Briar Cliff University 2020-2021 Annual Report



Creating Community During The COVID-19 Pandemic

As all organizations evolved and adjusted to meet the demands of business during a year of uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, higher education as a whole experienced unparalleled growth. Some reports share the industry advanced 30 years in a mere 10 months.

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Happy Birthday Briar Cliff

In 1929, only briar patches covered a 175-foot hill located on the western outskirts of Sioux City, Iowa. Mother Mary Dominica Wieneke and Reverend Edmond Heelan of the Diocese of Sioux City had a vision. Led by these visionaries, Briar Cliff’s 12 foundresses from the Sisters of Saint Francis worked with members of the business community to raise capital in support in establishing a local, Catholic college in Sioux City.

On Sept. 18, 1930, Briar Cliff College was dedicated.

Take a step back in time with us and reflect on the growth of Briar Cliff and those who have called it home.

Briar Cliff's History



20-21 Franciscan Value: Peacemaking

  • Peaceful Demonstration
    Briar Cliff students, faculty and staff held a peaceful demonstration to bring awareness to social injustice, oppression, and systemic obstacles persisting across the globe.
  • Seeking Common Ground
    A group of panelists from different backgrounds shared stories of faith and cultural diversity.
  • Cultural Conversations
    A social justice conversation focused on honest conversations and relationship building.

Emphasizing Service & Support

  • Franciscan Service Cords
    Students who complete 100 hours of service or more will be awarded a service honor cord to be worn at commencement.
  • Charger Closet
    This free student support program invites the outside community to help our students by donating high-quality, up-to-date clothing, from which students can make selections for free, taking what they need to feel confident and look appropriately dressed as they take their first steps as professionals.
  • Charger Cupboard & Food Pantry
    An on-campus food pantry that provides non-perishable foods and personal care items to students in need.  



2020-2024 Strategic Plan

The world of higher education is changing at an astronomical pace. Briar Cliff University is shifting with these changes, while at the same time honoring its tradition of providing exceptional educational opportunities. Our new strategic plan is designed to inspire confidence, create markets, and seize new growth opportunities.

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Incoming Class

Briar Cliff University experienced notable growth in new first-year students, citing a 26.5% increase from the previous year.

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New Tuition Commitment

Tuition, room, board, and fee plans for the 2021-2022 academic year included new tuition measures, which allows the University to implement low-to-no tuition increases as well as a new tuition commitment model.

New Majors

New programs, Sports Information and HelpCare™ These undergraduate degrees will begin in the fall 2021 semester.

  • The Sports Information curriculum includes developing skills in radio, television, print, public relations, photography, graphic design, and social media. Throughout the years, the media communications department has placed interns with the Harlem Globetrotters, Milwaukee Bucks, and WNBA.
  • HelpCare™ describes the career path designed to help care for others in a broader spectrum. There is a growing demand for professionals specialized in human studies in order to develop, implement, and evaluate interventions to improve people’s lives.


Campus Ministry, the Compass, and Counseling Services on campus collaborate to bring you Navigate, a small group program designed to help students explore their personal and professional life path, and discuss some of life’s biggest questions. We know that college is a time of self-discovery. The goal of Navigate is to create the space and supportive community for all students to do just that. 

 Learn more from Matthew Griesel, Biology & Theology Major
 null"Navigate is a great program to be a part of at Briar Cliff. This program helps individuals look deeper inside themselves and to see their talents and what really interests them. The discussions helped me to understand and acknowledge what I have done in life so far and helped me to start thinking about what I want to do when I graduate from college. Through Navigate I was able to express vulnerability to my fellow peers and to get to know other people on campus through this program," Matthew Griesel, biology and theology major. 


Briar Cliff University has recently been ranked for its top degree programs.

Briar Cliff was recognized among thousands of institutions in the nation and a comprehensive research guide based on an assessment of 2,277 accredited colleges and universities. Each program is evaluated on curriculum quality, graduation rate, reputation, and post-graduate employment.

  • Logistics Degree Programs – 3rd
  • Social Work Degree Programs – 6th
  • Master’s in Health Services Degree Programs – 8th
  • Nurse Practitioner Degree Programs – 8th
  • Nurse Practitioner Programs – 11th
  • Nursing Programs – 23rd
  • Business Administration Degree Program – 30th

Briar Cliff was also ranked 20th Best College in Iowa among 80 other colleges and universities.

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Briar Cliff University is pleased to announce the addition of eSports, team-based video game competitions, to its athletic programs. 

"We are excited to bring eSports to Briar Cliff University," says Dr. Rachelle Keck, President of Briar Cliff University. "eSports is an inclusive program. All genders and physical abilities can participate and compete. This program helps students further develop their skills in leadership, teamwork, strategy, communication and analytics."

The addition of the eSports athletic program also supports growth strategies in STEM majors at the University, a commonly sought academic pathway by eSport athletes. This program will complement new developments in our computer science programs.


nullBriar Cliff University announced a $1.4 million remodel of the cafeteria, the Cliff Café, on Tuesday, April 27. The university shares this has been a project in the works for nearly two years.

