Western Iowa Tech Community College
By Fiona Valentine

When EIN heard about the someone unusual format of this successful lifelong learning program, (no committees, Board of Directors, etc.) we asked the Director to write up a short synopsis of the program, which she has done below.

They say that life is short. Sometimes, when I realize I've been an Elvis fan for nearly 50 years and a Rolling Stones fan for 40 years, I think life is rather long. Not too long, just fairly leisurely as it is experienced day to day.

And when you start thinking that way, you realize that time is on your side if you want to improve, extend or reinvent yourself. Our program for adult learners is based on that principle. It's a place that embraces long-life learning. You've always got enough time to feed your mind.

We started in school year 97 with an enrollment of 176 members. (Membership then and now costs $5 per school year and is a requirement for about two-thirds of the classes.) In school year ‘05, membership was 433. It was by no means a steady climb upwards but the upward trend seems to have stabilized. Halfway through the present year, we have enrolled 355.

I run the program by myself. I do rely on help from a person in another department to enter the classes in the computer and someone else designs and produces our brochure but other than that, I am solo.

Here are some of the reasons why I think we are successful, at least as measured by growing membership:

• Cutting-edge programs. We are the only game in town that teaches eBay or poker.
• Programs that address the different needs and interests of the three generations that comprise older   adults. Old boomers are interested in evening sessions focusing on the meaning of life (world   religions, philosophy); newly retired want to get out and see the world (tours); the "senior" seniors like   daytime offerings that are heavy on local history.
• College leadership style that does not micromanage my program and choices.
• College vision of Lifelong Learning as a public service. No pressure, therefore to bring in massive   profits. Breakeven or better is OK.
• Partnerships within the College. I promote our Humanities Department's programs in my Lifelong   Learning brochures. This builds audience for the department and adds bulk to my programming. I also   use some of my profits to make grants to programs and events within the College.
• Not only am I the Lifelong Learning program coordinator here but I am also the public relations   coordinator. It helps enormously that I am able to do my own press releases and other promoting.
• Class pricing is very reasonable.
• If a class doesn't work I drop it or retool it. I find classes that don't work are: Yoga (too many offerings   in town not to mention yoga classes offered by our regular community education program); self-help   and therapy sessions (people don't want to expose their inner selves with a bunch of strangers in a   classroom; sports programs that have a primarily male orientation (I tried the history of baseball in the   evening in our lecture hall, great topic, wrong venue).
• Decent pay for instructors. We have guidelines but I err on the generous side.
• Community partnerships. Our area museum is just as eager to build audiences as we are. We jointly   offer several programs here a year, including a History Day and cemetery tours.
• Outstanding registration staff at Western Iowa Tech (great follow up on waiting lists, cancellations,   etc.)
• Special postcard mailings that are very attractively designed

Fiona Valentine
Public Relations Coordinator
Western Iowa Tech Community College
P. O. Box 5199
Sioux City, Iowa 51102
712-274-8733 x 1334




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