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Fall 2017 | Edition 1









is Propelling Students Forward >>Pg. 10

NEW YEAR New Magazine

What you hold in your hands is the very first issue of RCTC Magazine. It was a labor of love by the College Relations and Marketing Department with one goal in mind: to share the stories of the people who make the College exceptional. That means students who have faced adversity to rise to the top of their educational game. It includes student athletes carving a path to success via a ball and net. But it also means the staff and faculty behind the programs – the people who make RCTC what it is, day in and day out for over 100 years. This first issue holds an eclectic mix of stories – but one we really care about is the cover story on research happening on campus. You may not know this, but RCTC trains a strong group of researchers each year, including RCTC graduate Alison Seemann. We talked to her about how she works for Mayo Clinic – you guessed it – performing research. None of the stunning work would be possible without Heather Sklenicka. She’s not only found a way to engage inquisitive minds, but can foster the curiosity in them in a way that sets students on a path of adventure and fulfillment in their careers. Another faculty member doing big things is Aaron Shannon, who has produced albums for years with some of music’s biggest stars in Nashville, and now helps local talent like JT & The Gunslingers record albums. Singer J.T. Thompson is a former student of Shannon’s, and this story shows how instructors use realworld experience when helping students learn and pursue their careers. And of course, we spotlight our student body – the reason we are all here. From quotes that help make up our features, to photographs of homecoming, and students just hanging out, we don’t shy away from prominently showing off our students’ greatest assets. Astonishing students attend RCTC. High school students attend. Non-traditional students. And those seeking to deftly plan their way to the future. The eclectic mix of students is both electrifying and inspiring. We hope you find them to be too. And please feel free to send us story ideas and feedback via We feel like we’ve put together a great first issue, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room to grow and improve an already great publication.

Dear Alumni and Friends, I’m excited to welcome you to this first edition of RCTC Magazine. There are so many good stories to share from Rochester Community and Technical College! I hope you will enjoy reading about some of our students, faculty, and staff, and the many accomplishments that take place at RCTC on a regular basis, along with local and national acclaims for good work. We would like to hear from you too – let us know what you would like to catch up on. My hope too, is that you will send us stories, photos, and memorabilia from your time here, and that you will take part in the many activities RCTC offers the community. Visit our website at for athletic calendars, theater, music performances, and other activities on campus. This coming spring, we are counting on the Minnesota Legislature to approve our bonding request that will enable the College to enhance the teaching and learning experience at RCTC. The project will allow us to update technology in our classrooms, create new multi-functional learning spaces along with other renovations, and demolish outdated and outlived Memorial and Plaza Halls. Thank you for expressing your support to the legislature for this $22.9 million project. I also want to express a sincere thank you to friends of RCTC who have supported our mission through student scholarships, partnerships, and other service. The RCTC Foundation is an affiliated 501(c)3 charitable organization that supports the RCTC mission by providing support to students and programs at the College. Please see the story on page 14 to find out more about how the Foundation helps students – and the community – succeed. I hope you will consider a tax-deductible gift in support of the Foundation’s work. And finally, the search for a permanent president has begun in earnest. We look forward to warmly welcoming the next president of Rochester Community and Technical College in the spring. You can learn about and follow the search process at We look forward to hearing from you and sharing the latest news about RCTC with you, too. You are an important part of our college heritage and a partner in our future!

Mary Davenport, Ph.D. Interim President

“You are an important part of our college heritage and a partner in our future!”


­— From the Editor-In-Chief

851 30TH AVE SE | ROCHESTER, MN 55904 | 1-800-247-1296


RCTC provides accessible, affordable, quality learning opportunities to serve a diverse and growing community.

Nashville to Classroom


Student Research From left: Lul Sharif, Dr. Heather Sklenicka, Darren Anes Dy Quiangco, Munira Alimire, and Nicholas Elliott.


CONTENTS First Glance.................................................................................................... Page 4 Follow along as we dissect the working lab and dental clinic that Dental Hygiene students get to utilize on their way to learning all things teeth.

From Nashville to the Classroom....................................................................... Page 6 Instructor Aaron Shannon brings a wealth of experience and knowledge back to where his music recording career began. Punk rock included.

Feeding the Hungry......................................................................................... Page 8

Feeding the Hungry


Going to class on an empty stomach isn’t good for anyone. Student Senate is looking to fix that problem.

Student Research at RCTC...............................................................................Page 10 RCTC students are pushing themselves as researchers in order to pursue careers in advanced medical and science fields. And just do cool science.

RCTC Foundation..........................................................................................Page 14 Ever wonder where scholarships come from and how they help those in need?

The Semester in Photos....................................................................................Page 16 Relive the semester and see what students are up to in our photo galleries featuring Homecoming, activities, sports, and more.

Final Lecture..................................................................................................Page 18 Simon Huelsbeck loves making art. Find out what makes him tick, and why you might be interested in an RCTC art class.

Final Lecture

PAGE 18 On the cover: Darren Anes Dy Quiangco demonstrates a chemical reaction.


