Student Spotlight: Brandon Folson

Brandon Folson

South Dakota native excelling as a triple major at DCTC and Inver Hills

Brandon Folson is a highly motivated student at both Dakota County Technical College and Inver Hills Community College. Brandon is earning an Automotive Technician diploma and a Business Management Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) at DCTC. He is also earning his Associate of Arts (A.A.) at Inver Hills.

Brandon is on track to graduate from DCTC in spring 2021 and Inver in fall 2021. He is exceptionally engaged at both schools, serving on the DCTC and Inver Hills American Indian Advisory Committees. He serves as Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) president at DCTC and is a PTK member at Inver Hills. He also serves on the Inver Hills Diversity Council. He completed Heart of a Leader training at DCTC.

“The Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society recognizes students’ academic achievements,” Brandon said. “PTK gives high achieving students the opportunity to collaborate with the larger student body and faculty to promote academic excellence.” PTK also offers students leadership training transfer scholarships. I recommend eligible students take advantage of every opportunity afforded to them. They have worked hard, and they deserve recognition.”

Brandon is looking forward to transferring to Loyola University Chicago after graduating from DCTC and Inver Hills.

“I have been accepted to Loyola with an academic scholarship,” he said. “My plan is to complete my B.A. in Economics and then transition into the M.B.A. program at Loyola’s Quinlan School of Business.”

Phi Theta Kappa Induction Ceremony Spring 2020 gallery

March 4, 2020 Dakota Room Dakota County Technical College

View more event photos in the DCTC Flickr album:

Phi Theta Kappa Induction Ceremony Spring 2020

Brandon’s banking and nonprofit experience…

In 2013, Brandon and a friend launched a nonprofit, auto-repair service called Single Moms Auto Repair Technicians Inc.

“My goal is to reinvent a nonprofit auto repair service for low-income families and college students,” Brandon said. “This concept isn’t new, but what’s different about my approach is creating something that is agile and responsive to client needs. Completing my Automotive Technician degree at DCTC will position me to expand my network of automotive professionals.”

Brandon also serves as executive vice president of Black Mesa Inc., a Minnesota-based holding company specializing in buying and managing small businesses. Black Mesa is headed by a team of small business professionals including attorneys, corporate bankers, operations managers, analysts, and accountants. Brandon has extensive experience working in the commercial banking sector. Most recently, he served nearly four years as an assistant vice president at Associated Bank.

“Black Mesa is a vision created in partnership with some of my former clients, who became my friends, and colleagues from my commercial banking career,” Brandon said. “My participation in Black Mesa is the primary motivation for me to acquire an M.B.A. I need the skill set an M.B.A. offers to be an effective leader in this organization. I would go as far as to say Black Mesa will be one of my life works if my plans come together. To be clear, we haven’t made a penny with Black Mesa yet; however, Black Mesa has tremendous potential because of the great people involved with this project. Things are on hold for the moment because one of the core members has been diagnosed with cancer. We are praying for him, and we believe he will win this fight.”

More about the Associate of Arts (A.A.) at Inver Hills…

The Associate of Arts (A.A.) is the college’s #1 transfer degree. Earning your A.A. at Inver is an ideal choice if you’re planning on transferring to a four-year college or university. You will save money and have the added advantage of working one on one with your instructors.

A.A. Program Planning Guide

The A.A. degree is 60 credits and contains three parts:

Associate of Arts (A.A.) with Emphasis

The A.A. with Emphasis allows you to thoroughly prepare yourself for your chosen major at corresponding bachelor’s degree programs at several public and private four-year colleges and universities. We strongly recommend that you work with an Inver Hills counselor or advisor when making your transfer plans.

Emphasis areas

More about the Center for Diversity and Equity at Inver Hills…

Inver Hills Community College is strongly committed to excellence by including and integrating individuals who represent different race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, age, disability, national origin and religion. Inver Hills does not only seek diversity, but also acceptance, appreciation, respect, and equality. Our campus community as a whole is committed to diversity and strives to create, promote, and sustain programs that further our understanding of individual and group diversity.

The Center for Diversity and Equity provides cultural programming and functions as a campus-wide resource on social justice issues. The office also serves as a support and resource for students from culturally and ethnically diverse backgrounds. Services include:

  • On-campus space for students to interact, do homework, and check out our wide selection of resources pertaining to various social identities
  • Resources for students with disabilities
  • Planning social and cultural events
  • Support for multicultural student clubs and organizations
  • Connecting students to Multicultural resources on campus and in the community.
  • Serving as a liaison between students, faculty and staff (student advocacy)

Safe and Inclusive Campus Climate Guide

More about Brandon…

Brandon Folson

Originally from Mitchell, South Dakota, Brandon graduated from St. Paul High School, Class of 1996. By federally certified blood degree, he is Oglala and Ihanktowan. Ihanktowan is also known as Yankton Sioux by the federal government.

