CVTC Alumni Newsletter

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CVTC alumnus Dustin Geisness draws career inspiration from his family Growing up, St. Croix County Sheriff’s Deputy Dustin Geisness was inspired by the service his mother and stepfather performed for their communities. Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Criminal Justice-Law Enforcement program and CVTC Police Academy allowed him to make his dream career a reality. “My mom and stepdad were in law enforcement, and an uncle was in law enforcement,” Dustin said. “My mom, Jaci Schnacky, is retired now. She was a sergeant and an investigator for the Rice Lake Police Department. My stepdad was a deputy with the Barron County Sheriff’s Department. I remember him having meetings with his fellow SWAT team officers in our house.” Among Dustin’s memories is watching his stepfather, Rick Rieper, now the chief of police in Dustin’s hometown of Cumberland, WI, assist a K-9 handler in the training and testing of dogs for law enforcement work. It inspired Dustin to become a K-9 handler himself. Law enforcement has been in Dustin’s blood from a young age. He did what he could to gain experience even before he was ready to be an officer himself.

“I did ride-alongs with Barron County quite a bit,” he said. “I wanted to get that experience, that knowledge base.” After high school, Dustin trained for a trades skill and took general classes at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, then transferred to CVTC in 2003 to begin training for what would become a career he loves. “The instructors really stood out, like Lane Yost, who taught us the law, and Debra Marsolek. She taught us traffic, and I remember the things she said to this day,” Dustin said. “My time there was well spent. You gain so much in those two years. I have a lot of tools in my belt because of what I learned there.” After graduating from the Police Academy in 2006, Dustin landed his “I police with integrity. first job with the Hammond Police I treat people the way I Department. While would want to be treated.” still working there, - DUSTIN GEISNESS he was hired as a part-time deputy with the St. Croix County Sheriff’s Department, where he became full time in 2015. He also worked for the Woodville Police Department for a time. A posting for a K-9 handler brought back Dustin’s memories of watching the handler’s relationship with the dog as his stepfather played the role of the decoy. Dustin was promoted to the K-9 handler position, and entered the St. Paul Police Department’s Academy with his first dog, Roky (pronounced “rocky”), a black German Shepherd. They worked together until March 23, 2018, when, sadly, Roky died while they were on duty. He had a medical issue with his intestines and did not survive the surgery to correct the problem. Dustin went back to training in St. Paul with his new dog, Beau, a Malamute/Shepherd mix, working together for about a year. Dustin is ready for the next stage in his career, hoping to become an investigator. Whether he reaches that career goal soon, or at some point in the future, Dustin Geisness will be doing something he loves. “I police with integrity. I treat people the way I would want to be treated,” he said. “I always strive for a peaceful resolution to conflict. It’s the art of communicating well with others and trying to be reasonable with them as well.”


Mary Jo Walter helped start the Medical Lab Tech program 50 years ago Nothing much looked the same to Mary Jo Walter when she visited the Medical Laboratory Technician lab at the CVTC Health Education Center recently. She had not been in the building before, though she had spent a lot of time in the program’s lab. She was one of the founders of the program 50 years ago. “In April 1969, while on maternity leave at Sacred Heart Hospital, I got a call from the lab director asking if I would consider joining Sr. Francis Regis in setting up a new laboratory class at District One Technical Institute,” Mary Jo, 80, recalls, using the name of CVTC at the time. “It started as a 15-month course to become a clinical lab assistant.” The program is now two years leading to an associate degree as a medical lab technician. Working under the supervision of long-time College


Student Emergency Fund eases students’ financial burden during pandemic When the annual Chippewa Valley Technical College Alumni Association Spring Gala was canceled due to the pandemic, sponsors and individual ticket holders were due refunds. But many of them chose a generous path instead. They donated their contributions to the Student Emergency Fund, which helps students who are experiencing financial distress that may interrupt their education. “When we made the call to cancel the Gala, we sent an email to all ticket holders and sponsors,” said Karen Kohler, executive director of Institutional Advancement, who heads the CVTC Foundation. “We told them of the option to receive a refund or to donate their share to the Foundation to help with student needs. We anticipated some positive responses, but not the overwhelming generosity of our friends.” Thirty-nine businesses and individuals donated their sponsorships or ticket prices for a total of $19,320. “Many students are in great need during this crisis,” Kohler said. “Many students have lost the jobs they were depending on to help pay their rent and living expenses and are at risk of interrupting their education.”

