Bob Kuennen – TRIO-SSS Advisor

“Young people have a lot to offer, and you should be including them in the decisions, not making the decisions for them,” says Bob Kuennen, TRIO-Student Support Services advisor. “I don’t want to do things for them, but show them that there are people in their corner that they can reach out to, and it’s okay to reach out for help and move forward that way.” 

A natural collaborator and upbeat individual, Kuennen began his work with young adults as a coach for Central College’s wrestling team in Pella, Iowa. There, the head coach noticed how well he engaged with the youth and suggested he found a job working on campus. This search led him to become involved in TRIO, helping middle and high school students prepare for college.  

During his time in Pella, he continued his work with the young adults outside of campus as a volunteer for the youth cycling organization’s Dream Team; working with teens in the Des Moines area aged 13-18 using cycling as a method to overcome obstacles. This group trains for four to five months to then complete the full week of RAGBRAI. Kuennen says, “I realized that I was coaching young adults, I was doing work with young adults for my job, I was volunteering with young adults, so I was like, ‘you know, this is something I apparently like doing,’ so I went back and got my Master’s in youth development leadership.”  

Kuennen with the Dream Team cycle organization.
Kuennen with the Dream Team cycle organization.

He has now been working in the TRIO program for twelve years and joined the team at DMACC Urban Campus four years ago. Despite his busy work schedule, he remains active in his community. 

Tricia England, director of TRIO says, “Bob could use all those hours doing anything he wants, but he chooses to sew into the lives of young people.” 

As a current advisor to college-aged students, providing a multitude of resources and support on their journeys in higher education, Kuennen strives to continue helping and interacting with young adults.  

Former TRIO student, Tatiana Castaneda Ortiz, now working as an administrative assistant in the TRIO office, says about Kuennen, “As a student, Bob always made me feel welcomed as my advisor, and helped me progress in my academic career at DMACC. Class registration and credit transfer processes were always something that Bob was willing to offer help at any time. Not only did he help me transfer successfully, but he would also do it with a big smile on his face.” 

Kuennen says, “Being a young adult, college-aged student–it’s a very difficult time in life, so sometimes the best decisions aren’t made, and we can only do so much. You know, we can offer advice, we can discuss consequences and things like that, but it’s ultimately on the youth to make those decisions and live through them.” 

“Having to deal with some of the blowback from poor decisions is probably the hardest thing for me. You can’t control; students have to make those choices on their own and deal with consequences. Being there and supporting them through that is [hard],” says Kuennen. 

“Being there to support them even if they do make those decisions, is the important part. It’s not a bad thing … Like, yes this happened, but how can we work through it now.” 

Kuennen on a mountain hike.
Kuennen on a mountain hike.

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