“When I complete my studies and get some of my projects moving down the road, I will return to my tribe to work with tribal professionals on tribal economic redevelopment needs,” Brandon said.

His mother, Debra, resides in Des Moines, Iowa. Debra was one of the native children the U.S. government forced to attend assimilation boarding schools in the early 1960s. Her school was located in Marty, South Dakota, on the Yankton Sioux Reservation.

“My mother and I are very close,” Brandon said. “She is an incredible woman, and I owe so much of the good I have to her. She has always believed in me and supports me in my current endeavors. She encourages me to represent our tribe to the best of my ability and fight for our place at the table of justice.”

While carrying a full load of academic and extracurricular responsibilities at DCTC and Inver, Brandon provides foster care to three special-needs children, Hayden, 14, Jadaus, 11, and Phoenix, 2. Brandon’s father passed away in 2011. He has two younger brothers, one living in Minnesota and one in Iowa. Brandon resides in Eagan, Minnesota.

Brandon has been a student in three of my Sociology courses. It’s a gift to have him in class. He shares his experiences, brings rich discussion to the class and uses curious inquiry to deepen his learning. He expresses his thoughts and opinions, but is always willing to critically examine his own view by applying listening to a variety of approaches in our field.

Denise Strenger, MA, MS, NBC-HWC
Dakota County Technical College

Brandon is a passionate and driven student who understands the power of speaking up and the power of listening. In his summer class, he and his group partner were leaders in the class Zoom. Through his commitment to equity, he worked tirelessly with his partners to propose ways to recruit more diverse faculty and staff and has joined the campus Diversity Council. He is just one of the good ones.

Amy Zsohar, PhD
Communication Faculty
Interdisciplinary Studies Faculty
LGBT+ Club Sponsor
Inver Hills Community College

Boxing and falconry…

In his free time, Brandon enjoys teaching boxing—he is certified with USA Boxing. He started training in 1986 and had his first competitive fight in 1987.

“I started my boxing journey at the famous Rice Street Gym in St. Paul,” Brandon recalled. “I was trained and mentored by Jay Pelzer and Paul Ebel. To be honest, I can’t recall the number of fights I participated in, but I did reach out to Jay, who is 89 years old, to locate my record book. Unfortunately, he was unable to locate it, but a fighter never forgets his losses, and I can tell you with certainty I suffered only two losses.”

Boxing fast facts

Brandon’s boxing career spanned about 15 years—and he had many fights and tournament victories over that time, including St. Paul Golden Gloves champion.

Boxing style: Counterpuncher

Weight class: First fight was at 132 pounds (welterweight); later fights were at 178 pounds (middleweight)

Boxing philosophy: “Boxing is a thinking person’s game. It’s 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical.”

Brandon began giving back to boxing in 2003 when he joined the Circle of Discipline, a community center and boxing gym in Minneapolis.

“I have three sons, two of which box,” Brandon said. His oldest son is Anaas, 23, followed by Naseer, 20, and Nasai, 15. “When my sons decided to start competitively boxing, I began to coach them at the Circle of Discipline’s gym. The other coaches invited me to pass my skill and experience as a coach to the larger amateur boxing team, which I did. Due to school, though, I haven’t been able to give much time to boxing.”

Falconry has been one Brandon’s favorite pastimes. “My membership to the Minnesota Falconers Association has lapsed simply because I haven’t had the time for falconry, but I will get back involved when time permits. I love falconry and want to make it a centerpiece of my retirement activities.”

One word that best describes your experience at DCTC:


One word that best describes your experience at Inver Hills:


Matt Boudinot: Faculty perspective

Matt Boudinot

Matt Boudinot is not only one of the instructors in the Automotive Technician program, but also a program graduate. Matt also attended Alexandria Technical College and graduated with a diploma in Advanced Drivability and Electrical Diagnosis.

In 2014, Matt joined the DCTC Auto Tech program. He is an ASE Master Certified Technician with 13 years of experience in the industry. He has strong skills in teaching and mentoring as well as exceptional automotive systems troubleshooting skills.

“I want to use my knowledge as an auto tech instructor to educate students with skills they need to become successful in the automotive industry,” notes Matt. “It’s always great to see my students use their new skills to find the job they want.”

In his free time, Matt likes to spend time with his family.

“I had Brandon as a student a couple semesters ago in my engine performance classes. Not only was Brandon one of the top academically driven students in my class, but he equally had the desire to share his successful academic practices and life experiences with other young minds.

Matt and Brandon at PTK Induction

“Brandon was a reliable contributor to the daily discussion topics, and he constantly pushed me to explore new and sometimes contradicting theories to the content being covered.  Having a student like Brandon in class makes teaching a truly enjoyable experience.

