Feature

Mental health awareness promoted at soccer games

Green color worn as sign

Delcie Sanache/Sports Editor/Nov.10

The Bandana Project, STANG, and the men’s and women’s soccer teams came together recently to support mental health awareness for student athletes.

On Oct. 25, the organizations and soccer teams encouraged students and soccer game attendees to wear green in order to raise awareness for mental health, especially for athletes. Even though the weather was not optimal, students, faculty, and families still showed up in their green attire.

“I, myself, struggle with mental health, and I know it’s something that’s not easy to do. So, you know, if I can support other people, that also helps me,” Angelica Contreras, freshman on the competitive cheer team, said.

When asked how the stigma that mental health is not as important as physical health impacts athletes, Kya Zimmerly, freshman,said, “I think it affects them a lot because when people say that, I think athletes are more likely to try to push themselves to do better, and then they have people telling them, ‘Oh, it’s just nothing to worry about.’ So, I think they just push themselves too far, and it’s something that I think coaches and teams, in general, should have a conversation about.”

Rhonda Martin, assistant to the athletic director, attended this game, presenting her green attire as well. She has personally witnessed the stigma surrounding mental health affecting students and athletes at Mount Mercy.

“I know a lot of them are afraid to go to counseling even when they need it because it’s right there where everyone can see them walking out. They shouldn’t be afraid because mental illness is a real thing and tonot acknowledge it is worse than going and getting help,” she said.

Martin also explained how MMU athletics support receiving help for mental health, “Right now, we have a new program that all of the athletes are doing where it’s an online course in mental health…and we also do bystander training and talk about mental health and where they can get help.”

Free counseling services are available to anyone on the 2nd floor of the UC and at the Olson Marriage & Family Therapy Clinic at the Mount Mercy University Graduate Center.

Pay or Nay: Should interns be compensated for their labor?

By Jenna Welty/Campus Editor/Nov. 9

Internships provide valuable work experience that prepares students for their careers after graduation, but payment for this labor is not a guarantee.

Recently, the White House announced they would begin paying their interns. The organization Pay Our Interns had been advocating for this action previously and is currently working on establishing the implementation of paid internships across the country. They argue that paying interns will result in a “more equitable workforce (and) more diverse leadership.”

Through the payment of interns, more students are given the opportunity to succeed or participate.

In the example of internships at the White House, living in Washington D.C. is costly, and giving some type of compensation lessens the blow and allows more people to participate realistically.

Providing a wage for labor seems like a basic requirement, but some say interns are being “paid” with experience and any opportunities that may arise after their service. Students also receive school credit for their internships, which some people also view as a type of “payment.”

However, working for free outside of class is not a feasible prospect for the average college student. Time is money, especially when years and years are required to pay off student loans.

Leave free labor to volunteer work and pay interns for the work they execute.

Assistant professor of nursing, Melodie Jolly, lectures on artificial intelligence in healthcare on Oct. 4.

AI in healthcare making strides

By Delcie Sanache/Sports Editor/Oct. 26

On Oct. 4, the third Fall Faculty Series presentation took place. Melodie Jolly’s “The A.I. Doctor Will See You Now”: A Look at the Current Influences and Future Projections of A.I. in Healthcare discussed the current use of artificial intelligence in the healthcare field and how it could be applied in the future.  

Jolly, assistant professor of Nursing, began her presentation by asking the audience an important question, what is artificial intelligence? According to her, “It is a software program, but not just any software program. It’s not something you find on your computer. It is something that is able to learn. It’s able to analyze. It’s able to predict. It’s able to help us.” 

She says that as humans, we give them the supplies they need to succeed, and we are getting closer to having AI systems advanced enough to where they work like a human’s biological system. However, even the current AI system’s capabilities are “remarkable.”  

It is vital for a healthcare professional to know what is wrong with their patient in order to properly treat them and to avoid a misdiagnosis; this is where AI comes into play. Jolly says that there have been numerous amounts of research over how well physicians were able to look at a 12-lead EKG and tell if someone is having a heart attack.  

“That’s critical. We have a saying in healthcare: time is tissue. If I am spending more time trying to figure out if you do or do not have a heart attack going on right that second, that could cost you valuable time which means you are going to be losing more and more tissue,” Jolly said. 

The research she presented showed that on average, only 55-67% of physicians can detect if someone is having a heart attack which means there is still a considerable amount of heart attacks going unnoticed. Physicians still in their residency were usually represented in the lower percentages while cardiologists made up the higher percentages. One physician even had an accuracy rating of 93%. After reflecting on this research, Jolly said, “We’re not consistent here. That kind of scares me.” 

These studies also provided different AI systems with EKG readings that were confirmed by a physician to belong to someone having a heart attack. While looking at these, the AI systems had an astounding accuracy reading of 81-95%. 

Another use of AI could be in diagnosing pediatric leukemia patients. A specific type of leukemia, acute lymphocytic, typically presents in children as the common cold. Because of this, many cases are misdiagnosed, and when the children come back to the physician later, the leukemia is already much more advanced.  

“We need early detection,” Jolly emphasized, “We have an AI system that all we have to do is take some blood, feed it to the AI system, and they’re able to pick up and detect the specific white blood cell that is affected…and with 97-98% accuracy, be able to say yes you do have this cancer,”  

Towards the end of her presentation, Jolly discussed a third use for AI systems: finding connections between certain medications and their side effects and how to eliminate these reactions. She says one of her biggest difficulties as a nurse is when her patients come to her with horrible side effects from medication and she doesn’t know why or how to fix it. 

Jolly informed the audience of her reaction to this research, “Now we can know, and I’m excited for that, very excited for that.”  

Mount Mercy welcomes new faculty members to campus this Fall  

By Kevenson Nelson/Staff Writer/Sept. 28, 2022

Mount Mercy University has recently welcomed five new faculty members to campus:  Sonja Bock, visiting assistant professor; Natasha Clark, assistant professor; Jack Frank, assistant professor of music/director of bands; Rebecca Louison, assistant professor of psychology; and Tammy Pickart, assistant professor of nursing.

Sonja Bock, visiting assistant professor, has her B.A. from Buena Vista University and her M.A. in Sociology from the University of Northern Iowa. She was asked to join the faculty and was glad to do so. She thinks that the campus is beautiful, and the students are amazing.  

Rebecca Louison, assistant professor, is somewhat new to the full-time faculty this fall–last year, she was an adjunct faculty on campus. She has also been part of the MMU community since 2013. She received her B.S. in Psychology from Mount Mercy in 2015, her M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy in 2019, and she is currently all but dissertation (ABD) for her doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy in the neuroscience track. So, she has strong roots at Mount Mercy, and it has always been her goal to come back and teach.  

She came to campus as a nontraditional student, navigating going back to school after already starting a family. She was uncertain about what she wanted to do with her life and even where she wanted to go after school. After meeting with Dr. Drew, who was her advisor at the time and currently a valued colleague and mentor, she knew this was going to be a great decision. The faculty, staff admission, and student body are approachable, compassionate, and welcoming.  

Louison not only teaches, but is also active in research, and is a therapist as well. She brings a clinical perspective to the faculty with diverse experience.  

Tammy Pickart, assistant professor of nursing, has been in nursing education since 2009. She started her educational career teaching at a local high school, the health science academy, or the certified nursing assistant (CAN) program. She took a break from teaching to pursue her M.A. in nursing education. In 2016, she began a full-time nursing faculty at Kirkwood Community College, teaching the Associate Degree in Nursing (AND) program. She has been pursuing her doctorate in Nursing Education and has always wanted to teach at a university. Tammy is a 2005 graduate from Mount Mercy with her B.A. in nursing and enjoyed her time here at MMU as a student. She was thrilled when this position became available and even more excited when she was offered a faculty position. She chose to come to Mount Mercy because of the teaching atmosphere, dedication to student success, positive community influence, and beautiful campus. 

SGA describes spending plan at first assembly

By Rebecca Lenton/Staff Writer/Sept.13, 2022

The major theme of the discussion at the Student Government’s first General Assembly Aug. 29 was “For the Students, By the Students,” a funding program that allows students to fill out an additional funds request form, requesting money for an event, merchandise or any other type of purchase that benefits the student or university. 

“I am super excited for all our clubs and organizations to host their own events and to see students back on campus enjoying them,” said Student Government Association president Tiara Muñoz.  

The General Assembly also gave clubs a chance for clubs to understand budgeting and advertisement for the year ahead. Clubs and organizations had a further opportunity to reach out to different representatives, which allowed the Student Government Association to understand how to better support them. 

Conversations also took place regarding two brand new committees that are being formed on campus for both policies of freedom of expression and LGBTQ. 

The General Assembly met on Sept. 12 as well and will again on Oct. 3 at 3:30.  

Mount Mercy Welcome Week This Year Breaks the Norm 

By Kevin Fiedler/staff writer/Sept. 11, 2022

During this year’s welcome week for Mount Mercy’s incoming freshman, which occurred Aug. 20-23, there was an event to unofficially break the world record of most people down a slip n’ slide in one hour. 

Starting off welcome week, the incoming freshman were put into groups and attended a picnic. This event was different from last year because it was held indoors due to weather conditions. At the end of the night, a plaza party was held which consisted of corn hole, s’mores, spike ball, and Connect Four. 

On the second day, the new students had an adventure day.  

