Engineering Corporate Citizenship


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VAA hosted several high school students at its Minneapolis office for a job shadow experience. The firm’s technical staff provided an in-depth look at a multidiscipline soybean processing plant and answered students’ questions about engineering career paths, college courses and more.

The students learned about each discipline (civil, structural, mechanical and electrical) and saw the value of using REVIT to integrate services together. Technical staff shared how engineers, designers and technicians collaborate to deliver a complex industrial processing facility.

Senior Mechanical Designer, Taylor Clark, notes the job shadow provided an important opportunity to inform students of the many career options under the umbrella of engineering.

“I think a lot of young people believe they have to have an engineering degree to get into the business, so it’s a great opportunity as a designer to present the students with another path into the field of design / engineering,” says Clark. “It’s also a nice chance to show the students what we do and to answer any questions they may have on the roles of designers and engineers.”

Britnie Thieschafer, aPHR, HR Assistant at VAA, says hosting job shadows and other learning opportunities is valuable for students and the engineering industry.  

“The job shadow with the MCA students was a great opportunity for VAA to give back to the engineering community. Of course, we talk about VAA, but our main objective is to give students insight into the different disciplines so they can better determine what they might want to study after high school. We try to give them an idea of what they could do if they choose to work in this industry,” Thieschafer says. “They may never work or intern for VAA, but if they join the engineering community, that’s a win.”


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The VAA Plymouth office hosted the Community Caring Campaign (CCC), a variety of events and volunteer opportunities for employees over the course of two weeks. Championed by VAA’s Wellness and Outreach Committee, the CCC surpassed its $50,000 goal along with providing supplies to those in need. 

In line with the firm’s commitment to community, the CCC aims to entertain employees while encouraging donations, pledges and volunteer time to support two selected local organizations:

Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners (IOCP)
Partnering with VAA for the past decade, IOCP helps families living in eight Twin Cities western suburbs overcome barriers, believe in themselves and soar to new heights.

Second Harvest Heartland (SHH)
Partnering with VAA for the past decade, SHH is a local food shelf that leads through innovation, finding creative solutions to connect the full resources of our community with our hungry neighbors.

CCC By the Numbers

440 cups of rice portioned for IOCP

790 loads worth of laundry detergent packaged for IOCP

$9,624 cash donations

$50,581 total raised for IOCP and SHH by VAA employees and clients


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Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska is hosting the KMPG Women’s PGA Championship for the first time. With a long tradition of hosting major championships, Hazeltine was a natural choice for the tournament, which focuses on empowering women on and off the golf course.

Almost 10 years ago, VAA provided civil and structural engineering services in the complete rebuild of Hazeltine’s clubhouse and surrounding site. The revitalized space melds the club’s history with its future, preserving original elements while setting the stage for events like the Ryder Cup and this week’s tournament.

Large timbers salvaged from the original 40-year-old structure were used in the new clubhouse entryway, ceilings and mantel pieces of the 50,000 SF facility. A pair of steel trusses creates aesthetic functionality by framing a mechanical equipment well and column-free ballroom. With transitions from the hardscapes near the clubhouse to the rolling hills at the first tee, Hazeltine welcomes locals and spectators from across the world.

The site of the U.S. Ryder Cup Team’s victory in 2016, Hazeltine will become the first U.S. venue to host a second Ryder Cup in 2028.


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Ten employees recently volunteered with Habitat for Humanity (Habitat) to build a home in North Minneapolis. The group helped construct the house’s front porch roof, sanded and painted interior walls and trim, stained spindles and installed blinds throughout the home. By the end of the day, the house was nearly move-in ready for a family.

The VAA team also helped on a neighboring Habitat house by unloading prefabricated wall sections.

Michael Jagerson, an Electrical Technician and one of the VAA outreach event organizers, says these builds are a valuable opportunity for service and team building.

“Participants benefit from having a direct impact in the build of the home and knowing the work they are doing will provide a wonderful home for a family in need,” he says. “VAA has had a great experience volunteering with Habitat for Humanity the past few years, and we hope to continue to volunteer with them for years to come.” 

Habitat for Humanity works to bring affordable housing to communities and the families that live in them. Locally, Habitat helps low-income families in the Twin Cities community through programs like Habitat Homebuilding, A Brush with Kindness and Family Support Services. The organization operates worldwide, dedicated to empowering families by helping them “acquire the access, skills and financial education necessary for them to be successful homeowners.” Learn more about the organization’s work or volunteering on the Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity website.


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Gary Nagel, PE, P.Eng, recently celebrated his 35th year at VAA. The Sr. Associate / Sr. Structural Engineer is the longest tenured employee currently working at the firm, and he’s well-known among co-workers and clients for his commitment to quality work and collaboration. Gary is an invaluable asset to the VAA team, bringing a wealth of expertise to every project.

“He’s worked in all the markets we serve and has a very broad experience level,” says Principal / Sr. Project Manager Bernie Jansen. “Gary quickly gains the confidence of the clients he works with by doing good work, and he is always there for younger engineers to help answer their questions.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and an M.S. in structural engineering from the University of California – Berkeley, Gary worked for an engineer in the Wesley Temple Building in downtown Minneapolis. VAA was headquartered in the same building, and Gary joined what was then Van Sickle, Allen and Associates just seven years after the firm’s inception.

Gary has seen the firm grow from six people to 150, and he attributes much of that growth to the quality of the firm’s work and the value placed on building strong relationships.

“Gary hardly ever says ‘no’ when asked to help; he is always willing to take on new challenges,” adds Bernie.

In fact, Gary says client visits and traveling (especially to Canada) are two of his favorite parts of the job. Client connections, working on a variety of projects big and small and assisting less experienced engineers have kept the job fresh and challenging, but work-life balance has also been a priority.

Outside of the office, Gary is likely to be found outdoors, either up at the cabin or staying active by hiking, cross-country skiing or kayaking. Even in his spare time, Gary is a builder, enjoying woodworking and home improvement construction projects.

In recognition of Gary’s nearly four decades of service, current and former VAA executives presented him with a custom plaque featuring a rebar frame and a quote from a longtime client.

Pictured, left to right, are: Quin Vincent, Partner; Bernie Jansen, Principal / Sr. Project Manager; Gary Nagel, Sr. Associate / Sr. Structural Engineer; Gene Haldorson, past Partner; Jeff Schrock, CEO; Scott Stangeland, past President / CEO.

Thank you for all your hard work and congratulations, Gary!