In today’s education climate—where disruption due to the pandemic and ever-changing technologies have become the norm—putting the students first is of utmost importance. At UNI’s business college, students are at the center of everything, and that’s by design.

First, the university is a Regional Comprehensive institution, meaning the focus isn’t solely on research, which is the case with many larger universities, like the University of Iowa and Iowa State University. Second, UNI’s business college’s strategic plan explicitly outlines a students-first approach. Third, the faculty and staff understand the importance of getting students ready for business.

“When I see a student’s face light up because they understand it, or I receive a note thanking me, that’s why I do what I do,” said Betsy Ratchford, instructor of management information systems. 

Ratchford noticed the students-first approach when attending the college for her undergrad and master’s degrees in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Her instructors made “sure I understood content in my own perspective, that made sense to me.” Ratchford takes that to heart, ensuring all of her students understand in their own ways.

Student feedback reflects that as well. One of Ratchford’s students, Isabelle Holtzen (Management and Marketing), thanked her for the lessons learned in class, which helped Holtzen during a summer internship at John Deere in the finance and accounting department.

“I would not have been nearly as successful as I was without your class,” Holtzen wrote. “Not only did I learn a ton, but the class was also extremely engaging and helpful in the real world!”

Craig VanSandt, associate professor of management, takes a similar approach with his students. While working on his doctorate, VanSandt was taught to understand the value of research. But he found that working with students was much more impactful. So when he began to teach at a small liberal arts college, his focus went to his students first.

“Fortunately, I found I love to teach,” said VanSandt, who has been teaching at the college for eight years. “I just love being in the classroom. I enjoy interacting with young people who are curious and working on a good future for themselves.”

Faith Aruwan, a recent graduate and international business student, commended VanSandt for his engaging teaching style.

“He has been one of my favorite business professors at UNI,” Aruwan wrote on the UNI international student Facebook page. “He not only gave a fresh and valuable perspective on how business ought to operate, but he also approached his method of teaching in a very symbolic way.”

Going forward in uncertain times where most of the courses are still meeting face-to-face, the business college will continue to guide students through material and lessons, whether in-person or virtually. 

“Students are our first priority, and the more we can do to help them achieve their goals, I think is the way that we achieve our goals,” VanSandt said.