Nobody likes



Nobody likes fuzzy, grimy, dirty teeth. What everyone wants is simple: sparkling pearly whites! RCTC’s Dental Hygiene program is helping students perfect their skills cleaning, flossing, and much more, so they can one day ensure teeth are healthy and beautiful. Doing that requires the students to work in a lab full of pertinent equipment, and even a full clinic where they are able to provide a number of services to the community (and gather hours of clinical work needed for graduation). These eventually licensed oral health pros are put through the ringer on the way to graduation – but students don’t seem to mind. At the end of the day, they just want to work hard to perfect your smile. PAGE 4 | RCTC MAGAZINE | FALL 2017 EDITION


First-year students get to participate in dental services, and are present while second-year students perform tasks like dental sealants. Different colored scrubs identify who is a firstor second-year student. l Anyone is able to visit the clinic for dental hygiene services at a low cost. The clinic also accepts insurance, making it a good way for the public to not only get oral care, but to help students sharpen their skills. l Students practice in a real-world setting, allowing them to get familiar with the proper tools of the trade, making them more than ready for the job before they leave RCTC. They even take X-rays, prompting our photographer to step out of the clinic more than once. l Chairs and items like X-ray machines are donated by local businesses, showing great community support for the program. l Dental Hygiene is more than brushing this kid’s teeth. Not only have past RCTC students told us the program takes a “lot of coffee,” but it’s full of biology, for example. l This child was one of many able to come to the clinic during the Give Kids a Smile event. “In the end, it’s rewarding. We helped 24 kids that wouldn’t otherwise have had access to care, or the money for it,” says RCTC Dental Hygiene program graduate Hilary Bottema (not pictured, and currently working in the field).



Search for Permanent President Begins

Minnesota State Interim Chancellor Maltotra officially kicked off the search for RCTC’s next permanent president with visits to campus in September. The search advisory committee, along with the search consultant, will review application materials and interview candidates culminating with finalists visiting campus in February. The Minnesota State Board of Trustees is expected to announce the appointment in March.

RCTC Surgical Technology Grads Earn 100 Percent Pass Rate on Board Exams

RCTC’s accreditation was reaffirmed by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The HLC is the regional accrediting body charged by the U.S. Department of Education to ensure colleges and universities in 19 states in the North Central region provide high-quality educational opportunities to the citizens and communities they serve.

The Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) program and Cancer Registry Management program were awarded the very first two Workforce Innovator Grants from Greater Rochester Advocates for Universities and Colleges (GRAUC), totaling $2,500.

RCTC Accreditation Reaffirmed by Higher Learning Commission

All 24 RCTC surgical technology graduates who took the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) national certification test from June 1, 2016 – May 31, 2017, successfully passed the certification test on their first attempt for a pass rate of 100 percent.

RCTC Awarded First Two GRAUC Workforce Innovator Grants

Hospitality Program Launched New Campus Signage

RCTC updated the signage on campus including the main monument sign on 30th Ave. SE, the two monument signs at Heintz on College View Rd., and lettering on the Sports Center. In line with the College’s rebrand, we’ve updated the UCR graphics on campus exterior way-finding signs.

RCTC is excited about the launch of a Business Management – Hospitality degree. With the growing hospitality industry in Rochester, this new program will prepare students to develop the skills necessary for key positions in a variety of hospitality related fields. From sales and marketing to management and technology, hospitality offers a broad range of career opportunities. This two-year AAS program provides students with the fundamental knowledge to work in the industry while attending college and prepares students to pursue a bachelor’s degree for further advancement. CONTINUED ON PAGE 13 RCTC MAGAZINE | FALL 2017 EDITION | PAGE 5




Imagine British clubs in the late ‘80s. Punk rock is making way for something new. The genre is bleeding out, evolving into indie rock, new wave, alternative, and goth rock made popular by The Smiths, The Cure, Happy Mondays, and The Stone Roses. New ways to express music, feeling, thought, social justice, and whatever sounded good in a garage or mixing room emerged. And so too did Aaron Shannon, like a thundering bass riff. Most people probably know Shannon as an RCTC music technology instructor. His time at RCTC actually dates back to 1992 when he began life as a student here, riding high on the sounds of late ‘80s British trends, and maybe a little averse to cracking a book. “I was one of those students who when I first came here, I just wasn’t a good student at all,” Shannon professed. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and I actually found my passion with RCTC Music Instructor Kevin (Dobbe). “I came here thinking I was going to go into architecture,” Shannon continued. “I took a couple of Kevin’s classes, I think music theory was the first one… and I kept taking more and more music classes.” It set him down the path of pursuing music and recording. And back then, he was trying his best to create his own punk-like rock, and even got to play it on RCTC’s radio station. “So, we’d make music and then bring it up to the radio station, and say, ‘play it in 20 minutes!’” Shannon said, adding that 20 minutes later you’d be able to hear it in the car. After RCTC, Shannon continued his education at the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh, and quickly found himself interning in Nashville. “When I went to Nashville I was basically looking for the biggest (recording) studio I could get into, and I got into Sound Stage as an intern,” Shannon explained. That’s where his professional life started. But first, much like internships in top-tier industry spots are depicted on TV, Shannon began by fetching people food, taking out the garbage, and whatever odd job he could do before he was allowed into the studio to learn the recording gear. This hardworking intern is the student that Dobbe said he saw when he first instructed Shannon. “He was in one of my first classes,” Dobbe recalled, and said he doesn’t remember Shannon being a bad student. “He actually had what I would call the triumvirate of what a

