Around the Pond – Summer 2023

Vande Kieft Named Central CIO

Joe Vande Kieft ’99 was appointed Central College’s chief information officer. He oversees the Information Technology Services department in strategic planning and enhancing the college’s digital network safety and security to support the college’s mission. Vande Kieft returns to campus with more than 20 years of experience in IT software development, security systems and entrepreneurial leadership.

After graduating from Central, Vande Kieft began working at Advanced Technologies Group in Des Moines, Iowa, with Tej Dhawan ’91, current chair of Central’s Board of Trustees. Central ties run deep with Vande Kieft. He is the son of Milly Vande Kieft, retired adjunct professor of children’s and young adult literature for 29 years, and Henry Vande Kieft ’53. Vande Kieft is married to Kerry Maynard Vande Kieft ’99.


Ten Napel Named Vice President for Student Development 

Karmen Ten Napel was named vice president for student development and dean of students. Ten Napel has served as dean of students at Morningside University in Sioux City, Iowa, since 2014 and as associate vice president for student life and Title IX coordinator since 2019. She began her duties at Central June 1.

“Karmen’s high energy, professional expertise and heart for students are in complete alignment with our vision at Central for leadership, partnerships and relationships necessary for success,” says Mark Putnam, Central president. “Her holistic approach to student development is collaborative, open-minded and originates from a place of empathy.” 

Carol Williamson, a 23-year employee of the college and vice president for student development and dean of students, retired from her role May 31. She will stay on for a period of time to help with the transition and also work on some special projects for the college.


Anderson Named New Chief Talent, Equity and Engagement Officer

Central welcomed Jill Anderson, chief talent, equity and engagement officer, this spring to head the newly created Office of Talent, Equity and Engagement. This new role combines three key areas at Central: talent acquisition, equity and compliance and employee engagement. 

Anderson will direct the core functions of hiring, onboarding, benefits and overall employee well-being. These have been merged with the goal of attracting and sustaining a diverse pool of talent. The equity component addresses Central’s strong desire to have an inclusive work environment. The new role will also ensure college-wide compliance, support employee and student training and development, as well as coordinate campus-wide Title IX responsibilities. 

Prior to Central, Anderson worked 15 years at Vermeer Corporation, rising from a recruiting specialist to human resources business partner, to a continuous improvement manager and, most recently, human resources manager. She also held positions at Pella Corporation and Pella Regional Health Center. 


Central Receives $480,000 Gift from Geisler Penquite Foundation

The Geisler Penquite Foundation awarded Central a two-part gift totaling $480,000. The foundation has committed $300,000 to create three endowed scholarships for students accepted into the education program. In addition, the foundation gave $180,000 to the Geisler Library endowment. 

The Geisler Penquite scholarships support exceptional students in the college’s education program who exhibit academic success, progress in the program and potential for leadership in the field of education. In 2023, 25 education majors at Central will benefit from their support. 

The Geisler Penquite Foundation also gave a gift toward the library endowment, a space now named in honor of John Edward Geisler and Gertrude Setzer Geisler. The library endowment supports the purchase of new books, research resources, library supplies and digital media.

“As the state and nation face teacher shortages, Central’s exceptional teacher preparation program works to develop well-equipped new teachers. The Geisler Penquite scholarships and library endowment will have a lasting impact on future teachers and generations to come,” says Jen Diers, director of the education program. “We are extremely grateful to the Geisler and Penquite families and their foundation for this increase in their giving to encourage future teachers and instructors.”


Fourth Annual Career Kickstarter 

Central students participated in Career Kickstarter, a weeklong program during Winter Break, which gave students career strategy-building workshops, micro-internships and networking opportunities with Central alumni and area business professionals. Participants had in-depth career exploration and experience workshops on networking, building a résumé, finances, how to apply and prepare for an extended internship and more. 

Throughout the week, students completed micro-internships in area workplaces. If your business is interested in hosting micro-internships for students, contact Tori Fyfe ’20, associate director of civic engagement at 


Benedict Promoted to Director of Engagement

Mary Benedict has been named director of engagement in the newly formed engagement and events team for Central’s advancement department. She will oversee planning special on-campus events such as Homecoming, Scholarship Dinner and Hoo-Rah Day. In addition, she will organize educational and social alumni events to connect the surrounding area with the Central community. 

Benedict began working at Central in 2002 as the campus visit coordinator in the admission office. She met most incoming first-year students for five years. These relationships have served her well as she moved to the advancement office and worked closely with alumni.


MLK Day Immersed in Service and Justice 

Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Central featured artist and writer Bettina Judd, plus 15 concurrent academic sessions and five service projects. This created a day focused solely on a shared vision for justice by students and the community.

Paulina Mena, faculty fellow for diversity and inclusion and associate professor of biology, organized the educational programming. Central honored the Martin Luther King  Jr. legacy of equity, justice and peace with a full day of learning and service activities to bring students and community members together.