“Every day, our students come to the Café to refuel, connect with peers, and study. This is a space of laughter, creating friendships, and building community,” says Dr. Rachelle Keck, Briar Cliff University President.

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Paige Dagel - Iowa Pork Producers Ambassador

nullWhen Paige Dagel isn't working hard in the classroom and on the volleyball court at Briar Cliff University, she's at home in Sanborn, Iowa, working hard on her family's pig farm. For as long as she can remember, Dagel has been fascinated by pigs, and that fascination has become a passion and taken her all the way to an ambassador position on the Iowa Pork Youth Leadership Team.

Dagel was one of three people chosen to represent the Iowa Pork Producers Association at the Iowa Pork Congress in Des Moines in late January. Contestants are judged through interviews and communications exercises regarding the overall pork industry and agriculture knowledge.

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Students Host Virtual Entrepalooza

A multitude of Siouxland organizations co-sponsored Entrepalooza, a five-day celebration of entrepreneurial spirit in Siouxland from Feb. 15-19th. The Briar Cliff Enactus team awarded mini-grants to the winners of the annual “Swimming with the Sharks” event on Wednesday, Feb. 17.

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Class of 2020 - An Overdue Celebration 

nullBriar Cliff University hosted their 89th Commencement Ceremony at the Tyson Events Center. During the ceremony, over 130 graduates commemorated their academic achievements by walking across the stage along with classmates, while professors, coaches, family, and friends joined the celebration.   

“Thank you, Briar Cliff for everything that you have done for me and for all of my classmates,” said student speaker, Abigail Brinkman. “I can’t believe how fast these four years have gone and how many memories I have made. I am so honored to have classmates who became my best friends, to have professors and staff members who are like second parents, and to have a place that was once just a thought transform into my home.” 

Briar Cliff’s original May 2020 commencement ceremony was rescheduled due to the pandemic. The event was celebrated virtually through program-specific email announcementson-campus displays, and social media recognition until arrangements could be made to bring graduates back safely. With some slight adjustments to the traditional pomp and circumstance to allow for CDC and local health recommendations, Briar Cliff University finished its Homecoming Weekend by finally celebrating the Class of 2020.

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Catholic Daughters Set Up Formal Wear Drive

Briar Cliff University Catholic Daughters have been accepting formal dress wear for the men and women at Mid-Step Services as they get excited for Night to Shine. Night to Shine aims to give people with special needs an unforgettable prom night experience.

Junior Megan Loutsch noticed the 20+ dresses for formal events and weddings, between her and her sisters, were just sitting in a closet taking up space. She saw the need for a formal wear drive.

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The Ravine - Robert Pascuzzi 

Robert Passcuzzi ('86) entrepreneur, husband, and father from the Midwest whose comfortable existence was shattered due to a horrendous crime that impacted him and his family. In the wake of that tragedy, he was led on a spiritual journey that challenged his core beliefs. Compelled to share what he learned, his book "The Ravine" was born. The book was adapted into a movie and was shared in theaters and via streaming April 2.

Robert and Kelly Pascuzzi are about to make their debut as movie producers, but it wasn’t a career shift they actually entertained. Instead, he says, “It was just being open to having big ideas.”


Baseball - Bishop Mueller Complex Update

Briar Cliff University and the Charger baseball program officially celebrated the addition of the new infield turf at the Bishop Mueller Complex. The new infield turf is the first and largest phase of a multi-phase project to the Bishop Mueller Complex, home of the Briar Cliff University Chargers and Bishop Heelan High School Crusaders. 

"We are grateful to our alumni, the Touch 'Em All Club, our Board of Trustees, Bishop R. Walker Nickless, and the Diocese of Sioux City, as well as for the generosity of our supportive Siouxland community," said Dr. Rachelle Keck, President of Briar Cliff University. "I absolutely want and need to highlight our Charger coaches, Coach Corby McGlauflin, and Coach Andy Osborne. We are so blessed by your support and passion for our students and our baseball programs."

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Nick Hegge - James Madison Fellowship

Nicholas Hegge ('10) has been awarded a 2020 James Madison Fellowship by the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation of Alexandria, VA. 

Named in honor of the fourth president of the United States and acknowledged "Father of the Constitution and Bill of Rights," the James Madison Fellowship funds $24,000 of the selected recipients' course of study toward a master's degree.

A 2010 Briar Cliff graduate, Hegge received his degree in history and secondary education. He will go on to obtain his master's in history at the University of Nebraska-Kearney.

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Alumni Raise Over $34K to Change Lives

To support the ever emerging needs students and families who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19, Briar Cliff University recently established the BCUnited Emergency Scholarship Fund. This fund will be used to help students overcome unique, extraordinary, and unforeseen financial circumstances while attending Briar Cliff University. 

