University of Iowa
BackgroundInterview Date:May 2020
Gender Identity: Female
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2020
High School Experience: Public school in Cedar Falls, IA with a graduating class of about 150 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First-Generation College Student: No, but I feel like I’ve had first-generation experiences
Major: Enterprise Leadership
Minor: Criminology, Law, and Justice
Extracurricular Activities: I have [a leadership position] in the African Student Association and I’m part of the student government.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
The African Student Association has done a really great job of creating a home base for me. It’s nice that we’re all able to share stories of immigration and being raised in an African household. Student government then played a big role in understanding what power students hold in the university. I think it’s really powerful for people who identify as a minority on campus to get insight into what goes on in running the university.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
It’s a lot of projects and group work. There is a big focus on professional development. You usually have two mid-terms and a final, but also team papers and projects that you work on. The group projects and stuff are the work I have on a week-to-week basis.
Is there anything you feel either of your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
I feel that my professors in my major are a lot more passionate about what they’re teaching than the other professors I’ve had. The Enterprise Leadership professors are really engaged with students to make sure they are doing well. It’s very supportive.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s collaborative. It’s a little competitive in the sense that sometimes teams are up against each other. It doesn’t impact how you’re graded, it’s just presented in the way of how it would be in the real world.
How accessible are your professors?
They’re pretty accessible and welcoming in nature. I felt pretty welcome to go and talk with them. They also encourage us to connect with them on LinkedIn, so they help expand your network too.
Why did you pick your majors? Are you happy with your choice?
I was originally an engineering major, which was sort of a push from my parents. I was encouraged to look into Enterprise Leadership by a counselor because it’s very adaptable to different people. I’ve been happy with it.
How was transitioning academically as a first-generation college student? Were there any resources available to help you adapt?
I think that is something that needs to be improved a lot. When I came in, there were not many resources for me to go to. It was a lot of my own digging, and even then, I still didn’t find much until people started to take interest in me.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on and around campus?
Freshman: Burge Hall with one roommate
Sophomore-Senior: I’ve lived in the same apartment downtown with one roommate
How was transitioning from your hometown in Cedar Falls to Iowa City, IA in terms of location?
My hometown is only an hour and a half away from Iowa City, so it wasn’t that hard. I had a lot of people from my high school come here, so I had to push a little harder to get to know other people that weren’t from my high school. I’m very well-versed in Iowa culture and being in Iowa City isn’t too big or scary for me, so it was good.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I feel pretty safe. We NITE RIDE, which can help us get home on or off campus. Even when I was a freshman, I would take NITE RIDE from the library to the dorm, which made me feel really comfortable.
Pros and cons of being located in Iowa City, IA?
1) It’s not too small and it’s not too big, but it can feel like a big experience.
2) You can make a lot of Iowa City if you choose to.
3) We have a hospital here, so it’s a good place for people who are in the medical field.
1) There aren’t a lot of big businesses in Iowa City.
2) There isn’t a lot in Iowa in general in terms of bigger cities.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Iowa?
I’m over 21 and what I do a lot with my friends is go out to the bars downtown. Before I turned 21, I went to a lot more house parties. I’m part of a lot of clubs, and we’ll sometimes have events on the weekends. I live in an apartment complex with a lot of other students, so we’ll hang out at each other’s apartments too. If it’s a less busy week, I’ll go out on Thursday, but I most likely go out just Friday and Saturday nights.
What is the impact of Greek life on the weekend options at the University of Iowa?
There are certain bars that tend to be more Greek associated. When I used to go to more house parties, I had a lot of friends, especially freshman year, I had a lot of friends in Greek life and they’d bring me to socials at frat houses with them. Now that I’m older, Greek life has almost no impact on my nightlife experience.
What is an alternative to going to a bar or party that you like for a weekend option?
With the African Student Association, we will have game nights or Africa nights. I’ve been to a few mental health days and self-care events. I’ve also been to a couple of school-sponsored events, like a silent disco or rollerblading night.
How happy are you with the weekend options at the University of Iowa? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m pretty happy with them. I think there should be more non-alcohol focused events, but I think the school is working on that by increasing late night programming. Hopefully, more of that will happen next year.
How did you meet your closest friends?
I met some of them through being in engineering classes together and living near them freshman year.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
For the most part, it’s pretty welcoming. It may not be that way as much with the minority experience, but, for the most part, people are very inclusive. Like, as a Black student, I may be the only person of color at an event and it won’t feel as welcoming.
To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I think it’s pretty common to see minorities hanging out together and finding a place together, but not as much intertwining with the predominantly White community. You’ll more likely see a Black person hanging around with a Latino than seeing a White person hanging around with that group. It’s not that it doesn’t happen, it’s just more common to see. [The student population is about 3% Black, 8% Latino, 4% Asian, and 74% White.]
How would you describe the African-American community on campus? How strong is it?
It’s strong, but it’s hard because the organizations focused on that don’t have much support. A lot of times the cultural organizations don’t have as much money as other organizations, like Greek life organizations, do.
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.]
It’s a good size for me. I’m a pretty independent person and I didn’t come from too small of a high school, so it wasn’t too frightening. Every year I’ve met a bunch of new people and I like that aspect of it. At the same time, you’re not too far from the people who you’re in the same organizations with or in the same classes with, so you’ll probably run into a lot of the same people.
To what extent do people in Greek life and not in Greek life mix socially?
I don’t think those organizations are very open. Even with the Black Greek life organizations, I’ll go to their events, but a lot of them take on a group mentality in my opinion. I don’t see a lot of them mixing well with people who aren’t in Greek life unless people end up living with others who aren’t in their [Greek organization].
What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
I’ve been there a few times and I think they can be very beneficial. They’re pretty quick to respond. They helped me with refining my resume and cover letters and applying for internships.
Have you learned any computer programs or languages that will be helpful to you professionally?
I’ve learned a bit of Excel, but don’t think I’m super well-versed in it.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about the University of Iowa before entering as a freshman?
This isn’t Iowa specific, but just utilizing what we have on campus as a freshman because there are people here to help you. I would also try to find some type of mentor through Iowa. When you get involved, the people you meet by doing that will help you get where you need to go in the future.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
I would check out the Afro House and other cultural centers. It’s good to know where those places are if you’re a person of color because that is where you’ll meet people who truly know where you’re coming from. Even if you’re not a person of color, knowing where those environments are is still a really good thing to know.
What is something that we haven’t touched on that a prospective student of color may want to know about Iowa that we haven’t touched on?
Find your community, find your safe space. I would find people who can relate to you. Obviously, diversify yourself in terms of being friends with anyone, but it’s always nice to have people who share similar experiences.
Reasons to attend the University of Iowa:
1) Iowa has a lot to work with. There are lots of resources to better yourself professionally.
2) Iowa has a big reputation, which will look good no matter what your major is.
3) There are communities and organizations for almost anybody and anything.
Reasons to not attend the University of Iowa:
1) You have to be strong-minded in getting what you want since it’s a big school.
2) Unless you are in a higher position in student government or another important organization, you don’t know what’s going on with the university.