Normandale alumni often reference a turning point in their time at the college that helped them succeed academically and accomplish their goals. Jeffrey Stenbom has experienced two different occasions where Normandale helped change his outlook on life.
After graduating high school in 1996, Stenbom attended Vermillion Community College in Ely, Minn., and planned to transfer to the University of Minnesota the following year to pursue sociology. After missing the U of M's transfer deadline, he opted to return to the Twin Cities and attend Normandale. He also decided to take a sculpture and ceramics class as part of his general education requirement. The experience changed his view on what he wanted to do.
"I absolutely fell in love with both of those classes," he says. "They made me to want to major in art."
After attending Normandale during the 1997-98 academic year, Stenbom transferred to the University of Minnesota to pursue art. But while he enjoyed the art he was creating at the U of M, he struggled to find meaning behind it.
Stenbom decided to take a break from college, and joined the U.S. Army as a cavalry scout one week after 9/11. After being stationed in Germany and deployed in Kosovo and Iraq for nearly four years, he came home. Stenbom faced new challenges when he returned, as he was dealing with Post-traumatic Stress-Disorder (PTSD) symptoms and was not sure what to do with his life.
He did know, however, that he wanted to continue his education. So he decided to come back to Normandale to finish his AA degree. He also signed up for Fused Glass, a course that was being offered for the first time at Normandale. That small move made a huge impact on his life.
"I originally thought it was glassblowing, but I quickly found out that was not the case," Stenbom says, explaining that the course focused on sculpting kiln-heated glass. "I took the class and fell in love with working with glass. It gave me focus. It gave me direction. And it killed the void of what I was missing. It ended up being the therapy I needed to deal with PTSD and some of the other challenges I was dealing with at the time. It was a great environment to be in, and the faculty were excellent."
After earning his AA degree, Stenbom decided to stay at Normandale and earn an AFA in Art. From there, he moved on to the University of Wisconsin-River Falls to get his BFA in glass and sculpture, and his BS in Art Education. Along the way he discovered a passion for educating people in art, which he feels originates from his gratitude toward the instructors at Normandale who ignited his excitement for art. He is now at Tulane University in New Orleans and on schedule to complete an MFA in Glass in May 2015.
"I don't have the words to express what the Normandale Art Department has done for me," he says. "It provided me with the core of a good art education. I really appreciate what the instructors have done for me as a person. That program is special, and the instructors are phenomenal.
Selected Pieces of Art by Stenbom
(Names of Pieces - Left - Who Will Be Next?; Left Bottom - Continuance; Middle - Harlequin's Desire; Right - Strained)