NICC renovation project puts focus on student convenience; new president search underway

PEOSTA, Iowa — Sue Runyon enjoyed seeing Northeast Iowa Community College students taking advantage of new study and hangout nooks on Monday.

“That’s what I love, and I think the students will really like it, too,” she said.

Runyon, who is on the college’s board of trustees, was one of the trustees who took a tour of the progress on NICC’s major renovation project following the regular board of trustees meeting Monday afternoon.

The $22.5 million renovation project began in June 2020 to update and create new spaces throughout the Peosta campus. The project is funded by a $39 million bond levy that passed in 2018.

“The idea was how we can focus on the student,” NICC President Liang Chee Wee said of the project during the tour. “The way we are organized now, it’s not what is convenient for us but what is convenient for the student.”

The first two phases of renovations were completed before the current semester and included building a link between the main building and the industrial technologies building, creating both new and updated classrooms, adding student areas and completing a new dining area.

Rhonda Seibert, NICC associate vice president of operations, noted that students have, especially, appreciated the link between the campus’ two buildings, as they won’t have to walk outside between buildings during inclement weather.

The final two phases of the renovation project are expected to be complete in time for the fall 2022 semester, she said. The demolition of the old bridge entrance is expected to begin in the next two weeks.

“People think you can just take a wrecking ball (to it), but you can’t, or you’ll ruin the structure of the building,” she said. “It has to be cut piece by piece.”

Seibert said that the fourth and final phase of the renovation is expected to begin in the next few months and will include constructing a new conference center that can accommodate 350 people.

During Monday’s meeting, the board of trustees also heard that they would be swearing in two new trustees following the Nov. 2 election. Trustees Gene Fuelling and David Schueller have decided to step back from the board.

The trustees also were given an update on the timeline for their presidential search. Wee previously announced that he would be stepping down from the president role on June 30. He was named the school’s president in October 2011 after serving as interim president for about four months.

Runyon said that the firm leading the search, RH Perry and Associates, said it expects at least 50 applications for Wee’s successor, and the application went live last week. The firm plans to have semifinalists selected by mid-November, she said.

“If things go well, at that December (board of trustees) meeting, we could be voting on three finalists,” she said.