Notable Alumni Biographies

2023 Award Recipients

Outstanding Alumni Award

David J. Abram

David J. Abram II
Vice President Commercial Lending, Dupaco Community Credit Union
Carlisle, IA
AS Liberal Arts 1994

David Abram is a distinguished professional who currently holds the position of Vice President/Commercial Lending at Dupaco Community Credit Union. His career is marked by a commitment to excellence in both the financial sector and the community at large.

David's ties to DMACC run deep, as he not only graduated from the college's AA program but also earned his final four high school credits at DMACC. His dedication to education is mirrored in his community involvement. He served on the DMACC Foundation Board of Directors from 2014 to 2021, contributing to the college's growth and success. Additionally, David's involvement with the CEO Golf Committee and the Investment Committee since 2014 underscores his commitment to supporting DMACC's mission.

Beyond DMACC, David is an active member of various civic and community organizations, including the Iowa Commercial Real Estate Association and the Grimes Chamber of Commerce. His community engagement has been recognized with prestigious awards, such as the Iowa Governors Volunteer Award in 1992 and the Honor Graduate designation for Officer Candidate Class 39-94 at the Iowa Military Academy, including the General Erickson Award for Leadership.

David's multifaceted career, which spans finance, education, and military service, showcases his unwavering commitment to leadership and community development. His contributions to DMACC and the broader community exemplify his dedication to making a positive impact.


Petra Amstad
Senior Strategist, Brand & Identity, Swiss Post​
Biel-Benken, Switzerland
AAS Commercial Art 1996

Petra Amstad is a compassionate and dedicated individual who found her calling in supporting those affected by dementia. Inspired by her mother's diagnosis and the challenges it brought to her family, Petra's journey into the world of dementia care began with a transformative experience at the Demenz Meet in Zurich.

After attending the event and feeling the warmth, wisdom, and camaraderie of the community there, Petra knew she had to bring the same spirit to her hometown of Basel. Despite lacking a medical background or formal education in this field, Petra, along with three friends, embarked on a mission to organize the "Demenz Meet" in Basel, Switzerland.

What makes Petra's story remarkable is her determination and resourcefulness. Starting with no budget, she tirelessly reached out to organizations for support, securing sponsorships and participants for the event's professional marketplace booths. Against all odds, Petra and her team successfully organized the event, attracting over 100 attendees. They financed the entire event through entry fees, sponsorships, and marketplace booth rentals.

Petra's impact extended beyond the event itself. She created a supportive environment where caregivers could connect and share their experiences. She also ensured that attendees gained valuable insights and knowledge from experts in the field.

Today, Petra serves as a Senior Strategist of Brand & Identity for Swiss Post in Biel-Benken, Switzerland.

Petra's journey is a testament to her unwavering commitment to making a difference in the lives of those affected by dementia. Her ability to turn challenges into opportunities showcases her resilience and determination. And, as a photography enthusiast, she knows that sometimes the best images are developed in the darkroom, much like her own inspiring journey.

Greg Piklapp

Greg Piklapp
Director, Economic Development Outreach & Government Relations, Ames Chamber of Commerce
Boone, IA
AA Liberal Arts 2001

Greg Piklapp is the Director of Economic Development Outreach & Government Relations at the Ames Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development Commission and a member of the Boone City Council.

With a deep connection to DMACC, Greg has been an active member of the DMACC Alumni Association for 20 years. His commitment to education is evident in his history of engaging with instructors during his DMACC career. His willingness to engage in respectful debates and challenge academic viewpoints not only set him apart during his studies but also prepared him for higher-level college coursework. To this day, he maintains a friendly rapport with some of his DMACC instructors.

Outside of his educational pursuits, Greg is an integral part of his community. He serves as a Church Elder at the Stonebridge Church of Boone, where he contributes to the spiritual well-being of his congregation. Furthermore, he is a dedicated member of the Board of Directors for both the Mid-Iowa Planning Alliance for Community Development and the Story County Housing Trust.

Greg’s involvement in education, community service, and economic development demonstrates his commitment to fostering growth and prosperity in Central Iowa.

Kevin Schneider

Kevin J. Schneider
Sheriff, Polk County Sheriff’s Office
Urbandale, IA
AA Criminal Justice 1990

Kevin Schneider is a dedicated public servant with more than 40 years of experience in providing public safety. As the Sheriff of Polk County, Iowa, he oversees a significant responsibility, managing 1,000 inmates and 600 employees. Despite the challenges and constant evolution in the field of public safety, Kevin's commitment remains unwavering.

Beyond his role as Sheriff, Kevin finds immense pride in being a loving father and dedicated husband. His passion for community service is evident through his involvement with organizations like the Za-Ga-Zig Shrine and Mid-Iowa Boy Scouts of America. He believes in the power of mentoring and assisting individuals who have encountered the criminal justice system, working closely with organizations like DMACC, St. Vincent de Paul, Bridges of Iowa, and Harvest Academy to provide much-needed support and treatment.

One of Kevin's significant contributions is serving on the Advisory Board for the DMACC Criminal Justice program. This role allows him to engage and mentor students aspiring to pursue careers in public safety, helping to address the growing need for educated and talented law enforcement professionals.

Throughout his career, Kevin has received recognition for his dedication, including the Top Gun Award in his Academy Class in 1983. He was appointed as Sheriff by the Polk County Board of Supervisors in 2018 and subsequently won the election as Sheriff of Polk County in 2020. He has also been appointed to the Board of Directors for the National Sheriffs Association and the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) Council by Governor Reynolds.

Kevin's lifelong commitment to public safety and community betterment continues to make a lasting impact on the people he serves.

Alumni Early Achievement Award

Mackenzie Carlson

Kenzie Carlson, ARNP
Nurse Practitioner, Humboldt Memorial Hospital
Humboldt, IA
Diploma Practical Nursing 2011; AAS Nursing 2016

Kenzie Carlson, ARNP, is a dedicated healthcare professional who serves as a Nurse Practitioner at Humboldt Memorial Hospital. With a strong commitment to providing high-quality care, Kenzie plays a pivotal role in the healthcare landscape of her community.

