Denson marks 20 years as DMACC president

DMACC President Rob Denson

This past November, President Rob Denson made DMACC history by becoming the longest-serving person in his position in the college’s 57-year history. 

During the 20 years that President Denson has been at DMACC, the college has grown by more than 50 percent by focusing on faculty and staff instruction, keeping tuition low, and developing partnerships, according to a DMACC press release.

Before he became the president of DMACC, Denson studied political science and economics at Iowa State University. Denson also attended the University of Florida, graduating from law school and working as a board-certified civil trial attorney for 16 years. 

When transitioning to the field of education administration, Denson first took a dean position at Santa Fe Community College and then five years as President of Northeast Iowa Community College. 

Denson explained why he decided to transition from law to education: “Practicing law was different than it used to be, and I did not want to change the nature of my practice. I had done well, so I retired.”  

Denson was hired as president of Des Moines Area Community College in November of 2003. Denson explained that he made the career change to DMACC because “The area was vibrant and there was really a potential for significant growth.” He also said that he had a good relationship with the former president of DMACC, which made things feel “meant to be.”  

After taking the role in 2003 Denson took advantage of the growth potential he saw, and within a decade the college had invested more than $100 million in new and remodeled classrooms, recreation, and study areas across the college. Denson also played a crucial role in creating and building DMACC’s Career Academy campuses. 

According to a DMACC press release, Denson actively focuses on larger-scale issues concerning public education and serves on councils, including the DMACC President’s Panel, that help find solutions to issues relating to the college.  

Chronicle reporter Kennedy Ballinger speaks to DMACC President Rob Denson in his office. Photo Courtesy DMACC.

Denson explained the thing he is most proud of is his faculty and staff at DMACC. “I call them fire breathers… We are in a disruptive environment with challenges, and it is fun just watching and supporting them.” 

Denson also stated that he has put together a council of 20 people who take on a collaborative leadership role to create agendas and initiatives for the college. One recent initiative involved restructuring 230 different degrees and certifications and sorting them into 10 main career pathways such as Health Science and Fitness, Building Trades and Transportation, and Business.

Not only does Denson take on higher responsibilities at DMACC, but he also maintains an active relationship with students and staff members. Denson said he tries to stay on campus as much as possible and meets with a group of students once every month. He said he also consistently attends to peer feedback and produces a weekly email to bring the college together. Denson mentioned that the relationship between himself, campuses, and faculty is important to him and that he does what he can to maintain and improve it throughout DMACC. 

“We have an unbelievably positive relationship, ” Denson explained when talking about his relationships throughout the college. “I love what I, what we do.” 

In the future Denson plans to continue to expand the college’s capacity and its education quality. He also intends to raise the enrollment rate at DMACC, which has increased by 12.9 percent since last fall. 

The one thing that Denson said he would like to focus more on is his relationship with faculty members and plans to continue to create a collectively positive and supportive environment throughout the campuses. 

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