WATERLOO — Jared Seliger knows he has big shoes to fill.
Seliger took over as Allen College president on Jan. 2, replacing former president Jerry Durham, who retired at the end of last year.
“They’re big shoes to fill, but in a different way,” Seliger said. “We’re setting on a trajectory, looking at the big picture.”
That big picture means sustaining the legacies of his predecessors, he said.
As the institution’s first president, Jane Hasek, laid the groundwork for the formation of Allen College in 1989 and its subsequent approval by the Iowa Board of Nursing in 1990 to establish a bachelor of science in nursing.
Under Durham’s 12-year tenure, Allen College saw unprecedented growth of programs, faculty and students. Allen’s School of Health Sciences offers an associate degree in radiography as well as bachelor of health science degrees in dental hygiene, diagnostic medical sonography, medical imaging, medical laboratory science, nuclear medicine technology, public health and a population health minor. Also offered are a master of science in occupational therapy and a doctor of education.
The Allen College School of Nursing offers a bachelor, master and doctor of science in nursing programs.
“Jane’s legacy was the initial foundation, getting the college established and accredited. Jerry led us through the growth phase. My job will be looking at ways to be sustainable,” Seliger said. “Where are our students coming from? How can we keep our education affordable? How do we remain competitive in higher education as a specialized institution?”
Addressing the nursing shortage is part of the plan.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections 2014-2024, registered nursing is listed among the top occupations in terms of job growth through 2024. The RN workforce is expected to grow to 3.2 million in 2024, an increase of 16 percent from 2014. The Bureau also projects the need for 649,100 replacement nurses in the workforce bringing the total number of job openings for nurses due to growth and replacements to 1.09 million by 2024.
“The nursing shortage is not coming. It’s here,” Seliger emphasized. “We’ve got to strategize about how to get students interested in health care.”
Allen College currently enrolls 620 students. Many graduates have remained in the Cedar Valley.
“We have grads at (UnityPoint Health-Allen Hospital), Covenant (Medical Center) and clinics all over. Odds are pretty high that if you receive your health care locally you’re going to come into contact with an Allen College graduate,” Seliger said.
Allen College collaborates with Wartburg College in Waverly, the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls and Hawkeye Community College. Students take general education courses at those schools and come to Allen to finish their nursing degrees.
“The majority of our students come from Northeast Iowa,” Seliger said. “We are here for the community. It’s easier to keep people here in the community than to get them to come.”
He would know. Seliger is a Jesup native who graduated from Don Bosco High School in Gilbertville. He earned a doctorate degree in higher education administration from Iowa State University in Ames, a master’s in business administration from UNI and a bachelor of science from Loras College in Dubuque. He also has a certificate in nuclear medicine technology from the University of Iowa in Iowa City.
Seliger was the director of Allen College’s nuclear medicine technology program for nine years and associate chancellor for two years. As the new president, he’s excited to lead the next generation of nurses and nurse educators.
“Health care is very much a service industry. I want our graduates to be thought of as people who genuinely care. That’s what’s important,” Seliger said. “Our health care system is here to take care of people.”