“Adventure Day this year went a lot different from previous years. Due to the lack of transportation the students couldn’t go hiking or take a visit to Lost Island. However, we did have a choice to go mini golfing or visit capital spare time entertainment,” Grace Kelly, Mustang welcome leader, said. An outdoor movie ended the night, playing “Grown Ups.” 

The third day consisted of Mount Mercy’s campus traditions and some entertainment. Everyone got together and planted a class tree on the north side of the chapel. After that they went into the tunnels and signed their names on the walls. To end their day, they went to Im On Ice to go ice skating. 

On the last day, while student attending various events, Dr. Nate Klein, vice president of student success, set up the slip n’ slide in order to unofficially break the world record for most people down a slip n’ slide in an hour. Mount Mercy students managed to break the record by sending 789 people down the slide.  

“It was so exciting to see students coming together for some simple fun to kick off the year,” Klein said. “I heard many students say it’s the most fun they’ve had during their time on the Hill which made it all worthwhile. A special thanks to our facilities department for helping us get it set up and making sure the slide that got a bit muddy toward the end is back to green space for us all to enjoy!” 

MMU graduate student Katie Thul answers a question from a fourth grade student at Francis Marion Intermediate School. (Times image by Annie Barkalow)

Grad student began career in pandemic, loves teaching

By Annie Barkalow/managing editor/March 31, 2022

It’s 8:30 a.m. and Ms. Thul’s fourth grade class is just getting started.

Twinkle lights surround the blackboard and a sign on the door says, “our classroom respects others.” Brightly- colored paper stars decorate a cabinet with students’ goals for the year written in crayon, stating things like “I want to make more friends,” or “I want to get better at fractions.” The atmosphere is somewhat subdued, and you get the sense that the kids are still waking up, although that doesn’t stop some of them from fidgeting in their seats or whispering to their neighbor.

One student walks up to Ms. Thul and compares heights, and she laughs.

“They like to constantly remind me of how much taller most people are than me,” she says.

Katie Thul is a graduate student at MMU studying teacher leadership with aspirations of becoming an instructional coach or principal, and currently teaches at Francis Marion Intermediate (FMI) in Marion. She graduated from University of Iowa in 2020 with a degree in elementary ed with a reading endorsement right after the pandemic hit, and it’s been a bumpy ride ever since. 

“I just felt so defeated and so lost and just so sad,” says Thul, recalling how she felt after graduation with lock downs in full swing. Up until she worked at FMI, she had never taught a full day of school, since the pandemic shut everything down.

For Thul, the key to pushing through and being successful are passion and having supportive staff. When she began teaching at FMI, principal Mike Murphy and instructional coach Steph Roberts were a source of encouragement, even stepping in to co-teach several times until she was comfortable with it. 

“Having at least one person that you know you can walk in and say whatever is on your mind is so important as a teacher,” says Thul. “Even if it’s at your school, if it’s at home, by having one person that you can just spill to, because you do wear so many hats and you hear so many things, you see so many things…(it’s) a lot to carry, so having somebody to get that all of that out too is really important.”

Teacher Katie Thul explains a math problem in her fourth grade classroom. (Times image by Annie Barkalow)

One positive aspect of teaching during the pandemic as a new teacher was the ability to quickly adapt. “I had so much momentum and motivation because it was brand-new…walking into hybrid was the only way of teaching I knew because I had never done anything else,” she says.

Like other places, teacher shortages have been a problem at FMI. When a teacher is out sick with COVID-19, it sometimes means other school personnel pick up the slack, since qualified substitutes are currently difficult to obtain. Thul remembers a couple of weeks that were “nuts” when many teachers were sick and other teachers taught more than one classroom. 

“There’s definitely harder days where I’m like, ‘Can I do this?’ ‘Am I going to get through?’” she says, though she notes that the feeling mainly stems from negative student behaviors. Behaviors, she says, are the biggest challenge in teaching right now, noting that a lot of the disrespect and misbehaving stem from trauma in the home.

“It’s easier for me to not take it personally, because I know (they’re) not mad at me, it’s not me (they) don’t like, it’s the situation (they’re in) or feeling,” she says. “When I go home, I’m worrying about them…when I know they’re going to situations that stink. Honestly, I think that’s the hardest part, knowing (about) their lives outside of academics and not being able to do a bunch about it besides love them while they’re here.”

For new education graduates, Thul says it’s important to remind yourself of the bigger picture. “It’s the profession that teaches all professions,” she says, “you are so valued…even if you can’t see it right now, you’re making a difference. You’re making an impact and it’s going to be worth it.

“I don’t know what else I would do…now that I’ve done it, I know that this is what I’m supposed to be doing, because I love it and I love the kids.”

War in Europe FAQ’s

By Gwen Johnson/opinion editor/March 3, 2022

War has come again to Europe, with Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine, and independent nation to its south. To help Mustangs get some context on this historic tragedy, the Times has prepared this explanation of the conflict. 

Q: What is the historical context of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and when did the most recent conflict between the two nations begin? 

A: Ukraine has been an independent nation since 1991. The BBC says that “president Putin has frequently accused Ukraine of being taken over by extremists, ever since its pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted in 2014 after months of protests against his rule.” 

2014 was also the year that Russia illegally annexed Crimea, breaking a treaty that said it would respect the country’s borders in exchange for its denuclearization. 

The BBC also says that “late in 2021, Russia began deploying big numbers of troops close to Ukraine’s borders, while repeatedly denying it was going to attack. Then Mr. Putin scrapped a 2015 peace deal for the east and recognized areas under rebel control as independent.” 

According to NPR, “Putin himself has long said that he believes Ukrainians and Russians to be a single people, unified by language, culture and religion. In July 2021, he wrote a long essay about the ‘historical unity’ between the two nations.” 

Q: How is NATO involved in the Russia/Ukraine conflict?  

A: For context, NATO was formed after World War II to represent Western interests in Europe. Any European country can join, but Vladmir Putin believes that allowing Ukraine to join would break a promise from the 90s that NATO would not expand. This was brought up in early stages of negotiation at the time, but not formally offered in later stages. Putin sees the expansion of NATO to include Ukraine, the second-largest piece of the former USSR, as a threat to Russia. 

Q: What has President Biden said about the conflict so far?  

A: President Biden has called the conflict a “needless act of aggression against Ukraine and global peace and security.” He has also announced economic sanctions against Russian banks. 

Q: Why is the conflict in Ukraine important to Iowans? 

A: This conflict means that prices for energy, food and raw materials could increase, and related supply chains could be further disrupted. It also means that we need to be extra mindful of the existence of disinformation and make doubly sure to verify that any information we share on the internet is reliable. 

Facebook’s parent company caught two small scale Russian disinformation campaigns in their early stages. There were about 40 Facebook and Instagram accounts involved in the first, posting from Russia and Ukraine and calling the latter a failed state. The accounts were posing as independent media outlets. 

According to NPR, “The focus of the efforts appeared to be driving traffic to the network’s own websites, Meta said, and the network posted across social media, including on Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and Russian social networks VK and Odnoklassniki. On Facebook and Instagram, it accumulated fewer than 5,000 followers across Facebook and Instagram. The company did not say how many people interacted with or saw its posts.” 

Q: Is there any chance this could signal the start of World War III, and what would that mean? 

A: There are 30 members of NATO, and we are obligated to defend them should Russia attack. This is stated by Article 5 of that treaty. The unclear element is cyberattacks. It would be a clear violation of Article 5 if traditional fighting spilled over into a neighboring NATO country, but if a cyberattack did something like cut power in one of those places, it may also count. This is not quite as clear since the tactic is so new. 

It was recently announced that Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet for peace talks, but the announcement did not specify when. 

Q: Are we vulnerable to and likely to see Russian cyberattacks? 

A: NPR has reported that “various federal agencies, including the Treasury and the Department of Homeland Security, have warned of possible cyberattacks on targets like big banks and power grid operators.”   

Final note: The Times advises you to get your news from multiple reliable sources and remember that all Mount Mercy students have access to the New York Times, which has live updates of the situation in Ukraine. In addition to the BBC, information in this story came from NPR’s special series “Ukraine invasion—explained.” 

Retired GE Executive to Deliver Knapp Lecture

By Vanessa Gaul/staff writer/March 3, 2022

A distinguished businessman will be present at several events on campus in early March as part of the Knapp lecture series. 

On Thursday, March 3, the business department is hosting Mr. John G. Rice, retired vice chairman of GE, at three events. The first event will entail a meeting with undergraduate students in Flaherty from 2:30-3:30 p.m., which is hosted by three business clubs: Enactus, Investments, and SHRM. Then, Rice will be meeting with graduate students at the Graduate Center from 3:30-4:30 p.m. To close the event, Rice will address students and the community at-large “Lessons I’ve Learned” at 7 p.m. in the UC. 

Rice has been president & CEO of GE Technology Infrastructure, GE Energy and GE Transportation at different times throughout his career. His career began in 1978 where he held several leadership positions in the United States, Canada, and Singapore. 

Rice holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, and is a life trustee there. He currently serves on several boards such as Baker Hughes, the Foundation for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and he is also on the President’s Council of the Hazelton Betty Ford Foundation.  Additionally, Rice serves as a senior advisor for the G-100 companies and is a senior professor at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech. 

Throughout his life, Rice has been immersed in the business world and has valuable knowledge and advice to share. These events will teach others about business and how to be successful in the field. 