“Though Brandon is no longer in my class, I enjoy keeping in touch with him outside of the classroom. It’s been great seeing Brandon continue to strive for academic excellence in his professional life. As much as I may have been a piece in his educational path, he has equally been an important piece in my life. I’ve enjoyed building that personal friendship and continuing to hear some of the challenges thrown his way and his persistence to achieve the goals he sets in his life.

“I do not doubt that Brandon will continue to make a positive impact on anyone he interacts with because of his caring demeanor.”

Matt Boudinot
Automotive Technician Faculty
Dakota County Technical College

Brandon Folson Q & A

What stands out as the biggest difference between earning your A.A. at Inver and your Automotive Technician diploma at DCTC?

I really enjoy the instructors, advisors and staff on both campuses. I make a special mention of Jeremy Clark, academic advisor at Inver Hills, and Anna Voight, associate director of student life at DCTC.

Jeremy has been an indispensable resource. As an advisor, he has aided me in navigating the educational system and making sure I am making the best choices to reach my educational goals. I can confidently say Jeremy has made a difference in my life, and I am forever grateful for his contribution and support.

Anna has always looked out for me. She has provided me information about scholarships and gave me the opportunity to participate in Heart of a Leader training. This training was incredible and made a difference in my life. Without Anna’s support, my experience at DCTC wouldn’t be as rich as it is.

Why did you choose Automotive Technician as your program of study at DCTC?

My goal is to recreate a nonprofit auto repair service for low-income families and college students in need. This concept isn’t new, but what’s different about my approach is creating something that is agile and responsive to client needs.

Programs that currently aid this demographic have long wait times and limited access. We need to provide service quickly and efficiently with the goal of keeping low-income people and college students employed and independent.

The DCTC Automotive Technician credential will empower me to work with other professionals and organizations to fulfill this dream.

What do you like best about the Automotive Technician program?

The instructors! The instructors are knowledgeable, supportive and engaging. Scott Anderson wants his students to succeed. Scott was always at the ready to offer extra help to me and other students. His investment in you gives you the confidence to reach the next level of the program.

All of the Automotive Technician courses I attended at DCTC were challenging, but Matt Boudinot’s course may be the crown jewel. Despite its level of difficulty, Matt’s patience and ability to make complicated concepts digestible is exceptional. You immediately have confidence in Matt and trust his instruction and judgment.

I haven’t yet had a chance to study with Jeffery Copeland and Christ Siebenaler, but all of my encounters with them they have been supporting and encouraging.

What advice would give students seeking to make the most of their college education?

College is the first day of the rest of your life! College is your investment in you, and the type of future you envision for yourself. Engage, Excel and Achieve!

Three words that describe you as a college student:

How do you balance the responsibilities of family life, work and college?

As an adult learner, balancing family, work and college life is challenging. Honestly, I don’t always know how I do it, but with the support of family and loved ones, I find a way to get it done. One of the techniques I use to stay on top of my schedule is a digital calendar. If an item doesn’t make it on to my calendar, I will forget it!

Due to COVID-19, all the children in my home are doing distance-learning, including me. I spend a better part of the day helping them get through their assignments and stay on task. I mix in household chores and school meetings throughout the day. My evenings are spent completing my college studies and then giving my son and oldest foster child boxing lessons.

What person has influenced you the most in your life?

My mother, Debra. After all, we have been working together my entire life…lol. She has always tried to encourage me to do more and be better.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?

Considering Native American men have the lowest life expectancy in America, I think less about where I’ll be and more about what I can accomplish within 20 years. I believe with hard work and dedication I can accomplish my goals. I can leave my descendants and community a legacy that will empower them and make their lives richer.

Brandon Folson 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: Boxing
  2. Place you would most like to visit: International Space Station
  3. The most exciting thing you’ve ever done: See a child born
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1)Expand schools on my reservation with high-paid teachers 2)Fund legislation to improve teacher pay 3) Make Native Americans one of the most highly educated populations in the world
  5. Favorite TV show you’re watching now: Kobra Kai
  6. Best movie you’ve seen lately: Casablanca, which I was exposed to for the first time in the Film Studies course at DCTC; ; thank you Margaret Milne!
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: Do no harm
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: Saker falcon
  9. Dream occupation: Black Mesa
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Byron Allen
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Speaking the many languages of the world
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Lack of belief that doing good will always produce good
Learn more about earning an Associate of Arts (A.A.) at Inver Hills by contacting:

Admissions Team
College Center

Learn more about the Center for Diversity and Equity by contacting:

Michael Birchard
Associate Vice President of Equity and Inclusion

Student Life
College Center Room-116

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