Accounting Students Hosted Free Tax Service

For the fourth year in a row, Central’s accounting faculty and students offered free income tax preparation services for Marion County residents. Students prepared taxes on a volunteer basis under the supervision of accounting faculty through the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program. Students gained valuable tax preparation experiences and residents received free tax preparation services.


Published in Neurology

Sara Shuger Fox, associate professor of kinesiology, and Joshua Cheek ’21, grad student at the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine, along with a team of six other researchers, have published an article in Neurology. The article, “Efficacy of Diet on Fatigue and Quality of Life in Multiple Sclerosis: A Systematic Review and Network of Meta-analysis of Randomized Trials,” assessed the efficacy of different dietary approaches on MS-related fatigue and quality of life. Neurology is the most widely read and highly cited peer-reviewed neurology journal.

The published results state that several interventions may reduce MS-fatigue and improve physical and mental quality of life for individuals with multiple sclerosis. Additional large-scale trials can now be conducted to confirm the findings.


Pella Wellness Consortium Presented Lyndsey Fennelly 

Pella Wellness Consortium welcomed Lyndsey Fennelly, a motivational speaker, former standout Iowa State University basketball player and successful
businesswoman,  as she shared a conversation about her mental health journey.

The former All-American is a passionate advocate for mental health education and care. Fennelly shared her own mental health struggles and how she has learned to live with them.


Black History Month 

Central and Pella Public Library welcomed the award-winning author and performer Caleb “The Negro Artist” Rainey for a performance on campus. Made possible by the Leadership Through Equity Fund, An Evening An Evening with Caleb Rainey: The Heart of a Negro Artist showcased Rainey’s poetry and spoken word performance followed by an onstage interview with “Dr. Bob” Robert Leonard, KNIA/KRLS reporter. Rainey was on campus for two days hosting workshops for students, faculty and staff. 

Black History Month activities included a cultural cuisine student dinner with discussion by students in the Alliance of Underrepresented People and Paulina Mena, faculty fellow for diversity and inclusion and associate professor of biology; the Global Café served up Civil Rights Coffee Cups featuring rights heroes, facts and inspirations on each beverage cup; students watched “Wakanda Forever” followed by a discussion with Óscar Reynaga, class dean and senior lecturer of Spanish; a civil rights transit display presented figures from the civil rights movement; the BIPOC+ Coalition – students from Central, Drake University, Grand View University, Simpson College and William Penn University – gathered for conversation and ice skating; students and employees completed a service-learning project; Geisler Library staff created displays highlighting black authors and literature; and the Student-Athlete Advisory Council created and shared Black History Month video shorts for social media.


PACE Alliance Honors Mark Putnam

The Pella Area Community and Economic Alliance Board of Directors honored Mark Putnam, Central president, on his retirement as the PACE executive board president. Putnam served in the role since 2017. 

“I’ve had the privilege of serving on the executive board with Mark and what you learn quickly about him is he’s a terrific leader,” says Karen Eischen, PACE executive director. “Mark has left his legacy on the PACE Alliance. He’s very passionate about the community. When you look at the success that PACE has had under his leadership, and all the accomplishments we achieved, a lot of those wouldn’t be possible without Mark’s leadership and guidance.”

Service to the community is a core value at Central. Putnam is in his 13th year as Central’s president. Under his leadership, Central has raised more than $74 million in donations and completed major expansions and renovations of the college’s arts, athletics and student center facilities and Peace Mall in the heart of campus. In addition, he has helped the college expand offerings to include an engineering major, leadership and career-readiness programming and student-faculty research while also deepening the college’s collaboration with Pella and Central Iowa.


Mills Gallery Featured Student Photography 

The Mills Gallery welcomed a “Wildlife” photography exhibit by Kayla Lindquist ’25. 

“Combining the images stored in my memory and topics learned in biology classes, I strive to capture more meaningful photos,” she says. “My current interest in botany is to find and include native plants that birds rely on. This not only makes it easier to find certain species and habitats, but it can lead to more impactful photos. I see photography as both an artistic expression and a way to share the little details found in the wild places around us.”

Through photography, she captures natural scenes and organisms in a unique, personal way.


Freed Publishes Living a Life Worth Remembering 

Jann Freed ’77, professor emerita of business management, released her sixth book “Breadcrumb Legacy: How Great Leaders Live a Life Worth Remembering.”

In her new book, Freed challenges readers, no matter what age, to think differently about legacy. She writes, rather than something we start considering at the end of our lives or careers, we can create a life worth remembering, starting today. The book also details actionable tips and strategies one can use to start creating their own breadcrumb legacy.

Freed taught business management at Central for 30 years. 


