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A new degree and a new job: Mark Stodola goes back to school to learn new skills

Mark Stodola completed a two-year automotive technologies program from Northwest Technical College this year. He plans to work part time at local car dealership. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI—After more than three decades in the U.S. Air Force, Mark Stodola has a new job lined up.

The 56-year-old is set to work part time at a Bemidji car dealership after he formally earns his two-year automotive technologies diploma from Northwest Technical College on Friday. Stodola retired from the Air Force in 2014, then spent a year traveling the West Coast with his wife, then dabbled in construction safety and welding at the technical college before he settled on automotive work.

Why go back to school?

"It just felt right," Stodola said. "It's kinda corny, but it's one of those things when you do it, you're kinda like, 'This feels like what I should be doing.'"

A full ride from the federal government via the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill didn't hurt, either. Two years worth of NTC lectures, labs, and homework showed Stodola how to work on brakes, transmissions, carburetors and more. He recently helped pull the cab off of a Ford F250 to replace a fuel pump near the back of the engine.

"I can lay tile, put in floors, do drywall, do electrical. I can do just kinda everything, and the one area that I was really weak in, I felt, was working on cars," Stodola said.

A Rice Lake, Wis., native, Stodola worked in the security forces when he was in the Air Force, a position similar to the Army's military police. But becoming a cop didn't appeal to him, Stodolka said. His job at the dealership will supplement his pension, he said.

"I just want a part-time job to top off the boat money and the gun money and the hunting money and the fishing money, you know, go on trips," Stodola said. "Just so you have a little extra."

He also joined the college's Student Senate, and helped formulate it's five-year strategic plan with NTC and Bemidji State University leaders.

"I got involved in just about anything I could and tried to make a difference," Stodola said. 

If you go:

What: Northwest Technical College graduation

When: 7 p.m. Friday, May 4

Where: Sanford Center, 1111 Event Center Dr., NE, Bemidji

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education (mostly K-12) and American Indian affairs for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He's from Minneapolis, earned a degree from the College of St. Benedict - St. John's University in 2009, and worked at the Perham Focus near Detroit Lakes and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis before heading to the Pioneer.

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