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Q&A with a Dunwoody Architectural Drafting & Estimating Alum

Dunwoody alumni are innovators, entrepreneurs, top technicians, and skilled workers.  

Here is a quick Q&A with just one!

Brenda Sherrod, ’92 Architectural Drafting & Estimating
Drafter, Cross Architects

Q. Where is the weirdest place you have ever met a fellow alum?

A. I ran into some of my classmates at a Christmas party in the early 90s for a roof insulation firm and have one on my Facebook friend list. I moved to the Dallas, Texas area in 1995, so I haven’t had the opportunity to run into many.

Q.  Has there been a moment in your career when you thought “My job is awesome!” and what was that moment?

A. The first time I was able to visit a site for a project I worked on. It was a retail strip center in San Antonio, Texas, and I could see where the contractor had followed my drawings and where he had deviated. It was so nice to be able to connect their work to mine.

Q. What would your classmates be surprised to know about you now?

A. I am married with three kids — 13, 11 and 11 (yes, twins) — and that I went into “retirement” for 11 years. I went back to work a year ago, and I love it!

Q. What is your favorite memory of Dunwoody?

A. My summer job of creating an as-built CAD file of the Dunwoody Campus. I had to begin with the original blueprints and then climb everywhere with a tape measure and sketch. When I had to print anything, I would send it to the pen plotter and leave for an hour. Plotters have come a long way in 25 years! It was an amazing summer.

Employee Spotlight: Alicia Stoe, Assistant Director of Financial Aid


Where did you grow up?

I grew up on a large farm north of Roseau, MN, just a few miles from the Canadian border.

Where did you attend college? What is your degree in?

I have a Bachelors of Business Administration from the University of North Dakota. I double majored in Marketing and Management. I also have a Masters of Business Administration from Metropolitan State University.

How long have you been working at Dunwoody? 

I’ve been at Dunwoody for almost 6 years.

Why did you decide to work at Dunwoody? 

I decided to work at Dunwoody because of the rich history and networks the college has. Every time I told someone I applied to Dunwoody, they not only knew the name but also had some kind of story (my uncle went there, my cousin went there, etc.).

What is your favorite part about working at Dunwoody? 

My favorite part about working at Dunwoody is meeting with students and knowing I was able to answer their questions or give them information that helps finance their education.

I also like figuring out ways to make our software work better and be more efficient for our office.

What is your favorite memory of working at Dunwoody?

My favorite memory at Dunwoody is from a couple of years ago, when a student came in to my office to ask about a scholarship he received. The student wanted to make sure that he didn’t read any information wrong, because the scholarship was large enough to cover the balance he had for his last semester—a semester that he had no idea how he was going to pay for. His gratitude and happiness was overwhelming.

What are a few of your hobbies?

I’m an avid reader, and I love going to bookstores to find new authors and random books. I also have to say house projects because now that I have a house—most of my time is spent working on it!

Do you have any pets?

I don’t currently have any pets of my own, but my parents have a chocolate lab that I’m very attached to. She’s almost a year old.

Where is your favorite place in the Twin Cities?

My favorite place in the cities is the St. Anthony Main area. I like walking down by the river on the old cobblestones.

What is your favorite annual holiday or tradition?

I love Christmas Eve night. After the rest of the family leaves for the night, my parents, brothers, and I have our own little Christmas. We open presents from each other and watch old movies.

What is your favorite band or song?

Mumford and Sons. It’s hard to pick an individual song that’s my favorite, but “Little Lion Man” would be high on the list.

Fun facts:
  1. I’m afraid of heights, but I’ve gone skydiving twice and plan to go more in the future.
  2. I’m a huge sports fan. The Twins are my favorite, and I go to spring training whenever I can. I have a collection of 13 autographs so far.
  3. Growing up on a farm, I literally did learn how to drive a tractor before a car and many other clichés. When I was about 10 years old, I also exhibited my goats at the county fair. I won a blue ribbon to bring them to the state fair, but I was too scared of the coming to the cities to do it!

Mia debuts divining rod for art discovery designed by Architecture’s Molly Reichert

Photo of a person holding the divining rod, a plastic u-shaped device with a circle of led lights in the center, near a landscape painting

The Divining Rod in action in one of Mia’s galleries (photo courtesy of Mia)

When Architecture faculty member Molly Reichert teamed up with engineer Ben Arcand to enter Minneapolis Institute of Art’s 3M Arts and Technology Award last year, they came up with a concept that was simple and elegant: a divining rod to guide visitors through the museum galleries in a unique, interesting way.

But once they won the award, they realized that now they had to actually build it. That took many prototypes (with some of the concepts 3D-printed in Dunwoody’s Materials, Mechanics,& Metrology Lab); recruiting additional team members to help with the software and fabrication; and lots of testing and debugging.

