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Lori Sundberg has submitted her letter of intent to retire as Kirkwood Community College president. The announcement was made Monday morning, Nov. 7, via a campus-wide email. In a news release, Kirkwood officials said Ms. Sundberg plans to continue in her role as president through Kirkwood’s accreditation visit with the Higher Learning Commission next October. A nationwide search to find her successor is set to begin in the coming months. Ms. Sundberg was named Kirkwood’s fifth president in December 2017, replacing Mick Starcevich. She is also the first woman to serve as Kirkwood president. Ms. Sundberg came to Kirkwood from her alma mater, Carl Sandberg College in Galesburg, Ill., where she had served as president since 2010. "Next month, it will be five years since the Kirkwood Board of Trustees announced me as the fifth president of Kirkwood Community College,” Ms. Sundberg wrote in her email to Kirkwood faculty and staff. “And it seems hard to believe that five years has flown by already, but it has, and I submitted my letter of intent to retire next year. So I'm not going anywhere for a while, but I did give the Board of Trustees a year's notice to do a search and to find my replacement. “You know, it's really with mixed and bittersweet emotions that I submitted that letter of intent,” she added. “It's hard to know when is the right time to retire. But what I can tell you is that it feels like we've accomplished our goals that we set out to accomplish the last five years. Despite the pandemic and despite the derecho, and I just feel like after our Higher Learning Commission visit next October, it will be a good time for a transition. We've worked hard to be a good partner to the Higher Learning Commission, and its accreditation visit is a significant milestone in an institution's history." In the news release announcing Ms. Sundberg's retirement, Kirkwood indicated that under Ms. Sundberg's direction, the institution has implemented a number of key academic initiatives, including the Cedar Rapids College Career Connection as well as Guided Pathways, a nationally recognized framework designed to streamline a student's path from enrollment to completion. During her tenure, the college has opened up multiple new facilities, such as a new Automotive Technology building, a new Agricultural Sciences building, and a state-of-the-art student center that has dramatically changed the student experience at Kirkwood. "Sundberg’s strong leadership style and major focus on strategic planning helped set the tone for the institution to navigate through unprecedented times with the global pandemic and the 2020 derecho," the news release says. "Her substantial impact on higher education and the college’s seven-county service area have garnered her numerous awards including a 2022 Ovation Award from the Iowa Women’s Foundation. She was also named a 2022 Gazette HER Woman of Achievement honoree as well as a 2022 Woman of Influence by the Corridor Business Journal." According to Kirkwood Board of Trustees Chair Jim Mollenhauer, Sundberg’s retirement will mean a big loss for Kirkwood. “Dr. Sundberg has been an incredible leader for our college through some very difficult times,” Mr. Mollenhauer said in the release. “The way she has handled her duties in the face of impossible odds with the pandemic and derecho has been exemplary. Despite the challenges, she still has accomplished more than many would have in normal times. While the board and I are sad to see her go, we are happy for her to be able to enjoy a lengthy, well-deserved retirement and we wish her the best.” In an interview with the CBJ in 2019, shortly after taking the helm at Kirkwood, Ms. Sundberg laid out an ambitious list of priorities for Kirkwood, including launching a strategic plan process, putting fundraising front and center, and working, as she did at Carl Sandburg, to institute a “promise” program to fund more students’ educations. “I feel particularly drawn to community colleges because they serve a population that is hugely important and maybe hasn’t always thought that college was for them,” Ms. Sundberg said. “I think we can show them that it is, and that the sky’s the limit for them as to what they want to do.” "It seems hard to believe that it has been five years since I started here," Ms. Sundberg added in the news release. "It's really with mixed and bittersweet emotions that I submitted my letter of intent. It's hard to know the right time to retire. At the same time, it feels like we've achieved our goals that we set out to accomplish since I started. I didn't think it would be possible that I would ever care about an institution as much as I care for this college, but it's going to be incredibly difficult to leave. I will be a Kirkwood supporter forever." With the most credit programs of any community college in Iowa, Kirkwood Community College has more than 17,000 annual college-credit students, while maintaining one of the lowest tuitions in the state. All students are eligible for federal financial aid, and the college offers more than $3 million in scholarships each year to students from all walks of life.