BVU Top Story in 2020: Lenzmeier Tapped to Lead Beavers

President Lenzmeier's guidance during the pandemic highlights 2020, a year at BVU that was filled with Beavers going above and beyond for their classmates, colleagues, and the community.

Since its founding in 1891, Buena Vista University and its people have endured—then thrived—as they worked to put crises like the Spanish flu epidemic (1917), the Great Depression (1930s), World War II (1941-45), and the Farm Crisis (1980s) in the rearview mirror.

Students, faculty, and staff innovated, created, cooperated, and kept BVU building, as, in many cases, the University and its community emerged ever stronger for generations to follow.

The year 2020 represented such a year in itself; a year marked by the COVID-19 pandemic that forced the campus in Storm Lake to close as instruction moved online for the balance of the spring semester.

Help is on the way, as BVU readies for the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna. A freezer in the Estelle Siebens Science Center has been approved by the Iowa Department of Public Health as a storage site for the Pfizer vaccine, one of few in rural Iowa with such incredible cold-temperature capacities. It is the latest example of how BVU’s people and resources converge to position the greater community for a brighter future.

Before we turn the calendar and close the books on a year fraught with challenge, we highlight few of these kinds of developments, all of which show how Beavers are succeeding and building for better days ahead.

Here are the top 5 BVU stories in 2020, as evaluated by University Marketing & Communications.

5Diego Aguilera, a BVU freshman from Pharr, Tex., helped save a coworker’s life as the man experienced a heart attack during a break at Storm Lake Walmart on Aguilera’s first day on the job. The freshman computer science major, who wrestles for the Beavers, called upon his training as a wrestler to react quickly, taking mere seconds to gage his coworker’s condition before starting chest compressions. Read more

4Dr. Shawn Stone, BVU Professor of Physics and Computer Science and winner of the 2020 George Wythe Award for teaching excellence, used his talent and time, and BVU’s 3-D printer provided by Stine Endowment funding, to help make protective face shields for faculty and staff members for use during the pandemic. Dozens of BVU faculty and staff sewed fabric masks and assembled care packages for students, while the development of an individual symptoms checker was used each day by students, faculty, and staff before reporting to class or work on campus. Read more

3Agriculture instruction, research, and co-curricular activity leapt forward through a partnership established between BVU’s Institution for Agriculture and the Circle C Cattle Company, a farm/ranch operated by Mike and Dana Christen on Storm Lake’s northern edge. The facilities provided students the opportunity to gain practical experience in breeding and raising livestock, and raising corn, soybeans, and more. BVU started a Livestock Show Team and hosted the Northwest Iowa District FFA Soils Judging Contest at the site, among many activities as ag instruction and interest ballooned. Read more

2In September, BVU became a TestIowa site for COVID-19 as Tami Laursen, BVU Director of Health Services & Wellness, and her team answered the call to conduct daily assessments and testing of the BVU community for the virus. Having a site on campus offered an added level of security for students while saving time for BVU officials who had been transporting students to the TestIowa site at Sunrise Pointe Golf Course in Storm Lake. Read more

1BVU named Dr. Brian Lenzmeier as the University’s 19th President in October. Lenzmeier, who came to BVU as a Professor of Biology in 2003, put his experiences as a virologist to work, helping direct mitigation efforts that resulted in fewer cases of COVID-19 spread on campus, allowing BVU to remain open while offering in-person instruction to Thanksgiving break. The last three weeks of the semester took place online, as predetermined when the academic calendar was adjusted over the summer. Read more

The following developments warrant honorable mention laurels at BVU in 2020:

  • Enrollment enjoyed a 2.5 percent uptick despite the pandemic as a large freshman class of 231 students from 19 states reported to campus in August, complementing a record graduate school enrollment of 407 students.
  • Nate Bjorkgren, who helped the Beavers to their first conference men’s basketball title in 21 years in 1997, was named head coach of the Indiana Pacers in the National Basketball Association. Bjorkgren, a Storm Lake native, is a 1998 BVU graduate.
  • The BVU’s women’s basketball team earned a national title in academics after posting a 3.865 GPA during the spring semester, the best team GPA in NCAA women’s basketball at all divisions.
  • The BVU Esports Arena opened and hosts more than one dozen students who compete for the newest team on campus.
  • When BVU seniors Iran Carlos and Kristen Charette saw their internships in Washington, D.C., end early because of the pandemic, they made sandwiches and gave snacks, fruit, and other items from their room to homeless persons who resided under a bridge several blocks from their dorm, driving home the meaning of BVU’s motto, “Education for Service.”