There are many roles to play within higher education. Colleges employ staff to help students learn and grow. There are many staff that rest in the front lines, like professors, advisers, and adjuncts who are often in the line of sight for students. But there are other roles that come into play, supporting student and staff alike.
In July, DMACC hired former DMACC Director of Enrollment Services and Registrar Rachel Erkkila to be the new Associate Provost of the DMACC Boone campus. In her new position, Erkkila now plays a supportive role for Boone students and staff.
“I feel that my role is really to support all functions of the colleges,” she said. “Part of my role is to support faculty and adjuncts in their mission to deliver the instruction that we need for our students. And then on the other side I definitely feel like student success is the focus of the position.”
Erkkila was raised in the Midwest, growing up in Wisconsin and Minnesota. She started her higher education at Bethany Lutheran College getting her associates degree, before transferring to Augsburg College and getting her bachelor’s degree in communications. While trying to figure out what she wanted to do, her father pushed her to work in higher education, like himself, and she found a job in admissions.
“I found is that I liked doing recruitment but I didn’t love it,” she said. “I really was much more interested in understanding the student experience from start to finish, and so then I kind of made that shift to a registrar role, so I think what I learned is that I am very passionate about education.”
While continuing her work, Erkkila went to Metropolitan State University where she got her master’s in technical communication. Around the same time, Erkkila was seeking job opportunities where she could grow professionally.
“My goal,” she said, “is always to see how I can utilize my skillset to make sure that I can do the most good for students and for faculty.”
While searching, her husband, John, had noticed a position available at Des Moines Area Community College. He recommended it, and while they had no real connections to Iowa, they both saw the opportunities DMACC posed. Erkkila was especially intrigued.
“I started to learn about the impact that DMACC has across the state of Iowa,” she said, “and I thought ‘Gosh, this is where I should be’.”
They, along with their daughter Lily, moved to Ankeny, where Erkkila became Director of Enrollment Services and Registrar in 2007, and kept the position for 12 years. During this time, Erkkila had her son Dash, and also went to Iowa State University to get her doctorate in higher education.
“I can’t seem to move on (from higher education),” Erkkila said. “I really think that education is the key for so many people to be able to reach their goals. And those goals are so different and over my career I found that having worked in different types of institutions that community college is the place for me.”
Erkkila is excited to be working with the Boone Campus, feeling thankful for this job opportunity every time she walks on campus. Throughout her career, she has been a firm believer in community colleges and their missions of access and success for students.
“So you know they say that you should do something you’re passionate about so you don’t work a day? Well, I’m very passionate about helping students reach their goals.”
Photograph by Micki Anderson