When Ray Bracewell presented a proposal to the Burlington School Board in
1919 to establish the state’s second two-year college, he was at the forefront of
a major movement in higher education. That simple recommendation opened
a door to educational opportunities that would propel area students to attain
their goals for decades to come.
And though the world has changed exponentially since Burlington Junior
College (BJC) welcomed its first students in 1920, people’s needs remain the
same. Serving as BJC’s first president, Bracewell cited three main reasons
why one should attend the college in lieu of starting at a 4-year school in its
1925 annual report. These reasons were (1) it is more economical, (2) better
instruction is offered, and (3) it provides a smooth transition from high school
life to university life.
Now 100 years later, these continue to be the most common reasons why
students choose SCC.
Today, with Dr. Michael Ash at the helm, SCC continues to stay at the forefront
of delivering a quality higher education experience to our communities.
“We always say SCC is about the students. Our sole purpose is to make sure
they have the tools they need to walk across the stage and into the job they
In the beginning, BJC offered basic education courses such as chemistry,
math, and English. These core classes served the needs of the college’s students,
many of whom sought careers in education.
As time went on, college leadership recognized the increasing need for
career and technical education (CTE) and began to develop programs relevant
to local industry so students could learn the crucial skills that would fuel
America’s post-war economic boom.
That prosperity would also be a driving force for Keokuk, where visionary
leaders established Keokuk Community College (KCC) as part of the city’s
public school system in 1953.
In 1965, the State of Iowa passed Senate File 550 establishing the current
community college system. As community colleges consolidated into
designated districts the following year, BJC with a refined mission and dedicated funding from the state, SCC was positioned to provide even more educational
opportunities for residents throughout the region, adding 25
career education programs to support local business and industry.
This would go on to serve the region as it navigated the economic
crises of the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Today, students can choose from over 35 CTE programs,
including those in agriculture, automotive technology, autobody,
business, education, health, IT and multimedia fields.
One program that continuously changes is industrial
By the mid-2000s, companies in Lee County struggled to find
skilled workers. They turned to SCC for help and worked together
to develop a program that would meet their needs.
The result was SCC’s industrial maintenance technology
program. Students can take stackable classes as they earn
credentials leading to a degree. A capital campaign enabled the
construction of the Industrial Technology Training Center on the
Keokuk campus to house specialized training labs for mechanical
and electrical instruction where students get hands-on training.
“We have students who attend part- or full-time,” Industrial
Maintenance Technology Instructor Jeron Lindsay explains. “And
companies like Silgan Container and Iowa Fertilizer hire our
students and give us input on what they need their employees
SCC expanded its technology offerings with the addition of
the only two-year animation program in Iowa, and retooled its
graphic communication program to keep up to date with the
business side of social media and digital communication.
Professor Carlene Woodside says the interactive social media
and marketing (ISMM) program was added in response to
“Social media marketing is still relatively new for the business
world,” she says. “We developed ISMM to educate students on
how to best use this space. They graduate with skills employers
seek to thrive in an increasingly competitive and noisy medium.”
As the college continues to expand its programs, it also
explores innovative ways to deliver classes. SCC helped develop
the Iowa Community College Online Consortium (ICCOC). The
Consortium was founded in 1999 to offer online courses and
resources for seven participating Iowa community colleges.
“If students can’t come to us, we can go to them online,” SCC’s
Vice President of Technology Services Chuck Chrisman says.
“Watching them succeed because of this opportunity is my favorite
part of this job.”
What began with about 200 students now serves thousands
of students across Iowa, and amounts to over a third of all SCC
enrollments every semester.
In 100 years, about 100,000 students have walked through the
doors of SCC with determination to make their dreams a reality.
For 100 years, the college has continuously reinvented itself as
part of its commitment to serve the region.
As we enter the next 100 years, Dr. Ash carries Bracewell’s
legacy to serve students with an ever-growing college dedicated
to staying at the cutting edge of higher education.
“While the means have changed, the needs have not,” Dr.
Ash says. “Our goal is to continue to provide the area with best
education using the best resources. If we keep up our goal,
students can accomplish theirs.”