Kenzie's professional journey is marked by her passion for making healthcare accessible and convenient. Her role as a Nurse Practitioner at Humboldt Memorial Hospital involves providing weekend care at the hospital's walk-in clinic, ensuring that patients have access to medical services when they need them most. Her dedication to weekend care is a testament to her commitment to her patients' well-being.

Her professional background and experiences have undoubtedly contributed to her expertise in healthcare. She is a valued member of the healthcare community, continuously striving to enhance patient experiences and outcomes.

In her role at Humboldt Memorial Hospital and beyond, Kenzie Carlson exemplifies the qualities of a compassionate and knowledgeable healthcare provider. Her commitment to accessibility and patient-centered care makes her an asset to the healthcare industry and a trusted resource for her community's healthcare needs.

Anil Mallik

Anil Mallik
Senior Account Associate, MetLife, Inc.
West Des Moines, IA
AAS Accounting 2021; Diploma in Accounting and Bookkeeping 2021; Certificates of Specialization in Accounting, Accounting for Entrepreneurs and Payroll 2020

Anil Mallik is a compassionate professional who, in addition to his role as a Senior Accounting Associate at MetLife, actively engages in community organizations that hold profound importance to him.

Anil's dedication to serving his community transcends borders, as evidenced by his role as the Vice President-International for the Association of Nepali Teraians in America since 2021. This position reflects his commitment to fostering connections and providing support to Nepali Teraians living in the United States, promoting unity and cultural preservation.

Furthermore, Anil is a member of the core committee for the Jibnath-Jogmaya Trust in Nepal, a role he has held since 2021. His involvement in this organization demonstrates his dedication to making a positive impact in his home country by contributing to initiatives that uplift and empower the community.

Anil's passion for helping others was ignited when he encountered a family in dire need. A young boy from his village faced a life-threatening accident and incurred a significant hospital bill that his family couldn't afford. Anil took to Facebook to share their story and raised funds to cover the expenses, ensuring the boy's safe return home. This act of kindness not only changed the lives of that family but also inspired Anil to continue helping those in need.

During the challenging times of the pandemic, Anil and his family faced financial hardships. Unexpectedly, they received assistance from DMACC's pandemic relief program, which provided essential support for buying food and sustenance during a difficult period. This experience reinforced Anil's belief in the kindness and humanity that can be found even in unexpected places.

Anil's commitment to community service and his willingness to lend a helping hand, whether through his professional roles or his personal endeavors, exemplify his dedication to making a positive impact in the lives of those around him.

Belange Mu​tunda

Belange Mutunda
Founder/CEO/Fashion Designer, Belange Handmade LLC
Ankeny, IA
AAS Fashion 2018

Belange Mutunda is a dynamic and accomplished CEO, Founder, and Fashion Designer based in Los Angeles, California. As the driving force behind Belange Handmade LLC, her fashion brand, Belange has made a significant impact on the fashion industry and beyond.

During her time at DMACC, Belange was actively involved in campus organizations that reflected her passion for fashion and community engagement. She served as the Community and Social Officer Leader for the DMACC Fashion Club in 2016 and took on the role of Marketing and Promotion Officer Leader for the DMACC Annual Fashion Gala in 2018. Her dedication to academic excellence is evident through her membership in the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society DMACC Chapter.

Belange's commitment to her alma mater extends beyond her student days. She currently serves as an Advisory Board Member for the Fashion Design and Interior Design Programs at DMACC, contributing her expertise and insights to the development of future fashion professionals.

In addition to her professional achievements, Belange is the founder of The BHM Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting Period Poverty in Congo by providing free menstrual supplies to low-income women. This initiative is directly funded from a portion of the sales generated through her business, demonstrating her commitment to social entrepreneurship.

Belange's accomplishments extend beyond the fashion world. She has achieved academic excellence, including being named the College of Human Sciences Student Marshal and Outstanding Senior of the Year at Iowa State University in 2020. She is also the recipient of the Fashion Scholarship Fund Case Study Award and the Civic and Social Entrepreneurship Award from the Papajohn Center for Entrepreneurship in 2019.

Apart from her professional achievements, Belange's personal journey is remarkable. She overcame language barriers, became a mother during her graduate studies, and maintained a near-perfect GPA. Her work has been featured on Project Runway, and she has designed for celebrities and collaborated with influencers. Belange's dedication to education and her generosity in offering internships to DMACC fashion students highlight her commitment to empowering the next generation of fashion professionals.

Impact Award

Ako Abdul-Samad

Ako Abdul-Samad
Founder/CEO, Creative Visions and Iowa State Representative, 34th District
Des Moines, IA
Attended from 1973 to 1996

Ako Abdul-Samad is an accomplished leader, whose life and career are marked by a deep commitment to community, education, and social progress. With a rich history of service and impactful initiatives, Ako has left an indelible mark on the state of Iowa.

Ako's journey is a testament to his dedication to social justice and education. He played a pivotal role in establishing the Free Breakfast Program through the Black Panther Party, which continues to thrive today under CFUM, celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2021. His influence also extends to the world of media, where he established the educational radio station KUCB 89.3 in Des Moines, Iowa.

An impressive achievement in Ako's life is his role in saving the DMACC Urban Campus from being removed from the community, ultimately facilitating its growth and expansion. His collaboration with the University of Northern Iowa allowed DMACC Urban Campus to offer four-year degrees, increasing educational opportunities for countless students.

Ako's dedication to curbing inner-city violence led to the creation of the Downtown Teen Program, providing a safe space for youth and young adults. This initiative resulted in a Cable TV show, teaching young individuals television production skills.

Throughout his life, Ako has been instrumental in community development, notably founding Creative Visions Human Development Institute to address gang violence and marginalized communities. His extensive leadership roles, including serving on the Des Moines School Board and being elected Vice President, highlight his commitment to education and advocacy.

Among his proudest achievements is co-founding the ISU 4U Promise program, which provides scholarships to students for a four-year degree. His accomplishments are a testament to his unwavering dedication to improving the lives of others.

Outside his public service, Ako has led a fascinating life, from spending time with President Nelson Mandela to publishing a poetry collection and producing cable TV programs. His journey is further enriched by his love for animals, sparked during his time at DMACC, where he confronted his fear of snakes and developed a deep affinity for a wide range of creatures.


