Wartburg made me into a lifelong learner

By Katie Hirv ’22

The mission statement of Wartburg College is centered around service, meant to encourage students to engage in serving those around them and their communities. For Walker Wilson ’12, his Wartburg journey led him to pursue his passion for public service.

“When I graduated from Wartburg in 2012, I started taking more classes, mostly at NIACC (North Iowa Area Community College), to become an emergency medical technician, then a paramedic. At the time, I was a 911 dispatcher, so I got into public safety,” said Wilson, the director of continuing education in the health division and emergency medical services program manager at North Iowa Area Community College.

With degrees in political science and history, learning about public policies and past world events have helped Wilson make valuable connections with his work in training and teaching emergency medical technicians in north central Iowa.

“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do the first couple of years I was at Wartburg. I figured out as I went that what I had an interest in is what I should be doing for my major, and I was interested in politics and history,” Wilson said. “I haven’t had a lot of jobs that related to politics, but I’ve worked in the public sector. The biggest thing is that Wartburg showed that I was trainable. I set forth on this journey of becoming by getting my degree and going to school. Going to Wartburg made it so much easier for me to get started.”

While emergency medical services and political science may not seem connected at first thought, Wilson has discovered the type of difference he wants to make within his community regarding his knowledge of both public policy and safety.

Walker Wilson

“I like to see results and see that I’ve helped someone right away. I don’t want to wait for processes and policies and things to come down line to help someone, so I was very interested in getting into public service. There’s a lot of ways to help people out there. Some of them are a little quicker and easier to see when you help them out,” Wilson said.

His passion for public service has kept Wilson in the practice of emergency medical services as well as teaching it, volunteering for the ambulance services out of Clear Lake as well as his administrative and teaching roles. Continuing to volunteer allows him to stay focused and informed on what is happening in the field of emergency medicine. This had already been crucial and became even more so when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“There’s this practice in the EMS field of making sure the scene is safe before you go in to treat a patient. You make sure you have your body substance isolation gear on before you go to call, which were only gloves at the time. Now you have to put on gloves, a mask, a face shield, goggles and suit. Our thinking has changed so much,” Wilson said.

At NIACC, Wilson stays busy arranging classes and certifications for students interested in becoming a part of the public safety scene of north Iowa.

“I set up and run EMS and mobile medical response classes for the north central Iowa area, as well as advanced EMT classes. I get instructors to come, make tests and curriculum, make sure the paperwork is complete, and that we are following state regulations for training programs. I also run fire classes that are usually state-funded to get people certified to be firefighters, mostly volunteer,” Wilson said. “For my supervisory role, it’s mostly overlooking the other people who do similar jobs to me in health-related fields, so that would include people who are in long-term care classes, certified nurse associate classes, and licensed nurse practitioner classes.”

If there is one thing Wilson knows he has learned throughout his Wartburg journey and time as a program director and manager, it is the importance of active learning and being able to be taught.

“One thing Wartburg talks about a lot is the idea of being a lifelong learner. I always thought that was just like a buzz phrase that people use, but the biggest thing that Wartburg shows you is that you’re adaptable. You’re never going to be done learning. You’re going to have to learn new jobs, new ways of thinking. You have to continue to grow and adapt,” Wilson said.