good student is… one, a student who is really interested in the area that you teach… two, he has and had a creative mind… and then the third and best quality, I think, is that he worked hard.” So, for Shannon to go on to Nashville and make contacts with bands like All Star United is only natural. He was a friend of the band, and the singer later became a producer, which allowed for Shannon to work on a record with him, and then many records. “It all came from that internship,” Shannon said. These connections were important for work, and also just finding a place to crash while visiting town for the 2017 eclipse many years later (Shannon stayed with an old intern buddy). Visiting Nashville is like coming home for Shannon. He lived there for many years, and he says the allure of the music hotbed is intoxicating. “Whatever kind of music you want is there,” Shannon explained.

Shannon’s band performing.

The plethora of music makes it difficult to earn money because everyone plays for free, but the level that musicians play at is much higher than in your average city. “I became a lot better musician without even knowing it,” Shannon said. “You’re competing, but it’s more of a friendly competition because you’re trying to one-up everyone with your shows.” Although Shannon once opened for the Grammy-winning band Duran Duran in front of 25,000 people – even making it onto the Billboard charts – he ultimately went down the path of studio recording. But before all of that, Shannon was just winding down with his internship, already lining up a job with Quad Studios in Nashville, beginning as a weekend studio operator. “I didn’t have that many responsibilities, but you learn the studio,” Shannon said. He later moved up to the nighttime guy, meeting with clients to ensure they were OK, sometimes tearing down microphones to set up for the next group. When asked if he ever recorded popular artists, Shannon responded quickly with, “all the time.”

Keith Urban, who Shannon can’t remember being popular yet at that time, was friends with a music tech at the studio, so was around a lot. “He actually never recorded at Quad,” Shannon recalled with a laugh. “He was always there, just kind of hanging out.” A lot of popular country artists came through the studio, and Shannon got to work with and get to know country legend Ricky Skaggs. Eventually the studio was bought out, and clientele changed as equipment was upgraded and prices shot up. Shannon was in Nashville throughout the change, living there from 1997 to 2006 until he and his wife moved to Rochester, where his wife is from (Shannon is from the Iron Range in northern Minnesota, but went through two years of high school in Rochester). “We had two grandmas yelling at us,” Shannon said of the move. His family grew when a baby arrived in 2004, and the grandparents wanted to see the family more. Upon moving back, Shannon found himself commuting to Nashville. Then one day he ran into his former, still current RCTC instructor, Kevin Dobbe, who asked him if he would work at RCTC teaching a class. “He finally talked me into it,” Shannon said, after explaining that he kind of went back and forth on whether or not he should. Dobbe said he wanted him at RCTC because the triumvirate that made him a good student also makes a good teacher. “He has those qualities, and I just thought it would be awesome, especially someone who was in the business for a bunch of years,” he said. “And he works well with students; students like him. What better combination could you ask for.” It was quite the shift in work, however. “It’s been a learning experience,” Shannon said. As a two-year program, it’s easy to put too much into each class, which is what Shannon did his first year. “I didn’t know how fast people would learn… the first semester I had a lot of scared looks at me,” Shannon recalled with a laugh. “I feel like last semester was the first semester I felt comfortable with the flow, and kind of figuring out how well people learn, and how fast they can.” He teaches audio production I and II. The first class helps you learn the theory of production, so you know what you’re actually doing. Why something is the optimal level, for example. “If you learn the tricks, the tricks make more sense,” Shannon said. “I always tell my students I’m teaching them the rules, but there are way more exceptions than there are rules, but you have to know the rules before you can break them.”

Former student J.T. Thompson not only learned all of the rules, but even recorded four songs on campus with Shannon’s help during class. Thompson is the frontman for JT & the Gunslingers, and recalls how instrumental his education was in helping him record his music. “He has so much real-world knowledge that it is hard to fit it into the time that he is allotted to teach,” Thompson said. “I found myself taking his Audio Production II class twice just to try to capture the knowledge he has and puts out to his students. I have even toyed with the idea of coming back for a third installment even this long after graduation. “Working on an album with him has been a top two moment (it juggles back and forth with another huge moment) in my music career,” Thompson added. “The years of high-level recording he has done in Nashville really comes through, and I learned so much outside of the classroom from him. With the technology, these days anyone can put out an album, but putting out a radio quality album that competes with the big label market is an art form. We got that from Aaron, by the truckloads.”

