Latest flood news: Coralville Lake down to 700.34 feet | Dubuque Street partially reopened (More info)
On Iowa! volunteers reap rich rewards
Main Page Content
Ken Brown grew up in Maryland, near the U.S. Naval Academy, and each year he was struck by the way the community rallied to welcome incoming midshipmen and make them feel at home. So, when Brown, a professor in the Tippie College of Business, had the opportunity to be involved in On Iowa! last year, he jumped at the chance.
Entering its second year, On Iowa! is a campus celebration and welcome event aimed at guiding incoming first-year students through their initial days on campus and helping them transition to the University of Iowa. This year, it runs Aug. 15-19.
There are plenty of opportunities for faculty, staff, and community members. You can volunteer individually, or gather colleagues and do something as a group.
Needs vary from helping students move into the residence halls to chaperoning late-night activities to helping execute the Kickoff at Kinnick, Convocation, and the president’s block party.
Learn more or sign up at the On Iowa! website.
“For students, enrolling at Iowa is a major life transition; it’s a huge deal,” Brown says. “If all we do is take their check and start teaching on Day 1, it’s a missed opportunity to celebrate, to talk a bit about what this whole thing means. It’s so important to celebrate, to recognize this as a major transition, and to begin to lay down some expectations.”
On Iowa! is shaped around the expectations defined by The IOWA Challenge, which encourages students to excel academically, stretch their boundaries, engage in activities, make good decisions, and serve the community. In addition to those more structured sessions, there are celebrations, including the Kickoff at Kinnick, Convocation, and the president’s block party, and countless other activities.
Executing five days of activities for some 4,500 students is no small undertaking, and On Iowa! is fueled by the work of hundreds of volunteers like Brown, who last year was involved in planning the Excel breakout session and gave three lectures on the topic.
“What was so cool about it was I was the first professor they saw,” he says. “I was setting the tone for what they would do that first day of class. That was exciting.”
The volunteer opportunities extend far beyond the classroom—to faculty, staff, and community members alike. You can volunteer individually, or gather colleagues and do something as a group. Needs vary from helping students move into the residence halls to chaperoning late-night activities to helping execute the Kickoff at Kinnick, Convocation, and the president’s block party.
“Volunteering is a chance to get to know and interact with students at a time when they are most excited,” says Belinda Marner, co-chair of the On Iowa! volunteer committee.
Brown echoes that, based on his experience last year: “The smiles on their faces and the total enthusiasm—it was as if they’d just been let into the most exclusive club in the world. It was really fun to be a part of that.”
Brandon Alberhasky and his wife, Jessica, both UI staff members and alums, volunteered at last year’s Kickoff at Kinnick, handing out water to students and helping with logistics. This year, Brandon will be manning an information booth on the Cleary Walkway.
“When I started as a student at the university, I was really hoping for something more to encourage a community,” he says. “When I saw that they were doing this for incoming first-year students, it really inspired me.”
The point of all of this, of course, is to put incoming students on a path to success, to get them engaged and let them know they are joining a welcoming community that cares about their wellbeing.
“This is a huge milestone in these students’ lives,” Brown says. “We want to be a part of it, and we want to make it a memorable experience. That’s something that we all can be a part of—faculty, staff, and community members.”