North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC) recognized 25 student leaders at the 31st annual Pathways to Success event held April 9 in the North Iowa Community Auditorium. Honorees were nominated by NIACC faculty and staff for their academic achievement, positive attitude, character, teamwork, and ability to inspire others. The event also featured a keynote address by 2021 Outstanding Alumna and Clear Lake native, Dr. Jodi Ostendorf Cahalan, class of 1987.
Cahalan, a native of Clear Lake, graduated with the NIACC class of 1987. After completing her Associates of Arts degree at NIACC, she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Physician Assistant Studies from Des Moines University. As a life-long learner, she went on to earn two masters degrees at DMU, a Master of Science in Health Care Administration and a Master of Public Health. Cahalan then earned her Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln in 2007.
After finishing PA school, Cahalan joined an internal medicine practice in Clinton, Iowa, but was soon recruited to join the physician assistant faculty of Des Moines University in 1989. She was named the PA program director in 1994, a position held until 2005 when she was named Associate Dean for the College of Health Sciences at Des Moines University. She was named Dean in 2006, a position she held until her retirement from DMU in 2020 after over thirty years of service to the institution.
During her time in Des Moines, Cahalan served on the Board of Directors for Unity Point Health – Grinnell Regional Medical Center, and was a member of the Health Cabinet for the United Way of Central Iowa, an organization she and her husband financially supported as Leadership Donors.
She currently serves as a peer reviewer for the Higher Learning Commission and previously served as President of the Alpha Eta National Honor Society and on committees serving the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, the Association of Physician Assistant Programs, and the Iowa Physician Assistant Tracking Committee.
Cahalan shared her own life experience including her pathway to success. She praised the 25 student honorees for their success inside and outside the classroom, as well as just being good people. She compared the differences of what it was like for her when she attended NIACC, to what students experience today. While admiring the students for their academic abilities, Cahalan also encouraged them to remember not everyone learns the same. As leaders, they must see differences in how people work together. She urged students to choose their support system wisely, whether it is those who support you in family life or your work life. Cahalan stressed how important a good support system is and has been for her. Cahalan took it a step further and stressed the importance of relationships with others. Cahalan shared, “The people you meet along your path might just be someone who helps you when you need it most.” Cahalan cautioned the students by saying, “As leaders and people pleasers, we say yes a lot, and saying yes to those unexpected opportunities is great, but it’s important to know when it’s the right time to say no. There are only so many hours in the day. Remember the need to prioritize and really think about where you can have the most effect.” Cahalan reminded the honorees of the need to take care of themselves: to take control of their core, their mind and their heart, and to get good exercise, including strength training. She shared that she lives by some of the Blue Zones concepts, especially the concept of ikigai, which is defined as having a purpose, a reason to wake up in the morning, finding your passion and living it. She said, “Remember it is ok to ask for help when you need it, it’s ok to do this because no one is superhuman. On the other hand, sometimes you will be on the other end of this and I encourage you to look for opportunities to help others when they need help.”
Students honored at the event included:
Brampton, Ontario, Canada
Francesco Decena Barbieri
NIACC’s 31st annual Pathways to Success event was sponsored by the Cerro Gordo County Board of Supervisors, Tony and Sue Coloff, and the NIACC Student Government.
The NIACC Alumni Association was formed in 1991 and is structured under the NIACC Foundation. The NIACC Alumni Association’s mission is cultivating relationships with alumni to support, advance, and ensure the mission of the college. If you are a MCJC / NIACC Alumni visit www.niacc.edu/alumni to join the no-cost alumni association.
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