Posted: February 1, 2007

Contact: Doug Anderson,, 651-201-1426

Ronald E. Thomas, president of Dakota County Technical College, is one of 10 individuals who have been selected to receive a 2007 Star of Education award from the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium for extraordinary contributions to career technical education.

Thomas was honored for developing cutting-edge programs that train workers in the emerging field of nanotechnology, for starting a program to address a severe shortage of railroad conductors and for responding to the needs of businesses and industries.

"With his innovative nature and inherent understanding business and industry needs, Dr. Thomas has truly shown great vision, leadership and achievement at Dakota County Technical College to expand opportunities for students," said Chancellor James H. McCormick. "This is a great honor in the field of technical education, which often goes unrecognized for the critical workforce development training that it provides."

Two years ago, Dakota County Technical College began Minnesota's first, two-year associate degree in nanoscience technology through a three-year, $900,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. Fifteen students already have completed the program, and plans call for creating a center for nanotechnology education.

In fall 2005, the college began Minnesota's first Railroad Conductor Certificate program. So far, 72 students have enrolled or completed the 15-week program. Thomas also was instrumental in developing the college's Business and Entrepreneurship Institute, specifically shaping the business entrepreneur program for technical students who start their own businesses following graduation. Other programs established to answer the high demand for workers include concrete masonry, biomedical equipment technology and electrical wiring.

The college's Customized Training unit has been critical to developing more than 200 partnerships statewide. Since Thomas became president, customized training has grown to serve 6,100 students a year, providing training that allows individuals or groups to sharpen skills or obtain certification quickly and efficiently.

Founded in 1920, the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium is the Washington D.C.-based professional society of the state and territory agency heads responsible for career technical education.