From the classroom to the studio, I have never met a better teacher, mentor, and friend. No matter where my music takes me, as long as Aaron is available, I will pay any price for his time, as he is worth the tuition tenfold. While Thompson is going the route of musician, there is plenty people can do in the music industry. “The music business, it’s still in its infancy, really, on the technical side,” Shannon said. “There’s so many branches, you just find your niche. That’s how I feel. I’m trying to relearn a lot of things to get a wider scope.” Not bad for someone who describes himself as a bad student. “I have no clue,” Shannon said when asked why he went for music. “When I started it was… electronic music. But we had a 4-track (at RCTC) when I first started. When there wasn’t anyone there, that’s where I was at. I was always skipping classes to be in that studio. I’d just get lost, and from there on, I just kept getting into it.” That obsession fuels his teaching ability and style. “I have a soft spot for RCTC,” Shannon began. “It’s a different kind of student, and I’m hoping that I’ll find the same kind of student that I was and help them find their passion. If it wasn’t for Kevin, I don’t know what I’d be doing. I wasn’t a good student, but as soon as I found that passion I went all in.” RCTC MAGAZINE | FALL 2017 EDITION | PAGE 7



TAKES AIM at ending student HUNGER. CC406

RCTC has a food pantry for students, but Student Senate President Sarah BrakebillHacke decided that wasn’t enough after witnessing how students gobbled up pizza during an on-campus meeting. To combat hunger, she and the RCTC Student Senate voted to shift $20,000 of reserve funds to emergency food aid for the student body to help rectify the issue. What that means is students will be able to get on-campus meals once a week, and also snacks each day. Additionally, student clubs can provide food at meetings. $10,000 will go to those endeavors, while the other half will be used by the Senate’s health and safety committee, with members deciding what to do PAGE 8 | RCTC MAGAZINE | FALL 2017 EDITION

with that later, with one idea including some marketing in the community to let people know there is a food need. It’s not a fix that will last, and Sarah is hoping to do more – in addition to already lofty goals for the Senate and student body. “Ultimately, we are advocating for meal plans for students,” said Brakebill-Hacke. “In the meantime, hunger is not an issue that can wait. Advocating for a meal plan tomorrow is not enough.” As of right now, Student Senate is figuring out where to locate one food/snack bin, while also looking to implement more, including any area students receive counseling, the Heintz Center, and the Sports Center.

The library is also a spot that will get a food bin. It serves as a good after-hours location, which is important to Brakebill-Hacke, since students aren’t just on campus during the day. These snacks help, but students can also get food at the RCTC food shelf, and even the Learning Center offers some materials for sandwiches like peanut butter and bread for those who need a boost while studying. A longtime staple for hungry students, the food pantry, now called the Hive Supply, was originally run by a campus-based branch of the Lion’s Club before the Student Senate took over management duties in 2015. Not only does the food shelf accept donations, but it partnered with Channel One to receive monthly food donations.

FREE to students in need.

Students may visit once per week and collect a maximum of 15 items per visit. Brakebill-Hacke said even though there are all of these resources, there still isn’t enough food to go around for everyone. She also said there are other problems: access and possibly embarrassment. “How do we feed students right now, and those who might feel ashamed, can’t access it, or it’s not enough?” BrakebillHacke said. If you’re a student who needs a snack, keep an eye out for a food bin. Everyone can use the extra edge when prepping for an exam.

OPEN on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11:00 a.m.

to 3:00 p.m. and located in CC406 on the fourth floor of College Center above the Cafeteria. Donations are always welcome! Non-perishable food and personal hygiene items may be donated directly to the Student Food Cupboard.


COVER STORY “At the time, I thought research was something only people with a Ph.D. had the opportunity to do.”


Munira Alimire performs an experiment with luminescent chemicals.

HOW RESEARCH is Propelling Students Forward “The only thing I knew about research was what the TV or news portrayed; I viewed researchers as scientists that made great discoveries and won Nobel prizes.” In the Iron Man films, scientist Tony Stark tinkers endlessly with mathematics and scientific concepts on virtual touch screens, before using an array of materials to build a futuristic suit that he dons as the Invincible Iron Man. Stark is a genius. Not only that, but he has a very deep pocketbook to fund his tinkering and research, seeming to always figure out his next problem by building a suit that can fly, shoot lasers, and even go toe-to-toe with the Incredible Hulk. This is the sort of science research, though a little more fanciful, that former Rochester Community and Technical College (RCTC) graduate Alison Seemann thought of when she envisioned scientists in a laboratory. “When Dr. (Heather) Sklenicka asked me to do research, I had only completed two semesters of college,” Seemann recalled. “At the time, I thought research was something only people with a Ph.D. had the opportunity to do. The only thing I knew about research was what the TV or news portrayed; I viewed researchers as scientists that made great discoveries and won Nobel prizes.” Clearly, research isn’t just for the scientists found within Marvel comic book pages. Since 2008, Dr. Sklenicka has been recruiting a select handful of students each year to take part in her research class. Sklenicka began diving into research during her undergraduate studies at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. After graduating from Drake, Sklenicka went to the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities to complete a Ph.D. in synthetic organic chemistry. “I’m trained so that I could go to a pharmaceutical company and design drugs,” Sklenicka explained.

Nicholas Elliott evaporates water for an experiment.

