College ready: New semester brings new faces, programs, enthusiasm to CLC campus

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Classes are in full swing at Central Lakes College.

Students hit the books Monday, Aug. 27, and were welcomed to the Brainerd campus with ice cream socials on their first two days.

"When we've been out in the halls and helping direct students to courses or classrooms and such, it seems like folks are feeling pretty confident and comfortable on campus," said Paul Preimesberger, dean of student enrollment and student success, noting last week's new student orientation day saw 625 students and family members, the largest number to date. "It was crowded, it was buzzing, there was a lot of energy."

Some of that energy undoubtedly came from second-year student Tyler Cromwell, a member of Student Life with his hand in a lot of events around CLC.

"Any activity that goes on around campus, I'm most likely going to be helping at," Cromwell said, listing archery tag, go-karting and trips to Twins and Timberwolves games as some of the offerings he helps organize for students.

"We want to try to give them the four-year college experience even though they're still only going to a two-year school," he said.

That mission is part of Preimesberger's goal, too.

"I talk at all our registration sessions here on campus, and the point I honestly try to make to students is we feel like we have programs and resources and people and experiences for students that really resemble a four-year university at a two-year college," Preimesberger said. "We have a really rich campus environment here."

That environment is what drew Ebbaney Thompson to CLC.

"When I came here for my welcome day, I didn't feel nervous at all," she said. "The staff made it very easy to be here and be comfortable."

Now in her second year, Thompson aims to be more involved in activities around campus as she obtains her Associate of Arts degree before going on to Minnesota State University Moorhead for art education.

Other students came to CLC specifically for the extracurricular activities, like Sydney Forbord, of Onamia, who came to play volleyball and softball while getting her AA degree before going on to study nuclear medicine.

Similarly, the baseball program attracted Cromwell, a Mankato native still figuring out what he wants to do next.

"Central Lakes College has a really wide variety of ... educational paths to different careers," he said. "It made sense because if I didn't like something I could switch to another thing."

For others, CLC's convenient location made it a desirable school. That was the case for Brainerd High School graduate Lizzy Stokes, who has her eyes set on a law enforcement degree after finishing her generals at CLC, and Fort Ripley native Katlyn Kelley, who now lives within walking distance of campus, which saves her money on gas.

Though there are already so many different reasons students flock to CLC, Preimesberger mentioned a few new programs this year, designed to attract even more students and provide more educational resources.

A one-year sustainable food certificate, now available, teaches students about growing and marketing fresh fruits and vegetables.

"You get classes on sustainable growing practices, sustainable pest management, things like that," Preimesberger said.

A webmaster certificate is in the works, with some elements already in place to give students the knowledge necessary to build and develop websites.

New evening hybrid courses in English and psychology allow students to take classes primarily online but still come to campus for face-to-face time with teachers and classmates once a month.

"(For) some people, the online is very convenient, can be very flexible, works well," Preimesberger said. "But some students still like that face-to-face engagement, too. And so this is a really nice hybrid of those delivery methods, and we've found students really appreciate that."

The spring semester will see hybrid English and communications courses.

Psychology and economics pathway programs let students take classes at CLC and automatically transfer to the corresponding program at one of the Minnesota State universities, creating a smooth and seamless transition. Preimesberger said CLC hopes to have an exercise science pathway program next year.

The new University Center aims to accomplish that same goal by having representatives from state universities on campus to help with the transition to a bigger school and by letting students complete an online degree from a state university, like St. Cloud State University, from the comfort of CLC.

"Some students want a four-year degree, but they're not able to get away from home. And so this offers them the opportunity to stay here on campus but still get a four-year degree," Preimesberger said. "You can almost imagine a T-shirt saying, 'I'm a St. Cloud State University student at Central Lakes College.'"

Whether it be sports, classes, location or something entirely different attracting the estimated 2,500 students to CLC, the college seems to have that special something that brings new faces in and keeps older ones coming back semester after semester.

"I'm definitely excited about meeting all the new people," Cromwell said of looking forward to the new year. "And I'm excited because through Student Life we do so much. There's so many opportunities for all the students to learn about."