Real-life experience benefits students

Earlier this month Riverland instructors Walt Alms and Tom Wilker and 14 students from the carpentry technology program volunteered their services toward the "Extreme" construction of a home for the Dirk and Susan DeVries family of Hayward, Minnesota. The DeVries family was the fortunate recipient of a new home from ABC-TV’s "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

Alms and Wilker alternated 12-hour shifts to oversee the eager Riverland student volunteers who assisted with all general construction activities. In addition, they spray painted in the Riverland carpentry technology shop a variety of items for the DeVries home.

From working side-by-side with professionals, our students learned to develop skills that align with and are relevant to their program curriculum. This experience is sure to make a lasting impression.

While the "Extreme" event was out of the ordinary, opportunities for Riverland students to gain real-life experience while working alongside professionals is quite common.

Each year, Riverland’s carpentry technology and construction electrician students construct and wire a home, available for sale to the public, under supervision by and in cooperation with local sub-contractors.


Students in our nursing program pathway and radiography programs are required to complete a mandated number of clinical hours during which they work alongside professionals in hospital, clinics and other health care settings.

Last May, seven nursing program pathway students accompanied instructor Stacey Rosenberg to Ecuador through "Troika," a study-abroad program for community colleges. Our nursing students worked with local public health nursing programs in large cities and villages in the rainforest.

The Department of Commerce, which regulates Riverland’s cosmetology program, requires students to complete 1,550 hours of training.  Students accumulate these hours by working in Riverland’s on-site salon on the Austin Campus. Recently, the salon underwent a "facelift," including updated wall colors, new shampoo bowls and hydraulic chairs and an updated reception area with new furnishings.

The Riverland massage therapist program also provides services, including hour-long and half-hour-long massages, hot stone massages, foot reflexology sessions and 15-minute chair massages, to the general public through a massage clinic located on the Albert Lea Campus. The clinic usually runs January through May.

Each spring, Riverland automotive service technology students work alongside professionals to conduct free vehicle maintenance inspections that help spot potential problems before they become major safety and financial issues.

Students enrolled in the associate in fine arts (AFA) theatre and music programs enjoy multiple opportunities to participate on and off stage, including working with professional performers from Broadway, no matter what their experience. AFA students majoring in art have shows in our own gallery and interact with professional artists who show art and deliver lectures at Riverland.

Students also have the opportunity to participate in student government and a variety of other clubs and organizations that help develop leadership skills and professional relationships.

Learning does not take place only in the classroom. All these relevant experiences help better prepare our students for their chosen careers and to be vital members of our communities.


Terry Leas is president of Riverland Community College in Austin.


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