2022 Award Recipients

Outstanding Alumni Award 

Shawn Loney

Shawn Loney
VP of Pleasant Hill Operations, Dee Zee Inc.
Ankeny, IA
AAS Tool and Diemaking 1993

A model student in the Tool and Die program at DMACC in the early 1990s, Shawn Loney has made a tremendous contribution to the operations of Iowa-based manufacturer Dee Zee.

Shawn earned a diploma as a Job Machinist in 1991 before moving to Seattle to work as a machinist at Boeing. He eventually returned to Iowa and completed his AAS in Tool & Die in 1993. From there he worked in a variety of shops including John Deere Waterloo Works. He eventually landed at Dee Zee in 2000 where he worked his way up from Tool & Die Maker to Manager of Tool & Die and eventually to Vice President of Pleasant Hill Operations, the position he continues to hold today.

At Dee Zee, Shawn has been involved in several complex projects that has helped the organization grow – notable among them a project that included the tooling for the convertible roof of the Mitsubishi Eclipse. The project helped Dee Zee move into the automotive stamping business, which was a huge accomplishment.

In addition to h​is work at Dee Zee, Shawn has remained connected to DMACC. When DMACC started an apprenticeship program in 2007, Shawn stepped up to volunteer his time as a member of the board and worked to ensure Dee Zee supported the program.

In addition to Shawn, his wife Sandra is a DMACC grad. And the couple's sons Brandyn and Cory both graduated from the Tool & Die program in 2016.​

Timothy Meals

Timothy Meals
Story County Attorney, Story County Attorney's Office
Ames, IA
AS Legal Assistant 1994

Timothy Meals' career began in manufacturing, where he worked for 11 years until the plant in which he worked closed. Left scrambling, he accepted a job as a maintenance man at a hotel while he contemplated his future.

The single father of two young children, he struggled to make ends meet. He aspired to do more for himself and his family. With an ambitious goal of one day becoming the Assistant Story County Attorney, he enrolled at DMACC Urban Campus in 1992 at the age of 31.

Within two years, he had earned his AS degree as a Legal Assistant. From there he graduated with a BS in Sociology with distinction from Iowa State. In 1999, he completed law school at Drake, earning his JD with honors.

Tim achieved his goal in 2000, when he was hired in the Story County Attorney's office. Since then, he has been recognized with several honors. In 2009, he was recognized by The Iowa Governor's Traffic Safety Bureau Commission for his work in reducing injuries and loss in OWI and traffic crashes in the state. In 2017, he was recognized with the Iowa County Attorney's Association Staff Attorney Award of Merit.

And in 2020, he was appointed by the Story County Board of Supervisors as Story County Attorney with the full support of every attorney in his office. In November of the same year, he ran unopposed for formal election as the county attorney.

Tim has been lauded by his peers for his servant's heart, vast knowledge, and integrity in representing the people of Story County. At DMACC we have benefitted from his continued support as a guest speaker, student mentor and more.​

Demir Miljkovic

Demir Miljkovic
Captain – Technical Rescue, Urbandale Fire Department
​Urbandale, IA
AGS Paramedic Specialist 2013

A native of Bosnia, Demir Miljkovic spent much of his childhood in a warzone. When his family emigrated to the United States, Demir saw it as an opportunity to pursue a career where he could express his passion for helping others.

As a student at Urbandale High School he found that passion – quite by accident. On his first day of school in a new country, there was a scheduled fire drill. Unfamiliar with anything other than air raid sirens, Demir sprinted for cover in an interior bathroom. It took a group of teachers and a translator to convince him that it was just a fire drill and he was not in danger.

In the days that followed his English as a second language class did some fire department and fire safety training and he was hooked.

During his senior year, he earned certification as a Firefighter/EMT. In the weeks after his high school graduation he was hired full-time as a member of the Urbandale Fire Department. Not one to rest after earning his position, Demir enrolled at DMACC with an eye toward becoming a Paramedic Specialist. He earned his AA in 2011 and from there attended Waldorf College where he earned his BS in Fire Science Administration with Summa Cum Laude honors. Today, he is nearing completion of a Master's degree in Public Administration.

In tandem with his education, he has steadily moved up at the Urbandale Fire Department. In 2013, he was promoted to Driver/Engineer, in 2015 he was named Lieutenant, and in 2019 he earned the rank of Captain where he currently serves as the Shift Supervisor. In addition, he is tasked as the technical rescue lead for the department. Twice he has been recognized with awards for his excellence in training.

In his free time, Demir launched Better Builders in 2015. The construction company has grown into a multi-million-dollar operation and one of the best outdoor living companies in Iowa.​​

Jay Slight

Jay Slight
Head Principal, Northview Middle School, Ankeny Community Schools
Urbandale, IA
AA Liberal Arts 1991

From his time at DMACC through a variety of educational leadership positions to his role today as principal of Northview Middle School in Ankeny, Jay Slight has always been a team player. It is that commitment to involving others in addressing challenges that has earned him a reputation as an incredible educator and administrator.

Jay's journey in education started on DMACC's Boone Campus. As a student and basketball player, he quickly gained the respect of his teachers, teammates, and coaches. He earned his AA degree in 1991 and then moved on to Iowa State University where he completed his BS in biology.

As a teacher, a coach – Jay returned to serve as an assistant basketball coach at DMACC between 1999 and 2001 – and an administrator, Jay has been noted for his ability to build teams that turned around struggling schools.

In 2003, shortly after completing his Master's degree in Educational Leadership at Drake, he accepted the position of Head Principal at North Nodaway Middle and High School in Hopkins, Missouri. The school was in danger of losing its accreditation from the Missouri Department of Education. In short order, Jay worked with the faculty to implement strategies that saw the school make exponential progress on its annual performance report and ensuring its continued accreditation.

As the high school principal at Creston High School in southern Iowa, Jay oversaw a significant increase in reading and math scores across the school. In addition, ACT scores hit a five year high during his tenure, exceeding the state average for the first time in school history.

