This isn’t the same AIB College of Business you once knew.
This school year, the college will field 12 athletic teams, and this spring it is scheduled to become a full member of the Midwest Collegiate Conference for athletics.
“I’ve always viewed college athletics as a part of the whole educational experience,” said Al Dorenkamp, who was named athletic director over the summer. “This is an opportunity to serve young people on a college campus.”
AIB first added women’s basketball in 2007 (a sport that was played at the college in the 1930s and 1940s). The school added men’s and women’s golf in 2008, volleyball and men’s basketball in 2011, men’s and women’s soccer and competitive dance in 2012, men’s and women’s bowling this fall and will field a softball and baseball team for the first time in the spring. The school also has a cheerleading program.
The college decided to add athletics for a couple of reasons, said President Nancy Williams. First, school officials felt the Activities Center, which opened in 1999, was underutilized. The college expanded the facility in 2011 to house a weight room and locker rooms.
The second reason? “We also felt that offering athletics would attract to AIB additional students who wanted to play their sports,” Williams said.
That goal has been achieved so far. AIB’s fall enrollment of 1,019 was the highest since 1991, and 280 of those students play a sport. The athletics program has been able to attract students who weren’t looking at the college before; the men’s soccer team alone has players from 15 different countries.
“AIB students can participate in everything collegiate right here in Des Moines,” Williams said.
The addition of athletics represents another point in the evolution of the college.
In 2004, AIB decided to seek approval from the Higher Learning Commission to offer bachelor’s degrees and ultimately change to a four-year institution. The school had long offered two-year associate degrees, but AIB officials recognized that many associate-degree graduates were continuing their education at other colleges.
AIB now offers bachelor’s degrees in accounting, business administration, sports and event management and contemporary business communications. Starting next fall, the school will add programs in financial services and planning; human resources management; marketing; event, hospitality and tourism management; and general studies. That is in addition to 13 associate degrees that the school still offers.
“I think the community needs to know that we are on the move, both from our academic majors and development on campus, and I think that we’re intentional and excited about moving forward and developing our athletic programs as well,” Dorenkamp said.
He said it will be critical for the athletic department to develop partnerships with the community, which AIB is already doing. The college worked out a deal with Lincoln High School to use its baseball and softball fields in exchange for renovating the fields. There could also be opportunities for business sponsorships, such as putting a company logo on basketball game programs, although the school hasn’t fully explored those opportunities yet.
Dorenkamp is quick to point out that AIB athletes are students first, a distinction often lost at larger schools. And the benefit of athletics on campus extends to the student body at large, as games have been well-attended.
“I just think it helps make us a more traditional college environment,” Williams said.
Men’s sports: Baseball, basketball, golf, bowling, soccer
Women’s sports: Basketball, competitive dance, soccer, golf, bowling, softball, volleyball
Facilities: The recently renovated AIB Activities Center houses basketball and volleyball. Soccer plays at the James W. Cownie Soccer Park. Lincoln High School will share its fields for baseball and softball.
Division and conference: AIB is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, better known as the NAIA. The school competes in the Midwest Collegiate Conference, where it will become a full member once the baseball and softball seasons begin. AIB joins Iowa-based schools Grand View University, Clarke University, Mount Mercy University, Saint Ambrose University and William Penn University as well as Wisconsin-based Viterbo University in the conference.
Dorenkamp’s to-do list
How Athletic Director Al Dorenkamp plans to set a foundation for AIB’s athletic department.
Structure: Putting the organizational structure in place. Figuring out responsibilities and communications strategies. AIB currently has 14 full-time staff members in the department, including Dorenkamp and coaches. There are also 14 part-time coaches on staff.
Recruiting: Selling potential recruits on playing at AIB is one vehicle to get AIB noticed by high school athletes who may not have known about or considered the school. Part of the challenge of recruiting is just getting the college’s name in front of high school students who are interested in getting a business education and playing a sport, Dorenkamp said. The coaching staff has connections in different parts of the country and world, which should help with finding athletes. AIB is allowed to give students athletic scholarships.
Budgeting: Funding is primarily coming from the college’s general fund of $13 million. Dorenkamp said the budget right now is truly a projected budget, because when starting up a program “there’s always some things that you maybe didn’t think about that you have to have,” he said.
Marketing: The college’s marketing department is working on ways to market the college’s athletic programs.