President Norbert Wurtzel, Walter and Sr. Regis worked long hours, much of it volunteered, to prepare for the program’s first students in August 1969. “We still had lots to do in ordering lab glassware and other testing equipment,” Mary Jo said. “We had no computers back then.” A third teacher, Beth Rolland, joined the founders. “She taught chemistry and bacteriology, and I covered hematology, urinalysis and serology, as I had done for university students interning at Sacred Heart.” Medical labs were quite different back then, Walter noted. “I wouldn’t be able to work in the school’s lab today because I don’t use computers,” she said. “We had to do everything by hand.” Mary Jo was impressed with the Health Education Center and the lab. “This is – wow! This is beyond my imagination. This is a big, big change from what it was then. We were kind of crowded into a room in the old building. It was small, but we made it work.” Although the technology has made the work of lab technicians in some respects more accessible, it remains essential, intricate work. And Mary Jo says one thing would not have changed – the importance of attention to detail and accuracy. “And to all of those who have graduated from the program in the past 50 years, I’m sure that all of your teachers want you to be blessed in your lives and work, and know that you are doing noble and important work,” Mary Jo said. “Do your best every day!”

The Student Emergency Fund is a fund dedicated to helping students in financial need during a time of crisis. It made a difference for Madisyn Daul, a pre-program Diagnostic Medical Sonography student who was taking classes during the day and working at the Manufacturing Education Center in the evening. “Due to COVID-19, I was no longer able to work anymore while the campus remained closed,” Madisyn said. “This greatly affected me financially, as my campus job was my main source of income while I am living in Eau Claire and going to school.” Madisyn reached out to the Financial Aid Office and heard about the Student Emergency Fund. “I applied and received funds to help me with my housing and auto bills. The financial assistance allowed me to continue my classes at CVTC and live in Eau Claire.” “This year, because of the unique circumstances, we are seeing an increase in emergency student need,” Kohler said. “We are overwhelmed by the generosity of our friends who agreed to donate the funds they had contributed for the Gala to help our students. They have shown that they share our commitment to student success.”

SMALL BUSINESS OWNER EARNS CVTC ALUMNI AWARD Recent alumnus, business partner also honored

A summer job and an apprenticeship program led to the ownership of a successful and growing business for Jake Hepfler, who has been honored as the 2020 Distinguished Alumnus by the Chippewa Valley Technical College Alumni Association. Also honored is Rebecca Merryfield, an investigator and community service officer for the Dunn County Sheriff’s Office, who is the 2020 Outstanding Recent Alumnus award winner. Xcel Energy has been named CVTC’s 2020 Proven Business Partner. Hepfler, the owner of H&R Electric in Chippewa Falls, is a 2006 graduate of the CVTC Inside Electrical Worker Apprenticeship program. “I started working at H&R Electric as summer help in high school and figured out that was what I wanted to do,” Hepfler said. “After graduation, I worked for them full time and enrolled as an apprentice in the CVTC program. We had good instructors and a lot of hands-on training.” After the five-year apprenticeship, Hepfler continued to work for H&R Electric and took over ownership after the previous owner retired in 2014. Hepfler had one employee at the time, but now has about 20, including four currently in the CVTC Electrician Apprenticeship program and eight CVTC graduates. In 2017, he purchased a building northeast of Chippewa Falls and added on to the facility this past spring. H&R Electric provides a full range of residential, commercial and industrial electrical services and recently added a control panel shop. As a member of the Wisconsin Joint Electrician Apprenticeship Committee, overseeing the application process and monitoring the progress of apprentices, Jake continues to work closely with CVTC. In the community, he coaches girls’ basketball and softball and is a member of the