From Creston, Jay assumed the position of principal at Storm Lake Middle School in northwest Iowa, where he again oversaw an increase in reading and math scores. The school was also recognized as Commendable on the Iowa School Performance Profile.

Today, as principal of Northview Middle School, Jay has been praised by his peers for his commitment to students, his vision for success and his enthusiasm for working with others to create a better environment for learning.​

Alumni Early Achievement Award

Callie Jo Ayers

Callie Ayers
Care Coordinator, Mary Greeley Medical Center
Ogden, IA
Diploma Practical Nursing 2011; AAS Nursing 2012

Callie Ayers earned her associate's degree in Nursing from DMACC in 2012. While gaining professional experience as a nurse, she worked toward her Bachelor's of Science degree in nursing, which she earned from Chamberlain College of Nursing in 2014. With a passion toward serving others and a vision to lead, she continued her studies, eventually earning a Master's in Healthcare Administration from Des Moines University in 2017.

Today, she serves as the RN Care Coordinator at Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames. Her duties require her to facilitate seamless care for patients from admission to discharge. In the high-pressure position, she has been recognized for her ability to manage complex situations and for contributing her depth of knowledge as a member of several hospital-wide quality improvement committees and initiatives.

Callie also gives back to DMACC as an adjunct instructor in the nursing program. In her service to DMACC she has covered clinical and lab needs on the Boone Campus and has even transitioned to offering virtual clinical classes across the college.

Her coworkers, colleagues and students universally recognize Callie for her commitment to the field of nursing, her professionalism, and her ability to pass on her knowledge to the next generation of care givers.

Caleb Crossett

Caleb Crossett
Chef, Castor Corvallis
Corvallis, OR
AAS Culinary Arts 2019

Currently the Chef at Castor Corvallis in Corvallis, Oregon, Caleb Crossett is a 2019 graduate of the Iowa Culinary Institute. Caleb's life has been dedicated to feeding others.

He began cooking at the Marriott in Coralville at the age of 15. From there he moved on to pursue his degree at the ICI, working at Cheese Bar in Des Moines while he completed his studies. His instructors note his passion for “foraging," or finding wild edibles like mushrooms to use in his cooking. This enthusiasm has served him well. As an emerging talent on the local food scene, just since 2019:

  • Caleb has been selected for a Marge Anderson Scholarship -- which includes participation in the renowned French Chef Exchange…
  • He has earned 1st place Judges Choice at the Des Moines WineFest Pork and Pinot Pairing contest…
  • And was featured at the Young Chefs Dinner Series with Chef Diego at Proof DSM.

Caleb worked under ICI grad and fellow Marge Anderson scholarship winner Chef Brett McClavy at Cheese Bar. While there he gained extensive experience in working with a variety of high-end ingredients, gained knowledge in developing menus, and aided in the hosting of several large-scale events.

Combined with his schooling – which he is quick to note was one of the most cherished times of his young life – Caleb's technical excellence and flair for the delicious helped him land his current position in Oregon.

While he says the “foraging game" is completely different in Oregon he is blazing a trail for himself on the west coast.

Impact​ Award 

Jeff Fiechtner

Jeff Fiechtner
Retired PE/Adaptive PE Teacher, Ben Franklin MS, Fargo Public Schools
Fargo, ND
Attended Fall 1976 to Spring 1978

A native of Fargo, North Dakota, Jeff Fiechtner's talent on the baseball diamond helped him see the world. But after starring at DMACC during in the late 1970s, a cancer battle almost derailed it all. Diagnosed with a form of cancer that only had a 10% survival rate at the time, Jeff endured 26 months of chemotherapy before earning a clean bill of health.
In emerging from his cancer battle, Jeff went on to win two National Championships at Grand Canyon University. From there, he played two seasons in the San Diego Padres organization, four years in western Canada and three years in Australia. As he moved from country to country the wins and accolades accumulated, with Jeff earning several league championships and MVP awards.
While he loved his life on the road, his hometown called and in the late 1980s he returned to Fargo to teach and coach.
As a Physical Education and Adaptive Physical Education teacher at Ben Franklin Middle School, he has served thousands of students, instilling in them a love of activity.
​As the baseball coach at Fargo North High School, he has been nominated as the National Coach of the Year three times. Additionally, he was inducted into the American Legion Post 2 Hall of Fame in 2007 for his service as head baseball coach with the club.​


2021 Award Recipients

Outstanding Alumni Award 

Steven G. Barger

Steven G. Barger
Program Chair and Professor, DMACC Criminal Justice Program
Indianola, IA​

Known affectionately around the Ankeny Campus as “Super Trooper,” Steven Barger is passionate about preparing the next generation of criminal justice professionals for success.

After earning his AA degree on the Ankeny Campus in 1993, Steven enrolled in the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy. Upon completing academy, he began a career in law enforcement that included service as an Iowa State Trooper. In his time with the Iowa State Patrol, Steve was tasked with several high level assignments, including serving in the special agent division of criminal investigation, the special agent division of narcotics enforcement, and the special agent division of intelligence.

His work in intelligence led to a role on the Law Enforcement Intelligence Network where he continues to serve as a member, instructor and team leader. He has vast experience in narcotics and deep cover, participating in thousands of undercover operations over the years.

In addition to his law enforcement duties, Steven has been an invaluable member of the DMACC family as a guest speaker, adjunct, faculty member, and now chair of the department. His professional and academic pursuits combined a few years back when he was involved in a sting operation that required an undercover narcotics buy just minutes before he was due to teach a class

The consummate professional, Steve completed the buy and immediately headed to class. Still in his undercover outfit that included long hair, earrings, and a tattered biker t-shirt, it was to tell whether he was there to log into the computer or to steal it.

Among the most respected members of the DMACC family, Steven has had an immeasurable impact on hundreds of current and future members of Iowa’s law enforcement community.

Katelynn E. Davis

Katelynn E. Davis
Chief Pathology Resident, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Baltimore, MD

Like many DMACC students, Dr. Katelynn Davis’ educational journey took several twists and turns. And like so many others before her, she saw each challenge as an opportunity on her way to earning her AA degree on the Ankeny Campus.​​

Her schooling at DMACC served as a springboard as she completed her Bachelor of Science degree at Iowa State University in 2012 and then completed her Medical degree at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in 2018. Dr. Davis now serves as the Chief Pathology Resident at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.

