Brandon Gerleman and Morgan Brittain say it’s no coincidence they both grew up in the same small Iowa town and now hold campus leadership positions while students at the University of Iowa.
After all, Winterset natives have a knack for greatness.
It’s the birthplace of actor John Wayne and Major League Baseball hall of famer Fred Clarke, not to mention George Leslie Stout, the art conservator and museum curator whose duty during WWII was to save and recover the world’s greatest European artwork from the Nazis.
Winterset, population 5,100 and located 31 miles southwest of Des Moines, is also known for its covered bridges and once hosted Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep for the filming of The Bridges of Madison County.
So, in keeping with their hometown tradition of over-achievement, Gerleman and Brittain have taken major roles in student government at the UI. Both say their community involvement is second nature and believe their experiences in Winterset helped mold them into leaders.
“Winterset’s a nice, tight-knit community. People take pride in the community and love to be involved,” says Gerleman, a third-year doctoral pharmacy student who is serving as the UI’s vice president of Graduate and Professional Student Government. “My mother is in the Chamber of Commerce at Winterset, and my father is on the parks and rec board, so I think that inspired a go-getter attitude in me.”
GPSG is the student government that represents more than 10,000 graduate and professional students at the UI, advocating on their behalf to university administrators, the Board of Regents, and state and federal legislators.
Brittain, a senior majoring in political science who serves as vice president of University of Iowa Student Government, credits community members in Winterset for pushing him to excel throughout his childhood.
“My AP Language and Comp teacher was tough on me but I appreciate that so much now because it instilled a strong work ethic in me,” says Brittain.
His hometown support also helped him transition to a large university.
“Coming from a small town, it can be overwhelming at first to come to a big university,” Brittain says. “So, I adjusted by diving in and getting as involved as I could. It helped me meet a lot of people very quickly.”
Brittain enjoys giving back to campus: “This gets me involved with students from all over the university.”
Brittain and Gerleman both agree student government is an important tool for students to voice their opinions on tuition rates, housing, food accommodations, and other facets of student life.
"It's a great way to help my fellow students," Gerleman says. “We listen to their concerns, push for legislation, and even assign grants for travel, research, and service.”
In addition to his role in GPSG, Gerleman has been involved in other initiatives on campus as well.
“I was involved in Habitat for Humanity as an undergrad and am currently the president of the National Community Pharmacists Association and the vice president of the UI Pharmacy Class of 2017,” he says.
If all goes as planned, Gerleman plans to bring his newly honed skills back to Winterset.
"I've been working at Montross Pharmacy in Winterset for the last five years and plan on working there after graduation," he says. "I've loved my time in Iowa City but I can't wait to return to Winterset."