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NIACC

MASON CITY | North Iowa Area Community College has turned 100.

And that’s a milestone worth celebrating, said Steven Schulz, the college’s president.

“It’s a celebration of all the good work and the good people that have built NIACC to where it is today and a celebration of all those alums who took advantage of the opportunity to come here and participate and hopefully better their lives,” he said.

Sept. 9 marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of Mason City Junior College — now North Iowa Area Community College, or NIACC — with 28 students, four of which graduated two years later.

To commemorate the occasion, the college is hosting a birthday party Monday with cake, balloons, prizes and a photo booth for students and passing out candy in classes.

“We want to get them excited about our anniversary, as well,” Schulz said, noting NIACC is the oldest public community college west of the Mississippi River.

The college has a variety of events scheduled throughout the year for students, faculty and members of the community to celebrate its centennial.

Since opening in 1918, the college has changed its name, its location and its offerings in academics, athletics and arts.

In 1966, Mason City Junior College became NIACC with an enrollment of 1,802 students and classes were held in buildings throughout the city before moving to its current 500-acre site on the east edge of Mason City in 1970.

Today, NIACC is a nationally ranked two-year institution that serves thousands of students through nearly 40 programs and non-credit programs annually.

Within the last five years, the college — thanks to “tremendous support from the community” — was able to update student housing and education facilities on its campus, Schulz said. 

Some of the notable additions to the college are the health simulation lab, the diesel technology center and the Science Technology Engineering Math Center. A grand opening for the new STEM center is planned for October, Schulz said.

“It’s really North Iowa’s college, and to watch the support that has brought us from 1918 to today is worth celebrating,” he said.

Schulz said the college’s new facilities, scholarships and partnerships with area high schools has attracted students over the years.

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According to preliminary numbers, NIACC is looking at a 1.5 percent increase in student enrollment and a 4.4 percent increase in credit enrollment for fall 2018 from last year — marking its largest increase since 2010, he said.

“This is a really good sign,” Schulz said.

Mason City Superintendent Dave Versteeg said NIACC’s “long-standing partnership” with the school district has been one focused on students of all ages.

He said the schools share facilities, collaborate on career and technical programs and host events “to give more options to students.”

Versteeg estimates about half of Mason City’s graduating seniors enroll at NIACC.

In June, NIACC kicked off its year of anniversary festivities by sponsoring a Friday Night Live event in downtown Mason City.

Valerie Zahorski-Schmidt, NIACC's marketing director, said the college has participated in more than 30 parades, fairs and community events this summer for its centennial, and more are scheduled for students, faculty and community members.

“It’s really a celebration for the whole area,” Schulz said. “That’s what puts community in community college is the support that we receive and we want to do our best to thank our community and serve our community moving forward.”

According to the NIACC website, the next community events it’ll participate in are Autumn Artistry in Osage and Harvest Fest in Clear Lake.

NIACC plans on concluding its anniversary year with the Night to Shine Gala on June 8, 2019.

Large banners encapsulating the college’s 100-year history will be displayed in the auditorium during its Performing Arts and Leadership Series this fall before finding a permanent home in one of the halls, he said.

“It’s really an amazing history,” Schulz said. “It’s been fun.”

For more information about NIACC, its history and its upcoming festivities, visit www.niacc.edu.

Photos: NIACC Diesel Technology Center

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Reach Reporter Ashley Stewart at 641-421-0533. Follow her on Twitter at GGastewart.

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