Column: New year brings new challenges and opportunities

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 14, 2002

The beginning of a new year signals the beginning of new initiatives at Riverland.

Monday, January 14, 2002

The beginning of a new year signals the beginning of new initiatives at Riverland.

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Our spring semester began today. Many of Riverland’s occupational programs begin their initial cycles during the spring semester including the physical therapist assistant program, various nursing programs, the cosmetology program and the masonry program.

A host of computer technology profession programs also begin in January: Web page design, Webmaster, Microsoft network technician, electronic technician – computer networking, multimedia and the network cabling specialist that prepares students to install both copper and fiber optic cabling.

Some of Riverland’s occupational programs &uot;officially&uot; begin in August, but there are still opportunities to meet with instructors and begin coursework in January. These program areas include the accounting, auto service technology, auto industrial machining, corrections/law enforcement, diesel mechanics, industrial maintenance and mechanics programs, machine tool technology, truck driving, and all areas of the business and office programs.

Each semester also provides a variety of liberal arts courses for students working toward an associate’s degree. There is still time to register for spring. For more information visit the Riverland Web site at for a complete listing of all available courses.

Early last year we started preparing for the comprehensive re-accreditation process with North Central Association (our regional accrediting body), a process that would have been completed by 2004. However, NCA now offers an alternative version of accreditation which is &uot;AQIP&uot; which stands for &uot;Alternative Quality Improvement Project.&uot; AQIP is essentially a Baldridge Quality Improvement process that has been defined to specifically serve higher education institutions. We have been approved to complete this accreditation process by 2007.

In short, an institution can become more &uot;quality-driven&uot; by using the AQIP Criteria to examine its operations from a systematic perspective-while simultaneously providing the pattern of evidence NCA needs to continue the institution’s accreditation. Riverland has an institutional effectiveness committee that is working on our project.

January also places Riverland in our new Owatonna home. At the end of December, we officially moved into the new Owatonna College & University Center (OCUC). OCUC will result in &uot;one-stop shopping&uot; of higher education opportunities for residents and employees of local businesses in the Owatonna area. The structure is a state-of-the-art technology and general education/training center hosting computer training labs, lecture classrooms, interactive video classrooms, meeting rooms and administrative offices.

To date, Riverland Community College, Southwest State University and Concordia University, St. Paul will provide classes in the new facility. Our classes began today.

We are also starting a new tradition this year by issuing a president’s report to the community. We are working on the final version of the 2002 President’s Report that will highlight our achievements over the past year. Look for this to be ready early in 2002.

Although the Riverland Community College Foundation is wrapping up its second growing together annual campaign, we can, now, start using the additional funds to further support student success and academic excellence. I am proud to say that, to date, more than 130 participants have pledged and donated a total of $25,123. This money will be used to enhance program and staff developments, create student scholarships, maintain foundation investments and foster the economic stability of the college.

The new year represents new opportunities for all of us to improve and grow as individuals, as a cohesive team and as a united community.

Dr. Gary Rhodes is president of Riverland Community College, which has campuses in Albert Lea, Austin and Owatonna.