Iowa Central is more than a college. In fact, the very term "community" better describes the campus atmosphere, because community is what makes our institution shine.
Iowa Central wants our campus experience to be just that - an experience. We strive to offer our students a collegiate atmosphere and student apartments that rival any four-year university. We work especially hard to offer our students a chance to get involved beyond the classroom - to make those connections that forge friendships and develop leadership skills. We have 23 award-winning athletic teams for women and men. We offer a plethora of top-notch performing arts opportunities - from plays and musicals to improvisational acting; from three vocal and three instrumental groups to marching band. We have Student Government and Student Ambassadors. We have rodeo, men's and women's dance teams; we have a culinary arts program that continues to tackle new events. We have service organizations and a growing Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. We have a Business Professionals of America, a Phi Theta Kappa academic group, a College Newspaper, and sponsor numerous arts trips. We even have tremendous fun with our intramural sports. There is literally a place for everyone who desires involvement. We take pride in making these options available for our students; we believe that involvement keeps them linked to each other and to our college.
In fact, a large majority of our graduates rank their experience with us as more memorable and more connected than the university they later attend. Our performing arts students return, without fail, to our plays and musicals; our former athletes follow us on Facebook; our graduates return and apply for jobs at our college. Iowa Central leaves an indelible stamp on their memories and in their hearts. This is our greatest accomplishment-to have made a difference in their lives. Our inductees into the Iowa Central Hall of Fame consistently echo this sentiment.
Iowa Central strives - on every level - to meet not only the needs of our students, but also of our entire community. Any college owes a debt to its community, to the support that the residents, businesses and organizations provide that help make students feel welcomed. Here is where Fort Dodge and the rest of our nine-county region shines. Our residents attend our athletic events; our residents fill the Decker Auditorium for our shows; our residents support us with tax dollars and with private support.
As a result of this mutual respect of a college and its community, we have been able to grow substantially in the past decade. We now have beautiful new facilities. In addition to our exemplary student apartments, we have the environmentally friendly Bioscience and Health Sciences Building which houses the Iowa Central Fuel Testing Laboratory, the designated lab for weights and measurements for the entire state of Iowa. We have a new Student Resource Center which houses our updated library, Student Resource Center, bookstore and Triton Zone. We have a top-notch recreational facility, a much-needed parking ramp, and construction is almost complete on our new cafeteria where approximately 1,200 of our resident students will dine. This expansion will free up space for our growing Culinary Arts program to move into our existing cafeteria space. (which will be renovated).
Furthermore, Iowa Central has been the recipient of very generous community gifts which has allowed us to expand the general campus and the Culinary and Hospitality programs and Clubhouse is the "campus" for Willow Ridge Golf Course for our Turf Grass Management program to Iowa Central's East campus (the old Smithway Building) which houses our business and industry training and the economic Development Staff. The Crimmins Building has allowed our diesel, welding, auto collision and auto restoration programs to expand. Iowa Central is truly indebted to those individuals who have shown such generosity of spirit.
Iowa Central is versatile. We change as the needs of our students and our community change. Our goal is to stay current and to remain viable. As a community college, one of our greatest strengths is our ability to stay responsive and swift in meeting the work-force needs of our region. We have made space on our campus for Workforce Development, and we have started new majors such as electrical mechanical, bio-technology, diesel, auto collision, auto restoration, photography and many more. For the nontraditional student, we have also expanded our distance learning offerings and continue to offer classes during interim terms and at night to help meet those needs. We place tremendous value on our vital partnerships with business and industry leaders and work hard to provide them with whatever training their work-force needs.
In addition, Iowa Central continues to keep strong the relationships with our K-12 school systems; we endeavor to make the college experience accessible to all types of learners. With our placement strategies in place, we strive to be a compass for students searching for their key strengths and helping them find majors and courses of study that fit their personal learning styles. For those students continuing on to a four-year university, we help insure that their credits transfer easily as they continue towards bachelor degrees and beyond. To help facilitate those transfers, Iowa Central has agreements already in place with four-year universities, and our advisers help those students not only apply but also search out scholarship opportunities at the next level as well. In fact, the majority of our faculty invests much time writing letters of recommendation for our quality Iowa Central students.
Iowa Central is committed to keeping a college education an affordable, accessible reality. Our faculty and staff work incredibly hard to fund scholarships and to recruit students in order to keep the costs down for all students. We believe education is the foundation for career success and career options. For those who might struggle in a collegiate setting, we offer tutorial assistance. For those who are valedictorians and honors students, we reward them with generous scholarship support and afford them opportunities to stay engaged beyond the classroom and to nurture their leadership skills. We have raised our academic scholarship (for Iowa students) amounts as follows: Valedictorian - full tuition; salutatorian - $3,000; 3.75 and above cumulative high school GPA - $800; 3.25-3.74 cumulative high school GPA - $600. These scholarships are renewable throughout the student's college career at Iowa Central. We understand the importance of recognizing students for their hard work through high school.
Finally, starting the fall of 2013 we will also have Honor Apartments which will help students network and form study groups with other students who have the same academic interest and excel in the classroom. Adding a compatibility questionnaire to our housing application is another way we can ensure that our students have the best on-campus living experience possible. We want to be the best fit for every student who walks onto our campus - either literally or via cyberspace.
We are passionate at Iowa Central - and that passion for excellence flows in and through the very community which supports us. We are grateful.
Thomas J. Beneke is vice president, enrollment management and student development, at Iowa Central Community College.