Dr. Davis credits her time at DMACC with helping her to understand that in moments when we stumble, we must pick ourselves up and give it another try. She says that she would not be the educator, mentor, curriculum developer, chief resident, or medical doctor that she is today without all those formative experiences.

Pulling from her time at DMACC, Dr. Davis says she gained valuable insight in working as a tutor, as she was able to see how others process information. This enabled her to adapt her teaching style to match the learner. That serves her well today in her role as Chief Pathology Resident.

Serving as the Wellness Chair in the Department of Pathology, she was able to apply her soft skills gained over the years to earn praise in helping residents maintain morale during the incredibly stressful early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the many initiatives she led was a system that allowed residents to continue to have their meals served during the pandemic, lending a sense of normalcy while reducing stress during a chaotic time.

Dr. Davis continues to make an impact at Johns Hopkins in a variety of ways including leading efforts to improve resident workspaces, increase didactic and interactive conferences, enhance communication between departments, and create a moonlighting system to reduce the impact of decreased staffing.

Reflecting on the twist and turns that have brought her to where she is today, Dr. Davis says that being someone who once struggled to speak up, she has found that advocating for others gives her the strength to speak loudly and confidently.

Don Tate

Don Tate
Author-Illustrator and Public Speaker
Austin, TX

The written word in is Don Tate’s blood. The nephew of Eleanora E. Tate, a former journalist at the Des Moines Register and Tribune, and Iowa Bystander, and children’s author, Eleanora inspired Don to pursue a literary career.

Calling Eleanora “the inspiration of my own career as a book creator,” Don began his literary journey on DMACC Ankeny Campus, where he earned an AA in Commercial Arts and Advertising in 1984. His journey at DMACC was nothing short of incredible as, in addition to taking classes, he had sole custody of his baby daughter, born just days after he graduated from high school. Reflecting on that time, Don remembers the challenges, but also speaks fondly of the way he was supported by his instructors and fellow students.

From those humble beginnings, Don has developed an international reputation as an award-winning author, and the illustrator of numerous critically acclaimed books for children.

In addition to winning dozens of awards for his work, Don is also one of the founding hosts of the blog The Brown Bookshelf – a blog designed to push awareness of the myriad of African American voices writing for young readers, with book reviews, and author and illustrator interviews.

Don is also a member and supporter of the We Need Diverse Books initiative, a non-profit and a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people. He frequently speaks at schools, public libraries and writing conferences, and participates in book festivals.

An amazing ambassador for the value of a DMACC education, Don is a deserving winner of a 2021 Outstanding Alumni Award. He adds that award to the Student of the Year Award he received more than 30 years ago, earning him a special distinction as both a Student and Alumni honoree that we are not sure any other of the thousands upon thousands of students who have attended DMACC over the years can claim.

Joseph Weber

Joseph Weber
Director of Youth Ministry, Prairie Ridge Church
Ankeny, IA

College wasn’t a breeze for Joseph Weber. Not sure of what direction he wanted to take, he struggled in his early years on DMACC’s Boone Campus. But with support from instructors, fellow students, and DMACC counselors, Joseph worked hard and earned his Associate’s degree in Liberal Arts on DMACC Boone Campus in 2010.

Upon graduation, he felt called to serve others and became a Youth Pastor in Boone. During his seven years in that role, he tackled the struggles of his youth and worked to build relationships with students, provide encouragement, stability and guidance, and lead the next generation of parishioners.​

Inspired by his work in the ministry, he returned to school, earning his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City. Today, he is the Director of Youth Ministry at Prairie Ridge Church in Ankeny where he continues to mentor and support youth and families from across the region, and participates in an international ministry that serves the less fortunate.

His roots in Boone still run deep as he was active in the community as a supporter of local schools, students and staff. Over the years, Joseph has regularly organized events like Literacy Nights, STEM Nights, Glow Stick Dances, Block Parties, and more….designed to boost pride in Boone’s schools and students. He so believes in the importance of education that he has run for the Boone School Board.

Lauded for his ability to see a need and activate a plan to address it, Joseph is a great ambassador for Boone and the DMACC Boone Campus, and a deserving winner of a 2021 DMACC Outstanding Alumni Award.

Alumni Early Achievement Award

Hannah Jagler

Hannah Jagler
Federal Official Court Reporter, US District Court, Southern District of Illinois
Fairview Heights, IL

Confident in the skills she built in the Realtime Reporting program on DMACC’s Newton Campus, all Hannah Jagler wanted was a chance to work in a high-profile courthouse.

For months she sent resumes to courthouses across the country hoping to catch the eye of the right person.

Just as she began to get discouraged at the lack of replies, Hannah got the call that she says changed everything for her and her family. That call came from the United States District Court in the Southern District of Illinois. Based in East St. Louis, the job provided the type of opportunity that Hannah had dreamed about for her three years as a Realtime Reporter.

Upon acceptance of the position, Hannah, her husband Justin and their two children, Aurora and Valerie, moved south. In her position as a Federal Official Court Reporter, Hannah prepares verbatim transcripts during federal court cases to be used by attorneys, judges and litigants. No matter the type of case, from a controversial criminal trial to a government corruption trial, in her role, Hannah must produce a complete and accurate record of the proceedings.

Active in student organizations through her graduation in 2017, Hannah remains involved in a number of professional organizations today, including the National Court Reporters Association and United States Court Reporters Association. She has also earned a number of skills-based certifications and honors including being a Registered Professional Reporter, Certified Realtime Reporter, Registered Merit Reporter, and Federal Realtime Reporter.

In addition to working her dream job, Hannah enjoys spending time with her family, birding – a hobby she didn’t anticipate falling so deeply into – and roller skating. Hannah says she always has her skates with her and has even skated around a courthouse or two (with permission, of course) on her lunch breaks.

Hannah’s rapid rise to the federal court has been impressive and we congratulate her on a well-deserved 2021 DMACC Alumni Early Achievement Award.

