The Future is Yours


Considering the reputation that Des Moines Area Community College’s (DMACC) ciWeek has established over the last seven years, it is an honor to be asked to take part as a guest speaker.  Dr. Reed Timmer, who chases tornados and was the star of the Discovery Channel’s Hit Series “Storm Chasers,” was included in this year’s lineup. “After reading about their previous speakers including all of the astronauts who have been to space and walked on the moon, I knew this one was going to be special,” recalls Timmer in an interview after the week had concluded.

Often times students arrive at college with one of two mindsets: they either know exactly what they want to do and have the next ten years planned out or they have no clue what they want to do tomorrow let alone where they want to be in five or ten years. During his talk, Dr. Timmer motivated students into following their passion. He showed videos of storms he has chased, and shared that he had always dreamed of being a storm chaser and meteorologist.” He was fortunate enough to be able to make that dream a reality and wanted to show students that their dreams could become their life one day. He was able to use his talk, entitled “Never Stop Chasing” and translate it to real life lessons. This title “doesn’t only apply to tornadoes and hurricanes; it represents an important message to never stop pursuing your dreams in life.”  

Storm Chasers  credit Discovery Channel

Storm Chasers credit Discovery Channel

In reflection, Dr. Timmer recalled that “it would be impossible for an attendee of this event to not be fired up and want to pursue their dreams and tackle all of life’s challenges” simply due to the nature of the event. CiWeek, which originated in 2010, occurs each year as a way to inspire all to never stop pushing toward achieving their dreams. Dr. Timmer believes that events like this “are vital to bridging the gap between being a student and succeeding in the real world after college.”

Throughout a student’s time in college, they are bombarded with information and do not always know how to utilize it after they graduate. Philip Graham, a member of the class of 2018, believes that “the week was meant to bring awareness to how important creativity is in the workforce and how with just an idea, you can be an innovator.” There is a difference between learning in a comfortable classroom setting and applying those skills at your first job. In today’s world it is more important than ever for students to come out of college with transferable skills and be ready to work; therefore, when “events like ciWeek allow speakers to share first-hand how they have pursued their dreams and used the knowledge gained over their lives to succeed,” they are able to inspire students in ways they never imagined.

The DMACC Chronicle, the college’s student-run newspaper, sent students to multiple events throughout the week to cover the stories being shared. Graham, a Digital Production and Journalism Major, chose to take on the story and said he had a lot of fun doing it. After doing his own research on the speakers he developed a deeper understanding of what they had accomplished and why Dr. Paustian had chosen to bring them to campus. This may have been the first time Graham attended ciWeek; however, “it didn’t seem like [he] was on a beat or a story. [He] felt like [he] was there for [his] own self-interest and [he] enjoyed it.”

Is STEAM the New STEM?


At the root of Des Moines Area Community College’s (DMACC) ciWeek, is science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education (STEM). Having a week centered around individuals who had made an impact in their designated field is meant to empower students and make a difference in their lives. Presenters like Kari Byron, who started as an art major and ended up hosting and co-hosting shows such as the Discovery Channel’s “Mythbusters,” were a part of this year’s events.

Weeks/events such as this are important starting points for students to recognize what other people in their field have done, and where they can take their next step. Even though she was an art major in college, Byron hosted the 2016 White House Science Fair as a proponent for STEM education. In an interview with The Campus Chronicle at DMACC, Byron stated that Art and science basically have the same momentum: you start with a question, and you investigate the possibilities.A strong proponent of STEM and the understanding of the link between art and science, Byron believesthat if you teach art in conjunction with science and mathematics, people will be able to connect the dots in different ways.”

Kari Byron and Dr. Paustian at ciWeek

Kari Byron and Dr. Paustian at ciWeek

For Philip Graham, a member of the DMACC class of 2018, the biggest thing he walked away from ciWeek with was “understanding the fact that creativity is crucial in order to be successful.” Creativity and curiosity are a large part of what make artists successful, these connect to the areas covered by STEM. Once Bryon “started to approach science like art” that she was able to get her “hands dirty and discover a new passion.” After discovering how the five subjects relate, Byron became an advocate for inclusion of art in STEM and it becomes STEAM education.

According to the college website, ciWeek is designed to “provide students and central Iowans an opportunity to engage with people (some famous, all inspired) who have dreamed, created and accomplished.” The week brings together innovators from the fields of science, technology, and the arts to inspire students and faculty, as well as the community. All three fields have much to offer students and when events such as ciWeek at DMACC take place, they are able to see a variety of different events in a way that help to “broaden the spectrum as to what is possible to achieve,” according to presenter Howard Berger. This week of events allowed students like Graham to “indulge [himself] in the presence of innovated artists and step into their perspective and understanding their logic.” In a world where “there will always be the rational, scientific answers,” Graham notes that “there has to be creativity in order to make it innovated.”

Celebrate! Innovation Week (ciWeek)


Des Moines Area Community College’s (DMACC) West Campus is not your typical college campus. Since it’s opening, DMACC has focused on making sure that all who walk on campus leave feeling inspired and knowledgeable about those who have made their mark on the world. According to Dr. Anthony Paustian, Provost, the campus is set up like a media museum where each room is dedicated to innovators of the past and showcases a 5 minute documentary outside the door. Wanting to build off of this, Dr. Paustian had a dream which turned into a reality when the first Innovation Week (iWeek) took place in 2010. The first iWeek showcased Astronaut Alan Bean as the keynote speaker with breakout sessions led by faculty throughout the week. As the years progressed so did the events and in 2012 the week-long series of events was renamed Celebrate! Innovation Week (ciWeek). Each year DMACC hosts the annual ciWeek in which members of the university and the community are exposed to events that showcase people who have made their mark on the world.ciWeek 2016

Dr. Paustian notes that although this series is free to all attendees, it is modeled much like a TED convention that could cost upwards of $10,000 to attend. Paustian believes that “those who need to hear these stories, to see them first hand and get inspired by them, are the ones who don’t have the resources to go [to major conferences];” therefore, he strives to attract the best for his students and the surrounding community. This year the ciWeek consisted of 14 keynote sessions and featured presentations from a variety of different backgrounds. In an interview after the events, Presenter Howard Berger(of KNB EFX) noted that he “felt the eclectic array of speakers made every presentation unique.” Due to the various connections that are able to be made within the concept of “STEM”, DMACC wanted this year’s theme to center around the concept of having the freedom to dream and the opportunities to achieve those dreams. Dr. Paustian notes that in developing a theme they try to either think of speakers they want their students to hear or a concept they want them to learn and build the event from there.

Although he joked that this series has gotten so big he almost has no choice but to do it every year, Dr. Paustian truly enjoys putting on these events for the entire community. Having the support and backing of both local as well as nationally recognized companies who are able to fully fund all of the programs, he believes that DMACC is truly making a difference. He knows that he cannot inspire everyone and that all attendees will walk away with a different outlook; however, feedback from students and members of the community are crucial to improving ciWeek. Written responses from students, emails from parents such as the one saying “my daughter had no idea what she was going to do until she listened to Cassie Lee and now she’s in the Aerospace Engineering Program at Iowa State University,” as well as members of the community who are always in attendance, are the reasons why these events continue to be successful. In looking at the big picture and all the time and energy that goes into making it happen, Dr. Paustian notes that “If [these events] can inspire one person to change our world for the better, it is worth it.” Based on student reactions, including Class of 2018 member Philip Graham, Dr. Paustian’s creation in itself is changing the world one ciWeek at a time.