But she didn’t go that route. Instead of designing drugs, Sklenicka came to RCTC in 2003 as an instructor. Five years later she had the inclination to bring research to the undergraduate level to help students “jumpstart the rest of their undergraduate career, and graduate career, maybe,” Sklenicka said. While this isn’t research at the graduate level, it is still a bit unheard of in the two-year college realm. “Part of the problem with doing it, is it’s not part of our core mission of the College,” Sklenicka explained. “Research is not our mission at all. Providing excellent education and providing excellent opportunities is. So, it kind of fits, but not really.” It’s also not the most cost-effective proposition to provide research opportunities for students. “We don’t spend a lot doing research, but I do get compensated for my time (helping students with) research,” Sklenicka added. The research class is only a one-credit course, meaning it doesn’t cost the student much. Not all schools have support for research at the two-year level because of the costs involved. But seeing how it has affected students like Seemann should be an eye opener, and proof the cost is worth it for producing flourishing young researchers.

The four to five students in the research class work on individual projects, typically labs, like, heat transfer, for example, where they try to figure out the best coffee cups in the city. It is an inquiry based lab, having students figure out more on their own instead of simply following a set of instructions. Seemann created a DNA damage lab, a new one, for the General, Organic and Biological Chemistry II class. “Working to prevent DNA damage with antioxidants and letting the students visualize that,” is how Sklenicka described her former student’s lab, while also pivoting to how joyful it is to watch the students complete their work. “It’s really rewarding because I get to see them grow,” Sklenicka said of her students. “That transformation of them really becoming an expert of something is huge.” Sklenicka uses the example of Seemann being a shy student, but then exploding with energy and passion when she talked to anyone at a conference who was willing to listen to her explain her work. “It’s something you can’t get in a traditional classroom,” Sklenicka said. Since leaving RCTC, Seemann has gone on to attend Winona State University to finish a biochemistry degree, and landed a job at Mayo Clinic in the molecular genetics lab. RCTC MAGAZINE | FALL 2017 EDITION | PAGE 11

COVER STORY CONTINUED “Basically, what we do is extract DNA from cancer tissue and blood, and do genetic testing on the DNA to determine any genetic mutations the patient might have so that doctors can better diagnose and treat the patients,” Seemann explained. It’s a big change from nursing, Seemann’s first career goal. “Dr. Sklenicka was so,” she emphasized the so, “excited to teach chemistry,” Seemann began. “Her passion for chemistry was contagious, and it rubbed off on me as her student. I took Chem 1117 with her, which was the only chemistry class I needed for a nursing major. I wasn’t planning on taking any more chemistry, but I enjoyed her class so much that I decided to take the next class with her, Chem 1118, just for fun. At the end of the second semester, she asked me if I would be interested in doing research for her.” From there, Seeman’s goals started to evolve. “As a result of this research opportunity, I decided to pursue a Bachelor’s of Science in Biochemistry,” she continued. “Research at RCTC also impacted my future research projects (a summer internship at Mayo Clinic and research at Winona State) because I

already knew what to expect: how the process of research worked, how to document lab experiments, analyze data, logically think through problems, troubleshoot, write abstracts, and design posters.” Her lab and research skills are used every day in her role at Mayo Clinic. “Even though I work in a clinical lab where there is protocol for everything we perform due to government regulations, occasionally issues arise that are beyond what is written in the protocols,” Seemann explained. “When this occurs, my research instincts kick in and I ask myself, ‘What went wrong?’ as I start to critically analyze the issue. The troubleshooting skills I learned from research have helped me to excel and feel confident at my job. I’m so blessed to have had this opportunity to do research at RCTC.” People like Seemann prove that research at RCTC is integral in student success. Fellow student Kristian Kennedy is still in her infancy of her college career, but shares a similar experience. As a senior in high school, Kennedy got a taste of RCTC before heading to a four-year school and eventually coming back. She’s currently at the University of Minnesota – Duluth studying for a biology degree. Her RCTC research class helped her slip right into her field of study and even get a job in a lab.



“We were able to do the same things had I been at a four-year in a lab,” Kennedy said. “It was really good, good to go to the conferences – I actually met someone who went to UMD, so I had a contact here. Putting it (the research class) on my resume was helpful.” Kennedy even held a job at Mayo Clinic over the summer and was able to land a job working with mice at the University of Minnesota – Duluth’s Klein Lab. She hopes to become a genetic counselor after graduating, and really credits Sklenicka with boosting her academic career. “She’s a really good teacher,” Kennedy began. “She’s a little strict,” the former student punctuates with a laugh. “She doesn’t tolerate a lot of BS. She expects you to know your stuff. If you don’t, she will tell you for sure. I learned a lot from her. She’s really good to have as a reference, too.” As for the research program, it too seems to have a bright future, in spite of the challenges of keeping one running. RCTC will actually host the 7th Annual Minnesota Conference of Undergraduate Scholarly and Creative Activity on March 23, 2018. It will provide students a way to show their work on their home turf, and also aspire to be the next Tony Stark. Even if their work isn’t about building a futuristic flying suit.




