Buena Vista University continued in 2012 to be an educational giant in Fort Dodge.
One of its many accomplishments last year was to enhance its teacher education major.
"It was revised and now all graduates of the teacher education program have a reading endorsement, which is valuable to a teacher," Lois Irwin, BVU director, said. "It used to be an add-on. So prior to this group of students graduating in December, graduating teachers did not have an endorsement. Now they do. So we're kind of proud of that. We think that's a nice addition to our education program."
-Messenger photo by Brandon L. Summers
Sarah Treinen, Buena Vista University student, studies before heading to class. Treinen is studying secondary education.
Working with Iowa Central Community College, BVU is increasing its job-placement prowess.
"At Storm Lake, our mother campus, we now have a career connection that students can log on to, which has job-seeking and -keeping skills," Irwin said. "And the other part of that is we're better connected with Iowa Central's career placement service. We get a list of job openings that students use, and in 2013 we're going to be part of their career fair, so students have more opportunities to look for jobs, in March."
According to Irwin, its teacher education graduates are finding jobs.
"One of our students, who just graduated in the fall, she interviewed for four positions, elementary education, where there's not a high demand, like a high school math teacher, and she was offered four positions," Irwin said. "Interviewed four times, offered four times. She's a topnotch student, and she's working in the job of her choice."
The school had 15 teacher education graduates in December, with most already employed as substitutes or teacher associates, Irwin said.
This school year, BVU has 218 students participating in its classes. Some attend BVU in the hopes of finding employment.
"Specifically we had students under the trade act, which is a re-entry program by Workforce Development and we still have a good number of those students," Irwin said. "Maybe 20 will be graduating in the spring. They've gone through the program and will have a bachelor's degree ready to go."
BVU students now have the option of taking classes that combine classroom and online formats.
"We're doing more hybrid classes, which is part-time face-to-face, part-time on the computer, which seems to be a good answer to students," Irwin said. "A lot of students don't feel good about online, but they could do some of it online and some of it face-to-face."
Irwin is proud of the success the university's students are finding.
"We just had a student come in who has worked in the medical laboratory field here in Fort Dodge and enrolled in our program for job advancement," she said. "He's not finished and he was already offered the administrator position for a lab tech program in Webster City."
In 2013, BVU will begin a new program with Boehringer-Ingelheim, started by her predecessor, former director Mitch Craigmile.
"Mitch started working with local companies, specifically Boehringer-Ingelheim, to try and develop a four-year applied science degree and that was, in November, approved by our mother campus and we'll have it up and running next December," Irwin said. "Iowa Central is going to graduate applied science students that are wanting to go into a bachelor's program and we hope they choose to come here, to a new program, that BI is specifically helping us with."
In March, Irwin became director of BVU, a position she has enjoyed.
"I love it here," she said. "For me, this position is a perfect blend of what I already knew about education, from being in K-12 education, and new experiences, tasks, I'm not familiar with. Marketing and recruiting, those kinds of things. It's a nice blend of what I did know and what I'm learning to do."
Irwin, in her year as director, has already seen many students find success in education.
"A student that just graduated from here, he was in Monday night, we went through his transcript to be sure he had everything, everything was going to be fine," she said. "He pointed out to me that some of his grades were A's and some were D or failing, and he said 'that reflects the stresses in my life.' And 'I never thought I would graduate from college. I just kept taking another class, taking another class.' He was the first one to graduate in his family."
She added, "We have a lot of first-time-in-a-family graduates, which makes me feel good."
Irwin describes BVU as "an institution that cares."
"One of our best selling points is we have advisers that work continually with students," she said. "We do have a lot of non-traditional students. Many of our students are working full-time, have children, and they're coming to us on Monday and Thursday nights, sometimes from 5:30 to 10:45. They're pretty committed to what they're doing. Many need support, and I feel good about the support that we can give them, as well as accommodating."