A delegation of about 15 Georgians visited Ellsworth Community College on Friday, but there was no talk of peaches or bulldogs. That’s because the group was from the Republic of Georgia — a small nation wedged between Turkey and Russia.

The delegation stopped at Ellsworth as part of a three-week tour of Midwestern schools, businesses and government entities. The purpose of the Ellsworth stop was to learn how the school recruits female students to its various programs. Many in the delegation are leaders of industrial schools in Georgia. They teach students skills regarding the maritime, railroad, aviation or mechanical engineering industries (among others). But many of those industries are male dominated and recruiting more women is a goal for them.

After a tour of campus, the group sat down with 10 females students representing different areas of study to ask questions and foster a dialogue about how things are done at Ellsworth and why the students chose to study in Iowa Falls.

“I’m from Des Moines and graduated with a class of about 700, so it was a huge adjustment for me to come (to Ellsworth) because it’s in such a small town,” nursing student Kennedi Gogerty told the visitors. “What drove me here, and why I found Ellsworth, was the nursing program is ranked No. 2 in the state. I looked at Kirkwood too, but this was better for me.”

Ellsworth Provost Dr. Martin Reimer said Ellsworth doesn’t target females (or males) specifically, but tries to show all prospective students what the school has to offer. He added that sometimes it’s not about what the admissions staff can tell the prospects, but what current students can tell them about life in Iowa Falls.

“When we talk to prospective students there are a lot of different areas that could be important to them,” Reimer said. “Students don’t always relate to older people, so when we recruit we use our staff and faculty, but peer recruiting is one of our most important tools.”

Overall, about 55 percent of Ellsworth students are male. That is due partially to the school’s football and baseball teams that combine to enroll more than 100 players. But spots in programs like nursing and equestrian studies are largely filled by females.

“At the equine facility it’s mostly female dominated,” equestrian student Lillian Smith said. “I think we have three male students, but it’s mostly run by really strong women and we manage it really well, but on the main campus it’s a bit more even.”

Nino Kurshubadze, head of the ISO Assurance Service at Batumi State Maritime Academy, said the group had already toured the state capital, DMACC, MCC and the John Deere factory in Waterloo before coming to Ellsworth. She added that she’s impressed with the American education system. “You have a completely different (education) system than we do,” she said. “I like it a lot. You have a transfer of knowledge building from one level to another. Nothing is lost. And there is great communication between students and teachers. It’s more like a friendship where students feel comfortable asking questions.”

The delegation’s trip was made possible by a grant written by WorldLink and it’s president Curtis Stutzman who said he has been working with foreign delegations like this for a while now. He said the trip has been a success anecdotally, but WorldLink will be following up with real numbers in the future. “We’ll be measuring the number of females that are showing increased interest in their programs,” Stutzman said. “We’ve got our challenges, but they have a genuine interest in seeing more women come into their programs. They’re coming here, to Ellsworth and seeing programs that are 60 percent female and they see it can be done. One of the things we’re showing them is that it’s how you present the entire concept of your program. If you show females that have successful careers in those areas it tends to attract more women to that program.

By Matthew Rezab, Times Citizen