Dr. Heather Sklenicka is obviously a fan of research (and cool pop culture things, as you can guess by stepping into her office) and trying to slay dragons in her spare time during a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. But instructing others on the wonders of science is what became her calling in life. There are a couple reasons for this. “Research is cool when it works,” Sklenicka began. “In my graduate career, everything I did my first two years worked great. It was so exciting and so much fun. And then nothing worked for the last three years. “It also got to be quite monotonous,” she continued. “Those two things kind of swayed me away from pure research. And I’ve always loved to teach. One of my professors at University of Minnesota, within minutes of meeting me, said, ‘you were born to be a teacher.’” So, when that opportunity came after moving to Rochester, she took it, and is able to pass down her knowledge. Thinking back, Sklenicka remembers the moment when science studies became the thing she wanted to pursue. In second grade, she wanted to cure cancer. That possibly sparked her love of science. It wasn’t until her junior year of high school when she took chemistry that she found “the one” science she loved. It took her only three days to fall in love with it. Plus, it was easy for her. “When the seniors that were a year ahead of me in high school were asking me questions about chemistry, I was like, ‘yeah, OK – I can do this,’” Sklenicka reminisced. That passion is still palpable in her classroom today. PAGE 12 | RCTC MAGAZINE | FALL 2017 EDITION





Student researchers have worked at Mayo Clinic, become anesthesiologists, began medical school, and study veterinary medicine.

Honors Program Created


Adding to its already impressive roster of offerings, RCTC has added an honors program to enhance academic rigor on campus. The program features stand-alone courses and smaller class sizes. High school and college students with a 3.5 GPA or higher are encouraged to apply.

It’s Official – RCTC is the Best!

You love us, you really love us! RCTC was awarded Favorite Higher Education provider in the Post Bulletin’s Reader’s Choice Poll. Thank you to everyone who voted!

RCTC Welcomes Virtual Reality The universe became a classroom

thanks to virtual reality, or VR. The College received a $22,000 grant from the Minnesota State Educational Innovations conference, allowing it to create virtual reality labs. So far instructor John Tacinelli, Ph.D. has used it to give students an “Interstellar”like experience, without all of the commentary on love. Students are able to don the headset to explore the vastness of space and size of planets like Jupiter. Students also can use VR to study geography and the human body.

RCTC Announces Dental Hygiene Dual Enrollment Program with Metropolitan State University

RCTC Celebrates National Automotive Technicians Accreditation

The College announced its Automotive Mechanic program earned accreditation by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF). RCTC’s program meets the strict industry standards required for NATEF Master Automotive Service Technology accreditation. This is the highest level of achievement recognized by NATEF. President of NATEF, Patricia Serratore, noted in a congratulatory letter that “Although many educational institutions strive for this level of accreditation, only a small percentage achieve it. Both the educational and automotive communities should be proud of your commitment to quality automotive training programs.”

The purpose of the Dual Admission and Enrollment Dental Hygiene program is to provide a smooth and successful transition for the student from RCTC to Metropolitan State University (MSU) seeking a bachelor’s degree. Students who participate in the program are considered fully admitted to the RCTC Dental Hygiene Program and to the MSU Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene program simultaneously. While RCTC has articulation agreements in place with Metropolitan State University currently, this dual enrollment partnership is truly unique.

RCTC Music Instructor Conducts Concert in Germany

Interim Choir and Band Instructor/ Conductor, Dr. David Kassler, traveled to Wittenberg, Germany, to conduct a special concert with the Rochester Good Shepherd Lutheran Church Choir as part of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Dr. Kassler assumed the interim director position of RCTC’s director of bands and choirs when Chuck Blattner, long-time RCTC music instructor and conductor, retired earlier this year.

New RPT Park & Ride Equals Free Rides for RCTC Students

Rochester Public Transit (RPT) has entered into a three-year agreement with the College to establish a public Park & Ride location. In exchange, RPT is providing free transit rides to current RCTC students on all RPT routes, at all times. As with other city-operated park and ride locations, all commuters are welcome to use the lot which will be served by a new direct route, 3D, offering direct service to downtown and St. Marys every 20 minutes during peak times. RCTC MAGAZINE | FALL 2017 EDITION | PAGE 13

Making a difference. Greetings from the RCTC Foundation and welcome to the inaugural issue of the RCTC Magazine! Our mission is to provide support for the students and programs of RCTC. We rely on generous donors to provide scholarships, inkind donations, and financial gifts to carry out our mission on a daily basis. I have been in my position a little over one year, and I have to admit, my favorite part is working with people. We have amazing students here at RCTC who are pursuing their dreams. Their stories touch my heart on a daily basis. They have courage, they are resilient, some want to be good role models for their children, and they all deserve the opportunity of higher education. We also have amazing donors. People who understand that, for some students, the only way they can pursue their dreams is to receive financial assistance in the form of endowed and annual scholarships. Often the donors are complete strangers to our students, and yet, they care immensely about them. They want to see our students succeed while they are here at RCTC, and then go on to succeed as they work on achieving their life goals. Last, but not least, we have amazing faculty and staff who are donors. People who care about our students; who want to contribute funds to the Foundation to help students who are experiencing emergencies; to provide scholarships for students who are starting at RCTC and for those who have completed their first year; and of course; to help our students succeed in their futures. If you have been thinking about ways you can support RCTC students and programs, I hope that you will contact me so we can schedule a time to meet and talk about your options, and decide which one is the best and most meaningful one for you. I also hope that you will consider attending our upcoming Beat the Odds event on Jan. 11, 2018. This is an evening of inspiration and celebration of the gift of higher education. You will leave with a sense of how much courage and resiliency some of our students have, and how they keep moving forward, even in the face of adversity. Do not miss this event! For more information, please call our office at 507-281-7771.

