realized it wasn’t for me. One of my friends went to Southeast Tech, and I thought maybe I’ll check it out. I really liked the size of the school and the size of the classes, and every instructor that I talked to or asked for advice or help was super nice. It was a way different environment than the school I came from. They made it feel like home.”

The connections Tarah made at Southeast Technical started working in her favor before she even graduated. At the end of this past fall semester, Tarah’s advisor and Administrative Support instructor Ramona Coron emailed her a new job post for an administrative assistant position at the Winona Area Chamber of Commerce. By Christmas, Tarah was hired.

“I maintain the conference room, do mailings and the e-newsletter, and help create other materials,” Tarah explains. “I help plan events for the Chamber and make PowerPoint presentations, brochures and other things.”

Equipped with formal training in the software programs she uses every day, Tarah is also noticing that the skills she gained through Southeast Technical’s Administrative Support program are giving her an edge in the workplace. “Having those full-semester classes on PowerPoint and Excel really helped, because now I know what I’m doing. They made me more confident,” Tarah adds, “Same with the classes on how to act professionally in your job and have a strong work ethic. The classes also made me way more detail-oriented, almost borderline perfectionist.”

With a new job and family, Tarah is glad she chose a program that plays up her strengths. “I really think the Administrative Support program suited me well,” Tarah says. “I really like to help people and do that work for them.”

Advisory committee puts BIR students to the test

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BIR Advisory Committee Workshop
Band Instrument Repair student Mike Poulin repairs a clarinet as part of his mock bench test with advisory committee member Bernadette Gonzalez, a Southeast Technical graduate working at Melk Music in Milwaukee. Click the image above to view more photos on Southeast Technical's Facebook page.

“As someone who just finished an undergraduate degree,” reflects Mike Poulin, a student in Southeast Technical’s Band Instrument Repair program, “I wish more schools were like this—not just lectures in the profession, but one-on-one work as well.”

Along with 11 other Band Instrument Repair students, Mike recently participated in a workshop day with the academic program’s advisory committee members. Annually, Band Instrument Repair instructors ask the advisory committee to directly assess students’ skills through mock bench tests. Students are each given a specific set of repair tasks to perform without instructor advice or assistance. An advisory committee member then evaluates the student’s process, tool use and end product via a grading rubric which rates the student’s performance relative to current craft expectations.

“It was nice to get feedback from current techs out in the field who have been doing this kind of work for many years,” Mike adds. “It prepared me for a real-life bench test, which I had last week. Going into an unfamiliar shop and bench-testing was a lot more comfortable because I had practice at school with a current professional.”

Stacy Marshall, a fellow Band Instrument Repair student, agrees that working with the advisory committee is good preparation for life after Southeast Technical. “Since I'm now in job search mode, the mock bench test was good practice for bench tests during interviews.”

Academic program advisory committees are one example of what makes a Southeast Technical education relevant and responsive to workforce needs. Aside from college faculty and staff, advisory committee members may include Southeast Technical alumni who excel in their field and area employers who have a strong interest in hiring skilled graduates. Together, these groups ensure coursework is rigorous and prepares students for employment.

Southeast Technical’s Band Instrument Repair program has a particularly robust advisory committee of talented top-drawer technicians from around the country. While students benefit from the first-hand experience of bench-testing, Band Instrument Repair instructors also gain useful insight into which skills students have successfully acquired and which skills need more instruction.

“We are grateful for an advisory committee that holds us accountable in this way—continually asking us probing questions about what we are doing now, informing us of what we can or should be doing in the future and helping us to shape our students learning so they are as well prepared as possible,” Band Instrument Repair instructor John Huth says. “Their expectations are clear and drive us to be better.”

According to Stacy, the fact that instructors benefit from the advisory committee workshop as much as students do hasn’t gone unnoticed. “As a student, I really appreciate the fact that our instructors are always open to feedback and are continually learning themselves. It shows that they really care about setting us up for success.”

See photos from the advisory committee’s workshop day on Facebook.