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Iowa Western finalist Kinney calls himself a 'big collaborator'

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Dr. Daniel Kinney makes a point while speaking during a public forum Thursday morning at the Arts Center at Iowa Western Community College. Kinney is one of three finalists for the president’s position at the college.

About 50 Iowa Western Community College staff and patrons attended a public forum Thursday morning at the Arts Center that focused on Dr. Daniel Kinney, the only child of Iowa Western’s current president. Another 90 watched at least part of the event online.

The second of three finalists for college president to be spotlighted in open forums this week, Kinney is currently the president of Iowa Central Community College, based in Fort Dodge.

Kinney clarified early in the session that he is different than his father, while noting his impact.

“We are two distinct individuals,” he said, acknowledging that his father has had a big influence on him. “He’s been an amazing mentor to me my whole life.”

With COVID-19 protocols, the increasing role of technology and the financial impact of closures and unemployment, Kinney said he thinks community college education has really changed.

“Today, community college presidents have to be innovative,” he said.

However, adjusting to the pandemic has been easy, compared to commanding an engineering unit in combat — something Kinney did during the Iraq in the mid-2000s — he said.

The use of technology and the gap in access between families of different income levels is going to continue to be challenging, Kinney said.

“The good thing is, right now, there’s a lot of grant dollars,” he said.

Iowa Central plans to use a $168,000 grant to purchase laptop computers for faculty so they can use them to plan online classes, Kinney said. He has been meeting with the board of trustees, faculty, staff and administration to do some strategic planning on enrollment and student retention.

As a result, Iowa Central has tried to get students into career tracks so they are less likely to drop out. Kinney said he has been listening to “people who deal with students every day.”

“It’s that collaborative style that I bring to the position,” he said. “I’m a big collaborator.”

Kinney said he manages a budget of about $75 million.

“I take that very personally,” he said.

In 11 audits, the college has never had a “nix,” Kinney said. Finances are tight right now for Iowa Central, he added.

“I do require every expenditure to go through my office right now,” he said. “We have to rely on external funding more and more. We’re not going to see a lot of increases from the state. Partnerships, I think, are more and more important than ever.”

At Iowa Central, Kinney was able to pass a $25.5 million general obligation bond, which was used to build a new student services center, he said.

Tim Dickmeyer, director of the Arts Center, asked how important Kinney thinks fine arts, athletics and media studies are.

“The more, the better,” Kinney said. “We’ve got to get people on our campus. Our student events, performances we bring a lot of people to campus. We have the best Sunday breakfast in Fort Dodge, and we get people for that.”

Students who are engaged in college activities do better in classes, Kinney said.

“I think I’ve started, since I’ve been at Iowa Central, 15 athletic programs,” he said.

Iowa Central also rents space to businesses and organizations for conferences, he said. The college owns a golf course, which is an educational tool for turf management and culinary arts students.

Kinney said he was sure Iowa Western’s radio station KIWR-FM is a good recruiting tool.

A question submitted to forum workers and read by Board Secretary Erin McKee inquired how Kinney would determine the culture of the campus.

“My first 100 days, I’ll do a lot of listening and a lot of talking,” he said. “The culture I want is a student-centered-philosophy culture.”

Kinney also holds a session for parents during orientation and is open to being contacted by them. When one parent called because there was no heat in their daughter’s dorm room and a technician couldn’t immediately fix the problem, he tracked down a space heater for them to use in that room.

“I’m here for parents,” he said.

Another question regarded what kind of relationship Kinney would have with the faculty.

“When I arrived at Iowa Central, there was a very big rift between the faculty and the administration,” he said. “Now, we have a pretty nice relationship.”

Kinney helped get a faculty senate started and sits in on meetings at least quarterly, he said.

“I believe in shared governance highly,” as well as professional development, he said.

Contract negotiations rarely require more than two meetings, Kinney said.

“I try to be as transparent as I can,” he said.

In response to another question, Kinney said he hasn’t done a lot of classroom teaching but has helped develop curriculum — and trained soldiers during his 17 years in the Kansas National Guard.

Asked whether he has a new vision for the college, Kinney said he wanted to work on equality and diversity and preparing students for the workforce.

“The vision isn’t just the college president,” it’s the result of collaborative planning, he said.

Asked what role the president should have in politics, Kinney said, “You’ve gotta do it. Advocacy is very important — not just at the state level but at the national level. It’s a key role.”

Kinney, of course, grew up in an education family.

“I’ve really been around education my whole life,” he said. “Being around that college atmosphere was exciting.”

When he was in high school, his father got him signed up to take dual-credit courses at Coffeyville (Kansas) Community College. With some college credits already under his belt, he earned an associate degree in general studies at Coffeyville. Kinney transferred to Pittsburg State University, where he got involved in several college activities and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He also participated in the college’s Reserve Officer Training Corps and graduated as a first lieutenant and joined the Kansas National Guard.

“This was when I decided I wanted to be in education,” he said.

Kinney was able to get an internship at Fort Scott Community College in Kansas. He was sent to Fort Lee, Virginia for basic training and took officer training at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. He got a graduate assistantship advising student organizations at the University of Kansas, where he earned a master’s degree in higher education administration and stayed on as assistant director of admissions.

He realized he wanted to be in the community college system and took advantage of an opportunity to become admissions director at Allen County Community College in Iola, Kansas, where he stayed for seven years.

In March 2004, Kinney was notified that his unit would be deployed to Iraq. He was promoted to captain and put in charge of a unit. He was later put in command of a different unit.

“That was probably the best job I ever had,” he said.

Kinney felt he was in a teaching role working with young soldiers during his 11-month deployment.

He earned a doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Next, he became vice president of student services at Western Nebraska Community College in Scottsbluff, where he stayed for two years.

In 2009, Kinney had an opportunity to become president at Iowa Central Community College and decided to take it.

“We were 7 ½ hours away from my parents and 12 ½ hours away from my wife’s, and family is important to us,” he said.

Public forums focusing on the third and final finalist, Dr. Charles Lepper, will be held at 9 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. today at the Arts Center. Feedback surveys will be available.

To join via Zoom, visit iwcc.edu/president-search/ for a link to the forum and feedback survey.

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