For those of you who may not know me yet, I took on the role of vice president for student life at the University of Iowa in June after moving from Tennessee. Though I’m new to Iowa City, I have more than 20 years’ experience in higher education, and I’m very excited for the start of the semester. I can’t wait to see this already vibrant campus in full swing.
As our new students arrive, we’ll need to find a balance between challenge and support, of letting students get a little out of their comfort zone while still feeling that they are in control. Many students’ parents and other family members have helped shape their decisions for 18 years—for quite a few new Hawkeyes, having the room to experiment and express their own decision-making ability will be both exhilarating and daunting. The Division of Student Life and its many campus partners are here to support that transition. We’re here to assist students as they make the choices that will propel them toward academic and professional success. Two programs in particular help us do just that: On Iowa! and Be Better at Iowa.
Before new students take their first class, they participate in On Iowa!—a three-day program coordinated by Kate Sojka, Kate Garrett, and an outstanding group of student volunteers/leaders—during which they attend a large lecture by one of our award-winning faculty members and sessions on everything from finding classrooms to how to use the Cambus system. In addition, our committed On Iowa! student leaders provide new Hawkeyes with a key resource right away—most students say they stay in touch with their leader or the people in their small group long after On Iowa! is over.
Then there’s Be Better at Iowa, which goes a step further.
The Be Better at Iowa program teaches students to use their academic and interpersonal strengths to build a “big picture” for themselves. Starting with the Gallup StrengthsQuest assessment (which students take during On Iowa!) Hawkeyes learn about their top five strengths, then chart a course to becoming leaders in their fields with the key skills that employers desire.
Now that we’re well into August, I can’t wait to start working with students in not only these two but all of our student life programs. There’s a host of student organizations for new Hawkeyes to get involved in, residence hall communities to engage with, and all of us faculty and staff waiting to assist and support students as they do their best socially and academically.
On Iowa! is just around the corner, and this is a new and exciting time for me just as much as it is for our newest students. I’m looking forward to a wonderful first semester as a Hawkeye, and I’m thrilled that I’ll be learning about Iowa right alongside the Class of 2021.