2017 Beat the Odds Scholarship Recipients. From left: Caleb Ricks, Jessica Nelson, Jawaher Awad Binhamoodah, Mikayla Brainard, and Isaac Williams.

SCHOLARSHIPS CHANGE LIVES Current and former RCTC students talk about the ways the RCTC Foundation scholarships, including the Beat the Odds program that awards $2,500 scholarships, have helped them pursue their dreams.

CALEB RICKS “It really is an honor. I didn’t expect it. I certainly feel indebted and humble.” JESSICA NELSON “This scholarship is huge. It almost overwhelmed me when they told me because I had been thinking, ‘how am I going to pay for school, I’m going to have to get more student loans.’” JAWAHER AWAD BINHAMOODAH “To be honest I still can’t believe it. I keep thinking it’s a dream… It’s a miracle. I felt God is giving me a lot of chances … he was testing my patience, maybe. I felt relief that someone is believing in me or thinks I can be a good person and continue my education. It felt special.” MIKAYLA BRAINARD “Part of it is meeting new people, getting a little bit of the college experience before I actually go into college and start paying for it – seeing how much I can really handle, especially with my health.”

With gratitude and appreciation,

ISAAC WILLIAMS “[Karin Wright’s] nomination for this scholarship has given me a brighter outlook.”

Deb Ward, Executive Director RCTC Foundation

MANA MOHAMED “… This scholarship I got last year, for this semester, is the only thing saving me right now. I don’t think people realize the difference it makes when you are not having to work like crazy through school.”



RCTC FOUNDATION BOARD OF DIRECTORS Todd Severson, President Paul Richardson, Vice-President Peter Sandberg, Secretary Thomas Cummings, Treasurer Lisa Baldus Ron Buzard Steven Colebeck Brianna Cook Heather Donovan Victoria Hailey Rebecca Hill Christopher Nelson Jacob Petersen Cody Pogalz Opal Richards Peggy Vevang Mary Davenport, Ex-Officio Michael Anthony, Ex-Officio Sarah Brakebill-Hacke, Ex-Officio Tim O’Neill, Ex-Officio

FOUNDATION STAFF Deb Ward, Executive Director Roxy Roadway, Executive Assistant

“Being able to graduate, earn my license, and continue to advance my education while working and permanently moving to Rochester has only been possible by your grace over the last two years. Without the gift you’ve given me, I would have been unable to achieve all that I have and all that I hope to do.” ~ Corri VanderWoude, RN at Mayo Clinic (former Presidential Scholar/current Douglass Scholarship recipient).



of Higher Education Continues

During his 29 years at RCTC, my father put his heart into the College. He loved to meet students and their families and watch their growth and progress.

I consider Rochester my hometown. I moved here when I was 3 years old in 1953 so my Dad could start a new job as a Dean at Rochester Junior College. My siblings and I received our education at Rochester Public Schools and went on to attend RCTC. We were able to watch the building of the new campus to accommodate the rising enrollment and the expansion of faculty and course offerings. During his 29 years at RCTC, my father put his heart into the College. He loved to meet students and their families and watch their growth and progress. After the RCTC Centennial celebration in 2015, I became an RCTC Foundation Board Member and started working on some of the Foundation committees. My first year as a board member, I attended the Beat the Odds (BTO) celebration and knew I wanted to become an active member of that committee. In January 2017, at the end of the event, and after five very moving and emotionally charged recipient stories, my husband, Jevan, looked at me and suggested we give a scholarship at the 2018 event. My husband and I are pleased that for this year’s event, we have created a sixth scholarship for a finalist. We can hardly wait for the upcoming January ceremony to see all of the deserving candidates who will receive the scholarships.

The RCTC Foundation is a non-profit, 501(c) 3 organization. We depend on generous individuals, businesses, and other charitable organizations to meet our mission of supporting students and programs at RCTC. We are happy to help you align your values with a charitable gift and offer the following options:


If you wish to create a lasting legacy for RCTC students, you can establish an endowed scholarship. The interest that is earned on the principal balance is disbursed as scholarships in perpetuity.


These yearly gifts to the Foundation sustain our scholarship program. You choose the selection criteria and the Scholarship Selection Committee picks the recipients based on your criteria.


If you wish to provide support for a specific RCTC program or initiative, you can establish an endowment fund.


Honor a special occasion (such as retirements, birthdays, and anniversaries), colleagues, family members, and friends with a gift that lives on and expresses appreciation. Alternatively, give a gift in memory of a loved one and the contributions they made during their lifetime.


Scholarships are so important to our student body. As a family, my Dad set up three scholarships for RCTC students (the Hill Music and Hill Theatre scholarships) and now, I am following in his footsteps with the BTO scholarship my husband and I created this year. The monies donated to the RCTC Foundation have a significant impact. They strengthen our community by providing graduates who know the value of hard work and the rewards it can bring. Education is not only for recent high school graduates, but also for anyone who has a dream of pursuing higher education, and I am honored to be a part of this process. Rebecca Hill is a member of the RCTC Foundation Board of Directors. Rebecca’s father, Charles E. Hill, was the president of Rochester Junior College from 1953 to 1982, leading the College through its greatest growth years.

