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Student Center Building Project Launches

Grand Rapids Herald Review

On Thursday, May 9, Itasca Community College will be hosting campus tours and a program unveiling plans for the Beyond the Classroom Capital Campaign Launch. The $4.9 million dollar McMahon Student Center project will make larger and more integrated spaces for the students of ICC to spend time outside of the classroom.

In 2016 ICC English professor Patrick Matthias assigned students to write proposals to campus administration with the prompt, “what would make your experience here at ICC better?” Multiple groups of students independent of one another drafted proposals stating a need for a student center: simply, a place to be.

“Students had a chance to revise [their proposals with feedback from the administration],” says Matthias in an online video for the campaign. “[The administration] said ‘this is something we’d like to do.’”

“Everyone at Itasca Community College is proud of our warm, welcoming environment, and this will be the space [that embodies that,]” said Susan Lynch, Foundation Director of the Itasca Community College Foundation. “The vision is a place for students to develop a sense of community. ... If students are not in a program like engineering or nursing they don’t necessarily get a chance to meet people.”

Currently ICC has no student center on campus and the project aims to reconstruct approximately 5,000 square feet of existing space in the library and media center as well as build 5,000 more square feet of new construction near Davies Hall. New amenities will include ping pong and pool tables, a gaming station, fire place, a coffee shop, a relocated bookstore, and an outdoor equipment rental area for students to rent such things as skis and canoes.

The proposed McMahon Student Center would be the first in several phases to expand and update the college campus.

“We need to raise 4.9 million dollars,” explained Lynch. “We’d like to start construction in December, and it’ll be about a 16-month process to get everything completed. We anticipate the student center will be finished early 2021, and as more funding becomes available Backes Hall would be remodeled to accommodate more office space.”

As of this article, $3.4 million in funds have been raised with contributions from The Blandin Foundation, The ICC Foundation, community members and former alumni, though Lynch notes that the project would not have taken off without the initial contribution of Dr. Jack and Mary Margaret McMahon, whom the proposed student center will be named after.

The financial goal was set after a feasibility study was done to assess the project needs. Renovating preexisting space allowed for the student center to meet projected costs, as well as serving the deeply important function of getting students together in a central location.

“[This plan] repurposes space instead of adding to the footprint; it uses space that is underutilized, and it’s in a location where students have to walk through to get to class!” said Lynch.

In this modern age of technology the common use of cellphones has the negative affect of less social interaction and more solitary behavior among students. A noticeable disconnect among the student body began to emerge over time and a diminishing feeling of community coupled with a lack of space to meet others was impacting students.

“Our scholarship essay question last year was about communicating face-to-face or via technology,” explained Lynch, “And I was saddened by the number of people who said that phones keep them isolated, or that they’ve stopped trying to interact or reach out to other people because every body is on their phones; not paying attention to one another.”

“Itasca County’s population is 2% people of color,” Lynch continued, “And on the college campus it is 21%. These are people of different cultures, and to have a place to come together and learn from one another would benefit us all.”

Lynch went on to say, “I believe this project will improve people’s experiences and it will absolutely serve as a recruitment tool for more students. It will grow our campus and our community.”

Beyond the Classroom Capital Campaign Launch will be held Thursday, May 9, 2019 in Davies Hall at Itasca Community College.
See Facebook Event

Source: Grand Rapids Herald Review

Variety Show a Success!

Grand Rapids Herald Review

Emily Carlson

Students and faculty of Itasca Community College (ICC) gathered together to enjoy each other’s talents at the second annual school variety show Wednesday, April 10 at the Chucker Auditorium. The diverse performances ranged from musical talents to comedy to dance numbers. The Building Bridges Variety Show highlighted the talents of many and brought to light some of the work being done on campus to make connections and increase inclusion.

Sociology teacher Suzanne Starr joined with Student Life Coordinator Kayley Schoonmaker to bring the Building Bridges Variety Show to life. The idea to put on a variety show came to Starr last year as she entered her first year of teaching at ICC.

“I noticed the stage seemed to be a bit ‘dusty,’ and I had a few students who had musical and spoken word gifts who seemed interested in sharing them,” Starr said. “I've spent a lot of time on stage throughout my life, and know how much fun it is, and figured this was something I could help bring to life at ICC.”

The theme of “Building Bridges” was chosen in support of ICC’s dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion.

“This isn't a talent contest, there are no winners,” Starr said. “We're all winners, and this is about sharing gifts and finding wings.”

