Fairfield welcomes new Indian Hills president
Fairfield residents said “hello” Thursday to Marlene Sprouse, the new president of Indian Hills Community College.
Indian Hills organized a gathering at its Jefferson County Center in the old Carnegie Library building, where Sprouse met members of the public and gave a presentation about the future of the college. She said Thursday’s presentation is something she has been doing lately to introduce herself to the community Indian Hills serves.
Sprouse has spent most of her life living in southeast Iowa and has devoted most of her adult life to education as well. She grew up in Seymour, on the western end of Indian Hills’s 10-county coverage area. She taught high school-English in Russell, Seymour and later Albia, where she would became the principal.
She has worked for Indian Hills for 13 years, beginning as the dean of the Centerville campus, where she worked for two years. For the following 11 years, Sprouse was the vice president of academic affairs until she was named president on Nov. 1.
Given her tenure with the college, Sprouse has already been involved in creating and executing long-term strategic plans for the college.
“The map is already laid out,” she said. “We just have to follow it.”
Sprouse said the things she wants to emphasize as president include improving the school’s “processes” such as its technology processes.
“We don’t want students to run into obstacles when they come here,” she said. “We want them to be able to concentrate on their education. We need to create clear pathways for them, so they know the classes they need to take to earn their degree.”
Indian Hills’s enrollment gradually climbed during the decade of the 2000s and spiked in 2009-2010. Sprouse attributed that to the poor economy, which tends to motivate people to enter college for training or re-training.
“Not unexpectedly, our enrollment has trended down since then,” she said. “In the past 17 years, we’ve had an upward trend in enrollment of 3.6 percent. During that same time, our population in the 10-county area has gone down 2.2 percent.”
Every year, the college reviews one-third of its programs in-depth to determining which are doing well and which have room for improvement. The college looks at how many of a program’s graduates are able to find work after college and whether its curriculum is up to date. A goal of Sprouse’s, which has been a goal of the college for some time, is to add a dental hygiene program.
Sprouse said the news about Iowa Wesleyan College cutting 40 percent of its faculty was sad to hear. She said Indian Hills signed an articulation agreement with Iowa Wesleyan that allows Indian Hills students to study early childhood education for two years and transfer immediately into Iowa Wesleyan’s four-year early childhood education program.
“All of us in higher education are looking for ways to keep enrollment up and ways to pull our processes into alignment,” she said.