May 29, 2024  
BVU Academic Catalog 23-24 
BVU Academic Catalog 23-24

General Information

Our Mission

We prepare students for lifelong success through transformational academic, professional and co-curricular programs.

Our Vision

To be a nationally recognized leader in rural higher education known for its remarkable student learning outcomes. We will be an institutional destination - ambitious in our efforts to distinctively and boldly inspire students to serve, empower, and transform communities through Education for Service.

Our Values

  • Passion - We are committed to student and employee success. We work in ways that support their growth, development, goals and readiness to thrive in society.
  • Transformational Experiences - We create experiences for our students that open their eyes to a new sense of self and the surrounding world.
  • Meaningful Connections - We value the close-knit nature of our community. We support each other in the achievement of our individual and collective goals.
  • Inspiration - We seek opportunities to inspire one another to excel. We are supported by our past and our traditions that lead us to build an even better future.
  • Stewardship & Sustainability - We build a better, stronger BVU for future generations. We manage resources and set priorities to secure the finest learning environment, opportunities and sustainable world for our students today and tomorrow.
  • Respect & Inclusiveness - We foster an appreciation for all persons by providing an open and inclusive environment where all are treated with respect.

BVU Signature Skills

At Buena Vista institution-level learning outcomes organize curricular activity in the general education program and tie each academic major to the project of liberal education. The three institutional learning goals - known as the BVU Signature Skills - are problem solving, integrative learning, and effective communication.

Buena Vista University History

The founding of Buena Vista College followed a decade of effort by Presbyterians in western Iowa to establish a church-related college. The community dream became a reality in 1891 when the Collegiate Institute at Fort Dodge, a preparatory school which lacked community support, was forced to close. Storm Lake was chosen as the site for the new college over several other towns in the area because of the attractiveness of the community and the financial support promised by its citizens.

It was a people’s college, and those who helped the college through the years of struggle would have their names and deeds etched in the grateful remembrance of succeeding generations. A selfless faculty and administration, supported by the dedication of a few civic-minded trustees and friends of the college, overcame financial and political burdens of the early years.

After using the Storm Lake Opera House for offices and classes, students and faculty moved to Old Main, the first college building, in 1892. It was to remain the primary building on campus for over half a century, until it burned in 1956. Two major additions to the campus in the 1920s were Victory Hall (now Edson Hall), a gymnasium built in 1920, and the Science Hall (now Smith Hall), constructed in 1925. In the 1950s and 1960s, a major expansion program was initiated. Three residence halls, a new science building, a physical education complex, a library, a campus center, an auditorium and a classroom/administration building were planned and built during these decades.

Following its tradition of collegiate commitment and community support, Buena Vista experienced a successful period of growth, fiscal responsibility, dedication and accomplishment in the 1970s. The college continued to strengthen its faculty and remained committed to achieving academic excellence. Curriculum revisions included adding new majors and minors and changing requirements so that students had a greater choice in developing their courses of study. In 1975, Buena Vista College embarked on an innovative Bachelor of Arts degree outreach program designed to serve adult students. Working in partnership with area community colleges, BVU Centers now called BVU Sites, offer junior- and senior-level college courses on the community college campus, allowing students to complete four-year degree programs while meeting family and work obligations. With over 7,000 graduates and 1,375 current students at 16 sites, the BVU Sites are a model for effective, accessible, quality education.

A new era began for Buena Vista College in May 1980 when an anonymous $18 million gift was received. The gift created a competitive college endowment, supported new physical construction, has financed revitalization of facilities and the campus, and continues to help develop nationally recognized academic programs. The Harold Walter Siebens School of Business/Siebens Forum opened in the spring of 1985, with “Dr. Anonymous” (Dr. Harold W. Siebens) revealed at the dedication of the business school in October 1985.

Buena Vista strengthened its commitment to teaching excellence in 1987 when the first George Wythe Award for Teaching Excellence was presented. This prestigious annual award, made possible by Buena Vista trustees Paul and Vivian McCorkle of Sac City, is one of the largest given by any public or private university.

Two important transformations occurred in the mid-1990s. First, in March 1995, Buena Vista received accreditation to offer a Master of Science in education program. The expanded organizational structure of the college led the Board of Trustees to announce a change in institutional status, renaming the school Buena Vista University.