Student Avery Beyer chose to participate in the show because she liked the theme of building bridges. Beyer sang the song “Riptide” by Vance Joy while playing the ukulele to start the variety show.

“I really like that song. It’s just happy and I thought it might be a good way to start the show off,” Beyer said.

Ariana Aitken, a student at ICC, participated in last year’s variety show and expressed her appreciation for Starr. Aitken performed the song “Read All About” and played the piano. Speaking to Aitken after the show, she said she also enjoyed seeing the different talents of her peers and teachers.

“Yesterday was just so beautiful,” Aitken said. “It was crazy to see everyone in each of their own elements.”

Reflecting the show’s theme, Starr presented a Pan-African flag quilt that was created in February in honor of Black History Month. As the program coordinator for the Associate of Arts (AA) Learning Community on campus, Starr works to bring “enrichment opportunities” to students pursuing their AA degree.

“I am particularly interested in just looking at the human condition and how we educate about that,” Starr said.

The quilt was sewn together with the help of Cindy Hilligoff. The flag features three horizontal stripes in the colors red, black and green. According to the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA), which formally adopted the flag in 1920, the colors of the flag each have their own significance. Red represents “the blood that unites all people of Black African ancestry, and shed for liberation.” Black symbolizes “black people whose existence as a nation though not a nation-state, is affirmed by the existences of the flag.” Finally, green was chosen to portray “the abundant natural wealth of Africa.”

Starr explained the flag “as a symbol and as an acknowledgment to empower and celebrate people with African ancestry.”

Additionally, the quilted flag featured 135 signatures from students on campus that Starr gathered from sitting in the campus cafeteria with the quilt.

“It was a playful way to educate,” Starr said. “It was a chance to educate students and rally students around this idea of this issue of race and racism and to think of it and the reality of people who have lived with oppression and what is something maybe we can do.”

Working around the schedules of busy students and faculty is not an easy task. Starr said that, although it was impossible to plan a full rehearsal with everyone there, everything came together.

“I just encourage people to have fun, and remember, it doesn't have to be perfect. We are sharing love, really, and celebrating the arts and creating some magic together on the stage. The audience will love whatever we bring them,” Starr said. “And of course, life happens, and people cancel. Things like that, you just have to remember why you're doing it and assume it will all fall into place.”

Despite any challenges, Starr was pleased with how the show went and the audience’s response.

“I thought it went just great,” Starr said. “People were laughing and enjoying it. There has been really good feedback.”

Original article by Emily Carlson, Grand Rapids Herald Review

Students holding quilt

Four professors performing skit

Cache the Canine at the Capitol

Itasca's Applied Psychology/Human Services faculty members, Jenny Wettersten and Jackie MacPherson, and their lead canine, Cache, took part in the Minnesota State Day at the Capitol Rotunda in St. Paul. They were selected as one of only eight programs to represent all 37 Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. The event brought together legislators, trustees, presidents, students, faculty, and staff to highlight the importance of Minnesota State’s FY2020-2021 legislative budget request.

Cache and the faculty connected with over 60 legislators and discussed ICC’s Applied Psychology/Human Services program, innovative approaches to teaching and learning they currently use, and upcoming research related to canines in the classroom.

From Provost Dr. Bart Johnson, “This event was a great opportunity to highlight the quality and innovativeness of degree programs at Itasca and in the Northeast Higher Education District (NHED). It also allowed Jenny and Jackie to share with legislators the pressing need for increased legislative support to fund higher education in the Minnesota State system. Re-investment is necessary for the NHED colleges to sustainably meet the educational needs of our region.”

Source: Original article from the Grand Rapids Herald Review

Itasca Qualifies Six Wrestlers for NJCAA Nationals

February 11, 2019 | From The Guillotine

The Itasca wrestling team placed second in the Northern Regional District qualifying six wrestlers to compete at the NJCAA National Tournament. Returning All-American and last year’s regional champion Corey Schmidt claimed another regional title wining at 197 pounds against Rochester’s Morgan Moreno 8-4. Tanner Reetz also claimed his second regional championship uncontested this year at 133 pounds. Claiming second place finishes for the Vikings included 149 pounder Ethan Kiehm, 174-pounder Dalton Bernett, and heavyweight Devin Reynolds. Kiehm dominated in his true-second match against Rashawn Crumpler with a fall in the first period. Bernett also claimed victory in his true-second match with a technical fall in the first period over Northland Community & Technical College’s Thomas Scheett. Reynolds lost his finals match to NCTC’s Andre Baguma by fall near the end of the third period. Cody Sawyer secured a position at the national tournament finishing third by losing to rival Adam Rients of Minnesota West Community & Technical College by fall in the first period for the true-second match. This was the fourth time these two have faced off and are now split 2-2 with each other.

