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DMACC West Campus Celebrates 20 Years: Innovation Drives Education to Meet Workforce Needs

DMACC West Anniversary

October 14, 2021

Twenty years ago, in 2001, Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) seized an idea: innovation in technology should drive innovation in education and prepare today’s students for jobs in tomorrow’s economy. So, DMACC West Campus came into being — a campus focused on Information Technology (IT) and bringing people together in an environment of creativity and fresh thinking. DMACC Students

Now, in 2021, DMACC West remains committed to this ideal. Everything about the campus centers on the notion of innovation and partnership — from the classes to the space to the players involved.

DMACC West Innovation

We started by offering classes in telecommunications and networking, computer programming, web development and software applications and computer languages to serve a vocational education audience but went beyond to teach in new ways. Things common in education today — like online learning and paperless textbooks, we piloted. We were among the first campuses nationwide — the only one in the Midwest — to use wireless technology. Textbooks delivered to handheld devices (PocketPCs) didn’t exist, so our instructors wrote them. We developed quizzing software delivered wirelessly in real-time to students’ PocketPCs.DMACC West Campus

Our forward-thinking approach attracted partnerships with big IT firms interested in developing these new technologies using DMACC West a case study. Compaq (HP), Apple, Palm and Microsoft were eager to partner with us.

We received a lot of national media coverage for our efforts, and in 2003, InfoWorld magazine named us as # 51 of the top 100 innovation companies in the country. Only four colleges were included — Harvard, MIT, Penn, and DMACC West Campus.

Then the dot-com bubble burst.

IT people lost jobs. Parents discouraged their children from careers in this field. So, we pivot and persevered, using flexibility and creativity as guides. We began offering a full Liberal Arts degree program, business administration programs and focused our IT efforts on network technology (telecommunications). And we continued to employ the hallmark of our approach — innovation — to enhance our learning environment, creating:

Celebrate! Innovation™ Learning Exhibition Wozniak

Celebrate Innovation™ Learning Exhibition is a museum used as a teaching tool. It includes exhibits and artifacts, digital video, large photos and diagrams and story panels integrated into classrooms, labs and common spaces. Current exhibits include 200 Plus Years of American Innovators, 20 Years of Personal Computing and 150 Years of Telecom.

ciLive! (Celebration Innovation Live)

ciLive! was created in 2010 to link famous innovators and pioneers with students and the public. What began with just one speaker — Captain Alan Bean, Apollo 12 and Skylab 3 astronaut and the fourth man to walk on the moon — now features more than a dozen keynoters each year. Our live TV broadcast of the event in March 2021 was viewed by 35,000 people.

Now, at age 20, DMACC West has come full circle. While we continue to offer a two-year Liberal Arts degree program, our efforts once again focus on IT. We aspire to be that place where all workers — whether new to the field or seasoned professions — can go to acquire skills for future-forward jobs and where businesses can turn to find the job-ready employees they need. Plans include developing programs for specific needs:DMACC Learning

Microsoft Data Academy

The Microsoft Data Academy is an example. Through a partnership with Microsoft, we train professionals to staff, maintain and service the growing number of computer networks in data centers throughout the region. It is a first-of-its-kind program in the Midwest and only the fourth Microsoft Datacenter Academy in the nation. Some teaching takes place with our Virtual Learning Lab (VLL) which incorporates state-of-the-art virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies and helps students navigate within the highly secured data centers via a simulated environment.

MakerSpace Capabilities

MakerSpace is a hands-on collaborative space for people to gather, brainstorm ideas and designs and give those ideas form and function … for free. They can perfect their trade and learn new skills, including using 3D printers and building computers.

IT-Related Programs, Certificates + Diplomas

Recently DMACC’s degree programs in web development and animation were moved to West Campus. Growing these programs will continue to be a priority for DMACC.

DMACC West was built on innovation, flexibility, adaptation, creativity, and trying new things. What carried us for the first 20 years propels us forward into the next 20 in service to the greater Des Moines community.

Celebrate the Roaring 20s With DMACC West

You’re invited to celebrate 20 years of DMACC West innovation at a Community Open House on Thursday, Oct. 21 from 4 – 6:30 p.m. at 5959 Grand Ave. in West Des Moines. The event will feature food, beer and wine free of charge and the music of pianist Freddy Gazzo. We hope to see you there!

Job opportunities and career resources are abundant in Greater Des Moines (DSM). Whether you're looking to find an internship, a job, develop professionally or grow as a student, we have the resources to help you thrive.

Dr. Anthony Paustian

From his Air Force days on fighter aircraft to becoming a corporate leader building and positioning national brands, Dr. Anthony (Tony) Paustian was given an uncommon opportunity in life -- to design and build a technology-focused college campus from scratch. Since its opening, the DMACC West Des Moines Campus has appeared in national media and won many awards including being recognized as one of the nation's most innovative organizations. Dr. Paustian holds a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology, a master's degree in business administration and a graduate certification in design management. He's the award-winning author of A Quarter Million Steps, a blogger and the host of a weekly podcast on iHeartRadio entitled, A Step Beyond.