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DMACC receives innovation award for Google-supported tech training

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DMACC receives innovation award for Google-supported tech training

Nov 29, 2023 | 7:00 pm ET
By Brooklyn Draisey
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DMACC receives innovation award for Google-supported tech training
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Google Student Inclusion Programs Program Manager Dawn Kuenzi speaks with students at DMACC’s Ankeny campus on Nov. 29, 2023. (Photo by Brooklyn Draisey/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Des Moines Area Community College is receiving recognition from Community Colleges for Iowa for its Google-supported TechWise program, which provides students with programming skills needed to help them thrive in the growing industry.

Community Colleges for Iowa awarded DMACC’s TechWise program with the Outstanding Innovation Award, which is given to programs that “demonstrates commitment to innovation, creativity, and continuous improvement.”

DMACC President Rob Denson and Carroll Campus Provost Joel Lundstrom said they’re honored by the award and the partnership with Google and TalentSprint in the program, which connects participants with training and mentorship in technical and professional development skills.

“I think it’s a statement of a lot of people’s hard work, but really the students being accepting of trying something that sounded too good to be true,” Lundstrom said. “I think they really took a leap in that cohort one not knowing what it’d be like, and they kind of paved the way for the next couple of cohorts, and that’s been nice.”

The community college, only one of two across the country included in the program alongside six four-year universities, placed 13 students in TechWise’s first cohort after its national launch in February 2022. DMACC more than doubled the number of students in its second group, and will announce the third cohort once students are chosen in early 2024.

The 18-month program will admit cohorts of students each spring as long as the partnership continues. Students in the program receive their training for free, and are given $5,000 to participate.

Training is completed in addition to normal classes, and students work with mentors from TalentSprint, Google and DMACC to learn the skills required for software engineering. They collaborate with teams from different participating universities on projects and meet industry professionals, making relationships that will last far past graduation.

Google Student Inclusion Programs Program Manager Dawn Kuenzi visited DMACC’s Ankeny campus Wednesday ahead of the awards ceremony to speak with students, both in the TechWise program and not. She said Google is proud to sponsor the TechWise program and she was happy to be here to celebrate DMACC’s recognition, meet with prospective participants and get to know current cohort members better.

“The student inclusion programs are about the students, so hearing from the students about how they’re experiencing it, it’s incredibly important,” Kuenzi said. “They are the program.”

Joel Torres, a current DMACC student and TechWise cohort member, said he’s enjoyed working in a team environment with his fellow students on projects like creating an educational game about coding. While he said he hopes to make a career in cybersecurity after graduating, the professional relationships and skills he’s developed during his time in TechWise can serve him wherever he decides to go next.

“I think regardless of if I was to specifically use the programming skills I learned in the program, I think the soft skills like working in team environments, consistently trying to be on time and fulfill deadlines, things of that nature would be of great use within any career I choose to pursue,” Torres said.

TechWise student Jennifer Larsen agreed, adding that she and other participants are encouraged to learn how to learn and not be afraid to fail. The support she’s received from instructors and mentors have helped her navigate the more challenging parts of the program and grow personally.

Larsen said Kuenzi has inspired her to help other women and girls realize their potential and get involved in career paths they’re passionate about. Since Kuenzi and others at Google helped open the door for her, Larsen wants to pay that forward.

“I’m just excited to relaunch the second part of my life and have all these opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise, to get into new things and continuously learn and not have to just be stuck in a position that’s not going anywhere,” Larsen said.