Joy is the Root of God’s Unconditional Love for All

By Vanessa Milliman/staff writer/March 3, 2022

What does it mean to seek joy? How will we know when we have found it? Seek God in all things, and you will find God in all things. Seek joy in all things, and you will find joy in all things. The joy in Christ is sustainable for all eternity. While it is often associated with being happy, joy surpasses our emotions. External forces have no effect. This joy is the foundation of our lives. We were created by love, out of love, and for love. Joy has been defined as “the experience of knowing you are unconditionally loved.” Loved. Unconditionally. 

How can we be joyful when we are suffering? Look at suffering from God’s perspective. He sees the bigger picture and knows the meaning of suffering. As humans, we only see one piece of the puzzle. Joy comes with the understanding that love continues even when we are suffering. We are not limited by requirements, conditions, or circumstances. Loved. Unconditionally.  

Think back to when you woke up this morning. I probably groaned as my alarm clock chirped away. I should have found joy in knowing that God gave me the gift of another day. One day can have so many moments of joy. Assuming you get eight hours of sleep, you have 16 hours for knowing that you are unconditionally loved. For college students, we get even more hours in the day to know that we are loved. Unconditionally. 

The joys of everyday life can be overlooked easily. We are busy with our “to-do” lists and what are calendar dictates us to do next. The innocence of a child provides insight into where they find their joy. Children find joy in the simplest tasks. They can be bouncing a ball and find so much joy in it. A child wants an action to be repeated over and over again. My younger siblings loved peek-a-boo. Each time they reacted like it was the first time. They found joy in those moments and must have known they were loved. Unconditionally. 

We can have this childlike joy in our lives as well. The boring tasks can bring joy if we look for it. My goal for the next couple of weeks is to find joy in brushing my teeth. Brushing my teeth can become the most mundane of tasks. It takes time that I would rather be doing something else (anything else to be honest). I can turn this into a moment of joy. I can acknowledge that I am taking care of myself by doing this. I can use this time to be in the moment, to be present. I can simply contemplate how I am loved. Unconditionally. 

Times Editor Named Iowa ‘Student Journalist of the Year’

By Annie Barkalow/managing editor/March 3, 2022

In years past, the Times has taken several first-place awards at the Iowa College Media Association (ICMA) awards, and this year was no different–with the exception that a first first was awarded to a Mount Mercy University student. Senior Jada Veasey, Times editor-in-chief, won the “Pat Pisarik Student Journalist of the Year” award, a first-time honor for MMU and the Times. What makes this journalism award even more remarkable is that Veasey is not a journalism student herself, but a nursing major. 

“(She) is basically the most outstanding student journalist in the state of Iowa,” said Joe Sheller, professor of communications and adviser to the Times. “The judges cited Veasey’s leadership in covering the pandemic as a factor in her win. Along with a certificate of recognition, the award also comes with a $500 stipend. 

The Student Journalist of the Year award is named after Pat Pisarik, a journalism professor at Loras College and founding member of ICMA, who “passionately embraced the role of the press as unbiased contributors to democracy and as a voice for the marginalized.” 

Veasey, who is passionate about writing, politics, and current events, has been involved with the Times since she was a freshman. She began as a staff writer and work study student, became opinion editor her sophomore and junior years, and editor-in-chief her senior year. She found out she was a finalist for the award at the end of January. 

“I was so excited. I didn’t think there was any way I’d win, I was just excited to be named a finalist,” said Veasey. When her name was called as the winner, Veasey was back home hanging out with her mom. “My mom and I screamed in our living room!” she said. 

Veasey’s professors say having a student like Jada is what makes their job “so rewarding.” 

“Jada is perhaps one of the most caring and conscientious students I have ever had an opportunity to teach,” said Audrey Sheller, assistant professor of nursing. “Knowing that Jada is soon to enter the profession of nursing makes me feel so honored and blessed to have been able to teach her. She is going to do such amazing things in this world both in the profession of nursing and far beyond!” 

While Jada loves nursing, she said working for the Times has been “something special” and one of her favorite parts of college. 

“Getting to learn from Joe (Sheller) and from other editors has been so awesome. I’m going to miss the late nights in the office once I graduate,” she said.  

As editor-in-chief, one of Veasey’s main goals has been to brainstorm how to keep it running once she is gone. “Historically, we’ve had a way bigger staff and had lots of underclassmen who could step up after people graduate. Right now, all but two members of our staff are graduating either in May or next December. I’m just trying to find some Mustangs who love writing and love journalism and want to keep this awesome publication afloat in the coming years. Student journalism is so important and if the Times disappears, I think students are going to realize they don’t have an easy avenue to voice their thoughts on campus,” she said.  

Other awards that were given out: 

  • First place, investigative reporting, Annie Barkalow. 
  • First place, staff editorial, Jada Veasey, Gwen Johnson, and Veronica Jons. 
  • First place, front page, Veronica Jons and Jada Veasey. 
  • First place, blog, “Anne with an E,” Annie Barkalow. 
  • Second place, blog, “The Girl in the Chair,” Gwen Johnson. 
  • Second place, headline writing, Veronica Jons and Jada Veasey. 

Veronica Jons is an MMU alumni who graduated last spring and was former editor-in-chief of the Times. Annie Barkalow is a junior and the current managing editor, and Gwen Johnson is a senior and the Times’ opinion editor. 

Driven by Love

By Jenna Welty/staff writer/March 3, 2022

Love was the primary message weaving the words of prized poet Danez Smith’s performance and Q&A for the Visiting Writer Series celebrating Black History Month. 

“It’s always about love,” Smith said. “Poems are just little containers of humanness; proof that we were here, and we felt.” 

On Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. in the Betty Cherry Heritage Hall, students and faculty members gathered to hear and ask questions about Smith’s diverse voice and these words of endearment. A student also presented the poet with a gift at the conclusion of the event. 

Mary Vermillion, the director of the visiting writer program and professor of English, introduced Smith to the audience, praising their literary accomplishments and defining their poetry as “urgent and relevant.”  

After suggesting the game of Twister as an addition to the night’s plans, Smith began with a performance of their 2016 poem, “My President.” They continued by reciting a multitude of their accomplished poems, including their most famous, “Dinosaurs in the Hood.”  

Detailing the idea of making a movie where “Jurassic Park meets Friday meets The Pursuit of Happyness,” the latter is a “love poem towards childhood innocence.” 

“Besides, the only reason I want to make this is for that first scene anyway: the little black boy on the bus with a toy dinosaur, his eyes wide and endless his dreams possible, pulsing, and right there,” Smith read aloud. 

The crowd exhibited mixed emotions. They laughed with Smith in the humorous moments and sat quietly during the serious ones. Often, these occurred back-to-back as Smith’s voice fluttered and boomed across the room, drawing the audience in, and their body language mimicking the words they spoke. 

Their eyes were wide with the boy on the bus. They held an imaginary wine glass and raised their hand at the bus stop in “My President.” 

The Q&A brought additional insight to the audience, from questions about the publishing process to dealing with wariness about putting out one’s own voice. But Smith assured that there is “no way to control people’s takeaways.” 

“It’s a moment of releasing,” Smith said. “When you are coming from a place that is trying to transcribe and amplify love, you get it right.” 

To show appreciation for these answers, the performance, and workshop, Smith was presented with a framed poster of one of their poems designed by Teodora Simovic, junior, graphic design major. 

“It was definitely an honor to do this and be part of this event,” Simovic said. “All the work that was done behind the scenes and the final poster turned out to be great, and I’m really glad that they liked it too.” 

The words of Smith’s poem entitled “Summer, Somewhere” were encapsulated in the poster, acting as a reminder to broaden perspectives, learn about social issues, and admire the love present in one’s life. As one line in the poem poignantly asks, “do you know what it’s like to live someplace that loves you back?” 

As New SGA Officers Begin Terms, ‘Hot Lunch, Hot Topics’ Start

By Autumn Puffer/Feb. 17, 2022

With the new year came new SGA executives and cabinet members. At the Jan. 10 general assembly, former SGA President Emma Lantz started the inauguration, passing her responsibilities to now President Tiara Muñoz.  

The new Executive team is listed as follows: 

President – Tiara Muñoz (Junior Criminal Justice/Psych major) 

Vice President – Fernanda Hermosillo-Arrieta (Junior Bio/BioChem major) 

Treasurer – Alison Taylor (Sophomore Accounting major) 

Secretary – Zoey Paone (Sophomore Criminal Justice/English major) 

The new Cabinet includes:  

Activities Coordinator – Houston Hamlett (Freshman Social Work major) 

Coordinator of Clubs – Nathalie Primbs (Freshman Computer Science/Business major) 

Director of Public Relations – Autumn Puffer (Freshman Criminal Justice/Political Science major) 

Administrative Assistant – Amelia Frimml (Freshman Secondary Education major) 

Leave it on the Floor Friday has also been revamped. It is now “Hot Lunch Hot Topics Wednesday” and will be hosted on the third Wednesday of each month in the University Center Commons from12-1 p.m. The first ever HLHTW event was hosted Feb. 16, and the discussion question was: “what’s the difference between non-racist and anti-racist?” Next month, the question will be focused on Mount Mercy’s critical concern of women.  

SGA is happy to announce the construction for the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) room has officially started. This project has been in the making for two years, and once completed will provide a safe space for minority and historically underrepresented students. Progress will be posted weekly on MMU’s DEI Instagram, @mmu_dei. 

