First Pathways director looks toward retirement

Dr. Vicki Edelnant plans to spend retirement devoted to her passion for gardening.  —Submitted Photo
Dr. Vicki Edelnant plans to spend retirement devoted to her passion for gardening. —Submitted Photo

With a beautiful Iowa sunrise creeping its way through her car’s windshield and a P.G. Wodehouse audiobook echoing through the speakers in the early morning, Dr. Vicki Edelnant begins her drive from her Cedar Falls home to work at Wartburg or what she calls “having fun.”

Throughout the day, meetings fill her schedule, but for Edelnant, the Pathways director, the most rewarding part of the day comes when she is working one-on-one with a student.

“If we can make a plan and figure out how to make that plan work, and it can be successful, then you feel like you’ve really made a difference in someone’s life,” Edelnant says.

That’s been the daily objective for Edelnant since the Pathways Center opened in 1996, but by the end of 2014 she will be enjoying her days in a different setting.

Edelnant will retire from Wartburg on Dec. 31 as the first ever director of Pathways, and said she will greatly miss aiding students in both finding their vocation in life and working through difficulties during college.

“The most fun is when I can see a student go, ‘Oh, you can do that?’” she said.

One of those former students, Tara Winter, currently the director of student recruitment at Wartburg, had Edelnant for an instructor and academic adviser when she went to college.

She credited Edelnant for helping her find her path toward her current position at Wartburg.

“She pulled you in and made you very comfortable immediately,” Winter said. “She knows how to give you direction, but, yet, has you take the initiative to make the right choices for yourself.”

Angelina Carrasquillo, a current fourth-year student, said she was given direction by Edelnant during her first year of college when she was put on academic probation.

“I could actually tell that she actually cared about how my grades were,” Carrasquillo said. “Whatever she was doing she just dropped to help me succeed.”

Carrasquillo said without Edelnant’s ability to guide her after early mistakes in her academic career, she would not be the senior with plans for graduation that she is today.

“She never made me feel like she was wasting her time. I didn’t want to let her down,” Carrasquillo said.

Along with the opportunity to help individuals like Winter and Carrasquillo during her time at Wartburg, Edelnant said she has also been fortunate to be part of the creation of Pathways.

“It was a lucky evolution,” Edelnant said.

In 1995, five years after being first hired at Wartburg as a Communication Arts/English instructor, Edelnant was chosen by Dr. Edith Waldstein, vice president for enrollment management, as part of a task force designed to research academic support.

“The dean of the faculty at the time asked me to pull together faculty and staff to brainstorm about an academic support center,” Waldstein said.

They wrote a proposal to the dean recommending student resource centers be brought together into an integrative and comprehensive unit.

“At that time it was pretty innovative,” Edelnant said. “It just sort of grew organically.”
After the proposal was accepted, Waldstein was tasked with finding its first manager. Edelnant was selected to be the director of the resource center, but they still needed to name the facility.

“They decided to go with ‘Pathways’ as kind of a pathway from entering college all the way to your career or grad school,” Edelnant said.

Since then, Edelnant has served as the chair for Phi Eta Sigma and the First Year Experience Coordinator, has helped with SOAR and Orange EXCELeration, and has taught and been an adviser every year since 1990.

Now, her pathway in life has led to retirement; a time she plans to utilize by spending time with family and friends, travel and, when the weather allows, work in her garden.

For now, she says she plans on enjoying the time off, but wishes for the success of Pathways to continue well into the future.

“What I hope to leave behind is an eagerness on the part of the Pathways staff to understand where everybody else is coming from,” Edelnant said.

Winter, Waldstein and the Pathways staff all said her retirement will make this bridge a little different on campus.

“They are big shoes to be filled,” Waldstein said. “What I will miss most about Vicki is her passion for students.”

“I don’t know a Wartburg without Vicki,” Winter said.

Edelnant said the people who make up the entire Wartburg community will be what she misses most.

One thing she said she won’t miss as her retirement approaches: commuting in the winter months.

Derek Solheim, associate director for career services, will take over as the new director of Pathways beginning on Jan. 1.

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