Hawkeye celebrates 50 years, looks to the future

posted on Thursday, February 25, 2016 in  College News

By: Andrew Wind, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

WATERLOO—When Hawkeye first opened, there was no campus.

The programs that made up the newly established Hawkeye Institute of Technology in 1966 were spread across the community. A total of 227 students enrolled that fall in programs like nursing, mechanical and electronic engineering, auto mechanics and body repair, machine specialist and welding.

“We started with rented facilities,” said Linda Allen, current president of what became Hawkeye Community College in 1993. Those initial programs were transferred from the Waterloo School District’s vocational-technical school, which had been operating for nearly a decade.

That same fall, voters in Hawkeye’s 10-county service area approved a tax levy that raised $1.75 million over five years. Those funds, along with a $1.25 million state appropriation, allowed Hawkeye’s board to purchase land along East Orange Road and begin planning the first buildings on its main campus, which opened in 1969.

As Hawkeye’s 50th anniversary approaches, the college has grown a lot from those early days. About 5,400 students are enrolled in more than 45 technical and liberal arts credit programs.

Some of those are high school juniors and seniors earning college credit. Many thousands more are served through community education courses and a wide variety of specialized training for business and industry.

The campus now has 13 buildings along with other centers throughout the Cedar Valley and across the region. More program and building expansion is planned after voters approved a $25 million bond issue a year ago. Credit programs for high school and college students will benefit from the additions, as will Hawkeye’s adult education programs.

Allen said the college’s training work with businesses and those who have been laid off from their jobs has grown over the decades, as well, and been equally important to the community.

“I think our role is to continue training and retraining,” she said. “We intend to continue to meet those needs and expand on those needs.”

And there is plenty of need right now. During the past year, 1,400 people have been laid off from John Deere and Ocwen Financial in Waterloo and Unverferth Manufacturing in Shell Rock.

Hawkeye reached out to the affected workers through its Rapid Response Team with information about training programs, tuition assistance and services. In August, the Dislocated Worker Transition Center opened on the main campus to help displaced Deere workers.

Various training opportunities are available through the college for these and other workers.

Diana Staver of Evansdale was laid off in April from her job as a forklift driver at John Deere after nearly four years with the company. Now enrolled in Hawkeye’s industrial maintenance program, she has been taking classes in subjects such as industrial safety, mechanical and electrical systems and fluid power. Program graduates are employed by companies to fix and maintain factory machines.

The 41-year-old was an education major at the University of Northern Iowa after high school, but dropped out during her junior year. Most of her UNI general education credits applied to her associate’s degree at Hawkeye.

“I love it,” she said recently while learning how to wire controls for an auxiliary motor. “I’m amazed at what I’m learning.” And after two decades of low-skill work, she wanted to go into a field that wouldn’t be as susceptible to being laid off.

“It really was interesting to me,” said Staver. “I’ve always liked to work with my hands, something to challenge the brain a little bit. Something’s always breaking, someone always needs to fix it.”

Allen said that career opportunities won’t be in short supply during the next decade. Job growth is expected in fields such as health care, insurance, manufacturing, transportation, construction and more.

The college’s plans for the future will help address those needs. In the first phase, officials are looking for an off-campus location for a new Adult Education Center.

This will replace the aging Metro and Martin Luther King Jr. centers, providing more space for program expansion.

“Right now, we serve about 2,000 people there annually (in the existing buildings),” said Allen, with everything from adult basic education to high school completion and English as a second language services. Hawkeye has also begun to add some technical programs for those students.

“We want to serve as many people who need our help,” said Allen. “We see our adult education center as critical to the future of the community and our college going forward.”

Hawkeye will also expand its high school career academies, which provide concurrent college credit for certain liberal arts and technical courses to students in districts across the region.

“Career academies are extremely important for kids,” said Allen. It’s “the opportunity to take college courses that lead to a career” and can save money on college costs for parents.

Construction will be happening on campus during the second and third phases of the plans. A Health Sciences Technology Center will allow for expansion of health care programs and simulation technology in one building. Renovations of Grundy Hall will allow for an updated and expanded space for liberal arts courses.

Allen said the health sciences building will help related programs move forward.

“This facility is going to allow us to train students in a way that we haven’t been able to before,” she noted. “When you enter this facility, it will feel and look like a hospital, which is pretty amazing,” said Allen.


  1. Dislocated Worker Transition Center
  2. Electrical Systems
  3. Fluid Power
  4. Industrial Maintenance Program
  5. Liberal Arts
  6. Linda Allen
  7. Mechanical Systems
  8. Van G. Miller Adult Learning Center
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