Bonnstetter Promoted to Director of Communications and Marketing 

Steffanie Bonnstetter was named the new director of communications and marketing. Most recently, Bonnstetter had been serving as a senior content strategist – marketing and project management. 

In her role, Bonnstetter will oversee the college’s marketing, communications and media relations efforts. 

“Steffanie’s depth of experience with enrollment and communications over her 17 years at Central is critical in leading the marketing work ahead for the college,” says Sunny Gonzales Eighmy ’99, vice president for advancement.


Writers Reading Series

The Spring 2023 Central Writers Reading Series featured Debra Rienstra, professor of English at Calvin University. Rienstra read from her latest work, “Refugia Faith: Seeking Hidden Shelters, Ordinary Wonders, and the Healing of the Earth,” a book discussing eco-theology and climate change. 

“Much of my writing lately focuses on taking the climate crisis seriously and responding with the resources of faith, mercy and justice,” Rienstra explains. She shares that Refugia Faith “explores how Christian spirituality and practice must adapt to prepare for life on a climate-altered planet.” 

The Writers Reading is available on the Central Dutch Network.


Central Represented at IMPACT Conference 

A Central team presented at the national IMPACT conference in February at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. 

Tori Fyfe ’20, center, associate director of civic engagement at Central, along with Gloria Montiel ’23, left, communication studies and Spanish major, and Quinn Deahl ’23, right, philosophy and English major, ran a workshop open to the more than 600 conference attendees. The Central team has diverse experiences in racial justice, social change and justice, political advocacy and campus advocacy.

“These women are passionate about furthering social justice, diversity, equity and inclusion on and off the college campus and we are fortunate to have their energy and expertise at Central,” says Jess Klyn De Novelo ’05, associate dean for career development and civic engagement.

The presentation, titled “Mobilizing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice Initiatives at Predominantly White Institutions” provides a brief history of Central’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. The necessity of DEIJ and civic engagement at PWIs was also discussed. Presenters examined the development and changes the Alliance of Underrepresented People at Central has adopted since its founding in 2021. 


Goodman Selected for the Mathematical Association of America Board

The Mathematical Association of America has selected Russell Goodman, professor of mathematics at Central, as its new officer-at-large for the national organization. 

In addition to this honor, Goodman continues to hold leadership roles in the MAA, including the Committee on the Teaching of Undergraduate Mathematics, the Classroom Resource Materials Board and Project NExT Forest Dot. He has also held past leadership roles in the Iowa MAA section.


Best of Red Rock 2022 

Central earned three Best of Red Rock awards from the Marion County Economic Development Commission. This year’s contest consisted of 10 Top 10 lists and 22 category winners.

In 2022, Central’s red phone booth was a popular location to take photos, ranking fourth in the Top 10 Photo Spots category. Central was also recognized in the Top 10 Attractions, placing ninth, and Top 10 Venues, ranking third.


Central Closed Out Strong 2022 

Central’s advancement team enjoyed a robust final fundraising month of 2022, continuing its strong support from alumni and friends through the first half of the college’s fiscal year.

Central received more than $1.2 million in gifts in December and ended the calendar year with over $3.3 million in total giving. The college’s fiscal year ends on June 30 each year.

Central continues to focus on college affordability and scholarships for students. During the first half of the fiscal year, the college received $680,721 designated for the Journey Scholarship Fund. In the first six months of the fiscal year, 162 donors contributed $1,000 or more to the Journey Scholarship Fund. 

“The generosity of Central family members who choose to invest in the future of our students is so amazing,” says Sunny Gonzales Eighmy ’99, vice president for advancement. “Journey Scholarships and endowed scholarships combined with our tuition pricing make Central very affordable and attainable. We recognize students have a choice in selecting a college and these scholarships funded by our donors make a big difference to our students. In Fall 2022, the generosity of our donors allowed the college to provide every new incoming student with a Journey Scholarship. We are so grateful for the amazing support shown to our students.”


Reviving Pella’s Klokkenspel

Amelia Brown ’25 and Fynn Wadsworth ’25 restored four-foot-tall mannequin models of Wyatt Earp, Maria Scholte, Dominie Hendrik Scholte baptizing a baby and a pioneer blacksmith that adorn the north side of Pella’s Klokkenspel. The weather and years have not been kind to their nearly 40-year-old clothes and frames.

The Klokkenspel, owned by the Pella Historical Society, was built in 1984. One incredible feature is the figurine performance, which occurs five times a day. Eight mannequins portray various historical figures who impacted Pella. Brown and Wadsworth, along with Emily Wassink ’25 restored four Klokkenspel mechanical miniatures in 2022.

Lessons learned from the previous year streamlined work in 2023 for Brown and Wadsworth. With assistance from Mat Kelly, professor of art; Brian Roberts ’92, professor of art, and Susan Swanson, associate professor of art, Brown and Wadsworth gained great career-building skills. 