Knights of Columbus. Merryfield is a 2017 graduate of the CVTC Law Enforcement Academy. She is an investigator and community service officer for the Dunn County Sheriff’s Office. Merryfield says she has a passion for helping children through tough times, which led her to become a respite foster care provider. She is a leader to girls in her DARE classes, showing them that they too can pursue a job in law enforcement. “The Law Enforcement Academy at CVTC definitely gave me hands-on experience in this profession,” Merryfield said. “The instructors were phenomenal. They educated us from their experience, which made my transition into law enforcement a lot easier. I really wanted to be a part of the community and give back to it through my profession.” “Xcel Energy has been a valued partner of CVTC for decades, dating back to the times of the first electrification of the area,” said CVTC President Bruce Barker. “In recent times, their assistance has been invaluable as we enhance our energy-related programs and start new ones.” Xcel Energy has representation on multiple CVTC program advisory committees that work to ensure the knowledge and skills taught are meeting employers’ needs. When CVTC started a Gas Utility Construction & Service program last year, Xcel Energy was instrumental in its design. The company was also a major supporter of the campaign that led to construction of the Energy Education Center. The company funds multiple scholarships through CVTC Foundation, Inc., and provides matching funds on others. The company has helped sponsor the Alumni Association Spring Gala for many years. “We depend on CVTC graduates,” said Mark Stoering, president of Xcel Energy Wisconsin and Michigan. “To have partners that can provide capable employees, quality employees, employees who will stay with you, is really a valuable asset.”

OVERWHELMING APPROVAL Public shows strong support for CVTC with passage of $48.8 million referendum Chippewa Valley Technical College is moving forward on $48.8 million of facilities projects after voters in the 11-county district answered with a resounding “yes” when asked in a spring referendum to make an investment in meeting the workforce needs of the region. The final results showed voters approved of the measure by a margin of 62 to 38 percent. The vote count was 45,783 yes to 27,807 no, for a total margin of almost 18,000 votes. “We want to thank the people in the district for trusting CVTC with your votes,” said CVTC President Bruce Barker. “Your confidence allows us to move forward with our referendum projects and achieve our goal of positively impacting the quality of life in our area through education.” Passage of the referendum means CVTC can proceed with construction of a Transportation Education Center, an addition and remodeling of the Emergency Service Education Center, the addition of an Automated Fabrication Lab at the Manufacturing Education Center, and purchase of land and site improvements adjacent to the River Falls Campus. Also included in the referendum is remodeling at the Menomonie

HONORING OUR GRADUATES Although the COVID-19 pandemic paused plans for traditional commencement ceremonies, CVTC is still honoring our graduates and celebrating their success! Virtual graduations were held on CVTC’s Facebook page May 15 for the spring graduates and on July 30 for the summer graduates. In May, 757 graduates in 59 programs were honored at the online graduation celebration, with

Campus, science labs at the Chippewa Falls and River Falls campuses and development of mobile labs. “This is a good investment for the entire district,” said Paul Bauer, chairman of the CVTC district board. “The projects are targeted for specific needs in the workforce. This is even more important as the area recovers from the unexpected downturn we are experiencing. We are thankful to the voters who understand how important CVTC is to all aspects of our economy and our communities.”

“Your confidence allows us to move forward with our referendum projects and achieve our goal of positively impacting the quality of life in our area through education.” - PRESIDENT BRUCE BARKER

171 graduates in 30 programs honored in July. The events featured remarks by CVTC President Bruce Barker, as well as graduates and faculty members. Family members, friends, faculty and other members of the community posted encouraging and congratulatory messages for the graduates. “Graduates! You made it! Congratulations!” President Barker said in a message to the spring graduates. “I know things got a little crazy, a little complicated the last few weeks, but like all challenges, you faced it head on. We decided what we needed to do, you worked hard, persevered, and you succeeded. You can be very, very proud of your accomplishment. So hats off! Enjoy your success, and stay safe!”

Are you a recent CVTC graduate? We want to feature you! If you’d like to be featured, fill out our short Google Form (link below) and submit a picture of yourself (bonus points if it’s in a cap + gown or CVTC gear!). To be featured, please complete the CVTC Grad Feature Form:

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