Chapter Two

Jonathan Turnquist on the Job at Excel Energy

Jonathan Turnquist offers a powerful example of how Normandale's Academy of Math and Science—started by the Normandale Foundation and donor-supported—can help transform an individual's career and life.

The 2008 financial crisis had a far-reaching impact beyond the housing and global financial markets. Jonathan Turnquist wasn't exempt from its grip. After working as an electrician for four-and-a-half years, his employer handed him a pink slip. Turnquist's union was sympathetic, but didn't offer any job prospects.

In fact, it predicted he'd have to wait more than two years before he'd find a new job. With little money to pay his mortgage, Turnquist quickly realized that the best route back to economic security lay in a new degree. So he took action.

With years of electrical knowledge under his belt, Turnquist decided to pursue an electrical engineering degree at Normandale. At first, he was intimidated by the high-level math classes he would need to become an engineer.

“I struggled with math in high school and hated it, quite frankly,” he says. “But with one-on-one support from Normandale instructors and the college's small class sizes, I got the push I needed and excelled in my classes.”

After his first semester, Turnquist landed an internship at Xcel Energy. At that point, life got a lot more intense. To pay his bills, he needed to work between 25 to 30 hours a week. He would head to work at Xcel early in the day and return home late in the evening after classes. Or vice-versa. Though it wasn't easy, Turnquist pushed on with the support and encouragement of his advisors and family. It worked. He made such a strong impression during his internship that Xcel hired him as a first-year student, setting aside its normal protocol of waiting to hire interns until they are juniors or seniors.

During his time at Normandale, Turnquist also participated in the Academy of Math and Science. He is extremely thankful for the Academy's support, which provided him with a personal counselor and awarded him scholarships that greatly lowered the cost of his education. As an Academy scholar, Turnquist also had the opportunity to speak at various donor recognition events. Though he says it was “terrifying,” he notes that the experience helped improve his public speaking skills.

After completing his associate's degree at Normandale, Turnquist transferred to the University of Minnesota and earned a bachelor's degree in engineering. He's now happily employed as an engineer at Xcel Energy.

“I'd love to work there for the rest of my life,” he says. “Xcel is so great that you want to go to work every day.”

Turnquist plans to continue advancing in the engineering field at Xcel and is also excitedly planning for another big change—he and his wife are expecting a baby in February.

He adds that Normandale played a huge role helping him open this new chapter in his life. While he admits it wasn't always easy, the college's faculty continually drew him in and helped keep him engaged and motivated.