Riverland excited about new academic year

Published 8:42 am Monday, September 28, 2009

Every fall offers new and exciting challenges, and this year is no exception. This semester, more than 130 classes on Riverland campuses and online were filled to capacity. The number of students enrolled by the Friday of the first week increased 17 percent as compared to the same time last fall. On-campus student housing in Austin provided by the Riverland Foundation, an uncommon service at Minnesota community colleges, is at capacity this year.

Some of these increases are the result of dislocated workers in a struggling economy. Riverland has strategically planned some attractive and relevant offerings for students. Each of our campuses has one or more of these highlights:

Riverland continues to grow its healthcare offerings. Our partnerships with Albert Lea, Austin and Owatonna health care professionals and facilities have been the backbone of our health programs as evidenced when we added a $2.2-million world-class simulation center to our Austin campus.

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This fall, our long-standing partnership with Owatonna Hospital Allina, will create an innovative teaching and learning environment in the new Owatonna Hospital. This initiative is supported by our relationships with Owatonna Clinic Mayo Health System and long-term care centers. Riverland will lead collaborative programming with other key partners such as Minnesota State University, Mankato, Crown College, and Workforce Development, Inc. in 2,500 square feet of space dedicated to allied health and health science education and training for current and future health care workers.

The highly anticipated wind turbine technician program began this fall in Albert Lea. Student demand has classes at full capacity with a large waiting list. The program addresses the growing demand for highly qualified personnel to service and maintain an increasing number of turbines used in the renewable energy industry today and for the near future. Course study includes design, operation, and maintenance theory and application of turbine technology usage with an emphasis on turbine/renewable energy applications.

This fall, Riverland Community College added intercollegiate men’s soccer to its athletic program in Austin. Our new coach, Soner Dogan, has been involved with soccer at every level. He played varsity soccer at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Ankara University, Turkey. As a certified soccer referee, he has officiated at professional and college levels, including the Big Ten. He has officiated high school and youth soccer games for 12 years.

Besides his soccer credentials, Dogan has master’s and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Minnesota and has been conducting research on breast cancer and obesity at the Hormel Institute for the past five years. He also teaches biology classes at Riverland.

The Riverland athletics program adds soccer to its other competitive sports that include men’s basketball and baseball and women’s volleyball, basketball and softball.

These highlights demonstrate Riverland’s continued commitment to create relevant opportunities in teaching and learning. Riverland, committed to facing the challenges of the changing workforce and economy, will charter a future that continues to offer a comprehensive, personalized educational experience to our students. We anticipate the challenges of another exciting academic year.

Terrence Leas is the president of Riverland Community College.