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Bringing Their A Game

COD students find success competing in the ‘big leagues’

Mike Zuranski has never been to Burbank, but he holds an unusual claim to fame when it comes to the Southern California entertainment hub. The 29-year-old College of DuPage student won a top spot in the national WxChallenge for accurately predicting the weather there for 10 days in February—while representing the only two-year school in the meteorology competition. 

Mike Zuranski

Ted Stelling, a computer programmer turned engineering student, led the way for Team Vulcan and their 125-pound hand-built robot to enter the 26th Annual Jerry Sanders Creative Design Competition at the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign. These eight COD students took one amazing journey, going where only four-year schools had gone before.

And then there’s Meghan Thome. The former fourth-grade teacher came to COD three years ago to explore her creative side. When Graphic Design Professor John Callegari chose her to serve as the student representative for the Adobe Partners by Design program, she made the most of a golden opportunity no other community college offers. 

Meghan Thome

COD is among a select group of 27 schools and the only community college accepted in the Adobe partnership, which offers benefits, including on-campus training using state-of-the art software, free seat licenses for almost all Adobe software products and the chance to participate in the Adobe Design Achievement Awards. As student representative, Thome promoted Adobe activities like the awards program, attended the software giant’s international conferences, and provided a student perspective on new company products before they were launched.

“I thought it would be a cool thing, but I never imagined how many connections I would make through Partners by Design. It gave me a real-world point of view and a bigger picture of opportunities out there,” said Thome.

Opportunities like these give COD students a chance to step outside their comfort zones and into a real-world classroom.

Zuranski and 45 other COD competitors entered the 2012-2013 WxChallenge, which is open to undergraduate, graduate and doctorate students as well as higher education faculty, staff and alumni. COD finished first in Illinois and 13th nationwide in the contest run by the University of Oklahoma. Two other COD students earned trophies for their forecasting skills for the cities of Newark, N.J., and Austin, Tex.; six COD participants finished in the top 64 cumulatively among the more than 1,500 contenders.

“There were a lot of colleges competing, really good programs with some really big names in the field, so we were really impressed with how well we did our first year,” said the meteorology student, lab assistant and weather champion. Zuranski attributes his success to a little bit of luck and a lot of hands-on learning at COD. “When I was considering COD’s Meteorology program, I met with Professor Paul Sirvatka. One of the first things he said was that this is the best school in the country to start your educational career in meteorology. Looking back, he was absolutely right.”

For Stelling and his robot crew, the “win” was not measured in how they placed, but in how they got there. Just about every step was a team effort and a chance to learn something new.

Left to right: Team Vulcan captain Ted Stelling and fellow team members Enrique Zubieta and Daniel Rischl perform maintenance on the robot.

“There’s no question that the students benefit from it. Everybody who was on this team was very passionate about it, we wanted to compete, we wanted to do this,” said Stelling. “We would have loved to win, but no one is heartbroken and never wants to do it again because we didn’t get first place. Everybody’s very anxious to get back into it.”

At top: Serving as the Adobe Partners by Design student representative leads a list of many accomplishments for Meghan Thome, including being named one of COD’s 2013 outstanding graduates. Thome (left, with graphic design professor John Callegari) finished among the top 10 in Parade magazine’s Own the Room’s Speakers Corner contest, took top honors for Best Portfolio at COD’s Portfolio Night 2013 and was a semifinalist in the Adobe Design Achievement Awards. Photo by Tony Armour Photography/special to College of DuPage


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