In August 2000, Buena Vista University became the nation’s first “wireless community” by giving all full-time students at the Storm Lake campus their own laptop computers to connect to the new campus-wide wireless network system. This “anytime, anywhere” online access puts a world of information at students’ fingertips, enhances their learning opportunities both in and out of the classroom. Continuing to offer the best educational facilities in the region, the university completed construction in 2001 on the $9.5 million Lamberti Recreation Center, which features three multipurpose courts and a six-lane, 200-meter indoor track. Liberty Hall, an 85-bed residence hall, opened in 2002. Buena Vista University also completed construction on a new $26 million Estelle Siebens Science Center, a 70,000-square foot building that houses 24 offices, 18 laboratories, seven classrooms and three research areas. In 2005, Buena Vista University was granted approval from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Universities to offer online programs which allowed for the addition of more graduate offerings in the School of Education and the introduction to the first undergraduate online program. In recent years, the campus has undergone significant renovations of the Pierce and White residence halls, the new Social Sciences and Art Hall, and in 2018, a newly-remodeled Siebens Forum.

Rooted in a tradition of service and dedication to a dynamic learning environment, Buena Vista University’s history has pointed the way to a future in which the nobility of the academic enterprise can be extended to transform the lives of ever more learners.

Campus Location

Buena Vista University’s main 60-acre campus is situated on the shores of beautiful Storm Lake, a 3,200-acre natural lake.

Storm Lake is an attractive, professional community of approximately 14,000, offering a variety of health care services, financial institutions, retail businesses, dining establishments, movie theatres, a municipal golf course, and a country club. Scenic parks and the lake trail line the lake, providing a picturesque setting for outdoor and water activities.

Online - Specific Programs

Buena Vista University serves online program students through offices in Council Bluffs, Creston, Denison, Emmetsburg, Estherville, Fort Dodge, Marshalltown, Mason City, Newton, Ottumwa, Sioux City, Spencer, and West Burlington.

These programs are administered from Storm Lake, but are staffed on-location to provide academic advising and student service, as well as face-to-face instruction. BVU online students use Canvas (LMS) and web conferencing to provide powerful technological support to faculty, staff, and students.


Online and on-campus undergraduate students will need a computer with reliable internet access. Courses are delivered over multiple platforms including, but not limited to, video conferencing applications, learning management systems, collaboration systems, and email. Student access, whether at home or school, is essential to undergraduate study at BVU. Students are responsible for their own computer and internet access that meets the minimum technical requirements for BVU classes.

Recommended Computer Hardware & Software Requirements:

  • Computer running Windows 10 or macOS 10.13 (High Sierra) or higher. ChromeBooks, iPads, and computers running Linux do not meet requirements because some coursework will not be compatible with these types of devices.
  • High-Speed/Broadband internet. Some coursework may require downloading and uploading significant amounts of video so a large or unlimited data cap may be needed.
  • Webcam, speakers, and microphone
  • Digital table for white boarding and collaboration
  • Google Chrome web browser (latest version), zoom, and Microsoft Office. Office is available to BVU students for no additional cost by going to Chrome and zoom are free to download.

Academic Program Overview

Buena Vista University’s academic program blends a broad, liberal arts education with in-depth knowledge that prepares students for professional careers in their chosen fields. The faculty at BVU have identified three signature skills, effective communication, problem solving, and integrative learning, which are developed in both the general education and major programs.

BVU awards the following degrees: Bachelor of Applied studies, Bachelor of Applied Science, Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Master of Education, Master of Arts, Master of Arts in Teaching, and Master of Science.

Undergraduate Students must earn 120 semester hours of credit, complete the general education program, and complete a major to graduate. Undergraduate students select from 41 majors offered in four academic schools: The Harold Walter Siebens School of Business, the School of Education, the School of Liberal Arts, and the School of Science.

Graduate programs include Organizational Leadership, Professional School Counseling, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Special Education, and Teacher Leadership, Curriculum and Instruction.

The Faculty

The student/full time faculty ratio on the main campus is 9:1. More than 80% of the 81 full-time professors hold doctorates or terminal degrees in their fields. Faculty members serve as academic advisors during the student’s undergraduate career and are committed to personalized instruction and academic excellence.

National Recognition

Buena Vista University is recognized nationally as one of the top 25 midwestern comprehensive colleges in U.S. News & World Report, as one of the nation’s leading schools promoting student leadership in The Templeton Guide: Colleges that Encourage Character Development and as a “top college for top students” in Peterson’s Guide to Competitive Colleges.