When Weston T. Wiebe graduated from College of the Ozarks in 2012, he always pictured himself returning to Hard Work U.
“I hoped to one day work at my alma mater and felt a calling to influence young people as they navigate their most consequential years,” he says. “I pursued this dream with a purpose.”
Wiebe returned in 2017 as an assistant professor of communication arts, then rose to vice president for vocational programs, treasurer and chief operating officer.
“The most rewarding moment of my professional career is when I returned to College of the Ozarks as a professor and served students in the same seat I had been in a decade earlier,” he says.
Wiebe helped to guide the college through the pandemic, and C of O was one of only 3% of colleges and universities in the nation to operate exclusively in-person in the fall of 2020, he says.
“I reallocated resources and prioritized employee benefits as the college experienced a $6 million loss in revenue,” he says. “Prudent cash flow management and donors’ timely gifts sustained business operations without interruption.”
To boot, the college prioritized completing construction projects and capital improvements during that period, with more than $36 million invested over the past four years and no debt incurred to the college, either for operations or capital projects, he says.
Wiebe, the son of a concrete truck driver and a night shift nurse, says his parents encouraged him and his siblings to find something they love and pursue it with purpose.
“As an undergraduate student at College of the Ozarks, my sights were raised to the possibilities that exist on the other side of faith, hope and hard work,” he says.
College of the Ozarks is distinctive for pursuing its organizational mission with a student workforce. Also setting it apart are its in-house construction department, The Keeter Center hotel and restaurant that provides the college with more than $6 million in annual revenue, a K-12 lab school and a large-scale farm operation.
“The various functions of each entity require collaborative and methodical management to ensure that we achieve the college’s academic purpose and uniquely address the different challenges that face each department,” he says.
Though some decisions must be made quickly, Wiebe prefers a collaborative approach, as with a digital marketing initiative the college implemented recently with the involvement of multiple departments moving in lockstep to expand C of O’s online footprint. Wiebe ensured cohesion and funding to accomplish the goals, he says, and the result was a 15% increase in prospective donors.
As COO, Wiebe says he holds himself accountable for the fiscal responsibility that will allow the institution to continue to give opportunities to students like he once was.
“It is the honor of my life to continue to carry out the mission – to help students raise their sights for their lives,” he says.
Adrianna Norris became a first-time business owner with the opening of Finley River Chiropractic; PaPPo’s Pizzeria & Pub launched its newest location; and Huey Magoo’s opened its second store in the Ozarks.