Along with an at-large position, SGA is looking for student representatives to fulfill seats on Senate. Each Senate seat would represent a different group of students, including international, transfer, commuter, and non-traditional students. These representatives would attend one meeting a month and give a voice to the students they oversee. 

If you are interested in applying for one of these positions, please contact SGA at sga@mtmercy.edu for more information. 

To keep up with SGA, make sure to follow @mountmercysga on Instagram and “Mount Mercy University Student Government Association” on Facebook. 

Week a Chance to Say Thanks to MMU Donors

By Grace Ries/news editor/Feb. 17, 2022

From Jan. 31 to Feb. 4, Mount Mercy students, faculty, and staff had the opportunity to write thank you letters to all the donors that support Mount Mercy University during an event called Thank-a-Thon Week.

“The purpose was to share that most everything at Mount Mercy is made possible through support of donors and alumni, and to come together as a community to show our gratitude for those who support Mount Mercy with monetary donations,” Janey Jill Piersall, MMU development and alumni coordinator, said.

There are over 2,000 donors each year that support MMU and throughout Thank-a-Thon week, Development and Alumni Relations received over 400 thank you cards.

Freshman Dylanne Schrock was one of the students who help with the event, and she was able to talk to other students and help them appreciate the donors of Mount Mercy through writing letters and getting to know more about what the purpose was.

“I loved participating in the Thank-a-Thon. It was a great opportunity to make new connections with other students at Mount Mercy and also volunteer for a great cause. Everyone was so kind and willing to participate and help write out thank you cards. Without the help of the volunteers and the participants, this event would not have been as great as it was,” Schrock said.  

The event was coordinated by Development and Alumni Relations. Piersall partnered with Janya Witzany, a student employee in the office and a MMU women’s softball player, to make it all a reality with the guidance from others in the office.  

“The week wouldn’t have been possible or as successful without help and support from so many other campus partners, including: Financial Aid, the Events team, the Volunteer & Service coordinator, Athletics, Student Services, the Registrar’s office, the professors who invited us into their classes and/or encouraged participation, and the volunteers who helped us staff the Thank-a-Thon tables – our department’s staff, graduate admissions staff and the women’s soccer team,” Piersall said.  

Piersall and Schrock were both so thankful and found this to be important to do again in the following years.  

“Thank-a-thon is important to MMU so we can acknowledge our amazing donors,” Schrock said. “Getting people involved to write personal letters is so important because it shows that we really are grateful for our amazing donors. Giving personal thanks keeps our donors around!” 

Poet Who Tackles Issues Like Racism, Violence to Speak

By Jenna Welty/staff writer/Feb. 17, 2022

An accomplished performer and author, Danez Smith, will visit campus for a poetry workshop, reading, and Q&A Feb. 23 in BettyCherry Heritage Hall. Smith will give an expressive performance as well as sign books during their time on campus as part of the Visiting Writer Series.

“Smith’s poetry has won tons of awards,” said Mary Vermillion, the director of the visiting writer program and professor of English. “They were a finalist for the National Book Award!”

Not only is Smith’s work esteemed, but they havebeen “a successful poet both on the stage and the page.” With a performance accompanying their workshop, students will see the impact of Smith’s writing firsthand. Smith will give a workshop at 2 p.m. and a reading at 7 p.m.

“Danez Smith is the most dynamic performer of poetry I’ve ever seen, and they tackle important topics such as violence against Black bodies and living withHIV,” Vermillion said.

This meaningful subject matter gives a sneak peek into what this event will display. “A lot of Smith’s poetry bears witness to a key social justice issue: the murders of young Black men,” Vermillion said. “Smith’s poems blend sorrow and trauma with hope and joy. And sometimes laughter. Everyone needs to find ways of coping with injustice, feeling like an outsider, illness. Smith’s poetry tackles all these topics.”

Encompassing these themes is identity. Including diverse voices in the writer series gives students the chance to learn and develop.

“Our experiences in higher education are important because we learn how to think critically about different topics,” Charles Martin-Stanley, director of diversity, equity, and inclusion, said.

“Smith speaks about anti-racism and non-violence from the perspective of their own intersectional identities, this is something we all care about, but we now have the opportunity to hear about it from someone who likely has multiple identities that are different than the majority of our student and employee populations.

“We see the world differently based on the intersectional identities that we all have. It is important to be able to recognize that difference and celebrate our differences rather than only believing our truth and our reality to be the only ones that exist,” he said.

This event will show the connection between poetry, perspective and social issues.

“Anyone who is interested in poetry and art as a way to engage with the world and to better understand ourselves and social issues would love the opportunities to participate in Smith’s workshop and reading,” said Hannah Saltmarsh, assistant professor of English. “Smith is young, engaging, and resonates with diverse audiences, those who rarely read poetry and those who write it.”

Heads Up: Speakers Say Leaders Should Admit Inner Needs

By Jackson Bennett/staff writer/Feb. 17, 2022

It’s not only OK to admit you may need help, being open to your own internal needs should be seen as a source of strength.

That was the message of two Mount Mercy alumni who were the keynote speakers for the Mustang Leadership Program, in the Flaherty Community Room on Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. Brooke Fitzgerald and Lindsey Leahey, co-founders of The Restoration Project, a successful business that helps other companies solve many issues, encouraged their audience to practice vulnerability, self-awareness and courage as characteristics of leadership.

Fitzgerald and Leahey wasted no time getting into their stories. They shared memories, good and bad from their lives. They related to students and talked about common struggles with adjusting. One key takeaway that the women wanted to leave the audience with was the idea of being open to vulnerability, something they say everyone could benefit from.

The leadership meeting had many highlights. The meeting provided a comforting environment, filled with laughter and helpful advice.

Leahey and Fitzgerald shared many memorable quotes and lessons with the audience. They focused on self-awareness and staying ahead of things.

“When things are going sideways,” Leahey said, “we need to look at ourselves and ask what part of the problem is me?”

This was referring to their take on self-awareness and the importance it has. This was paired with a message of living with courage. They explained things they’ve done and how they’ve ended up where they are. Not only did the meeting have a cozy fireplace on the projector, but food was provided for the guests that attended.

After Leahey and Fitzgerald were finished, they answered questions from the audience. The audience even provided them with personal statements of gratitude.

“As a woman, I needed this,” said Tiara Muñoz, SGA president.

How Germs Divide Helps Us Conquer Them

By Gwen Johnson/opinion editor/Nov. 11, 2021

If you’ve taken a microbiology course, you may be familiar with E. coli, and the fact that it replicates through a process called binary fission. This is the process that Dr. Ryan Bezy, professor of biology at MMU, is studying.

Specifically, Dr. Bezy is looking at a particular gene involved in bacterial replication called YedR. He has conducted research in collaboration with David Wiess at the University of Iowa with the help of three now-graduated Mustangs—Jeremy Cline, David Stanek and Monica Steffen. This research involved characterizing the role of YedR in E. coli cell division, and other cell division proteins with which it interacted. The group published a paper on their work in the Journal of Bacteriology in November of 2020.

“That’s actually really unusual for undergraduate researchers, to contribute to a publication,” said Bezy.

The team conducted a genetic suppressor screen, which goes something like this: they grow the mutant bacteria that cannot be grown and divided at high temperatures, then look for additional mutations that restore the ability to divide and then determine where the genetic correction is located. If the correction is located somewhere unexpected, such as on a gene that isn’t known to be associated with cell division, then that is the interesting one that gets its full genome sequenced and compared to the wild type genome.

This research is useful because it can help scientists optimize ways to grow microbes, many of which are important commercially like E coli. Additionally, since the way bacterial cells divide is different from the way our cells do, antibiotics and drugs that disrupt bacterial cell division will not havean impact on our human cells.

“The more knowledge we have on bacterial cell division, the more therapeutic targets we will have to stop bacterial growth, even active infections in a human body,” said Bezy. “This is especially important with the increased prevalence of antibiotic resistant strains of bacterial pathogens.”

Bezy’s doctorate is in microbiology, so he has been bothered by vaccine myths long before the pandemic.

As for movies portraying microbiology, Bezy said that 2011’s “Contagion” is fairly accurate, and actually bears some similarities to the COVID-19 pandemic, though no movie is 100% realistic.

Bezy’s advice for students looking to get into this field is to look into research opportunities by asking a professor, or looking for opportunities such as research internships like REUs (research experience for undergraduates) through the National Science Foundation.

Young in Business

By Bri Ostwinkle/web editor/Nov. 11, 2021

From baked goods to bracelets to t-shirts, kids of all ages showcased their own small businesses in the University Center for the Youth Entrepreneur Fair with the Marion Homeschool Assistance Program on Friday, Oct. 22.

Mount Mercy University’s business club on campus, Enactus, hosted the Youth Entrepreneur Fair, giving children of all ages the chance to show off their businesses. The club judged the booths and offered a free table at the club’s annual Market at the Mount for the winner.

“Being able to give kids the opportunity to showcase their businesses and give them the chance to grow at our market is something we were really excited about,” said Jillian Nafziger, senior marketing major and president of Enactus.

Three finalists were given the opportunity to have a table at the 2021 Market at the Mount on campus and share their business with a much wider audience. These stands were ones that stood out the most and were judged by three categories: product, presentation and customer service skills.

“The students had a lot of really good products, they really showed off what they could do.” Nafziger said.