Everyone that competed for the Vikings this past weekend punched their ticket to compete at NJCAA Nationals to be held in Council Bluffs, Iowa on March 1st and 2nd.

2019 NJCAA North Central District Results

Itasca Placers/Qualifiers

133 – Tanner Reetz 1st

149 – Ethan Kiehm 2nd

157 – Cody Sawyer 3rd

174 – Dalton Bernett 2nd

197 – Corey Schmidt 1st

Hwt – Devin Reynolds 2nd

Award-winning author to host movie release at ICC

Kent Nerburn, author of the award-winning novel, Neither Wolf Nor Dog, is coming to Grand Rapids to lead discussions during four screenings of the movie inspired by his book.

Indian Country Today says about the movie, “Neither Wolf Nor Dog” is the story of a well-meaning white writer (Nerburn himself, played by Christopher Sweeney) who is drawn into Native culture when a Lakota elder asks him to turn a box full of notes into a book. The elder — a man named Dan is played by 95-year-old David Bald Eagle — uses the opportunity to poke holes in Nerburn’s — and the audience’s — assumptions about Native people. David Bald Eagle walked on his journey to the spirit world… at age 97, but was able to view the film and said, “It’s the only film I’ve been in about my people that told the truth.”

All screenings of “Neither Wolf Nor Dog” will be in Chucker Auditorium in Davies Hall on the Itasca Community College campus. Admission is free with donations appreciated to go toward building a playground in Ball Club, envisioned by youth in the community. Screenings will include an opening blessing ceremony, the full feature film, and a discussion with local Indigenous leaders hosted by Nerburn. Copies of Nerburn’s books will be available for purchase including the follow-up book to “Neither Wolf Nor Dog,” “The Wolf at Twilight,” which won the Minnesota Book Award in 2010, and “The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo,” which completed the trilogy in 2013.

On Tuesday, Feb. 19, 6 p.m. at the Grand Rapids Area Public Library, Nerburn will give a talk, “Hidden Joys of a Life in the Arts,” which focuses on his most recent book, “Dancing With the Gods: Reflections on Life and Art,” and how “Neither Wolf Nor Dog,” was adapted for the big screen.

All events made possible by a partnership between the Circle of Healing, Itasca Community College and the Minnesota Department of Corrections with support from the Blandin Foundation.

“Neither Wolf Nor Dog,” is an epic road trip that weaves documentary into a dramatically told story. Set in the vast high plains of the western Dakotas, it tells the story of traveling the back roads through contemporary reservations and sites with historical significance, as the elder, Dan, relates the stories and philosophies that he wants Nerburn to write in a book for him.

In both the book and the film, Nerburn’s philosophy rings true. He says he is always aware of being, “the white man in the room,” and is aware that he does not have the answers to past tragedies. He does want his work to help build a bridge between the two cultures, “a bridge to the common humanity that lies beneath our many differences.”

The American Indian College Fund agrees that he has with “Neither Wolf Nor Dog,” issuing the following statement: “This is one of those rare works that once you’ve read it, you can never look at the world, or at people the same way again. It is quiet and forceful and powerful.”

Nerburn has published 16 books of creative non-fiction that have focused on Native American and American culture as well as general spirituality. It was an earlier work, “To Walk the Red Road: Memories of the Red Lake Ojibwe,” that fascinated Dan and inspired the journey recounted in “Neither Wolf Nor Dog.” “To Walk the Red Road,” a collection of photographs and memories of the Red Lake Ojibwe people was produced by Red Lake High School students with Nerburn’s editorial direction.

The highly acclaimed film was produced and directed by Scottish filmmaker Steven Lewis Simpson who also shares a screenwriting credit. The cast is likewise international. Chief Dave Bald Eagle, at age 95, plays Dan. Chief Dave Bald Eagle was Lakota with many movie credits as both an actor and a stuntman, including Dances with Wolves. The final impassioned speech given by Dan in the film was ad-libbed by Chief Dave telling his own, parallel, story. Christopher Sweeney of Yakima, Wash., plays Nerburn. Richard Ray Whitman of the Muscogee Creek Nation plays Grover. Also starring is Tatanka Means, a professional actor and comedian of Lakota, Omaha, and Dine (Navajo) descent. Roseanne Supernault, a Canadian actress of Metis and Cree descent, plays twin sisters, Danielle and Wenonah. She starred as the title character in Maina, an acclaimed CBC production. Additionally, many recognizable Native American actors are also in the cast.

