- Four Iowans are named Outstanding DMACC Alumni Association Award recipients.
- Tiffany Allison and Erica Carrick each receive a DMACC Alumni Early Achievement Award.
- Nic Barrick of Johnston is named a DMACC Alumni Association Impact Award recipient.
Seven former DMACC students were recently recognized by the DMACC Alumni Association.
William Couser of Nevada, Jocelyn Kovarik of Ames, Scott Ocken of Ankeny and Taufeek Shah of West Des Moines have been named recipients of a DMACC Outstanding Alumni Association Award. The Outstanding Alumni Award is the highest honor given to DMACC alumni by the Alumni Association. This award honors and recognizes alumni who provide service to their community, country and/or fellow citizen; have had great professional or personal achievement since graduation; and continue to be involved in the life and work of DMACC.
Tiffany Allison of Des Moines and Erica Carrick of Urbandale were each awarded a DMACC Alumni Early Achievement Award. The award was created in 2011 to recognize alumni who have graduated from DMACC within the last ten years and have displayed exemplary personal or professional achievement or volunteer service to their community.
Nic Barrick of Johnston was named a recipient of the DMACC Alumni Association Impact Award. The DMACC Impact Award was created to honor DMACC alumni of at least 12 credit hours who make an impact within their community and DMACC.
Here’s a more in-depth look at the achievements of these DMACC Alumni:
William Couser is the owner of Couser Cattle Company in rural Nevada. He’s a 1973 graduate of Nevada High School and a 1975 graduate of the DMACC Diesel and Heavy Equipment Repair program. Besides overseeing his Cattle Company, Couser was instrumental in the establishment of Lincoln Way Energy, a 50 million gallon ethanol plant owned by local investors.
Couser and his wife, Nancy, were recently inducted into the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association Hall of Fame. He was a National Beef Quality Assurance Award recipient and winner of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Environmental Stewardship Award.
“The core concept of their combined business ventures is simple,” says Dwayne Faidley, Professor and Program Co-Chair of DMACC’s Agribusiness program. Faidley nominated Couser 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 2006, Couser was named one of “10 People Who Matter” by Time Magazine. But Couser’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.”
Jocelyn Kovarik was a two-time basketball All-American while playing for the DMACC Bears. She graduated from DMACC in 2007 with an Associate of Science degree in Business Administration. She transferred to Iowa State University where she continued playing basketball and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance and later a Master’s degree in Education with an emphasis in Higher Education.
Following her successful basketball career, Kovarik jumped at the opportunity to return to the DMACC Boone Campus as an advisor and assistant women’s basketball coach.
DMACC Provost Drew Nelson nominated Kovarik 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,” Nelson 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.”
While she has competed at the highest level in college athletics and has been an incredible addition to Boone Campus, Kovarik says her greatest accomplishment has nothing to do with competition.
“I am most proud of our 18 month old daughter,” Kovarik 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.”
Scott Ocken is a graduate of the DMACC Automotive Technology program on the Ankeny Campus. After working as a local automotive technician, Ocken was hired as a DMACC automotive instructor. He worked his way up to become program chair, academic dean of Industry and Technology and eventually Vice President of Academic Affairs, the position he held when he recently retired.
In his leadership role, Ocken 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 supported 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.”
Ocken earned his Bachelor’s degree from Grand View University and a Master’s in Higher Education from Iowa State University. Throughout his more than 30 plus year career at DMACC, Ocken served on DMACC’s Advisory Committee, the Curriculum Commission and the Assessment Committee. In addition, he served as a Skills USA Board member for more than a dozen years, on the Des Moines Public Schools Advisory Committee and an Ankeny Economic Development Board member.
He is a recipient of a Skills USA Award, DMACC Distinguished Service Award, General Motors Distinguished Service Award and Des Moines Public Schools Service Award.
“His impact on our college and community as a graduate and leader will be visible for years to come,” Snook-Lautner says.
Taufeek Shah is the CEO/Founder of Lola’s Fine Hot Sauce in West Des Moines. Shah graduated from DMACC in 2008 with a degree in Liberal Arts.