Mohsina Mandil

Mohsina Mandil
Executive Assistant at Earthschooling, The BEarth Institute & President of Waldorf Books
Windsor Heights, IA

While a student on DMACC Ankeny and Urban Campuses, Mosi Mandil was introduced to research. Spurring Mosi’s interest in advocacy, the research project was part of her Introduction to Sociology honors project. Titled, “Pleading for Freedom: A Fifty State Analysis” the project’s poster presentation was included in the 2014 Iowa Sociological Association Conference, and the 2014 Minnesota Academy of Science Conference.

The experience excited Mosi and inspired her to pursue a path that has seen her publish multiple essays, participate in a range of research projects, and volunteer in a number of capacities aimed at advocating for vulnerable women.

She was a member of the honors program during her years at DMACC. Mosi earned her Associate’s degree in Liberal Arts from DMACC in 2014, her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Iowa in 2017, and her Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Iowa in 2021.

Today, she serves as the Executive Assistant at Earthschooling and President of Waldorf Books. In her role, Mosi is an educator, college level tutor, and helps to develop the school’s international online curriculum along with the Avecina Institute curriculum. Mosi is also responsible for editing instructional videos, and providing art and research for the BEarth Institute.

Outside of her work, Mosi is tireless volunteer for DMACC. While a student she was involved as a member of the Honors Program, Phi Theta Kappa, a peer tutor in the Academic Achievement Center, and as an actress/director at Huff Theater. She has maintained her DMACC connection by serving on the Honors Advisory Council, Honors Alumni Chapter Coordinator, and the Honors Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.

Among her notable contributions to DMACC is the founding of the Honors Alumni Chapter of the DMACC Alumni Association; developing – and later evaluating – the HON100 universal shell course; organizing the Honors Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee; updating the honors webpages; planning the 2020 National Collegiate Honors Conference and the 2021 Upper Mideast Regional Honors Council Conference; and presenting at a DMACC SEMSS colloquium.

2020 Award Recipients

Outstanding Alumni Award 

William Couser

William Couser
Owner, Couser Cattle Co.
Nevada, IA
Diesel Mechanic Diploma 1975 – Ankeny Campus

Whether it is working cattle on his family farm or spearheading one of the largest renewable energy projects Iowa has ever seen, Bill Couser has earned a reputation for doing the right things for the right reasons. A 1973 graduate of Nevada High School and a 1975 graduate of the DMACC Diesel and Heavy Equipment Repair program on the Ankeny Campus, Bill owns Couser Cattle Company and has been instrumental in the establishment of Lincoln Way Energy, a 50 million gallon ethanol plant owned by local investors.

Bill’s list of accomplishments is long, including induction into the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association Hall of Fame alongside his wife Nancy, a winner of the National Beef Quality Assurance Award, and recognition as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Environmental Stewardship Award. Much of Bill’s recognition is centered on his love for the land.

“The core concept of their combined business ventures is simple,” says Dwayne Faidley, Professor and Program Co-Chair of DMACC’s Agribusiness program. Dwayne nominated Bill for the Outstanding Alumni Award. “They want to add value to what they have, replace what they use and waste as little as possible while fulfilling basic human needs.”

In supporting his nomination, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association CEO Matt Deppe lauded Bill’s impact on agriculture in Iowa.

“Bill has always been on the forefront of issues in agriculture,” Matt says, “and has used his own farm to demonstrate innovations that have a positive impact on animal welfare, water quality, soil health, and sustainability. From his involvement in the ethanol industry to Beef Quality Assurance research projects, there is no aspect of the crop/cattle cycle that Bill has not positively influenced.”

Despite such a rich background in agriculture – in 2010 Bill was named one of “10 People Who Matter” by Time Magazine – Bill’s proudest accomplishment has little to do with the farm.

“My family!” Bill says when asked about what he is most proud of. He and his wife have two adult children, Casey and Tim. “I’m proud to have a mom and dad who supported me and a family that has been a true blessing, especially my wife. To think that she picked me is still unbelievable. I am so blessed.”

Recently, the Couser’s launched the Modern Ag Experience Farm, designed to provide an immersive experience for students and farmers. Bill sees it as his opportunity to pay back all the wonderful experiences he has had in his career.

“We have been so lucky to open up our farm to students and guests from around the world,” he says. “To be able to teach the ag story and bring people into the 21st century is a true gift.”

Jocelyn Kovarik

Jocelyn Kovarik 
Assistant Coach/Advisor, DMACC Boone Campus
Ames, IA
AS Business Administration 2007 – Boone Campus

A two-time basketball All-American while at DMACC, Jocelyn Kovarik has returned to Boone Campus to pay forward her experience as a student and athlete. After a successful career on the hardwood at DMACC and then Iowa State University, Jocelyn jumped at the opportunity to return to Boone as an advisor and assistant women’s basketball coach.

DMACC Provost Drew Nelson nominated Jocelyn for the Outstanding Alumni Award after watching her work with students on campus and in the gym.

“I am extremely impressed with Jocelyn in her roles as advisor, coach and mentor,” Drew says. “She is terrific in reaching students. She makes the effort to get to know them as people and to know their goals, their strengths and their weaknesses, and she works with them to help them achieve their objectives.”

Jocelyn completed her studies at DMACC in 2007, graduating with an Associate of Science degree in Business Administration. She then attended Iowa State University, where she played basketball and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance. Jocelyn then earned her Master’s degree in Education with an emphasis in Higher Education in at Iowa State in 2016.

While she has competed at the highest level in college athletics and has been an incredible addition to Boone Campus, Jocelyn says her greatest accomplishment has nothing to do with competition.

“I am most proud of our 18 month old daughter,” Jocelyn says. She and husband Jeremiah—also a DMACC Boone Campus graduate—welcomed Paisley in 2018. “I am also proud to hold the career blocks record at DMACC and the single season blocks record at Iowa State.”

“We are privileged to have her working on Boone Campus,” Drew adds. “She is our alumna and every day she makes a positive impact.”

Scott Ocken

Scott Ocken
Retired, DMACC Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean, Industry and Technology
Ankeny, IA
AAS Auto Technology attended 1975-1977 but was awarded in 1991 – Ankeny Campus

Few have had more of an influence on automotive technicians in Central Iowa than Scott Ocken. A graduate of the DMACC Auto Technology program on the Ankeny Campus, Scott served as the Vice President for Academic Affairs in the Industry and Technology program for years before recently retiring.

