University of Iowa
BackgroundInterview Date:April 2020
Gender Identity: Male
Sexual Orientation: Queer
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Public school outside of Des Moines, IA with a graduating class of about 500 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First-Generation College Student: No
Majors: International Relations and Environmental Policy double major
Minor: Environmental Science
Extracurricular Activities: I am involved with the Dance Marathon, Spectrum UI, the student government, Fair Trade at Iowa, and the Queer Leadership Roundtable.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
Spectrum has been an important experience for me as a student who identifies as queer. It’s one of the oldest LGBT+ organizations at a nonprofit university in the country, which means a lot for me to have such a rich Queer history here.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your majors?
I have a lot of essays that are really open-ended. I have a lot of lectures, but mostly I have discussion classes where we talk about concepts. For those classes, we are graded on class participation. On a weekly basis, I have response posts online sometimes, but it’s mostly just preparing for the in-class discussions. The assignments that make up the bulk of the final grade are usually essays and exams.
Is there anything you feel either of your majors’ departments do especially well or poorly?
I feel like the Department of Sustainability and Geographical Sciences is able to allow for a lot of interesting research as well as a lot of governance for sustainability on campus. It also does a good job of connecting other departments at the university together to be a well-rounded department.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I think the University of Iowa has an atmosphere of being really competitive but nonexclusive in the opportunities that are given. Everyone is working together and striving to do their best. There’s a lot of teamwork. But, at the same time, there are some opportunities that are competitive to get into.
How accessible are your professors?
They are accessible. Office hours are a great tool. My professors are always available if I really need them and are adaptable so that you can contact them through technology or see them in person.
Do you think people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
There is definitely an atmosphere of listening to different ideas, introducing new concepts, and being incredibly inclusive to people from all identities and backgrounds. That’s something that’s stressed at the University of Iowa. I feel that with variances in people’s thoughts and backgrounds, everything is accepted.
What has been your favorite part of the academics at Iowa?
The availability of the professors to answer any questions you might have and their willingness to connect you with other professors, research organizations, and internship opportunities.
Why did you pick your majors? Are you happy with your choice?
I chose my majors in high school. When looking at different colleges, I found them at Iowa and that’s partially why I went to Iowa. I liked that my majors here were super specific and allowed me to do exactly what I want here.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on and around campus?
Freshman: Daum Hall with one roommate
Sophomore: Currier Hall in a single
How was transitioning from your hometown outside of Des Moines to Iowa City, IA in terms of location?
It was an easy transition since I came in knowing a lot of people and there was a similar culture. I moved to Iowa in high school and, from an out-of-state perspective, I found it interesting how much focus is put on agriculture. I also think that people in Iowa are really open to new ideas.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
On campus is when I feel most safe. As a cisgender man who’s part of the LGBT community, I’ve felt incredibly more safe on campus than anywhere else in Iowa. The University of Iowa has always been a safe space for me.
Pros and cons of being located in Iowa City, IA?
1) Iowa City is a UNESCO City of Literature, which is really neat.
2) The downtown area is very walkable and friendly for students.
3) It’s a hot spot for politics and research.
1) The weather is not that great when it is winter.
2) The football gamedays, while fun, can produce a lot of traffic and people.
3) The downtown is pretty much always taken over by college kids on the weekends.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Iowa?
I spend a lot of time going to student organization events and things put on by the university. Specifically, there are a lot of multicultural events put on by the students themselves. I’ve put on a drag show event personally through Spectrum and there are a lot of other cool cultural events that I like to go to, like the Vietnamese Students Association puts on a celebration of the Lunar New Year. There is definitely a nice nightlife scene in terms of going out with friends. It is very walkable and everything is close by.
If at all, how has identifying as LGBT+ influenced your nightlife experience? Is there much of an LGBT+ nightlife scene on or around campus?
In Iowa City, there’s only one LGBT+ bar. It’s 19+, which is good because it’s a great place for people to go who are just first learning about who they are in college to go and feel welcomed. The drag scene in Iowa City also provides support for events happening in Iowa City. There are also events that the Queer student organizations put on, like The Mirage.
What have been some of your favorite times at Iowa?
Some of my favorite times would be going on trips with student organizations. Last year, I was able to go to Detroit with students for cross-cultural events through the Tippie College of Business. We toured a car manufacturing plant and met with professionals in their field. That was neat to have an experience like that through the university.
How happy are you with the weekend options at Iowa? Is there anything you would change if you could?
A change would be providing more alcohol-free alternatives in the downtown scene that are unaffiliated with the University of Iowa. A lot of the alcohol-free alternatives are through the university, which kind of creates a stigma around them.
How did you meet your closest friends?
I met my closest friends through student organizations and through the residence halls.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
The social scene is always welcoming and inclusive to everyone. There is a place here for everyone, and if you feel like you don’t have a spot, there are plenty of ways to find someone.
To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
There’s a large emphasis put on all multicultural and Queer events to be inclusive to the entire student body because Iowa is [about 73%] White. There’s an emphasis on including people and student organization events, and in the organizations themselves, an emphasis on including people as much as possible. As far as mixing, all sorts of university-affiliated events, whether it be football games or anything else, we are trying to have mixing happen even though it’s not as prevalent as it could or should be.
How would you describe the LGBT+ community on campus? How strong is it?
The community is definitely recognizable and expansive. It’s sometimes tricky with how catty some people are. There are sometimes instances of social division among the community. But, for the most part, it’s very lively on campus and there are a lot of student organizations and people willing to get to know each other.
How do you like the size of Iowa in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How has it impacted your experience? [There are about 23,000 undergraduates at the University of Iowa.]
To me, it’s perfect because it’s not huge but it’s still large enough to have a lot of resources, research opportunities, and internships accessible. There are a ton of options and spaces for students to do whatever they find interesting.
To what extent do people in Greek life and not in Greek life mix socially?
I would say the division between Greek life and non-Greek life is pretty distinct. However, a lot of events that Greek life puts on are inclusive to people who aren’t in Greek life and vice-versa. They sometimes mesh, but not particularly often.
What have you used the career office for? How helpful has it been?
I’ve used the career center often for checking my resume, having mock interviews, and getting to know about some career and internship fairs. They’re incredibly easy to get in touch with.
Have you learned any computer programs or languages that will be helpful to you professionally?
I’ve used Python in a couple of classes and I’ve used ARC mapping software for a geography class. I’ve also used the Microsoft Office suite.
Have you used financial aid? If so, how easy is the office to work with?
The financial aid office is super easy to work with. All you have to do is set up a meeting with them online or call them and they’ll be able to help you with everything. I’ve gone there for help very often, as well as for making sure scholarships and loans are working effectively.
Have you used any mental health or counseling services? If so, how easy are they to work with?
I’ve used university counseling services as well as student health psychiatry services. It’s super easy to make an appointment, all you have to do is make a phone call. Unfortunately, they do have a long backlog which can get up to three or four weeks. But, they’re super available to help you find help in Iowa City with another counselor or psychologist.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about the University of Iowa before you entered as a freshman?
I did not know that Iowa was going to be as inclusive as it was going to. Being located in Iowa, I didn’t think it was going to be as accepting as it was going to be, but I found myself and my peers recognized and included.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
I would go check out the Visual Arts Building.
Reasons to attend the University of Iowa:
1) It’s a great research university
2) Big Ten athletics
3) To be recognized as an individual by your professors
4) For an amazing social environment
Reasons to not attend the University of Iowa:
1) It’s located in a relatively small town
2) It’s a big university so class sizes can be big, especially in lectures
3) It’s a very White university overall. [About 73% of students are White.]