“We definitely had to do a lot of problem-solving,” Wadsworth says. “We got a really good taste of what we would do for commissioned or freelance jobs. For example, we have a lot of freedom yet we’re checking with the client to make sure a change would be okay. We talk about what we can change and still be authentic. I want to go into museum studies and restoration. So, this project has been incredibly helpful.” 

Brown is considering costume design, so this commissioned project is a positive experience. The fabric work, sewing knowledge, painting techniques, color mixing and challenge of finding just the right red are all helpful for her career goals. 


Goodman Presents Research on Presidential Election Predictions 

Russell Goodman, professor of mathematics, presented research revealing the theoretically lowest percentage of the popular vote that a presidential candidate would need to win a presidential election. 

At the Neumann University Colloquium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Goodman remotely presented “Narrow Margins: Winning the Presidency with Minimal Popular Vote.” The mathematics model predicts a shocking (approximate) 20% to 24%, depending on the year.

The topic is relevant to the 2024 election identifying the candidates and their strategies for winning the presidential election. Five of 46 presidents have come into office without winning the national popular vote. Mathematicians show the data that makes it possible.


Reynaga Selected for Chicago Semester’s Scholar-In-Residence

Óscar Reynaga, senior lecturer of Spanish and class dean, has been selected for the Chicago Semester’s Summer 2023 Scholar-in-Residence Program. 

During the workshop experience, Reynaga will have the opportunity to collaborate with other scholars on the research and development of courses. Reynaga plans to update three of his courses: Latinos in the U.S., Spanish and Latin American Film and Spanish Conversation Through Film. He will create new teaching materials that align with the new Engaged Citizen Core curriculum at Central. 

As the Central faculty advisor for the Organization of Latinx American Students, this opportunity will support Reynaga as he plans cultural trips and events with student leaders.


Students Plant Prairie

Russ Benedict, professor of biology and director of Prairies for Agriculture Project, took part in the seeding of a new prairie around Lake Red Rock dam. Benedict orchestrated students from his class as they developed a seed mixture and gathered seeds from various sources. 

“We collected seeds from local, never-plowed prairies — which is a rare thing in Iowa — and from Central’s planted prairies and bought seed from a local seed dealer,” Benedict says. “I worked with Missouri River Energy Services, the company that built the Red Rock Hydroelectric Project, to arrange a small prairie planting near the project below the Red Rock dam.”


Putnam Published in AGB Trusteeship Magazine

The magazine AGB Trusteeship featured an article entitled, “Managing the Presidency Through the Arc of Time,” and discussed the legacy of leadership over many years at Central. Mark Putnam, Central president and author, outlined how continuity can be incredibly powerful and a key for managing college presidencies and advancing institutional priorities.

The article discusses the roles of trustees and administrations at institutions of higher learning and instructs all to think strategically and long-term when managing colleges and universities. Central is an interesting case study where Putnam is only the 21st president of an institution that is 170 years old. The continuity of leadership over many years has helped steward a prosperous inheritance for future generations.


Theatre Students Honored at Festival 

Central theatre students attended the regional Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in Des Moines, Iowa. Of those in attendance, five Central students were recognized while participating in the program.

Amelia Brown ’25 earned recognition for Innovation in Costume Technology with paper costumes and was the Sharon Sobel Costume Design Honorable Mention for their design of “Lend Me a Tenor.” Kami Waymire ’24, Meredith Ackerman ’22 and Mia Condon ’22 were recognized for their ensemble acting work in “Crimes of the Heart” in spring of 2022. Bryson McGowan ’24 and Waymire received callback invitations for professional summer theatre work.

Kate Kanne-Smith, assistant professor of theatre, was also recognized for her scenic design work on “H.M.S. Pinafore.” C.D. Adamson, associate professor of theatre, served as the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Coordinator with more than 250 students competing from the six-state region.


2023 Commencement Speaker

Heather Burr Isaacson ’97 was selected as the 2023 Commencement ceremony guest speaker. Isaacson came to Central as a first-generation college student and now serves as the By Degrees Foundation director of programs. The foundation is closing the opportunity gap by fostering community partnerships to reduce barriers and incorporate postsecondary and career readiness activities, financial education and asset building for whole neighborhoods of students.


Write Us!

Civitas welcomes letters and emails from readers concerning the contents of the magazine or issues relating to Central College. Please include the author’s name, city and state; anonymous communications will be discarded. Letters selected for publication may be edited for length,content, clarity and style. Address letters to Civitas, Central Communications, Central College, 812 University St., Pella, Iowa 50219 or  email Brittany Carlson Prokupek ’16, Civitas editor, at

To encourage serious, intellectual discourse on Civitas, please include your first and last name when commenting. Anonymous comments will be removed.

Comments are closed.