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Helping others succeed

David Barwin brings innovative programs to Iowa Central classes

David Barwin

Editor’s note: This story first appeared in The Messenger’s annual Hometown Pride publication on June 24, 2022, featuring people and organizations from Fort Dodge and the surrounding area who are making a difference in their communities.

Early in his career at Iowa Central Community College, David Barwin was summoned to the office of one of the deans.

He was teaching, among other things, a class called “The College Experience” and the dean at the time wanted to know exactly what Barwin was teaching in those classes.

“Here I am in my first year, and I am getting called into the dean’s office. It felt like I was being sent to the principal’s office. He asked me what I was doing and I told him I was just following the curriculum. He says, ‘No, what are you doing?’

“He asked me again and I was getting a little frustrated. He said, ‘Let me back up. We never get good reviews from these classes and yours are coming back exceptional. The students loved the class. So, he asked again, what are you doing?'”

That encounter led Barwin to a faculty position and now he’s the program director of the Iowa Central Business Department. Now 19 years into his career, he’s still as passionate as ever about working with students.

“To be able to have a job where I can impact student lives like that and they figure out what they want to do and they’re excited, that makes me really happy to be part of their success,” said Barwin.

Barwin and others in the department decided several years ago to change their mindset with students in the program. Instead of lumping all the general education classes into the first year, they decided to immerse students in the business classes so they learn early on what it will take to be successful going forward.

Barwin attended a conference focusing on college students’ first-year experience where he and others learned that many students were turned off by a heavy load of general education classes early on and they benefited from more classes focusing on their major.

“They said we are doing them a disservice by putting them in all this math and too many gen ed classes in their first year. For example, they said a student unsure of what area of business to focus on is going to struggle with stats or accounting or economics because they’re not seeing how that fits into what they want to do in business,” Barwin said. “So I took that back to our advisory committee and said let’s create a program where a student can come in and take just one or two gen ed classes and maybe a computer class and then we’ll give them all the business classes right up front: Marketing, Management, Intro to Business. Let’s give them those up front and they can take the more challenging classes that second year, know they have the confidence to be a good college student. It doesn’t matter if you are an A-plus student or a struggling student. If you have those classes under your belt early, then you understand how the others fit in the path you are going down.”

The new structure has been in place for three years now. Barwin said the best thing is the program can prepare students to enter the business world after earning an associate of applied science degree in business at Iowa Central or they can transfer to a four-year program of study.

He said it’s about a 60-40 split of students who decide to move into a four-year program. He said it’s actually tilted that way because some students come in with just a two-year plan in mind, but they discover they have the ability to further their education.

“As a freshman, I came in prepared for anything, but it has exceeded my expectations,” said Noah Susong, a third-year student from Waterloo. “What I really like about the business program is that Mr. Barwin allows us to get a feel for the business world. When you are in his classes, you don’t just feel like you are there to be there; he does a great job of getting the entire class together and comfortable to share ideas with one another and work together as small groups and a larger group.

“Mr. Barwin does a great job of putting things into perspective. He tells you the truth about the business world and is very transparent on what to expect is going to happen and how you are going to have to go through it.”

Barwin currently teaches Marketing Management, Intro to Business, Business Ethics, Workplace Communications, Intro to Selling, Sales Management and Social Media Marketing.

Barwin admitted, though, he’s got a strong team of other staff members, and the college has really helped the Business Department grow as a program.

“The college is constantly keeping up with the changing times. As we’ve learned, it’s important to stay updated. I definitely appreciate the support of Dr. Ulrich (Iowa Central president) and everyone at the college and in my department. It’s definitely not a one-man job.”

Outside of teaching, Barwin has been involved in coaching both at Iowa Central and St. Edmond. He coached track and field at Iowa Central and golf. He also coached basketball at St. Edmond. Now he spends much of his free time with his three children.

Barwin is originally from McDowell, Pennsylvania. He was a coach at Penn State Behrend in Erie, Pennsylvania, before coming here. He first taught Entrepreneur classes along with the College Experience class at Iowa Central.

In his time at Iowa Central, he has received the Teaching Excellence Award from the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development. He has served as chair of the “Organizational Strategic Plan” and co-chairs the Strategic Enrollment Committee.

In addition, Barwin is a private business consultant operating Incognito Consulting for local small business owners.

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