The Divining Rod team (left to right): Max Hoagland, hardware/software designer and programmer; co-creators Ben Arcand and Molly Reichert; and Blaine Garrett, algorithm programmer and designer. (photo courtesy of Mia)

The divining rod project came together in the end and debuted late last month. It features a u-shaped plastic casing that senses your location and displays lights that show you which direction to go in order to find an initial work of art. Once you’ve arrived at the artwork, you scan the label next to it and press a plus or minus button on the rod. Your reaction then interacts with a recommendation algorithm and guides you to a different piece of art it thinks you will like. Every interaction with the divining rod helps the recommendation algorithm it uses personalizes your museum experience further. It also helps the algorithm continue to learn and get better as a recommendation engine.

“The Divining Rods Project has a lot of potential for further development and could be used in a variety of contexts,” Reichert said. “We’re hoping that the collected data can be used to create new projects that augment the museum visitor experience.”

The divining rod project can be experienced at the museum on weekends and most Thursday and Friday evening (click here for a full schedule).

Read more about the product development process on the Mia Divining Rods project blog.

2017 3M Art and Technology Competition

There’s still time to submit your ideas for the 2017 version of the awards. Ideas are due by December 1, 2017. Find out more at the competition website and submit your ideas here.

Employee Spotlight: John Columbus, Software Engineering Assistant Professor

Where did you grow up? 

Minneapolis, MN

Where did you attend college? What is your degree in?

Augsburg College and University of Minnesota. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Theater Design and Masters of Science in Software Engineering. I also have my Project Management Professional  (PMP) and Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) certifications.

How long have you been working at Dunwoody? 

7 months

Why did you decide to work at Dunwoody? 

I wanted to share with the students what I have learned so far in my career so I can help them get off on the right foot for theirs.

What is your favorite part about working at Dunwoody? 

People.  I really like all the people I’ve met. The culture here is exactly what I enjoy. I also enjoy learning about the students and helping them to grow. I want them all to be very successful.

Why Software Engineering

I went to work in computers in 1983 as that was my hobby and my minor at the time. As the years went by, I found that my lack of degrees was limiting the jobs I could have. I very much enjoy science and history, and along with my years of work experience, Software Engineering seemed like the best fit.

What are a few of your hobbies?

Sitting back and watching movies as well as going to the Guthrie to watch documentaries.

Where is the best place you have ever traveled to?

York, England and Lake District, England. My two favorite places!

What is your favorite annual holiday or tradition? 

Any holiday serving good food! 🙂

 What is the one thing in the world you are most proud of? 

My son. He has done a wonderful job in learning all aspects of life, and I believe he will have a very good future.

Fun facts:
  • I’ve worked on 20-30 theatrical productions
  • I’ve served on the board of four non-profits
  • I’m the fifth one of my family to be associated with Dunwoody (My grandfather, father, brother, and sister all have an affiliation with the College!)
Meet John in person!

Attend our next Open House on Nov. 14 from 3 to 7 p.m. Attendees will learn about all of Dunwoody’s programs, with a special emphasis on the School of Engineering. Guests will also have an opportunity to tour labs, try their hand on industry-standard equipment, and meet with faculty/staff–including John. RSVP here: http://www.dunwoody.edu/admissions/open-house-rsvp/

Students take part in Random Act of Kindness project

As part of the Interpersonal Communications course, Assistant Professor Reem El-Radi recently gave her sections an optional assignment called the Dunwoody Random Act of Kindness project to be completed throughout the month of October.

“The objective of the assignment is to recognize kindness as a lifelong interpersonal skill that’s critical to the success and creation of caring communities,” El-Radi said.

As part of this initiative, several students banned together to do some extraordinary things in their community.

One group of students elected to clean Dunwoody’s parking lot. Prepared with their own cleaning supplies, they spent an hour collecting trash from the large lot.

Another group raised $600 for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico. The funds will be donated to Direct Relief, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a stated mission to “improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergency situations by mobilizing and providing essential medical resources needed for their care.”

And finally, first-semester Architecture students signed up to volunteer raking leaves for elderly residents in East Saint Paul on October 27. Despite the snow coming down that day, students showed up to rake leaves for two residents in the neighborhood.

Thank you to all the students who participated in this optional assignment to make your communities a better place!

Employee Spotlight: Jonathon Moore, Student Services Advisor

Where did you grow up?

Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Laguna Nigel, California.

Where did you attend high school/college?
Southwest High School and Virginia Union University.

What is your degree in?
Interdisciplinary Studies/Political Science K-8.

How long have you been working at Dunwoody?
13 years.

What do you enjoy most about your job
Providing support for students and assisting them in reaching their goal of graduating!

 What are a few of your hobbies?
Basketball, Madden on PS4, and relaxing at home.

Which sports teams do you root for?
Minnesota Vikings (SKOL, Vikings, SKOL!), University of Michigan (GO BLUE!!) & all other Minnesota sports!

Do you have any pets?
Mathan, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. He is 13 years young!

What is your favorite meal?
Steak, salad, baked potato, sourdough bread, and sweet tea.

Dunwoody committed to transforming lives

“I always thought that I had that creative mindset, but I was never able to bring it to reality,” Mechanical Engineering Student Tommy Dao said. “Before Dunwoody, I never touched a mill or a lathe. And so for me to grab raw material and make it into something that has value, it was very rewarding.”