My Thoughts on the History of the Community College

Posted on January 16, 2014
By KCELT Team

This post was composed by Jacalyn McCarville, faculty and counselor at the Iowa City Campus.  The original document was written as a reflection on the Fall 2013 section of the History of the Community College.

Kirkwood Community College, for over 45 years now, has held true to its original mission to train people for jobs. With thanks to the fortitude of Bud Jensen and his infamous “Hands of the Bricklayer” speech, this has helped Kirkwood rise considerably beyond just that of a vocational only institution to what it has become today. Reaching out to all members of the community to address lifelong learning, no matter what your interests, Kirkwood has what you need to become successful.  The Mission statement of Kirkwood Community College rings true in all its efforts; it reads as follows:

Consistent with the philosophy held by the College in accordance with the charge given it by the State of Iowa as an institution of higher education and in concert with other agencies:

Kirkwood Community College identifies community needs; provides accessible, quality education and training; and promotes opportunities for lifelong learning.

To accomplish this mission we are committed to creating an environment in which we constantly strive for improvement.

As important as it is to understand what developmental processes had to take place to make Kirkwood the pillar of excellence it has become, it is also very valuable to understand the legacy behind the creation and how community colleges across the nation developed to have a better understanding of the past, current and growing needs of the communities around community college campuses.

It is believed that the first community college was established in 1901 creating a gateway for higher education in the United States. (Mello, 2000)  There has been a steady growth of need in communities for a variety of reasons over the years.  Community colleges have matched the need of the students as well as employment trends to stay current.  Thus, allowing the surrounding communities to take advantage of the lifelong learning opportunities community colleges have to offer.

I believe what makes Kirkwood a vital part of the eastern Iowa community are their principles and values; “integrity, mutual respect, open communication, innovation, partnership, lifelong learning, servant leadership, and excellence.” Kirkwood uses these principles and values to maximize individuals as well as community improvement.  The following is a quote from Barack Obama, which I think sums up the current needs in our community that through Kirkwood’s principles and values are holding strong to: “With the changing economy, no one has lifetime employment.  But community colleges provide lifetime employability” (AFL-CIO National Convention, July 2005).

Since the beginning of this semester I have been most inspired by the students.  Although I teach as an adjunct, my main position is counseling.  Daily I see students that share with me the many burdens they carry on their back.  I am also very fortunate to celebrate with them the many successes they have while they are here.  These students inspire me in so many ways.  As you walk into the commons each day and see students with their nose in a book, laughing with friends, daydreaming about what may be, or napping, you see your typical college student.  I see the real student, the one that has been through heart ache and it has nothing to do with school.  Or the student that can’t afford their psychiatric medications and is having trouble focusing without them, or the student that maybe recently lost a parent, a friend or even their pet.

I am most inspired by these students because they have so much courage, courage that I don’t believe I had when I was their age.  They were able to seek out help, find someone that would listen and I am very proud to be that person.  We have to learn in life that we all have a voice, a voice that is meant to be heard.  If there is no one there to listen, our voices are pointless.  I hope that if nothing else while I am at Kirkwood, I will always be an ear to those voices.

Works Cited

Our Mission” (2013). Retrieved from http:// http://www.kirkwood.edu/site/index.php?p=25509

Mello, Gail. O. “The History and Development of Community Colleges in the United States, 2000” Retrieved from; http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED455883

Obama, B. (2005).  Economy & Labor.  AFL-CIO National Convention.  July 25, 2005.  Retrieved from http://obamaspeeches.com/028-AFL-CIO-National-Convention-Obama-Speech.htm

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