By Paula Rock For Circle of Healing

Press release from Grand Rapids Herald Review

Listen: Education Career Pathways

Career Pathways: ICC's Bart Johnson and Deer River High School Students
KAXE/KBXE Radio Morning Show

Listen on KAXE

Provost Bart Johnson appeared on the KAXE Morning Show to introduce Jenny Tyler and Neesha Moore, students at Deer River High School who particapated in Education Career Pathways. They spent last fall learning what a career in teaching was like, including spending time student teaching.

ICC Brings Green Card Voices to Campus

December 3, 2018

Itasca Community College and the Grand Rapids Human Rights Commission paired-up to bring the Green Card Voices of Central Minnesota to Itasca Community College on Monday, December 3rd. Green Card Voices shares personal narratives of immigrants, fostering increased understanding of the human side of the immigration controversy. Additional sponsorship by FREC, the Bush Foundation, the Blandin Foundation, and LeadMN. Pictured in the photo above is ICC student Desmond Ruffin with Green Card Voices presenters Suud Olat and Monica Segura.

The Green Cards Voices exhibit will be on display at ICC until December 12th and then at the Grand Rapids Area Library until January 8th.

The Green Card Voices exhibit features 18 first generation immigrant and refugee stories from 12 different countries of origin. The stories that make up this exhibit are Central Minnesota stories, told by community members who live here, work here, and serve here. The exhibit features individual 8ft. tall full-color banners displaying highlights of each incredible and unique story. Each banner includes a portraits, their 200-word bio, a quote and a QR code (viewers can scan them with smart phone/ipad and watch the first-person video story).


In 2013, Green Card Voices produced their first touring photo exhibit “Immigrants Telling Their Life Stories” as part of its mission to share immigrant stories with as many people possible. The exhibit featuring 20 Twin Cities’ immigrants has traveled to over 35 locations throughout Minnesota and has since evolved to meet high demand. In the past few years, Green Card Voices produced four additional exhibits in collaboration with their local partners in Central Minnesota, Willmar and Fargo, ND, and are now working on an exhibit in Atlanta, GA. For more about these additional exhibits, please visit the Green Card Voices website.

Itasca Hosts State Trap Championships

The Minnesota College Athletic Conference and the USA Clay Target League, recently concluded the inaugural season of the popular trap shooting sport with the MCAC Fall Championships, held on Tuesday, October 16 at the Grand Rapids Gun Club.

Full Article and Photos on the MCAC Website

While providing a platform for teams to compete in-person at the same site was the primary focus, the event was also a celebration of the popularity and rapid growth of the sport in and around Minnesota.

The one-day Championship event hosted by the Grand Rapids Gun Club might of taken place on a chilly and windy day, but participants, coaches, fans and families turned out in layers and smiles as they cheered on their teams.

While there were several great moments of competition, including two tie-breaking "first-miss" shoot-offs between the top two women's competitors and a third-place tie in the men's division, several of the best moments went beyond the scoresheets.

The community of Grand Rapids and the campus of Itasca Community College provided a great platform for all participating teams, with several squads traveling in the night prior to the event to prepare for a full day of competition.

Visit Grand Rapids, assisted out-of-town teams and fans find the best rates for lodging, and the Grand Rapids Gun Club turned out an army of volunteers to provide everything needed for a first-class event.

The overall team championship on the day was claimed by Vermilion Community College, who edged out Southwest Wisconsin Technical College by only two points.

For complete MCAC Fall Championships scoring, including team standings, individual championship leaderboard and top men's and women's individual finish, go to: and select, CHAMPIONSHIP.

Public Comments Sought for HLC Accreditation

Itasca Community College is seeking comments from the public about the college in preparation for its standard, periodic evaluation by its regional accrediting agency. The college will host a visit on February 25-27, 2019, from a team of peer reviewers representing the Higher Learning Commission. The team will review the institutions ongoing ability to meet HLC’s Criteria for Accreditation. HLC has been the accreditation body for Itasca Community College since 1982.

Comments must be in writing and must address substantive matters related to the quality of the institution or its academic programs.

Submit comments to HLC at or mail them to the address below. All comments must be received by January 28, 2019.

Public Comment on Itasca Community College
Higher Learning Commission
230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500
Chicago, IL 60604-1411