There were around 35 groups that took part in the market to show their talents and market their products to family, friends, and community members. The market had lots of visitors and the vendors were able to sell a lot of their products and market their personal shops to keep growing in the future.

Halloween on the Hill Brings Joy to Kids and Students

By Vanessa Gaul/staff writer/Nov. 11, 2021

Children streamed into the University Center on the evening of Friday, Oct. 29, to go trick or treating and make crafts at each club’s table.

Members of each club dressed up in costumes, such as pirates, witches, and Batman, and handed out candy to young members of the community that were also dressed up for Halloween. I decided to dress as a magical slime fairy, as SGA class of 2025 decided to allow children to make their very own slime.

Community members also dressed up as clever and adorable characters. I saw parents who dressed as farmers and put their toddler in a chick costume, mermaids, Spiderman, sharks, and countless other outfits.

For over an hour, my table was swamped with kids of all ages wanting to make slime. Different colors of food coloring allowed kids to make the slime whatever color they wanted, many of them deciding to match their outfits. Although slime is interesting to play with, it can be quite messy, so my group was ready with paper towels and plastic bags to clean and contain the slime.In previous years, children went trick or treating in the halls of the dorms, but due to safety precautions the event was held in the UC. Condensing the event showed just how many people came through to experience the music, pumpkin painting, slime, costumes, and candy. I heard children squealing with delight when they saw their favorite candy or character, as they bobbed from table to table.

The UC became relatively loud and chaotic with so many children running everywhere, but everyone I saw was smiling with excitement or contentment. As an added bonus, there was no rule against students snacking on the candy, so many people including myself maintained a sugar high from chocolate and fruity candies, adding to the energy in the atmosphere.

Following the table trick or treating, a movie was held in Donnelly 300, as it was too cold for an outdoor movie. At 9 p.m., a horror movie was played for Mount Mercy students to celebrate Halloween.

As a freshman, this was my first experience with Halloween on the Hill, and I plan to participate every year from now on. It was more fun and rewarding than I ever expected.

Netflix’s MAID Explores Struggles of Single Motherhood

By Annie Barkalow/managing editor/Nov. 11, 2021

Netflix’s new series MAID is an unflinching look at a single mother’s struggle for independence while battling poverty.

Based on the memoir by Stephanie Land, MAID follows introverted, no-frills Alex Russell (Margaret Qualley) as a single mom struggling to find stable housing and employment after leaving her abusive, alcoholic boyfriend Sean (Nick Robinson). The series starts with the anxiety-riddled scene of Alex sneaking out of Sean’s trailer in the middle of the night with their two-year-old daughter, Maddy (Rylea Neveah Whittet).

Alex, who is restarting her life with nothing, navigates the frustrating world of bureaucracy and all the red tape that goes with government assistance. There’s a darkly humorous scene in which a social worker is explaining how to qualify for subsidized housing. Alex needs a check stub for proof of employment to qualify, which means she needs a job, but she can’t work unless her daughter has access to daycare. The good news is that grants are available for daycare, but it requires proof of employment. “I need a job to prove that I need daycare in order to get a job? What kind of f—–y is that?”she demands.

As it turns out, Alex can find sanctuary in a domestic abuse shelter, but needs proof that abuse happened. This means going on record by calling the police, which the social worker offers to do. “And say what?” Alex asks, “that he didn’t hit me?” Part of what’s so brilliant about this series is that it shines a spotlight on the hard truth many abuse victims suffer: while a black eye can be documented and photographed, the emotional scars are harder to see.

Her bipolar, bohemian artist mother(played by Andie MacDowell, who is Qualley’s mom in real life) is charismatic and free-spirited, but flaky. With a camping trailer to call home and a revolving door of boyfriends, she offers Alex no stability. Her father (Billy Burke) is an ex-alcoholic-turned-Christian with a new family and acts as a mentor to Sean, sympathizing with him, which is why Alex can’t trust him: her own dad turns a blind eye to what’s going on. A particularly poignant moment that shows how alone she is is when she lines up Maddy’s My Little Ponies on a table and talks to them about Sean, as though talking to a therapist.

Alex gets a job with Value Maids and takes on the hard task of scrubbing the toilets of well-fed butts. She daydreams what it would be like to sip chardonnay and wear cashmere sweaters as she vacuums wealthy customers’ homes. As she works, she is inspired to start writing about her job and the types of homes and people she comes across. You find out that before things went downhill for her, Alex was accepted on scholarship to study creative writing at a university in Missoula.

There’s an undercurrent of urgency as she lives day-to-day, never knowing what will come next. There are many tender moments though: going for walks with Maddy, snuggling after a long day at work, jumping in puddles. You can see that Maddy drives Alex to do better. There are even soft moments with Sean—Alex has flashbacks of Sean helping her mom when she was on a bender, cooking her dinner, encouraging her. You can see why she is sometimes conflicted in her thoughts about him, a kind of cognitive dissonance between his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personalities. And when she shuffles from place to place with a toddler, never knowing when they will eat next or where they will sleep, it’s easy to see why going back to her abuser stays Plan B.

MAID is not a depressing movie. It’s filled with day-to-day hope—a small sliver of sunlight battling the darkness, but battling, nevertheless. No matter if she goes three steps backward, Alex keeps moving forward, striving to break the cycle of poverty and abuse, and you can’t help but cheer for her.

Mustangs Should Be More Saintlike

By Vanessa Milliman/columnist/Nov. 11, 2021

In the Catholic Church, November is the month celebrating the saints. Before the Church officially declares someone a saint, two miracles with the person’s intercession have to be approved. This does not limit them from already being in heaven, it gives us the assurance that they are with God.

Blessed Carlo Acutis is on his way to sainthood. There has been one confirmed miracle from his intercession. He was born in 1991 and lived in Milan, Italy. He died from leukemia at the age of 15.

Acutis had a big heart for his fellow students, especially those with disabilities. He was not afraid to defend them from bullying. When students’ parents were going through a divorce, he invited his fellow students over to his house for a break from the stress. He showed his care through these ordinary acts.

Throughout his short life, he loved computers and taught himself coding and how to build websites. He combined this hobby with his love for Christ in the Eucharist. He built websites for local churches and started a project of his own. He built a website that documented Eucharistic miracles from around the world. Although his parents were not especially devout, Acutis would frequently pray before Jesus in the tabernacle at his parish church. He said, “The more we receive the Eucharist, the more we will become like Jesus, so that on this earth we will have a foretaste of heaven.”

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian faith. It is central to our spiritual lives. Instituted at the Last Supper, the Eucharist contains the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus. The Eucharist is a beautiful gift to humanity. Jesus is giving a gift of himself, and we are united to him in the most intimate way. Through the Eucharist, Jesus promises to never leave us and to always fulfill our needs.

This campus does a great job of coming together as a community. My hope for us all is to become a community whose focus is our love for Christ. Acutis said, “If we go out in the sun, we get a suntan …but when we get in front of Jesus in the Eucharist, we become saints.” Let us follow Acutis’ example and become saints through a deep relationship with Christ in the Eucharist, our true source and summit.

Professor Studies Body’s Role in Learning

By Gwen Johnson/opinion editor/Oct. 28, 2021

Have you noticed a difference in what you remember second when you try to learn something just by reading off a PowerPoint versus learning it by watching a professor in front of a class?  

That’s one of the questions assistant professor of psychology Dr. Jaclynn Sullivan is curious about. She researches how people think and learn and how the body is involved in that process. This is called embodied learning.  

“Most cognitive psychologists focus on the mind and ignore the body,” said Sullivan. “I think that’s cutting out half of the human experience. So, I study how the body helps or hurts you in your pursuit of learning and remembering.” 

According to Sullivan, the focus of her work is “on how the body of the professor and the body of the student play a role in what is learned and remembered.” This has become especially relevant given the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increase in online learning.  

Her research suggests involving our bodies when we learn— whether that’s hearing a lecture in voiceover, video or doing something with your hands while listening— makes a difference.  

MMU students assist with this research by applying to be a part of the Embodied Learning Lab, but the competition is fierce since Dr. Sullivan can only take four or five students per semester.  

In the Embodied Learning Lab, Mustangs looking to build skills for graduate school or professional life are involved in every part of the research process. They come up with questions and run experiments, as well as analyzing data and writing reports. 

Sullivan’s suggestion to students interested in this kind of research, aside from applying to the lab, is to look into a PhD in cognitive or experimental psychology. Both are different from clinical psychology, which is the branch more associated with mental health professionals. This is one of the myths she’d like to bust, by the way: not everyone with a psychology degree has the skills or credentials to help you with your mental health.  

As far as other things that need debunking? You use all of your brain, not some small percentage. Science also hasn’t found any support for the idea of being left or right brained. Both bits of trivia are persistent, but that doesn’t make them true.  

The biggest piece of advice that Dr. Sullivan has for students looking to enter this field comes in the form of two small words: start noticing.  

This advice comes from Sullivan’s own experience. A major reason she became a psychological scientist is because she was so curious why people did things and why she did things differently than other people.  

She says that in order to be good at researching people, you have to be aware of your world, both internally and externally. Then, once you’re good and aware, you can get in touch with a faculty member to explore the questions you come up with. 

