News Release

For Immediate Release

Contact: Daniel Wackershauser, Marketing Specialist
Phone: 608.822.2303
Mail: 1800 Bronson Blvd., Fennimore, WI 53809
Date of Release: December 7, 2021

Southwest Tech employees top 30-year milestone

Fennimore -

For Sherry Kane and Dave Birkelo, 2021 marks more than 30 years as employees at Southwest Wisconsin Technical College. They were each asked to reflect on their time on campus.

Sherry Kane | Graphic Designer | 30 years

Sherry Kane grew up in Fennimore, Wisconsin, graduating from Fennimore High School. She currently lives in the Castle Rock area.

When were you hired?

I started working for Southwest Tech part-time in August 1991; full-time in September 1992.

What was your original position on campus and what is your current position?

My original position was alternative delivery secretary. I helped students rent telecourse tapes that provided the video portion of their classes, produced assignment packets, and mailed course surveys and recorded results. I am currently one of two graphic designers in the marketing department.

Sherry Kane

What lead you to Southwest Tech?

Nearly ten years after high school, I wanted to learn how to use a computer since this technology didn’t exist when I graduated. I took a beginning computer course over the summer of 1989 and, crazy enough, quit my job at Advance Transformer-Boscobel and started the Word Processor Specialist program that Fall. I was in the work-study program during that year, working for Linda Stephenson, the recruiter at that time. Linda’s guidance and encouragement and the experience I received gave me a peek at the inner workings of the college, and I knew then that this is where I wanted to work someday.

What do you enjoy most about your current role?

Every day I learn something new, whether it is a software shortcut, researching design specifications for a new promotional piece, or learning more about one of our programs through marketing efforts. I can honestly say that I have never grown tired of my job and don’t foresee that ever happening.

What are some of your favorite memories at Southwest Tech?

My favorite memories center around graduation. The pride of our students and their families is inspiring and rejuvenating. Sharing that energy with our incredible faculty and staff is a bonus.

Why have you remained here?

The support system here is exceptional, and the work is so meaningful. It is hard to imagine working anywhere else!

Why is (working in) higher education important to you?

The advantage of working in the marketing department is that you get to hear the success stories first, and as an alumna, I can personally relate to those stories. The education you receive here propels you into a happier life, and it is so rewarding to be a part of that.

What does the next 30/35 years look like for you? 

Considering my age (ahem), I look to my ‘closing act’ as an opportunity to engage in new experiences that will keep me growing personally and professionally. I have a few years to decide what life after Southwest Tech looks like, but I know it will be fun figuring that out!

Dave Birkelo | Information Technology Instructor | 35 years

Dave Birkelo grew up on a dairy farm near Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin. He graduated from North Crawford High School and currently lives in Fennimore.

When were you hired?  

I started in October 1986.

What was your original position on campus and what is your current position?

I started as a lab assistant/programmer, which I did for 12 years. In 1998, I was hired as a full-time IT instructor for our Microcomputer Specialist program, which has evolved into our IT Computer Support Technician program, which is part of our Network Specialist program.

Dave Birkelo

What led you to Southwest Tech?   

As I’ve shared during our in-service, I kind of got here by accident. When I graduated from high school, the Wisconsin Technical Colleges, formerly named ‘vocational-technical institutes’ at the time, had out-of-district tuition rates for any program that was offered in the district which you resided in. I had applied and was accepted into the Programmer/Analyst program at Western in La Crosse. I had a place to live all set up and just had to show up in August.

Then that July, I received a letter from Southwest Tech stating that they were now offering the same program which meant that I had to enroll in the program in Fennimore. After graduating, I was working in Janesville when a former instructor informed me of a lab assistant position opening at the college. The rest is history.

What do you enjoy most about your current role?    

I get satisfaction from watching students learn. When they have an ‘AHA!’ moment and they understand something and can now apply it.

What are some of your favorite memories at Southwest Tech?    

All the people that I’ve met because of working here would have to be the main one. Fellow co-workers and students that I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know and the lasting connections to some of them. Seeing our graduates be successful is another one. I’ve seen a lot of changes to the campus over the years.

Why have you remained here?    

Because I like what I do and the people that I work closely with.  I’ve had some opportunities to relocate but I grew up in Soldiers Grove and still have a connection to the area. In some ways, it will always be home to me.

Why is (working in) higher education important to you?    

Because I believe that technical education is more important than ever. With so many people (baby boomers) retiring, employers need individuals that have specialized training and that is what we excel at here.

What does the next 30/35 years look like for you?    

Future for me personally:

My youngest son wants me to be his teacher so apparently, I’m not allowed to retire before then. (Let’s just say that he might end up being disappointed.) I’m still planning on teaching for a while, so I don’t have anything specific planned after I retire. I just plan on watching our two boys become successful in whatever they choose to do. I can see myself learning something new though. With all of the change that has happened over the years in my field, I guess that has instilled a desire to learn new things.

Future of the IT field:

With all the changes in the IT field that I’ve witnessed over the last 35-plus years, it’s not really a stretch to say that technology will be a focal point in many facets of our lives. The speed at which new technologies have evolved has increased greatly which makes it more readily available. I don’t think that most people that I grew up with would have ever thought that there would be things such as refrigerators connected to the Internet that can tell me if we need milk or having cameras in our houses so that I can watch my dog and even feed it remotely.

| Southwest Wisconsin Technical College is one of 16 institutions that comprise the Wisconsin Technical College System. Southwest Tech offers more than 60 programs in a wide variety of disciplines. Courses are offered on campus, online and in a blended format. The college provides apprenticeship, certificate, technical diploma, and associate degree programs that respond to district workforce needs and prepare student for family-sustaining jobs and career advancement. |


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