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Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published February 22 2010

College's diesel technology program sees first woman in years

Annetta Bergstrom isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty.

The 36-year-old is the only woman enrolled in the diesel technology program at Minnesota State Community and Technical College.

Instructors at the Moorhead campus say she’s the first female the program has seen in about nine years, and she’s raising the bar for her classmates.

Bergstrom, who leaves her Rochert, Minn., home at 5:30 a.m. each day to commute to class, loves the challenge of fixing something that isn’t working.

“If I can go in there and get it fired up and get it running, I think I get more satisfaction out of it than they do having it working,” she said. “It’s kind of like winning a contest.”

Bergstrom, originally from Nevada, has tinkered with mechanics her whole life.

Her interest started as a child when she would clean parts for her grandfather, a heavy-equipment operator who repaired his family members’ vehicles.

She worked with mechanics in Nevada, including for a rental yard, a manufacturing plant and as an equipment operator.

Bergstrom recently moved with her family to Minnesota, and her husband, Marlinn, encouraged her to get some formal training.

“My husband said if that’s what makes you happy, pursue it,” she said.

Bergstrom is in her second semester of a two-year program. She is pursuing an associate of applied science degree, which requires her to take courses such as college writing and public speaking in addition to the technical courses.

Instructor Greg Peterson said she always has a good attitude and spends a lot of time studying.

“She gets in and does anything,” Peterson said. “She sets the standard pretty high.”

At first, some instructors caught themselves referring to the students as “guys … oh, and gal.”

But Bergstrom said she doesn’t mind being thought of as one of the guys.

After she completes her training, Bergstrom hopes to work in a shop with experienced mechanics so she can continue learning. She’d prefer to work on diesel trucks, but she’ll also be trained to work on farm equipment.

“I’m just hoping that I do well enough that somebody wants to take a chance and bring a girl in,” Bergstrom said. “Because it is different. You walk in and a lot of people are really nice, but you know you’re not going to get a call back from them the way that they look at you.”

But instructor Dave Eliason said finding a job shouldn’t be a problem for Bergstrom.

“I’d recommend her in a heartbeat,” Eliason said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590