A planned gift is created during a donor’s lifetime and takes affect at or after they pass away, and are commonly donated through a will or a trust. Some examples include gifts of life insurance, real estate, and stocks and bonds. Some planned gifts can produce income while a donor is alive and include charitable gift annuities, charitable lead trusts, charitable remainder unitrusts, and charitable remainder annuity trusts.


You may have rare books, archival material (especially related to our rich history), artwork, musical instruments, or other items that have appreciated in value that you wish to donate. These gifts may be eligible for an income tax deduction equal to the fair market value of the item.

We are grateful to our donors for their generous support. If you are interested in exploring any of these ways to give, please contact the RCTC Foundation Executive Director at 507-281-7770 or via email,






AWARD-WINNING instructor and tireless advocate for



RCTC Art + Design Instructor Simon Huelsbeck was honored with the Excellence in Arts Education Ardee Award from the Greater Rochester Arts & Cultural Trust in a ceremony held Oct. 17. Simon was one of three finalists for the award. For the uninitiated, the award is named in recognition of Mayor Ardell F. Brede’s enduring support of the arts in the Rochester community. The Ardee Awards honor the very best in the visual and performing arts, the humanities, and those whose support through leadership, education, and collaboration. We asked him some questions about his recent award, as well as his background in teaching, and why he loves creating art.

How does it feel to win the award?

I am honored and humbled to have been nominated, and then awarded the 2017 Ardee for Arts Educator. I need to thank so many for their support. I promise to continue to strive to provide the very best that I am able for my students. It is my great privilege to have a career that is so well suited to my passions for art and education.

What’s the value of art?

Those of us who are advocates for education in the arts too often find ourselves defending the programs and institutions we value. Perhaps more than ever, an education in the arts in conjunction with science, technology, engineering, and math, is what is needed for careers in the future.

What do you like about teaching at RCTC?

I am in my 13th year teaching at RCTC. At this point, I have had the opportunity to be a part of an important stage in the evolution of so many local artists. There is a rich, long-term reward witnessing these artists flourish and contribute to our vital and growing creative community. The Art + Design Department at RCTC has some of the most dedicated faculty that I have ever worked with. I am always striving to keep up. It is good to have the bar set high.

What makes a good art student and a good artist?

People often need to go through a change in their outlook around art to become good art students. So many have the misconception that art is something that you are either born to do – or not. One of the best parts of my job is seeing these students begin to take pride in their work. Once a student starts to make work for themselves, as opposed to a grade or for me, then they are on the right path. They start the class with some idea that it might be PAGE 18 | RCTC MAGAZINE | FALL 2017 EDITION

interesting, and leave with a slightly different sense of themselves, as people with the ability to be create decent artwork. A good artist needs to seek out and take in all the external inputs to develop their knowledge of and skills with their medium. However, that is not enough. A good artist needs to be able to be receptive to their particular internal inputs. I have a deep respect and affection for craft, but one must also be guided by their intuition to make art.

Tell us a little bit about your art.

Some visual artists make work that changes little once they have found their mature style. My work mirrors my life, and so it has changed significantly over the years as my life has changed. However, some themes do find themselves in every body of work. I am compelled toward nature and rendering spaces on a twodimensional surface. I am always exploring the tension between the illusion and the actual material. Mystery is important to me. My favorite artwork doesn’t seek to explain or solve. I find artwork more engaging and authentic when it leaves me feeling wanting. I do not like to put myself in a stylistic box, but if I am forced to I think, it might best be described as being lyrical, or magical realism.

What is your favorite moment in art?

One of my most recent favorite moments making work came during the process of doing a portrait of my wife. I caked titanium white oil paint over a wallpaper stencil in the background. Also, I had somehow decided to paint her face blue. I knew the contrast of that blue with her bright, warm shoulders, and the stark, white wall paper pattern was just right the moment it came together, even though I didn’t consciously know why. A local young couple working on a stellar collection connected with it immediately. They could no more explain why they needed to acquire the painting than I could explain why I needed to make it.

What is your art class, and other RCTC art classes, all about?

I invite you to take a painting or a drawing class with me. Whether you are only curious or art serious, I would love to have the opportunity to work with you. If painting or drawing are not along the lines of your creative interests, you are likely to find classes suited to your interest at RCTC including varieties of dance, music, theater, photo, ceramics, and design. Without any reservations, I can tell you that I work with some of the most capable and dedicated arts educators that I have ever known.





Rochester Community and Technical College A member of Minnesota State R C T C I S AN E QU AL O P P OR T U NIT Y EMP L OY ER AN D E DU C AT OR. ALT E R N AT I VE F OR MAT S OF T H IS D OC U ME N T ARE AVAILAB LE BY C ON TAC T I N G DIS AB ILIT Y S U P P OR T AT 507- 2 8 0 - 2 9 6 8 . RCTC MAGAZINE | FALL 2017 EDITION | PAGE 19

A member of Minnesota State

RCTC Magazine Fall 2017 Edition  
RCTC Magazine Fall 2017 Edition  

RCTC Magazine is published twice a year to share the stories of the people who make the College exceptional.