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Leading in Times of Challenge with Rob Denson

Rob Denson DMACC

Rob Denson, the fourth president of Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC), grew up near the Amana Colonies in southeast Iowa. He is the first DMACC president to be a native-born Iowan. Denson graduated from Iowa State University (ISU) and previously worked as assistant dean at ISU and as president of Northeast Iowa Community College before being appointed at DMACC. Denson serves on many boards and committees in Greater Des Moines (DSM), including on the 2021 Greater Des Moines Partnership board of directors.

Rob Denson Leadership Tips

For Denson, the COVID-19 pandemic has been the most challenging situation he’s dealt with due to the fact that it’s been a life-and-death situation. In March of 2020, DMACC closed face-to-face classes and moved online. With a weeklong break already scheduled at the beginning of the shutdown, DMACC faculty used that and one extra week to prepare to conduct classes online, allowing for better protection of students and staff at that time.

DMACC’s executive committee has upped its communication efforts by meeting three times a week. For the first month after the pandemic hit, the team met daily. Denson says this communication is a strength of his team. He now delivers a Friday morning message summarizing things that have gone on over the course of each week. The executive committee has also gone through a new comprehensive strategic plan —reviewing and upgrading technology, focusing on diversity and asking how to build back as a better institution. Denson says they are framing DMACC as the smart place to go, a college that is affordable while offering the best in student support and education. 

Denson discusses what it takes in order to be the best leader he can be. He relies on his supportive wife, eating well, walking 10,000 steps a day and going to work early. Most days, he gets to work around 4:30 a.m., catching up on emails, doing an environmental scan, walking campus and mentally preparing for his 7:30 a.m. start. Denson offers two tips for others heading into leadership roles, including reading as much as you can about servant leaders and to remember to take care of others and make sure staff gets credit for what they accomplish.

Listen to the entire podcast here.

The Leading in Times of Change podcast is brought to you by the Greater Des Moines Partnership and hosted by Mike Jefferson. The podcast features community leaders from across Greater Des Moines (DSM). To listen to more Partnership podcasts, click here.

Leading in Times of Challenge

Leading in Times of Challenge is a podcast featuring Greater Des Moines (DSM) business and community leaders.