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New DCTC program caters to veterans

During her two year stint as Dean of Student Affairs, Christine Pigsley found herself working with veteran students quite often. And during that time she found there wasn't really a good fit for many of them at Dakota County Technical College or any other school.

So after her stint ended, Pigsley started brainstorming with some other faculty members to find ways to change that. What they came up with is the Yellow Ribbon Entrepreneurs Initiative. The program will be limited to only veterans and will begin in Fall 2012. Pigsley serves as an Entrepreneurship instructor at DCTC.

Pigsley said returning veterans face a lot of challenges fitting back into a traditional job and the home life they left prior to deployment. When returning to school, she said many express an interest in starting their own businesses.

The Yellow Ribbon Entrepreneurs Initiative will offer a certificate option and Associate of Science degree option to facilitate that desire. Many veterans returning to school have prior college or military experience and training that can be converted into credits at the school and a fast-track to graduation. The initiative will begin with an analysis of each veteran student's past education and training to develop an individualized plan to complete an academic award.

"Entrepreneurship is a good fit for a certain percentage of veterans," said Pigsley of the program.

The initiative will cater to veterans with a concierge approach to application, financial aid, and academic advising. Pigsley said she and fellow instructor Bob Voss will help veterans through the entire process, start to finish, so they aren't getting passed from person to person. Both Pigsley and Voss have military backgrounds.

Both options will be completed mostly online. However, Pigsley said they will have an in-person orientation at the beginning of the program so the students can get to know each other and form bonds. At the completion of the program those students will have a graduation ceremony separate from the other DCTC programs.

Because many veteran students have families, Pigsley said going to school full-time is difficult. However, she said those who attend part-time don't get the housing allowance that is part of their military service benefits.

Pigsley said the school has been able to work it out so students in the program will get part of their housing allowance while having a flexible enough school schedule that they can work.

"What's cool about our program is that it gives them flexibility," said Pigsley. "We have high hopes that it will feel different than any other program."

What's more, Pigsley said since the program is mostly online, it will be available to students nationally. While it wasn't intended, Pigsley said they have even had soldiers express interest in completing the program while deployed.

Since 2001, more than 19,000 Minnesota National Guard members have been deployed to more than 33 countries. That gives the school a big pool of potential students.

Currently DCTC is recruiting veterans to take part in the launch of the initiative during the fall 2012 semester. Pigsley said they hope to start with a group of 30 veterans. Going forward, she said the sky is the limit.

For more information on the Yellow Ribbon Entrepreneurship Initiative visit Veterans also can contact Pigsley directly at 651-423-8231 or Christine.pigsley@

Emily Zimmer
Emily Zimmer has worked as a staff writer for the Rosemount Town Pages since 2007. She has a degree in journalism from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of work, Emily enjoys running, reading and gardening. You can follow Emily's gardening adventures at the Areavoices blog East of Weedin'
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