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
• College vision of Lifelong Learning as a public service. No pressure,
therefore to bring in massive profits. Breakeven or better
• 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,
• Decent pay for instructors. We have guidelines but I err on the
• 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
Public Relations Coordinator
Western Iowa Tech Community College
P. O. Box 5199
Sioux City, Iowa 51102
712-274-8733 x 1334