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Notable Women of Austin: Danielle Heiny doing her part to help students

By Carolyn Bogott

American Association of University Women

Danielle Heiny has leveraged over $5 million for programs at Riverland Community College by using her outstanding skills as a grant writer.

She has brought multiple resources together for the benefit of students who may not have seen themselves as college material.  She says her goal has been to help “level the playing field and provide opportunities,” for students.

Danielle Heiny

The longest running program resulting from her grant writing is the Be Your Best College Prep Academy, founded in 2007, designed for young people 18 to 22.  It is a summer program aimed at those who face various barriers to college attendance like low income, being the first generation to attend college, minority status, and the need for academic skill development.  This program has served over 350 students.

A second program, Cycles for Success, founded in 2010 is a full scholarship program for “average achieving” graduates of Austin and Pacelli High Schools. After having benefitted 300 students, that program is now being phased out as the new Austin Assurance Scholarship Program comes into existence.

The third program,  Riverland Science Technology and Engineering Preparation, (R-STEP) was started in 2018 as a college level follow-up opportunity for Be Your Bestgraduates. Completion of these programs has set the stage for successful college careers for many young people.  Funding has mainly been a  collaboration between the Hormel Foundation and Riverland.

Danielle, herself, was a graduate with distinction of Austin Community College (now called Riverland) in 1986. She received an AAUW scholarship to return to school after having her family and she completed her bachelor of arts degree in Organizational  Management in 1998.  Next came a master’s degree in Business Administration from Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall in 2005.  Her professional life has included positions of responsibility at KSMQ Public Television where she was manager of Outreach and Education, and later general manager.  At Riverland, she has been director of the Women’s Center, director of Admissions and Student Life, director of Retention and Student Success, director of Institutional Effectiveness, and since 2010, Campus Diversity Officer.  Her newest title is Director of Strategic Partnerships where she leads the Center for Agriculture and Food Science Technology.  (Her titles seem to get longer and longer!)

In 1992, while working for KSMQ, administering a federal grant called Ready to Learn, Danielle attended a fellowship at Wheelock College of Education and Human Development at Boston University. She says what she learned there “set the stage” and “fired her up” to work for positive change in education at all levels. Early literacy and working with families of diverse cultures and different socioeconomic situations was the emphasis of that course, and Danielle has applied what she learned to all her positions since then.

She states, “Education is a powerful way to provide opportunities to all, including women, new immigrants, and  ‘at risk’ individuals.”   

She loved being part of the powerful reach of public TV, which can bring educational opportunities into every home.

Danielle grew up in Austin, with a few years in Ohio as well.  Her early mentors include the Pacelli and the community college faculties.  She also credits Marge Kirkhoff, Austin Technical Institute President, Bonnie Rietz (with APEX Austin, The Hormel Foundation and Bonnie’s other community projects), Riverland President Adenuga Atewologun,  and AAUW for inspiring her.

Community activities outside her job are also a part of her life. Danielle is a member of the Cable TV Committee of the City of Austin, Austin Symphony Orchestra Board, Rotary International, AAUW, APEX Austin Board, and New  Dominion-Gerard Community Advisory Board Committee. Dani and her husband Bruce, who taught Sociology at Riverland for 20 years, are blessed with three children and six grandchildren.

Danielle’s words of wisdom for all of us are “If you think you can, you’re halfway there, ”  and “ working in a team brings diverse perspectives, skills and experiences to your project and results in better outcomes.”

Our community is so fortunate to have Danielle Heiny working in in so many areas!

For more information about the Austin Branch of AAUW, contact Sue Grove  sue.grove@riverland.edu  or Carolyn Bogott  csbogott@charter.net. The American Association of University Women, now AAUW, is open to anyone who has completed a two-year degree or beyond.  AAUW welcomes men who support our objectives and there are student memberships available. AAUW has been empowering women since 1881.  We support equity and education for women.  Scholarships are offered, as well as help in litigation in cases dealing with sex discrimination.  We are the most important and highly respected research and lobbying organization dealing with women’s issues such as equal opportunity and job equality.