Student with Roots in Afghanistan says “Waiting is Hard”

By Annie Barkalow/managing editor/Oct. 28, 2021

The Afghanistan war may be over for the U.S., but the chaos left in its wake has introduced new troubles for the remaining Afghans. On Aug. 30, the U.S. ended its 20-year occupation when it recalled troops back to the states, leaving a power vacuum which the Taliban quickly filled.

Afghans currently living in the U.S. may be a world away from the troubles of their homeland, but for those with family still living there, worry hits close to home.

Sayed Opeyany, a senior nursing major here at MMU whose parents immigrated from Afghanistan several years ago, says it’s been “very tough” for family members still living there. “Their economy is really bad. It’s very expensive to buy even just simple foods,” Opeyany says, adding that while airports are starting to open back up, access is “very limited.”

“It’s kind of chaotic,” he says. Opeyany readily admits that he doesn’t know as much about the situation as his parents do, having been born and raised in the states. “I’m not the one living there, I’m not the one going through it, (but) we try to support and help our families as much as we can,” he says.

Opeyany’s father’s family immigrated to the U.S. when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in the early 80’s. His mother’s family, however, still reside in Afghanistan. Opeyany says his mom is looking into immigration lawyers and trying to raise money to bring them here, which will be expensive. Using his aunt as an example, he says it’s not possible to bring her but leave her kids behind. “You’re going to have to pay a lot more, obviously,” he says.

Raising money is just part of the monetary issue facing Opeyany’s family in Afghanistan. “Their banks are closed,” he says, “so you can’t really send money…there’s no stores or business. It’s hard to find jobs.”

Even though Opeyany grew up in the states—he calls Concord, California home—his family has retained much of the culture from Afghanistan. Islam is an important part of life, and they observe holidays and engage in community activities centered around the mosque. On theMuslim holidays, he says, “we try to meet with family and friends and congratulate each other for the holidays.”

And the food—ask Opeyany about his mom’s cooking and he lights up. “There’s different kinds of rice, like biryani,” he says. Along with kofta and bulani, there are many other dishes that he misses. Bulani, though, is his favorite, and something he looks forward to going home. “I miss the food a lot,it’s good,” he says, but notes that his mom is a very busy person. Her cooking is so good, however, that “I would just pay her to make all the food,” he says. Opeyany says the closest thing that comes to traditional Afghan food are the Indian restaurants in Cedar Rapids, a fact he appreciates. “I’m not a good cook,” he admits.

Another difference between Opeyany’s family and his classmates’ families growing up was the emphasis on respect for one’s parents and putting family first. “You don’t talk back,” he says. Working hard and pushing for good grades were important characteristics in his home, a trait shared by his family back in Afghanistan.

“There’s people that just want to come here and (work hard),” he says. People like his cousin back in Afghanistan. “He’s very hard working and wants to go to a country where he can work and create a business. Those are the type of people I sympathize with, because of their hard work and tenacity,” he says, “even my auntie, when she comes here…she has kids that she wants to protect and take care of, so she’ll work, and her kids will work.”

Opeyany adds that his aunt is concerned about the Taliban opening schools to teach their brand of ideology, another reason they want to get out. Speaking again about how smart and hard-working his cousin is, Opeyany says, “it’s almost a loss for America if we don’t take him.”

Talking about his experience visiting Kabul and Mazar e Sharif as a child, Opeyany asserts that there’s “good people in Afghanistan” and the media rarely portrays “all the positive things.”

“The culture is very inviting,” he says, “very comforting and caring.A lot of them will give you their food, even if they don’t have (enough for themselves). That’s the way they are.” Since the Afghans are a tribal people, family is the most important thing. “They care about respect and dignity and treating each other well, like anywhere,” he says. Because of the extremist groups and the fearfulness, they inspire, many Americans don’t know how kind Afghans can be to foreigners. Opeyany says it’s easy to “fall in love” with the citizens because of the “love and kindness” one experiences while visiting them.

After graduating in December, Opeyany plans to return to California and work to help his family. For his extended family in Afghanistan, watching and waiting from a distance is difficult.“

(We) hope and pray for them to get better,” he says.

Waypoint CEO and Alum Recounts her Passion and Career

By Ben Steidler/staff writer/Oct. 28, 2021

Jaye Kennedy, Mount Mercy alum and CEO of Waypoint Services, spoke to students and faculty on how finding your passion can change your life for the better.

On Thursday, Oct. 21, Kennedy spoke to students and faculty in the Chapel of Mercy as a guest speaker for the Mustang Leadership Program. Kennedy is the CEO of Waypoint Services, which is a non-profit organization located in Cedar Rapids. The organization has been around for 127 years and serves the Cedar Rapids area and surrounding communities by offering shelter, housing, domestic violence victim services, and childcare.

“We save lives. It’s so exciting to be a part of this, and I know this is where I’m supposed to be. This is the best job ever,” Kennedy said on her experience with Waypoint.

Before the pandemic, Waypoint received about 250 calls a week from people looking for assistance with housing. Now, Waypoint receives 700 calls a day from people who are seeking shelter or assistance with housing.“Right now, we have a housing crisis. We get about 700 calls a day from people needing assistance with housing right here in Cedar Rapids,” Kennedy said. “We need people to step up, it’s our responsibility.”

Kennedy spoke with passion about the work that Waypoint does for the Cedar Rapids community. When asked about how she found her passion, she spoke about her time as a student at Mount Mercy. Everything that Kennedy learned from her experience at Mount Mercy has got her to where she is today.

“I had an incredible experience here. I changed and grew a lot, and I knew what I was learning was powerful stuff.”

Kennedy didn’t find her passion right out of college, but Mount Mercy helped shape her into the person she is today. When she discovered Waypoint, it changed her life for the better.

“I want to make a difference and help other people make a difference in the world. I’m inspired every day when people step in and ask how they can help.”

Kennedy ended the evening by giving students advice on how they can find passion in their own lives.

“Be authentic, do things that are true to your soul. Find your place, take risks, operate out of transparency, and be clear with yourself. Find something you truly believe in, and it will rock your world and change your life.”

M2AP Board Comedian a Hit

By Paige Toomer/staff writer/Oct. 28, 2021

COVID-19 may have stopped some of the fun, but Mount Mercy’s Programming Board, M2AP Board, was determined to bring that fun back to campus with a comedian.On Thursday, Sept. 30, M2AP Board had their own comedy club in Betty Cherry at Mount Mercy University. There were black curtains, tables, snacks, and a stage with a microphone. The comedian Maya May was contracted to perform stand-up from 8-9 p.m.

“The comedy club was very nice and put together really well. My inspiration for creating the comedy club was that I wanted it to be more personal and to look like the ones on TV or movies. I am really happy with the turn out. It had more (audience members) than some of our previous comedians did in the past,” said Rebecca Fishbein, M2AP Board late night executive.

Many students around campus seemed to enjoy Maya May as laughs were heard from all around the room. May also made sure to interact with some of the students during different jokes in her show.

“I thought Maya May was really fun! I was amazed by the amount of people who attended as well. We had to get out more chairs, so everyone was able to sit. I think everyone who attended really enjoyed the show and I know I did; I couldn’t stop laughing,” said Elizabeth McGrane, M2AP Board treasurer.

May has a unique comedic style and made jokes about dating during the pandemic and about gender. She was able to help students relax and laugh, while also teaching them new things they may not have known about before. May was born and raised in Chicago where she often used comedic skills to help her in school as one of the few black students. She kept audiences on their feet with jokes that often combined her experiences in life with outlooks on gender, class, politics, and race. She performed virtually to over 45other colleges in 2020 alone.

M2AP Board did a great job bringing the fun with the May as students seemed to de-stress together. M2AP Board will also be hosting other events both large and small that Mount Mercy students can participate in throughout the year. Upcoming events will be posted on social medias and around school.

Bio to the Bone

By Gwen Johnson/Opinion Editor/Sept. 30

If you want to know about bones, go talk to Dr. Anna Waterman, associate professor of biology at MMU. She researches prehistory by way of teeth.

Prehistory, also known as “the stuff” that happened before written records,” constitutes most human existence, and knowing more about it can help us understand how things got to the way they are now.

As for the teeth, Dr. Waterman is technically a biological anthropologist but has a specialty in analyzing the chemistry of excavated human and animal remains from archeological sites. In science terms her work is called bioarcheology.

What is she looking for, exactly? Migration, really, but physically, strontium.

Strontium is a chemical element found in soil that can make its way into bones. If some remains contain different strontium levels than those found in the soil they were buried in, it can indicate that the owner of those remains may have migrated from somewhere else.

This work involves chemistry in combination with geology, but it also involves knowledge of how things are done in a particular place.

Dr. Waterman does a lot of research in Portugal and Spain, where people are willing to let archeologists do whatever analysis is needed without much bureaucracy. In contrast, the United States has more protocols around repatriation of Native American human remains that researchers must adhere to.

Prepare to have some myths busted, because anthropology has a couple:

Unlike on TV, very few biological anthropologists work for the FBI, and there is some stuff you just cannot know from bones. Crime dramas like to pretend the tests provide detail about a person that they are not capable of showing, and most biological anthropologists teach or work at medical centers.

Also, bioarcheologists are not lone geniuses who know everything about every part of anthropology. They have specializations, like in bone chemistry, or soft tissue. As Dr. Waterman says, “you can’t do archeology alone.”

