Dean Jim Stick: “Find something you love to do”

jstickBy Megan Miras

Dean of Arts and Sciences Jim Stick never thought he would be at a community college, but he is glad he is.

Stick went to school in Northeast Iowa. He graduated from the University of Iowa. He lived in Iowa City for 10-11 years.  Next, he moved to Des Moines to work at Simpson to teach English for three and a half years. Then he taught English at Iowa State University for five years. Finally, he came to DMACC in about 1985 to teach English, and became Dean of Arts and Sciences ten years ago.

Stick has a blended family with his wife consisting of three daughters and one son. The oldest daughter is 35 and works as a medical librarian in Chicago. The middle daughter is 30 and is a high school history teacher. Their son, Alex, is 30, and works for General Electric in Chicago, and the youngest is a daughter, 23, who is an event planner in Hong Kong.

They do not have any pets because they travel as often as they can. They take a trip on spring break every year. They go to France in May. They go to Vancouver every August. Greece, Rome, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile and Canada are just some of the other exciting places Stick and his wife have visited. They have also been to Hong Kong to visit their youngest daughter.

Stick is also a wine connoisseur. He took a class called “Wines of the World” at the University of Iowa. Because of his knowledge for wine and his position here at DMACC, he is very active in the culinary dinner put on every year by the DMACC Culinary students. He has also been able to get $500 Bordeaux wines for only about $10-15 a bottle.

“A typical day for me is not typical,” Stick said. “It’s almost like a store. There are interruptions.” What he means is that things change. It is unpredictable. There is always something different. He usually arrives about an hour after Associate Dean, Kari Hensen in the morning and leaves about the time night classes begin. Stick is in charge of large programs such as Criminal Justice, Culinary Arts and Biotechnology that “require [a lot] of different attention.” He spends time approving course substitutions and resolving problems with students and faculty. He has two administrative assistants: one to help with scheduling his days and one to help with faculty issues. Stick also sits in on classes to observe instructors and course content. “I love to go in and watch classes. [Often] I wish I was teaching it.”

Stick loved teaching and believes it has given him a good foundation for being a dean. It has given him a way to communicate with instructors on a better level. It has helped him to understand what they are feeling and help them.

Stick believes it is the teacher that gets a student really interested in a subject. “You always remember the teacher,” Stick said. It is important to find an instructor that is passionate about what they are teaching; to find one that loves the “subject matter” and loves the “students.”

Since Stick did not see himself being a dean, he understands that many students do not know what they want to study and may change their major a few times, or even their career. He changed his major five or six times. At first he wanted to be a lawyer, then he studied economics before heading into English. He says “it’s good to be undecided. Try different classes in different disciplines.” He says people have hidden talents, and they may not realize what they hidden talent is until they explore.

“Find something you love to do, that can make you a decent living, and that’s ideal.”

He says you should not hate to arrive to your job come Monday morning. After some switching of majors and jobs, Stick does not regret coming to his job Monday mornings.

“Find your field and let your field find you.”


  1. I thought of you today, and how you taught me about the “tiny topic” when I was an undergrad at Iowa. I used this concept throughout my career as a language and literature professor. I was always grateful to you every day that I taught, and I am grateful still. It sounds as if you have a had a wildly varied life and career, and I am happy for that. I too “changed horses midstream,” so to speak, and evolved a more curious right brain, which lead me to become an artist. My life, like yours, has been enriched by exploring new possibilities…

    If you are not the Jim Stick I knew, I apologize. But please know that he was a worthy namesake.

    ~ Mari O’Brien

  2. Frank Schultz says:

    I would not be whom I am today without his influence.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *