Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | Jun 20, 2018

A lasting legacy

Iowa Wesleyan University celebrates 175 years
Jul 27, 2017
Photo by: file photo Iowa Wesleyan University kicked off the celebration in February with a party to honor the institute’s 175th year. Above is a photo of the cake served at the party.

By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant News


The wonder in Steven Titus’ voice isn’t lost through the hundreds of miles it’s traveling via radio waves.

“It’s really quite amazing,” Iowa Wesleyan University’s president says over the phone while on vacation. “It’s a wonderful legacy for any institution.”

The university is celebrating its 175th anniversary. In October, the celebration will culminate with the Purple and White Ball.

“If you think just across the United States, there are few institutions that have this kind of legacy,” he continues. “When you look at our colleges and universities across the country, at some of our venerable institutions and Iowa Wesleyan is one of the most historic in the country - certainly west of the Mississippi River. “It’s a wonderful testament to the university, to the Mt. Pleasant community and to the whole region.”

Iowa Wesleyan was founded in 1842 and is one of the oldest, coeducational, church-related liberal arts universities west of the Mississippi River. In that 175 years, the university has seen a great number of illuminating minds pass through its hallways, including Dr. James Van Allen, a space scientist who discovered Earth’s radiation belts, and Dr. Peggy Whitson, a NASA astronaut who is currently serving as space commander for the International Space Station.

Although Titus is proud of the university’s history, he is quick to recognize the intuition hasn’t always been on steady ground.

“When you look back and reflect on the institutions, there’s this legacy, I think, of resiliency. An institution that has been in existence for that long has really traversed a lot of different periods in history. It has had to respond and adapt to that,” he said.

“There are challenges and stresses on our institution and across higher education,” he continued. “How will we respond in a way that honors and lifts up and lives out our mission and also creates a sustainable future of prosperity?”

Over the course of the last half decade, the university’s financial footing was unsteady and the nursing program had lost its accreditation. But with a new president and strategic plan to guide the institution, the future looks bright for the Tigers.

“I think part of that is in the spirit (of the university’s) resiliency and adaptability, to say ‘it’s a new day,’” commented Titus.

And it’s a new day, indeed.

In 2015, the Mt. Pleasant school changed its name from Iowa Wesleyan College to Iowa Wesleyan University. As for the nursing program, it not only regained its accreditation but plans are underway to extend its educational offerings to a graduate level.

This is part of the university’s strategic plan to become a regional learning institution.

“It begins with mission,” said Titus. “Part of that mission is that we have a responsibility to provide education, certification and training to all of the learners in the region, not just those of a certain age.”

This means the university will be looking beyond traditional-aged students. “That demographic is shrinking in terms of available students,” said Titus. “There becomes a strategic imperative to say that for us to really think about our sustainability as an enterprise in the future ... the reality is it’s not possible on the traditional-aged student. There just aren’t enough of them.”

So the university has begun looking to extend educational opportunities to those beyond the age range of 18-22. “Anyone who is seeking to achieve a dream or a goal, we’re there to be companions with them,” he said.

In order to appeal to non-traditional students, the university has changed the way it presents itself. “It’s a re-imagining of our mission,” said Titus. “We’re moving away from what I think has been a residential liberal arts college to a residential comprehensive university.”

“This has fundamentally changed the way we present ourselves,” he added. “I think it has grown our academic programs.”

This fall, the university will offer its first graduate degree program. In May, the higher learning commission approved a graduate degree program in education. By next year the university is hoping to have the graduate nursing degree approved and in place.

“We’re moving rapidly and very strategically on expanding our graduate education,” said Titus.

The university is also working to enhance the way students receive their education. “We currently have four online programs and will move to about 10 programs over the next two years,” added Titus.

In the next couple of years, Titus said the university will be taking a harder look at how to help lifelong learners by expanding its certification programs.

The university is also working to expand its reach globally. Last year, the university had not only its largest freshman class, but also the highest number of international students on campus.

“That’s been part of our strategy,” said Titus. “I think we’ve done that very thoughtfully and we’ve done it in a way that puts structures and programs in place to support those students when they come over.”

Titus said his hope is for the international students to not stay for just a semester, but to complete their education in Mt. Pleasant. “I’m very pleased our retention rate for international students is approximately 75 percent, which is really quite high.”

IW’s goal is to have 100-120 international students on campus. As of mid-June, Titus was anticipating as many as 100 international students attending this fall.

Will all of the changes happening, Titus hopes Mt. Pleasant and the surrounding communities have taken notice.

“The university belongs to Mt. Pleasant and it belongs to Henry County,” said Titus. “I think it’s important that the good work that is being done gets shared so people know the university is being stewarded well and that the university is never there for its own sake, it’s there for the sake of the people.”


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