Needed or Nuisance

By Annie Barkalow/Managing Editor/Sept. 30

The bright green electronic scooters and bikes have become ubiquitous on campus, sometimes clogging sidewalks and walkways outside buildings. A convenient means of transportation to some, a source of frustration to others. They belong to VeoRide, Cedar Rapids’ first bike-share program.

Dennis Gehring, facilities manager, says he gets complaints “all the time” about the scooters, saying he sees about half a dozen per day. Because the city of Cedar Rapids manages them and not the university, returning the scooters to their designated areas becomes a bit dicey.

“We have called (the city), but they don’t do anything,” says Gehring, “we don’t touch them. We are not responsible in any way, shape or form.”

VeoRide was started in 2017 as a way to promote sustainability in the commuter world, wanting to provide an alternative to automotive use. Cedar Rapids introduced them in 2019.

“The city of Cedar Rapids partners with VeoRide as a way to provide an additional transportation option for residents and visitors as they travel around core neighborhoods. It also adds vibrancy to Downtown, NewBo, and Czech Village, and gives riders another way to enjoy our trails system,” says Adam Lindlaub, a planner with Cedar Rapids’ community development & planning department.

To use the scooters and bikes, the VeoRide app must be uploaded onto a mobile device and the QR code on the rides scanned. Rates vary depending on what is being used, but it costs $1 to unlock for all. It’s $.20 per minute for bikes, $.29 per minute for the standup scooters and $.33 per minute for the sit-down scooters.

According to Lindlaub, VeoRide owns and maintains all equipment and employs a team of local staff who make sure the system runs smoothly, including “rebalancing” the system by moving vehicles back to locations where they are likely to be ridden by another user. “The city does not receive any revenue from the system,” he says.

At the peak of this season, there were a total of 475 stand-up scooters, 275 sit-down “Cosmo” scooters and 50 e-bikes. Lindlaub says some vehicles are being removed from the collection, since the cooler weather has lessened their demand.

The feedback the city has gotten from residents regarding VeoRide is mixed.

“We have had both positive and negative feedback,” says Lindlaub,“many residents and visitors enjoy using the system, as demonstrated by the over 100,000 rides that have occurred this season. We have also heard anecdotally that people like having the system as an alternative to driving or as a way to enjoy getting around town,” adding that they also regularly field calls from citizens concerned about the safety of the rides and their annoyance when they clog walkways.

On May 22 of this year, police issued 17 citations for rides improperly parked outside of downtown establishments.

Between June of 2020 and June 2021, 32 accidents were reported, some of them serious. Last June, two young boys were seriously injured when they drove their scooters into the path of a car. Riders are supposed to be 18 years old. The youngest allowed rider is 13, with a parent’s permission.

Greg Buelow, public safety communications specialist, says riders not adhering to the user agreement is a problem, but not the city’s. “We can’t legally dictate or do anything about that,” he says, “it’s notin municipal code.”

“Our issue is we want people to be safe, we don’t want people injured. We want people to enjoy them,” he says.

Regarding how the rides are tracked and who or what picks them up from the places they’re abandoned, VeoRide could not be reached for comment.

Hunt for Elusive Flat Catherine Adds Fun Touch

By Vanessa Gaul/Staff Writer/Sept. 30

Printed images of Sister Catherine McAuley proved to be elusive around campus, leading to education and frustration.

Campus Ministry hosted Mercy Mission Week, allowing students to focus on their identities as a Catholic and a student on the Mount Mercy campus. The week consisted of 12 different events, allowing students to learn about women’s issues –the critical concern of the Sisters of Mercy that this year’s Mercy Mission week was centered around.

Two students, Claire Bechen, freshman, and Jonathan Vieira, junior, were spotted participating in the third annual flat Catherine scavenger hunt that began at 11 a.m. on Thursday morning. 10 images of Catherine McAuley were hidden around campus in places that inspired students to learn about the powerful women that were associated with the Sisters of Mercy. Students could then take the flat Catherines that they found and turn them in to campus ministry to receive a prize.

“It is a fun activity that helps students make connections,” said Sister Linda Bechen, the vice president for mission and ministry, “whether it was women who were the presidents here or bound to the institution, it was a fun way to learn.”

Some students had specific reasons for joining the hunt, while others simply saw it as a good way to get outside that afternoon.

“I just wanted to explore campus and maybe learn a bit about the history of the university,” said Claire when asked why she decided to participate in the scavenger hunt.Mercy and Mission week was Sept. 12-17 and hosted a variety ofevents regarding women’s issues. Monday through Thursday, lunch and learns were held, focusing on topics such as women in business, women’s health, human trafficking, and women in the church. Several panels and powerful speakers, like Sister Cora Marie Billings, taught students and the community about these circumstances.

“I loved listening to businesswomen, especially women who are alumni from here, and who are board members share their experiences,” said Bechen. Other events included a mini parade to celebrate the Sisters of Mercy where students could gain community service hours, and the movie “The Hate U Give” was played outdoors on the green space to wrap up the week. Campus ministry took their central theme of women’s issues and branched it out to showcase different regions of the topic in exciting ways.

Bechen mentioned that she believes it is one of the best weeks of the year, not only because of all the activities, but also because it helps students discover their Mercy identity.“It is a week where we highlight the best of who we are,” said Bechen.

Sister Cora Tells MMU Students Not to Wait for “a whole lot of people’ to Make a Change

By Bri Ostwinkle/Web Editor/Sept. 30

Sister Cora Marie Billings, the first African American Sister of Mercy with the distinction of serving for 65 years, spoke toMount Mercy University Students about her life and how she serves her community.

Thursday, Sept. 16, Mount Mercy students gatheredin the Chapel of Mercy to hear Billings share her story as a part of the Mustang Leadership Program. The questions were led by Tiara Muñoz, vice president of SGA, and Charles Martin-Stanley, director of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“This campus is one of the best ones I’ve been with,” Billings said, speaking on her experience on campus. “We depend on you to bring the spirit of mercy, and I am grateful.”

When asked what called Billings to be a Sister of Mercy, she went on to speak of her childhood experience having family members strongly involved in their Roman Catholic faith. Having that influence gave her the inspiration to be a religious woman.

“I have always been a person interested in the relationship with people, I have always cared about what happens to others,” Billings said. “I don’t look at what I do as a profession (or) as a job. For me, it is something I need to do.”

In many different instances throughout the evening, Billings mentioned how important it is as a leader to be celebrated.

“For me, one person changes the world. We think we need a whole lot of people, if we need a whole lot of people the world will never get changed.”

Faith on the Hill

By Vanessa Milliman/Columnist/September 17, 2021

Asking for help is one of my weaknesses. I like to think that I can do it all myself. However, the opposite is true. I could not do anything without Christ and without the people that He has placed in my life to help me. New environments are the situations that I need the most assistance in, yet they are when I am even more hesitant to ask for help.

Take a moment to reflect on the areas and times that you need someone there for you. What and who brings you strength in those circumstances? Do you do it all on your own?

Our society and culture are structured for independence. We are raised to be self-sufficient and to learn to take care of ourselves. Part of the college experience is learning to be independent.

For some of us, it is the first time living on our own. When I first moved on campus, I realized that I took a lot for granted growing up. At home, my parents made sure that there was food in the house. My mom would do my laundry if I had a super busy day and could not get it done. I had the opportunity to see my grandparents at least every week. There was so much support.

Moving onto campus, I am reminded of how I need to seek assistance. The new environment brings more responsibilities and more things to carry. Responsibilities can easily become burdens when we try to carry them all on our own.

I encourage you to build a community of support around you. Find the people who will be with you through the ups and downs. Find the people who will pray with you and for you. Find the people who share the same values and lean on them. Ask them for help. These are the people that God placed in your life to give you strength. He is never going to let you down; He will always be there for you.

God is almighty. This means that He can do anything. When God is our strength, we can do whatever He gives to us. Matthew 19:26 says, “For God, all things are possible.” Relying on Christ as our strength is the most apparent when we feel helpless or stuck.

Saint Paul says, in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “for whenever I am weak, then I am strong” because “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me,” according to Philippians 4:13. Paradoxically, we are the strongest when we are weak. We can open our hearts and invite Christ in.Let us learn to ask for help and let Christ work through us knowing that His strength is unmatchable.A

Flashback Memories from the MMU Times

By Annie Barkalow/Managing Editor/September 17, 2021

In this new feature, the MMU Times visiting our archives for news of the recent past.

20 years ago, September 2001

Classes continue despite terrorist attacks

September 11, 2001 was a day of tragedy and sorrow. All over the country, people were glued to their tv sets as the horrific terrorist acts unfolded in New York and Washington. Malls closed down, businesses called it quits for the day, and students were sent home from school. Yet Mount Mercy College stayed open.

“On one hand, it’s important to go on with everyday life. After all, the point of terrorism is to shut down a country. We shouldn’t let them succeed,” commented junior Noreen Bush. “On the other hand, it was so tragic that everything else seemed so futile and unimportant. Classes were so pointless.”

Sophomore Annie Thompson agreed, saying, “Knowing that people were dying made learning about math equations seem so insignificant.”

Luke Slaymaker awarded inaugural Pace Setter

A sophomore from Center Point, Iowa, is the Mount Mercy Times’ pace setter for the month of September. Luke has been dominating the men’s golf team so far this year, leading the Mustangs to a record of 5-0 this season. At the Winona State University Invitational, Luke finished 2nd overall and nearly tied the tournament record by shooting 77 on the first day and 71 on the second day.