In his leadership role, he was instrumental in helping the Automotive Technology program—along with several others—grow to better serve employers in the region. The DMACC Automotive Technology program is recognized as one of the best in the Midwest and has turned out hundreds of automotive technicians currently working in Iowa.

“Scott provided leadership to our programs and support us in advocating for students across the college and within the community,” says Megan Snook-Lautner, a Pathway Navigator in Industry & Technology at DMACC, in support of Scott’s nomination for the Outstanding Alumni Award. “His unique perspective as a graduate from this area also brought a valuable voice to discussions and strategies when looking at recruitment and retention efforts.”

In addition to having a meaningful impact on students, Scott has left a lasting impression on his coworkers.

“Scott took it upon himself to provide exceptional support and service to all faculty and staff,” says Industry & Technology Coordinator Megan Ellsworth. “In my experience with Scott, he was always willing to pitch in during times of need, especially if it involved student success. I have never met someone so student focused.”

Even in retirement, Scott’s passion for pushing students to new heights remains.

“While many of us only knew Scott in his roles as Academic Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs, his regular actions across campus demonstrated that the titles of ‘student’ and ‘graduate’ are some of his proudest positions,” Snook-Lautner says. “His impact on our college and community as a graduate and leader will be visible for years to come.”

Taufeek Shah

Taufeek Shah
CEO/Founder, Lola’s Fine Hot Sauce
West Des Moines, IA
AA Liberal Arts 2008 – Ankeny Campus

With a pinch of innovation, a dash of marketing acumen and a heaping helping of hard work, Taufeek Shah has turned a family recipe into an international brand. The Founder and CEO of Lola’s Fine Hot Sauces, Taufeek graduated from DMACC with a Liberal Arts degree in 2008. Today, his hot sauce is enjoyed around the world.

Taufeek says entrepreneurialism is in his blood.

“When I was 13 years old, I decided to be a daredevil and ramp off a six-foot high loading dock on my mountain bike,” he says. “I fell face-first and wound up in the hospital for three months. I was lucky to survive and that experience pushed me to launch my first entrepreneurial stunt.”

That stunt was selling “fancy pens” that his mother, a physician, would receive from drug company reps. From there he branched out into selling baseball cards and launching his first eBay store at age 15. He says this experience continues to help him to this day.

“I have a passion for helping and a passion for delivering quality,” Taufeek says. “All of this combines together with my passion for food and family to lead me to where I am with the Lola’s brand.”

In addition to creating seven different hot sauces, five flavors of salsa and a bloody mary mix under the Lola’s brand, Taufeek has also been instrumental in helping launch the first Filipino fusion restaurant in Iowa. The eatery was recently recognized as one of the Top 25 Filipino restaurants in the United States.

In nominating him for the Outstanding Alumni Award, Chris Wood, Chief Development Officer of Make-A-Wish Iowa, cites Taufeek’s passion to pitch in … and partner.

“He donates his product and time to support local missions that align with his philanthropic passions,” Chris says. “One of my favorite attributes of Taufeek is his desire to constantly find partnership opportunities and develop collaborations and initiatives with other small business owners. He always finds ways to be actively involved in all that is going on in Central Iowa.”

In addition to serving Make-A-Wish, Taufeek volunteers for Goodwill of Central Iowa and is a member of the Board at Proteus. Totally on brand, Taufeek’s partnership with Goodwill is pushing two businesses forward.

“Taufeek decided to work with Goodwill to provide warehousing and fulfillment for Lola’s,” says Eric Prosperi, Director of Commercial Services at Goodwill of Central Iowa. “We warehouse the product and our program participants help pick, pack and ship eCommerce and other customer orders. Our participants gain valuable work experiencing, and a paycheck and other support to prepare them for a full-time job in warehouse packaging and logistics.”

Having the opportunity to work so closely with Taufeek has helped shape Eric’s perception of DMACC as well.

“It’s clear that Taufeek’s passion for business and commitment to his community is more than just a flash in the pan,” he says. “This guy is going places and DMACC was a step on the road worth celebrating!”

Taufeek Shah CEO/Founder, Lola’s Fine Hot Sauce

Alumni Early Achievement Award

Tiffany Allison

Tiffany Allison
Founder/Executive Director, Soaring Hearts Foundation
Des Moines, IA
AA Criminal Justice 2014 – Ankeny Campus

In the blink of an eye, Tiffany Allison’s life took a dramatic turn at the hands of an abusive boyfriend.

The attack, which occurred in 2009, sparked a passion in Tiffany for advocacy. Today she is recognized regionally as a violent crimes victim advocate and the founder of Soaring Hearts Foundation.

Soaring Hearts Foundation was launched in 2014 while Tiffany was a student in the DMACC Criminal Justice Program on the Ankeny Campus. The foundation, which is led by Tiffany and includes a staff of five, advocates for victims of violent crime from coast to coast by drafting and lobbying for legislation, providing speakers, raising awareness of topics like veteran suicide, financially supporting grassroots advocacy efforts, and more.

Tiffany earned her Associate’s Degree from DMACC in 2015, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and Mass Media Journalism from Simpson College in 2019. In addition to her work in the foundation, Tiffany is a Licensed Investigator and founder of investigation firm Lux Legal Services. She is also a licensed bail agent.

Her commitment to advocacy has resulted in well-deserved recognition both locally and nationally. Tiffany earned the AllState Foundation Purple Heart Award in 2017, the Polk County Crisis & Advocacy Wayne McCracken Memorial Award in 2016, and the Crime Fighter Award for Community Services in 2015. In nominating her for the Alumni Early Achievement Award, DMACC Criminal Justice Professor Samantha O’Hara, PhD, lauds Tiffany’s work in the community.

“Tiffany has provided a great deal of service to the Des Moines area,” Samantha says. “Tiffany was a member of the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, Crime Victim Division’s biennial Victim Justice planning committee for several years. She provides a voice from a victim’s perspective, to ensure that conferences continue to be victim-centered and empowering.”

