WATERLOO — Business needs and employment issues have been central to Wendy Mihm-Herold’s work with Northeast Iowa Community College for nearly two decades.
Now being considered for Hawkeye Community College’s top post, Mihm-Herold says the key is her experience creating connections that help students find the pathway to a career.
“I’ve been preparing for really all my last 19 years for being a community college president,” she told the board of trustees during a Monday evening interview. And Mihm-Herold has found the place she’d like to land with Hawkeye. “It’s a perfect fit for my strengths.”
The second of four finalists for the president’s position to visit Hawkeye, she spent a full day in meetings, open forums and the 1-1/2 hour board interview.
The first finalist was interviewed last week and the others will be on campus Wednesday and Thursday. Trustees began their search when, after eight years as president, Linda Allen announced in January she plans on retiring by June 30.
Since 2010, Mihm-Herold has been vice president for business and community solutions at Northeast Iowa Community College, which has offices in Calmar and Peosta. Prior to that, she was manager of Iowa Workforce Development’s Region 1 office through the college for eight years with a year-long stint as executive director of the Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission in between.
The 50-year-old St. Lucas native has a doctorate in educational leadership and higher education administration from Iowa State University and a master’s degree in rehabilitative administration from Drake University. She lives in Fort Atkinson with her husband, Alvin, a farmer. Her first job after earning a bachelor’s degree from Iowa State in family services was with the First Judicial District in Waterloo, where she worked as a pre-sentence investigator.
For Mihm-Herold, leading a community college is a calling.
“You don’t wake up one morning and say ‘I want to be president,’” she noted during one of the forums. “It’s a lot of years of working toward that.”
When Mihm-Herold graduated from high school, “really no one ever talked to me about a community college.” She first learned about Northeast Iowa Community College while doing an informational interview there as part of her master’s degree program.
“I was overwhelmed. I really never had any idea what that amazing college did,” she recalled. When the workforce development position opened up at the college, she decided to apply. Once she was in the position, the college’s president encouraged Mihm-Herold to get a doctorate, telling her “you will make a good college president.”
Mihm-Herold described herself as an out-of-the-box thinker who works to propel her college forward. As a manager, she operates as a coach, encouraging the strengths of her team. “I believe it’s our job to grow leaders, especially who want to be in the community college system,” she said.
She talked about her involvement in creating a community partnership, Opportunity Dubuque, that provides non-credit career programming to students who dropped out of high school. It started with computer numerical control machining and has now grown to include 26 programs that draw some participants into the college’s credit classes. She also developed a new partnership on Upper Iowa University’s campus enrolling students in Northeast Iowa Community College classes.
“It’s one student at a time,” Mihm-Harold said of her college success definition. “I believe every student has an opportunity who walks through our door.”