In just 24 hours, Briar Cliff University’s generous alumni and donor community raised over $34,000 to help change the lives of our students.

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2021 Alumni Award Winners Announced

Briar Cliff University is proud to announce the winners of the Distinguished Alumni Award and the G.O.L.D. (Graduate of the Last Decade) Award.

 Distinguished Alumni Award Winner – Dale Roder
null“Dale and his wife Jane have invested where their faith is: Catholic education. Dale has been in the Touch ‘Em All Club since inception and is now the president. He loves to see a successful and well-disciplined baseball team, just ask Corby. Dale is a deserving winner of the Distinguished Alumni Award.”
 G.O.LD. Alumni Award Winner – Abigail Chihak
null“Abigail is a loyal promoter of the Franciscan values she received at BCU. Her present involvement in a BCU alumni single women’s discussion group dealing with a deeper formation in living the Franciscan values in lay life is a testament of her desire to keep letting these values inform her life."


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Dr. Kristen Drahos - Sisters of St. Francis Endowed Chair

Dr. Kristen Drahos has been appointed to the Sisters of St. Francis Endowed Chair in Theology, being the first-ever to do so.  

“I am honored and grateful to hold the Sisters of St. Francis Chair in Theology,” Drahos says. “I hope this position generates further excitement about Briar Cliff’s rich Catholic Franciscan heritage and helps students engage their faith more deeply and critically.” 

In Jan. 2019, Briar Cliff announced a $2 million endowment by the Sisters of St. Francis establishing the Sisters of St. Francis Chair in Theology, enriching the University’s theology program through scholarship and teaching as well as infusing Catholic Franciscan values throughout Briar Cliff and into the community. 

Liz Rembold Elected to Social Work Board of Directors

Briar Cliff Social Work Program Director, Liz Rembold has recently been elected to the Board of Directors for the South Dakota chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).

Since coming to Briar Cliff in 2014, Rembold has been a pivotal member of the Briar Cliff community serving as associate professor of social work as well as faculty chair. 

Willie Suarez Presents Research

Wilfrido Suárez, Briar Cliff Spanish professor, recently presented his research paper at the 2021 Languages, Literatures, and Cultures Virtual Conference at the University of Kentucky, Lexington.

Dr. Suarez’ research is based on socio-historical research regarding the nature of the society established in the Spanish empire and represented in “El Guzmán de Alfarache” (1599) and “La Historia de la vida del Buscón” (1626). He highlights the circumstances of the Creoles within the colonial establishment whose literature representatives and protagonists make use of the simulation resource to integrate as apparent members of the ruling class.


Briar Cliff University is pleased to announce professional advancements for faculty. 

  • Melanie Berte-Hickey advances to Associate Professor of Social Work. Berte-Hickey works with students both online and on campus. She is well versed and has expertise in grief and bereavement.
  • Dr. David Hoferer transitions to full Professor of Biology/Environmental Science with tenure. Since coming to Briar Cliff in 2016, Dr. Hoferer is currently serving as the Chair of the Faculty Senate for the 2020-2021 academic school year.
  • Dr. Daniel Jung advances to Associate Professor of Biology with tenure. Dr. Jung became director of the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) in 2019.
  • Sister Shirley Fineran has been chosen as faculty emeriti. Since retiring from BCU in 2019, Sr. Shirley has worked tirelessly to raise awareness on human trafficking around Siouxland. She was most recently awarded the Spirit of St. Francis Award.




  • Renee Allan, Mailroom and Textbook Coordinator, served at Briar Cliff for 17 years.
  • Dr. Barbara Condon, Professor of Nursing, served at Briar Cliff for 17 years.
  • Paul Ermak, Professor of Theology & Philosophy, served at Briar Cliff for 55 years.
  • Lana Johnson, Administrative Assistant Talent Search, served at Briar Cliff for 20 years.
  • Sr. Janet May, OSF, Director of Campus Ministry, served at Briar Cliff for 17 years.
  • Dr. Chuck Shaffer, Professor of Mathematics, served at Briar Cliff for 45 years.
  • Dr. Ruth Schock, OSF, Professor of Education, served at Briar Cliff for 23 years.


  • Tom Kleen, Professor of Computer Science, served at Briar Cliff for 41 years.
  • Richard Steinbach, Professor of Music, served at Briar Cliff for 41 years.
  • Judy Thompson,  Professor of Business, served at Briar Cliff for 41 years.
  • Paul Weber, Professor of Chemistry, served at Briar Cliff for 41 years.


Paint the States Briar Cliff Bluenull

Briar Cliff University is grateful for the support of alumni and friends across the nation. 







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Advancement Team
nullDr. Rachelle Keck, President
 Tina Stroud, Vice President of University Relations null
 Carolyn Ellwanger, Director of Philanthropynull
nullAmy Derby, Director of Donor Relations
 Rob Schlaeger, Assistant Director of Alumni and Developmentnull

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