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Kristi Mindrup, the leader of Western Illinois University Quad-Cities (WIU-QC) riverfront campus, has spent a quarter of a century working her way to the top at WIU in the Quad-Cities. The new vice president of Moline campus operations first launched her academic career in 1997. That’s when, as a recent University of Northern Iowa graduate, she began answering the telephones on nights and weekends at the Macomb-based WIU’s satellite Moline location in the old IBM building. She rose through the ranks to become the top leader of the university’s Moline riverfront campus – a campus she helped plan – as it prepares to celebrate its 10th birthday. The Quad Cities native officially took charge Feb. 1. Her promotion came just about a year removed from efforts by some area business and government leaders, including then-Moline Mayor Stephanie Acri, to find another higher education institution to take WIU-QC’s place. Concerns included declining enrollment and a perceived lack of commitment to the Quad Cities by university leaders in Macomb. Regarding those issues, Ms. Mindrup said recently, “WIU has provided quality, affordable higher education in the Quad Cities for decades. Over the years, WIU has dedicated resources to expand academic programs and Western’s physical presence on the riverfront campus in Moline.” She added, “WIU is appreciative of the support of Quad Cities community leaders and long-time partners, and welcomes productive dialogue about ways the university can continue to evolve – and our strategic plans and initiatives reflect that input. Western’s current partnerships, including the City of Moline, illustrate how positive collaboration generates mutually beneficial initiatives that serve our students and the needs of our community.” Since being selected as WIU’s 12th president last year, for example, Guiyou Huang has been a visible presence in the Quad Cities, Ms. Mindrup said. He travels once, and often twice, a month or more to the community. As part of the WIU presidential leadership team, Ms. Mindrup also is in regular contact with Mr. Huang. WIU also is working to update its master plan to counter declining enrollments, increase WIU’s reach in the community and bring a more diverse group of students to campus. All are areas Ms. Mindrup had been addressing before she was named to the campus’ top job last month. That’s among the reasons she was chosen, Mr. Huang said in announcing her appointment. “Her many years of experience at our Moline campus, and her solid leadership over the past few years, which has included developing a strategic plan for the Quad Cities campus and being actively engaged with many Quad Cities-based organizations, will ensure a strong, future-facing mission for our Quad Cities campus,” he said. Moline’s current Mayor Sangeetha Rayapati also chooses to focus on the future. “New leadership brings new perspectives and we are moving beyond the past to chart a new path for the City of Moline,” she told the QCBJ. “We appreciate the things WIU-QC does well and strive to work in positive ways with our community partners.” For example, she added, “The recent agreement between WIU-QC and Gorman & Company for using Enterprise Loft space as a new bilingual child care facility is a perfect example of the university stepping up to fill needs in the community in a positive and prosperous way. Dr. Mindrup was a major force in making that happen. I am grateful for her willingness to approach community needs in this way.” In addition to the plans for WIU’s future as the Moline riverfront campus enters its second decade, Ms. Mindrup spoke to the QCBJ about her history at WIU-QC, the impact it has had on her life and her deep connection to WIU-QC’s students. That included sharing “how much Western has influenced my life in a similar way to the way Western has influenced students,” she said. Like with them, the campus gave her “opportunities to grow.” And, “as the campus grew,” she said, “so did my level of jobs.” Her resume tells the story. One year after being hired as a clerk III, she had graduated to serving as the QC’s instructional technology systems manager. Other notable stops included assistant director to the associate provost; director of instructional and administrative services, Quad Cities; and assistant to the director of the WIU-QC campus, where she played a significant role in helping plan the scenic riverfront campus. She also served as assistant vice president for Quad Cities academic affairs from 2015 to June 2020. She then was named interim administrator in charge of the WIU-QC campus, temporarily replacing Joe Rives, the former top administrator who abruptly left WIU-QC last May. Perhaps surprisingly, an academic career wasn’t something she had planned. “As a 24-year-old recent graduate of Northern Iowa, I didn’t imagine myself earning a PhD” or a master’s degree, she said. Neither had she dreamed of becoming a university vice president when she was learning the ropes by working the phones. Her own career path shows why a public higher education option is so important to the Quad Cities region, the Moline High School graduate said. She credited mentors and professionals at WIU in the QC who “inspired me to think about what would be the next door that opened for me. They always wanted to pave the way for what might come next.” In addition to her undergraduate degree Ms. Mindrup earned a Master of Science in instructional design and technology from WIU and a Ph.D. in educational policy and leadership studies from the University of Iowa. Those mentors also helped her develop her passion for expanding higher education opportunities for others, especially for the focused and committed students who she said choose WIU-QC. “We tend to attract a more post-traditional student population,” Ms. Mindrup told the QCBJ. Those students, typically defined as those who must balance work, life and education, are “very career focused, very academic focused,” she said. That doesn’t only describe older students, but recent area high school graduates, she added. “All the students that come to us are really zeroed in on learning and applying what they do learn outside the classroom, too.” In reflecting on her life in the Quad Cities, Ms. Mindrup said, “What a great place it is to be able to stick around and have my career unfold in my very own hometown and have an opportunity to give back to the community that has done so much for me.” These days that means focusing on updating that evolving strategic plan and “empowering students from a variety of backgrounds to achieve their goals and gain the preparation they need to contribute to the community and quality of life in our region.” The ultimate goal is to create a plan that aligns with the needs of Quad Cities communities, for example, workforce development. Growing enrollment also remains critical. According to the university’s Strategic Recruitment and Enrollment Plan, WIU “has been in a steady and significant enrollment decline for 14 consecutive years.” Rather than dismiss those concerns, today’s focus is on turning them around. And there also is a bit of good enrollment news to share. Despite the impact of COVID-19 on higher education, “the health of the Quad Cities campus is quite stable,” Ms. Mindrup reports. While on-campus learning and the size of the on-campus population have been impacted by the pandemic, she said, more students are accessing Western through online learning models, which especially suit WIU-QC’s post-traditional students. That changing environment also means WIU-QC needs to be “very agile” in providing the right mix of online and on-campus offerings, she said. “It’s really important to be responsive to the different ways that students access their courses.” Another COVID-19 bonus is that Macomb and Quad Cities leaders have been working together more than ever before. “I’m really excited about the interaction between the two campuses,” Ms. Mindrup said. So much so, she said, the 90-mile distance between Moline’s riverfront and the 1,000-acre Macomb campus “isn’t even noticeable.”