Success Stories

Thad Ellsworth

Current Position: Developer for Noridian Mutual Insurance Company

Graduation Year: 2003

“My education at NDSCS prepared me for my current position at Noridian Mutual Insurance Company in Fargo."

Magic might appear to make something seem real that isn’t, but alumnus Thad Ellsworth, 2003 Computer Information Systems graduate believes real life and magic go hand in hand.

“My education at NDSCS prepared me for my current position at Noridian Mutual Insurance Company in Fargo. After graduating I worked as an intern in the IT department, which led to a full time developer position for the North Dakota Immunization Information System,” said Ellsworth. “Eleven years later I still work on the NDIIS project. The NDIIS application is a user interface that allows healthcare providers to maintain and track vaccinations given within state. The magic was taking the skills I was provided and applying them to real life.” 

As a student at NDSCS, Ellsworth advanced his magician skills by providing magic shows for students on campus. Currently, he is the leading children’s Birthday Party Magician in the Red River Valley.

“The magic was simple. I used the same skills I learned at NDSCS to develop my own application that allows my customers more information by way of my website,,” said Ellsworth.

Ellsworth and his wife, Melinda, have two children, a son Jaden (4), and a daughter Peyton (18 mos.).

Dan Matejcek

Current Position: AirCorps Aviation Co-owner & Fabrication Manager

Graduation Year: 2003

“I chose NDSCS because it was a local college and because it had one of the best CNC labs in the region.”

Dan Matejcek, a 2003 NDSCS alum, is part co-owner of AirCorps Aviation, a company that specializes in the restoration, maintenance and rebuilding of vintage WWII aircraft.

Established in 2008, AirCorps Aviation strives to bring forth experience, dedication, passion and award-winning detail that shows in every project they take on.

Located in Bemidji, Minn., AirCorps Aviation has quickly become one of the best WWII fighter restoration companies in the world. Their ability to restore a plane back to its original condition is simply amazing. And their attention to detail has not gone unnoticed.

>> Read “AirCorps Aviation Flying to Success”—Precision Machining, Nov/Dec 2013

Matejcek grew up in Tyler, N.D., and after graduating high school, decided to attend NDSCS where he received his A.A.S. degree in Precision Machining Technology.

“I chose NDSCS because it was a local college and because it had one of the best CNC labs in the region.”

When asked about his time at NDSCS, Matejcek stated that his favorite class at NDSCS was a CNC machining lab taught by Steve Johnson where he enjoyed learning hands-on.

One of Matejcek’s favorite memories at NDSCS occurred during his second year: “We built a small engine from scratch as a class project—watching it all come together was probably one of my best memories.”

Mark Vondrachek

Current Position: Raincountry Refrigeration, Inc. Owner

Graduation Year: 1977

"I really enjoyed my time at NDSCS and I knew I was receiving a quality education."

Mark Vondrachek is the owner of Raincountry Refrigeration, Inc., a successful refrigeration company located in Bellingham, Wash. that builds custom systems of all sizes.

Established on August 15, 1984, Raincountry Refrigeration, Inc. serves the Northwest, Alaska, Central America, the South Pacific, the Midwest and multiple ports along the West Coast.

Over the last several years, Raincountry has found a special niche in the refrigeration market, installing custom-built incubator chilled water systems for incubation and thermal marking at Federal, State and Native American hatcheries. They are also well-known for their work within the marine industry—from small fishing vessels to large cargo ships.

Vondrachek grew up in the Grand Forks, N.D. area and after high school attended NDSCS. He received his A.A.S. degree in HVAC/R Technology in 1977. Vondrachek has fond memories of his time at NDSCS, including participating in the boxing club.

“I really enjoyed my time at NDSCS and I knew I was receiving a quality education,” said Vondrachek. “Even now NDSCS is known to have some of the best placement rates out there.”

Vondrachek’s son, Dakota, is currently enrolled in the NDSCS HVAC/R Technology program where he is a second-year student.

Peggy Hanson

Current Position: Chief Flight Nurse at Sanford LifeFlight

"Kids always ask, ‘Are you a pilot?' And I say, ‘No, sorry, I'm the nurse - I just get to ride in the back.' "

Peggy Hanson loves working in trauma, and she loves to fly. So she worked up the medical ladder, combined her two passions, and became the Chief Flight Nurse at Sanford LifeFlight.

Peggy Hanson, chief flight nurse flies a couple days a week to transport severe trauma patients or critically ill patients.

At about 4,000 feet and 150 mph, Hanson can be working on patients from car accidents, transporting patients from smaller hospitals to Sanford, or transporting critically ill patients to Sanford Health or other speciality resource centers.

In the Bell 222 helicopter, nicknamed “The Deuce,” or in “the little blue helicopter,” Hanson flies a couple times a week while also covering the tasks of being the Chief Flight Nurse at Sanford.

“Kids always ask, ‘Are you a pilot?’ And I say, ‘No, sorry, I’m the nurse - I just get to ride in the back.’ ” Hanson said, referring to her gray pilot-like suit.

Hanson grew up in Walhalla, N.D. Like a lot of high school students, she said, she didn’t know what to do after graduation.

She eventually got her licensed practical nurse status in Wahpeton, then became a registered nurse in Bismarck and got her master’s degree in nursing education at North Dakota State University.

She currently also teaches senior-level adult health nursing at Minnesota State University in Moorhead.

Q: How did you get started as a LifeFlight nurse?
A: I worked in a small hospital, and we called LifeFlight to come get patients, and I was like, “I want to be them. I want to be the one to go out and get the patients.”

Q: What is your job as a nurse like?
A: Every day is different, I never know where I will be or what I’ll be doing in the hospital on any given day. For example, I could start an IV in OB, then go to scanning with an ICU patient, followed by helping out in the ER or maybe to pediatrics - every day is a new experience!

Q: What’s your favorite part about your job?
A: Seeing how happy not only the patient is, but the other referral places are that we’re (LifeFlight) there. The patients are glad to see us; the family is glad to see us, even though they never want to meet us. They are just glad we’re there.

Q: How has it been lately?
A: It’s been a weird week. We’ve been to Nashville and Wisconsin. We do go to the Cities or Rochester usually, Canada occasionally. A lot of times it’s to bring a patient who is up fishing or up visiting back to our area.

Q: What is one call you will never forget?
A: My first ride-along. It was a scene flight, and it was a young family that was driving, and the dad unclicked the seat belt to put the pacifier in the baby’s mouth. Then the car rolled. He called his wife and said, “It’s not good,” and he arrested in flight, and he ended up dying. And it was awful to see that happen to someone so young…that patient made it to the hospital and was pronounced there where he would’ve died on the road. His wife knew we did everything possible for him and any chance he had was made available, and I just knew that I had to do something like that that could cause an impact.

Lisa Budeau

Current Position: Valley News Live Anchor, Fargo, N.D.

​"I loved my time at NDSCS - becoming a Wildcat was one of the best decisions I ever made. It was the perfect mix for me."

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