By Dana Becker
Eric Niesen always wanted to compete at the collegiate level.
Following a standout multi-sport career at Fort Dodge Senior High, Niesen was provided that opportunity with the Iowa Central men's soccer team.
Niesen would play for two seasons for the Tritons before attending Minnesota State University-Mankato. He was a two-time academic all-region first team selection and earned all-region status as a sophomore.
"I decided to start my college journey at Iowa Central for a number of different reasons that probably all held the same amount of weight, but two stand out," Niesen said. "First, was all the benefits of attending a Community College. There were scholarship opportunities, small classes, amazing apartments, low tuition, campus organizations, and then staying close to home. Second, I wasn't ready to give up playing soccer yet and playing a sport collegiately had always been a dream of mine. Iowa Central and Coach Nathan Mason offered me that opportunity."
Familiarity and comfort also helped in his decision making to attend Iowa Central.
"Growing up in Fort Dodge, Iowa Central was a part of my life from since I can remember," he said. "Whether it was going to sporting events, playing soccer out on the fields before Harlan built the soccer complex, attending plays, recitals, etc. Another piece was that my brother was attending there as I was making my college decision, and he was having a really positive experience. When it came down to it, it really was an easy choice.
"I carry a ton of memories from my time at Iowa Central. To this day I always say I wish I could have spent all four years there. Being a smaller campus, it was easy to meet people and build strong relationships that I still have today. Obviously playing soccer was a huge part of my time there, and I was fortunate to be on some good teams and we had a lot of fun along the way both on and off the field.
"I also remember just how much of a family atmosphere it was. From the coaches, the RA's, my academic advisor (shout out Megan Forey), professors, the administration, the lunch and dinner staff…the list goes on and on. Everyone knew you and it was hard to not felt like you belonged there."
As a Dodger, Niesen earned all-conference honors his junior and senior seasons in soccer. He concluded his prep career as the school's second all-time leading scorer and also played for the Fort Dodge Soccer Association.
"Iowa Central helped prepare me for my next steps a ton," he said. "I was able to be involved in a lot of organizations on campus like Student Newspaper, Student Government, Student Ambassadors, and I was a RA. Because of that, I developed a lot of different skills than you would just going to class and heading back to your dorm. And then the classes themselves challenged me enough and forced to me to learn better study habits and time management that carried over to my next school and now my job."
Niesen is currently the Enrollment Manager at Columbia College in Columbia, Missouri.
"Iowa Central is where I developed my passion for higher education, and working closely with the admissions office while there opened my eyes to a potential career in this field," he said. "Columbia College is a lot like Iowa Central in that we are a smaller school and a tight-knit community (albeit we are a four year college), so for me to sell this school to high school students from all over the state and different backgrounds, I feel good about it because I know I had such a positive experience at an institution just like this one. I believe in what we are doing and have to offer, so working here and choosing to stay here for as long as I have has been easy."