As a 13-year old, Shah said he decided to be a daredevil and drove his mountain bike off of a six-foot high loading dock, landing face-first and winding up in the hospital for three months. He said he was lucky to survive and said the experience pushed him to launch his first entrepreneurial stunt.
That stunt was selling “fancy pens” that his mother, a physician, would receive from drug representatives. From there he branched out selling baseball cards and launching his first eBay store at age 15.
“I have a passion for helping and a passion for delivering quality,” Shah 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, Shah 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 Shah’s passion to pitch in … and partner.
“He donates his product and time to support local missions that align with his philanthropic passions,” Wood says. “One of my favorite attributes of Taufeek is his desire to constantly find partnership opportunities and develop collaboratives 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, Shah volunteers for Goodwill of Central Iowa and is a member of the Board at Proteus.
Tiffany Allison said she feared for her life in 2009 when her then boyfriend physically attacked her. That incident sparked a passion in Allison for advocacy. Today, she is recognized regionally as a violent crimes victim advocate and founder of Soaring Hearts Foundation.
Soaring Hearts Foundation was launched in 2014 while Allison was a student in the DMACC Criminal Justice program on the Ankeny Campus. Allison leads a staff of five at the foundation advocating for victims of violent crime nationwide by drafting and lobbying for legislation, providing speakers, raising awareness and financially supporting grassroots advocacy efforts.
Allison 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, she is a Licensed Investigator and founder of investigation firm, Lux Legal Services. She is also a licensed bail agent.
Allison was the recipient of 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 Dr. Samantha O’Hara says Allison’ work is important to the community.
“Tiffany was a member of the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, Crime Victim Division’s biennial Victim Justice planning committee for several years,” O’Hara says. “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 O’Hara’s sentiment.
“Tiffany has taken her victimization and turned it into a strength to help others overcome their challenges,” Hubbart says.
Allison 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.
Erica Carrick is the Director of Nursing at Primary Health Care Inc. in Urbandale. She graduated from Oskaloosa High School, earned a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Northern Iowa and then a Master’s degree in Public Health from Des Moines University. With a passion for caring for others, Carrick sought an opportunity to get closer to the bedside by enrolling in the evening/part-time Nursing program at the DMACC Urban Campus. She earned a Licensed Practical Nursing diploma in 2016 and an AAS in Nursing in 2017 from the DMACC Urban Campus.
“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,” Carrick 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!”
DMACC Nursing Instructor Amanda Tollari nominated Carrick for the Alumni Early Achievement Award.
“Erica was an excellent student who was very involved in starting the nursing club AUSNA (Ankeny Urban Student Nurses Association),” Tollari 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.”
Carrick, who now lives in Urbandale, says she is thankful and grateful for this award.
”My nursing education has provided a strong foundation for me and I can’t say enough about the nursing program,” Carrick says. “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.”
Nic Barrick of Johnston is the Head of Design and Innovation at All Square Cabinet Company in Indianola. Barrick earned 57 credit hours at the DMACC Ankeny Campus. Barrick admits his coursework in Computer Aided Design (CAD), which was cut short by a pair of open heart surgeries, laid the groundwork for his ascension into a leadership role at All Square Cabinet Company.
Barrick started his journey by designing residential kitchens. Then he moved on to structural steel tower manufacturing for agricultural products. Now he is manufacturing commercial cabinetry.
“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, Barrick says it is a recent side project that has brought him the most satisfaction.
In 2018, Barrick 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. He 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?” Barrick says of the project. “Being a part of Base Camp Iowa is one of my greatest accomplishments.”
All of the award recipients were to be honored at a special banquet that was cancelled twice because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Des Moines Area Community College, a public institution serving the educational and career training needs of Iowans, is committed to the lifelong success of its students. Situated in one of America’s most vibrant regions, DMACC offers 200 programs, certificates and transfer degrees, annually serving more than 70,000 credit and noncredit students on six campuses and six learning centers. Thanks to college-wide innovation including Continuous Process Improvement (CPI), new programs and affordable tuition, DMACC continues to experience solid growth. For more information, please visit www.dmacc.edu.
(contributed article and photos, DMACC)