Greetings Storm Lake friends and neighbors

BY DR. BRIAN LENZMEIER

On May 8 I was appointed by the Board of Trustees to step into the role of Buena Vista University Interim President. Although I step into this role at a time of great uncertainty for higher education, I willingly embrace this opportunity because I am surrounded by talented students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends committed to helping continue BVU’s path forward. We have a solid strategic plan in place; a seasoned administration; and thanks to our many benefactors and past institutional leaders, we are on much more solid footing financially than most of our peers.

I take inspiration in knowing BVU as a resilient institution with a rich history of bold leadership and working together to overcome adversity. For example, in 1931 at the depth of the Great Depression, Dr. Henry Olson stepped into a presidency where he inherited a bank account with 29 cents and $300,000 of debt. To get through, the college allowed students to pay tuition in the form commodities like eggs, vegetables, and ham, which in turn were used to pay the employees. BVU slowly worked off that debt and began to thrive. Inspired by our past and knowing the great potential of our current students and community members, I am confident BVU will weather this current pandemic and emerge stronger on the other side.

I am also blessed to serve a university whose residential campus is located in Storm Lake. I have lived here now for 17 years. I love this community and I want to see Storm Lake continue to thrive. My wife Betsy and I have raised our two sons here, and we could not have asked for a safer, more welcoming, and supportive environment for raising a family. Countless teachers and community members have had positive influences on the development of our children and their lives are better because they grew up in Storm Lake, amid its rich diversity. Simply put, my family loves the quality of life we enjoy in The City Beautiful.

BVU’s employees and students also benefit greatly from Storm Lake and the communities of Northwest Iowa. BVU is grateful for all the interns local businesses have hosted, all the student teachers who have been trained in regional schools, and all the financial and logistical support local community members continue to provide every year. Our students are successful graduates and contribute substantively to the Storm Lake and Northwest Iowa economies in large part because of the opportunities you have provided them. I have lived here long enough now that three of the four health practitioners I see are former BVU students I taught as a biology professor in the Estelle Siebens Science Center. All of them returned to practice in Storm Lake because of the experiences they had working with local health practitioners while BVU students. I hope to continue to strengthen the ties between Buena Vista University and the surrounding communities because we both benefit greatly from a collaborative relationship. 

I want to share with you BVU’s vision statement, which was adopted in 2018: Our vision is to be a nationally recognized leader in rural higher education known for its remarkable student learning and outcomes. We will be an institutional destination — ambitious in our efforts to distinctively and boldly inspire students to serve, empower, and transform communities through Education for Service. Guided by our strategic plan, we remain committed to this vision; to our new agriculture programs; to our Education for Service Scholars program for local high school graduates; to the developing Lamberti Center for Rural Entrepreneurship; to our online and hybrid undergraduate and graduate programs; and to providing all our students with a top-notch education.  BVU cannot achieve its vision without the support of Storm Lake and the communities of Northwest Iowa, and the future of Storm Lake and Northwest Iowa is made brighter by BVU graduates.

In closing, I am honored to have the opportunity to serve as BVU’s interim president. I hope you will choose to join me in making a difference for a community that has meant so much to me and my family. Together, we can honor the work and achievements of those who came before us, work toward achieving a vision benefitting both BVU and Storm Lake and build a bright future for those yet to come.

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