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All in the family: Staff members' offspring walk Minnesota West's halls

History instructor Dave Mills (left) poses with sons Sam and Joe and wife Ann, who teaches biology at Minnesota West. Sam chose the college for its strong agricultural program. Joe chose the community college to discover what he wants to major in. (Submitted photo)1 / 2
Minnesota West football coach Jeff Linder poses for a photo with his daughter, Becca Linder, who is a member of the Lady Jays’ volleyball team. Becca chose to attend Minnesota West to pursue athletics. Jeff says the school offers a good education at an affordable price. (Submitted photo)2 / 2

WORTHINGTON — Minnesota West opened its doors this week to welcome the influx of new and returning students to its Worthington campus.

Among the sea of faces, a few may be more familiar to certain teachers than others.

This year, several staff members’ children are students at the college. While they chose Minnesota West for different reasons, one common theme is receiving a quality education at an affordable price.

“For our oldest son Sam, one of the deciding factors was that he knew he wanted to do something in agriculture and Minnesota West has a great ag program,” biology instructor Ann Mills explained. “For Joey, our second son, one of the deciding factors was that he was unsure about a major, and so it made a lot of sense to start here and figure that piece out.”

Ann and her husband, Dave, both teach at Minnesota West. Dave teaches history.

Dave agreed it was a good idea to attend a community college while still trying to decide on a major. He, too, was unsure about his major when he entered college.

“Take myself for example. I had four different majors in two years when I went to school because I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Dave recalled.

“I started out as an engineering major. Well, there’s a lot of math in that, and I am terrible at math. So that was a terrible decision. Computer science was my next major, finance was my next major — more numbers — and then business administration. It was all of these things that I had flirted with were simply things I was not passionate about. I went into them for the wrong reasons. But, I am paying four-year tuition rates instead of a community college tuition rate to try and figure out what I wanted to do.”

College expenses then led Dave to enter the military in order to pay for his education. By beginning at a community college, and with the added help of being faculty, Ann said the tuition expense is significantly less for her sons, and that’s important.

“For both of them, they are saving a lot of money, as tuition is less expensive than a four-year school,” she said. “They are both living at home, so that saves on room and boarding. It also helps that Dave and I both teach at the college and that as part of our contract ... our dependents have some free tuition. That saves Mom and Dad money.”

Law enforcement instructor Mark Holden and his wife, Alex, who teaches business, also have a son taking classes at Minnesota West. Mark is glad son Nate chose the school to pursue law enforcement..

“I think it’s awesome,” Mark said. “There can’t be a better way for him to get an education.”

Nate attends classes online and a few on campus to fit around his work schedule. Mark shared Nate began pursuing his law enforcement degree in 2009, but was unsure if that was truly the career path he wanted. After taking time away from college, he has returned now to finish.

Mark added the quality of the law enforcement program and small class sizes were factors in Nate’s choice of school to attend.

“He knew about our program, law enforcement,” Mark said. “He’s been thinking about it for a long time. He knows that our program is really good and our students are getting hired.

“We compete with Alexandria, which is the largest law enforcement program, along with Hennepin Tech. But here, the class sizes, even though they’re similar to other community colleges, they’re small enough so he can get individual attention. So I think that is part of it.

"Our college as a whole, from what I’ve seen, will work with every student no matter what if they ask,” Mark continued. “Making it personal, I think, is important, and I think he sees that. I don’t know if either of my boys would have liked the university setting.”

Mark’s other son attending community college in Ridgewater for welding. 

Football coach Jeff Linder’s daughter, Becca, is another student who chose Minnesota West as the first step on her educational journey. Linder said Becca chose Minnesota West in part to pursue athletics, and she is currently on the Lady Jays’ volleyball team. The decision also allows her to stay closer to home. 

Linder echoed similar sentiments from his fellow faculty members by stressing Minnesota West provides a “good, affordable, great education” and that the “education standards are extremely high.” 

Linder added that Minnesota West offers students the tools needed to forge their way to a four-year degree.

Dave summed up why he believes people should consider attending Minnesota West — and why so many faculty recommend the college to family and friends.

“I think the fact that so many administrators, staff and faculty send their children here speaks volumes about the quality of the education here and how people feel about it,” he said. “If folks were sending their kids away saying, ‘Don’t go there whatever you do,’ that would be a problem. But that’s not what is going on.

“If it’s good enough for the people who work here and understand what education is supposed to be about, I think that’s a pretty good sign.”

Daily Globe Reporter Robin Baumgarn may be reached at 376-7323.

Robin Baumgarn

Robin Baumgarn is a new reporter for the Daily Globe covering the Education and Northwest Iowa beats. Prior to coming to the Globe, she worked for the Ocheyedan Press-Melvin News, a weekly Iowa paper for three years. She is a 2012 graduate of Iowa Lakes Community College and lives in Northwest Iowa with her husband Ryan and three pets, Fidget, Missy and Samwise.

(507) 376-7323