Polk County Crisis & Advocacy Services Counselor/Advocate Jason Hubbartt echoes Samantha’s sentiment.

“Tiffany has taken her victimization and turned it into a strength to help others overcome their challenges,” he says. “I greatly admire Tiffany’s commitment to the field of criminology, victimology, and trauma psychology as she helps local citizens through their traumatic situations and court-related proceedings.”

Providing a sense of empowerment is important to Tiffany in her work with the foundation. She says the ability to help others has aided her in processing her own trauma.

“Now instead of crying when I tell my story, I get to cry when I am told how it changed a life,” she says. Tiffany continues to assist in hosting DMACC’s National Crime Victims’ Week activities. “This has truly been a bittersweet journey. I am forever changed. I am so fortunate to be able to impact the lives of others, all while partnering with some of the most passionate and driven people in the world.”

Tiffany Allison Founder/Executive Director, Soaring Hearts Foundation

Erica S. Carrick

Erica S. Carrick
Director of Nursing, Primary Health Care Inc.
Urbandale, IA
Diploma Practical Nursing 2016; AAS Nursing 2017 – Urban Campus

"I am thankful and grateful for this award. This was very unexpected and I feel so appreciated that my former instructor Amanda Tollari took the time to recognize my achievements. My nursing education has provided a strong foundation for me and I can't say enough about the nursing program. The instructors, Amanda Tollari and Kris Bush to name a couple were instrumental in my success along with my classmates' success. These instructors challenged our growth through asking the "whys" and truly understanding the nursing process. It was through this program that I have continued to have success in my career. DMACC should be so proud of this program and the continued impact each graduate makes on so many levels. I am honored and blessed to be a DMACC nursing student graduate and alumni."​ 

Even with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Northern Iowa and a Master’s Degree in Public Health from Des Moines University already on her resume, Erica Carrick longed for more fulfillment in her career. With a passion for caring for others, she sought an opportunity to get closer to the bedside by enrolling in the evening/part-time Nursing program at DMACC Urban Campus.

Erica, who now serves as the Director of Nursing at Primary Health Care in Des Moines and occasionally picks up shifts as a nurse at Broadlawns Medical Center, says earning her nursing degree was a proud moment that has allowed her to fulfill her passion for serving others. 

“One of my greatest accomplishments was completing the DMACC nursing program as a busy mom of two children and working full-time in an administrative career,” Erica says. “During my time at DMACC, I constantly found creative ways to study and brought books wherever I was. My children could have passed at least a few of the exam questions through my nursing education!”

During her time on Urban Campus, Erica left a lasting impression on staff and students. In nominating her for the Alumni Early Achievement Award, instructor Amanda Tollari, RN, MSN, says Erica’s involvement in extracurricular activities was laudable.

“Erica was an excellent student who was very involved in starting the nursing club AUSNA (Ankeny Urban Student Nurses Association),” Amanda says. “As an alumna, Erica has continued to partner with AUSNA on various projects. She remembered the unique needs of AUSNA and assisted with service projects after she graduated. She has volunteered her time to come in and be part of a professional development panel and answer questions from current students.”

Erica says that giving back helps her continue to move forward.

“Since graduation I have never stopped learning or growing,” she says. “My time at DMACC regularly reminds me of my favorite Thomas Edison quote: ‘Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work’.”

To a person, those in the Nursing Program at DMACC remember Erica as one who never passes up an opportunity.

“She has been a nursing advocate for our part-time program and resource options for the working adult returning to school,” says Dr. Kendra Ericson, DMACC Director of Nursing. “Her leadership skills an innovative thinking have proven invaluable within our nursing programs.”

“It is fairly unusual for someone who recently graduated from nursing school to secure a position like Erica’s with so much responsibility,” DMACC Nursing instructor Steve Orazem, RN, MSN, NE-BC adds. “Erica is certainly a graduate that DMACC can be proud of.”

Impact​ Award 

Nic Barrick

Nic Barrick
Head of Design and Innovation, All Square Cabinet Co.
Johnston, IA
Attended DMACC Ankeny Campus for 57 credit hours

Nic Barrick is the first to tell others that his time at DMACC was instrumental in his success. It was his coursework in CAD—which was cut short by a pair of open heart surgeries—that laid the groundwork for his ascension into a leadership role as the Head of Design and Innovation at All Square Cabinet Co. in Indianola.

“Nic naturally fosters an environment of curiosity, synthesized with a strategy to maximize the company in a way that will allow it to adapt, grow and realize future opportunities,” says his wife, Kelly, in supporting Nic’s nomination for the Impact Award. “Initially, his education in CAD at DMACC helped him start his journey designing residential kitchens. Then in the downturn of housing he moved on to structural steel tower manufacturing for agriculture projects. Now he is manufacturing commercial cabinetry. His professional accomplishments speak to the impact he has had utilizing his capabilities in these unique industries.”

Nic’s combination of technical skills and positive disposition pushed his current employer to go the extra mile to bring him onto the team.

“I aggressively recruited Nic to AllSquare,” says company President Brad Warren in supporting Nic’s nomination. “He hit the ground running in improving day-to-day tasks. But knowing that he is always looking for a new challenge, I have had him partner with me on a number of strategic initiatives to position the company for further growth.”

Among those initiatives are steering the rebrand of the business to improve its perception in the market, leading the implementation of a new design and fabrication software, and assuming the lead role in researching and integrating a new residential line of cabinetry that will open AllSquare to new markets.

While the professional accomplishments are nice, Nic says it is a recent side project that has brought him the most satisfaction.

In 2018, Nic spent six months organizing a class from Base Camp Iowa, a program that gathers a dozen junior high students for a week to work together on an intensive, hands-on project. Nic supported the group as they built a wind turbine to power a compressor that provides free energy to Summit Product’s 70,000 square foot manufacturing facility.

“How cool is that?” Nic says of the project. “Being a part of Base Camp Iowa is one of my greatest accomplishments.”

“He has a huge heart for bringing out the best in people,” says former coworker Larry Stayner in supporting Nic’s nomination. “I highly recommend him for this award.”

Nic Barrick Head of Design and Innovation, All Square Cabinet Co.