Ten years ago, September 14, 2011

Flat Catherine travels the worldShe is merely a piece of paper that features a nun wearing a Mercy cross and a mortarboard, but she means more than that. Sheis a representation of Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy. “She is recognition of our roots and values of the women who founded and continue to influence [Mount Mercy],” said Hilery Livengood, director of major and planned gifts.

Flat Catherine debuted at the June 17, 2011 President’s Dinner. Every guest was given a Flat Catherine cutout to send mercy into the world.

In less than three months, Flat Catherine visited 23 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In Iowa she has taken part in many activities on campus, the Mount Mercy Golf Classic, and even RAGBRAI. She has also traveled to Hungary, Panama, Australia, Spain and Ireland, where Flat Catherine was even photographed with a statue of Catherine McAuley.

5 years ago, September 15, 2016

Alumnus to coach Mount Mercy golf teams

Luke Slaymaker will take over the Mount Mercy golf program as the first full-time head women’s and men’s coach after playing in over 80 professional events. He competed at Mount Mercy from 2000-2004, where he was a two-time NAIA all-American and NAIA all-region performer. Slaymaker could not pass up the opportunity to coach at his alma mater and wanted to give back to his sport.

“The people I have met and the places I have been is all due to golf,” Slaymaker said. “I want to pay it forward and help the next generation.” Slaymaker’s teams already competed this year. The Mount Mercy men’s golf team won the Midwest Intercollegiate Open and the Clarke Fall Invitational. The women’s team finished second in the Early Bird classic.

MMU’ s Newest Game Room

By Annie Barkalow/Managing Editor/ September 17, 2021

A new space for students wishing to hone their gaming skills and relax between classes is open. The Procrastination Station, Regina 50, created by the Gaming Club, lets students dock their cares at the foot of an 80-inch TV screen.

Adam Czajka, president of the Gaming Club, said open access and privacy were the driving factors behind creating a separate space for games.“

In the UC (University Center) they had Nintendo Wiis that people could use, but they (students) never knew you could actually use it,” he said. “You had to rent out the controllers, you had to do all this other stuff in order to even use them.”

Privacy was the other factor. “In the UC you got all these windows, you got the UC Center, you’ve got the caf, you got all these eyes that could be on you and your pals playing games, and for some, that can be highly intimidating,” Czajka said. He also said that time-consuming board games such as Dungeons and Dragons had to compete for space, and having a designated room give students the access and privacy needed to play.

The 24-hour Procrastination Station has a Nintendo Switch and PS4. Popular games on the Switch are Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart, and Mario Party, along with FIFA and Madden NFL on the PS4. With only one TV screen, “it’s a free-for-all or who gets there first,” said Czajka, who added that having multiple screens with multiple games going on simultaneously “can get really difficult, really quickly” in terms of distraction and competing electrical outlets.

For those who get to the video games too late, there’s also an arcade cabinet with vintage games, as well as a variety of board games. Most of these were from personal collections of Gaming Club members, or obtained with funds from the Student Government Association (SGA).

Emma Lantz, SGA president, said in an email the SGA was happy to assist getting funds for the room so students could have a space “where they can play video games, find a community, and unwind from the stress of school.”

“Gaming Club formulated the idea and then submitted a funds request to SGA, which we approved, and they have spent the summer working with student services and SGA to bring the space from a simple idea to a community space for all,” said Lantz.

“We hope this gives everyone the opportunity to enjoy a new resource on campus.”Czajka said in addition to SGA, Nate Klein, VP for student success, was a huge help in getting the idea off the ground.

“He pretty much helped us increase the scope (that) it got to, because it was not going to be as outrageous as it is now.”

“I told them to think big and outside the box,” said Klein in an email. “We have so many students that play video games or groups that play board games in meeting rooms randomly around campus, so we wanted to create a space for gamers to have a sense of community and connect with each other versus just being in their room.Also, since we already have a game room with a pool and ping-pong table, we didn’t want people to get confused, so why not call it what it truly is and have a bit of fun with it, hence the Procrastination Station.”

The Prom – High School Musical Meets LGBTQ+

By Viktorja K Heires/News Editor/Jan. 22,2021

“The Prom” is a musical comedy adapted from the Broadway play of the same name.  It follows two Broadway celebrities along with a chorus girl and struggling actor/bartender who go looking for a cause célèbre. After several negative reviews about two of them cause their play to be closed after opening night, the group stumbles upon the story of a young high schooler, Emma, whose school PTA has decided to cancel prom in order to prevent her from bringing her girlfriend to the event.

The cancellation of prom causes tension among the students, who take out their frustrations on Emma who they see as the reason prom was canceled, rather than their own bigotry.

Having found their social justice cause to get behind, Dee Dee Allen (Meryl Streep), Barry Glickman (James Corden), Angie Dickinson (Nicole Kidman), and Trent Oliver (Andrew Rannells) make their way to Edgewater, Indiana to save prom and show their Broadway critics that they are good people.

Their hearts are in the right place, though they occasionally do more harm than good, as the town of Edgewater is not ready to face its intolerance of those who are different.

Keegan-Michael Key plays the role of Principal Hawkins, who is on Emma’s side and at odds with the PTA over their lack of support for an inclusive prom.  Ariana DeBose stars opposite Jo Ellen Pellman’s Emma as her still-in-the-closet girlfriend, Alyssa. 

A large portion of the music is upbeat and catchy but there are also some ballads interspersed throughout. The variation makes watching “The Prom” a delightful experience.

I also like the use of color in the wardrobe of the various characters to indicate how they see themselves and how they are seen by others.  In the initial scene, the characters of Dee Dee, Angie, and Barry are wearing outfits that are glittered to the nines, eye-catching.  As the movie progresses and the characters engage in introspection and self-growth, their outfits start to match those changes, both in colors and overall “tone”.

Personally, I rank this musical up there with the original “Hairspray” for fun, colorful costumes and backdrops, as well as for the conflicts, plot-twists, and resolutions.

I give it 3.5 popcorn buckets out of five.

Shondaland Strikes Gold with Scandalous Period Piece

By Jada Veasey/Senior Opinion Editor/Jan. 22, 2021

Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock for the past few weeks, you’ve probably heard of Netflix’s latest original series, “Bridgerton.” The series was released on Christmas Day and has become something of an internet sensation since it hit the small screen.

“Bridgerton” is based on a series of romance novels by best-selling author Julia Quinn. The show is a period drama set during the regency era of England in the early 1800s. The steamy series is centered around Daphne Bridgerton, the eldest daughter of a widowed viscountess. As Daphne makes her debut into society, the Queen declares the young debutante to be the diamond of the season, meaning that Daphne will be expected to snag an impressive husband in the marriage mart.

The series’ many interesting balls, galas, and mishaps are narrated through the voice of a near-omnipresent Lady Whistledown, a popular London gossip columnist. It’s like “Gossip Girl,” only set in the 1800s.

As Daphne deals with suitors and then a lack of them, she wonders if true love will ever find her. In an attempt to intruige more potential suitors, Daphne ends up in a strange alliance with a mysterious and handsome Duke. The question that drives the beginning of the series is whether their pretend love affair could morph into a real one.

“Bridgerton” is a Shondaland production. Many people may recognize Shondaland as being the production company of one of televisions most beloved showrunners, Shonda Rhimes, creator of both “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal.” Rhimes and her company are certainly not strangers to success, but “Bridgerton” is a new kind of win for Rhimes. It is binge-watchable and meant for streaming, while her other hits play on live traditional television. It is exciting to watch as Rhimes and her company explore new parts of the entertainment market.

While the plot alone is enough to keep viewers interested, “Bridgerton” has many other exciting elements as well. The costuming is immaculate, full of empire-waisted ballgowns, impressive hair accessories, and historically accurate waistcoats. The series’ diverse cast is lovely, too. Several series regulars, including Queen Charlotte, are played by people of color. The choice of diverse casting was a good one; it helps “Bridegerton” to stand out from other period dramas.

The cast is also rather unremarkable in the fact that no huge celebrities (except for Julie Andrews, who plays the narrator and is never seen on screen) are involved. Of course, many members of the cast are famous in their own rights, but none of them are household names. Standout performances are done by Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington, Rege-Jean Page as the Duke of Hastings, and Claudia Jessie as Eloise Bridgerton.

Overall, “Bridgerton” is incredibly fun watch. If you’re a period piece fan, a Shonda Rhimes fan, or just a fan of well-done romance in general, then this series is for you. I give it five stars out of five, and I can’t wait for them to film season two.

Chocolate Bombs by MMU Writer Raise Over $1,700

Madelyn Orton poses outside of a target after another supply run for her hot chocolate bombs (left). The hot chocolate bombs (center) have received a lot of attention, as all proceeds go to the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree. Orton has donated over 75 gifts (right). (Madelyn Orton/Contributed)

By Makenna Coates/Staff Writer/Dec. 8, 2020 

Spreading joy this holiday season is something that Madelyn Orton, a 2020 alumna, is doing in the community. Orton graduated from Mount Mercy with a BA in English and verbal communications. She currently works at Mount Mercy as the Writer/Content Strategist in the Marketing & Communications department. 

For some families Christmas is a magical season, but Orton recognized that there are a lot of parents and families who dread this time of year.  

“It hurts my heart to know there are parents who feel guilty for not being able to give their kids a Christmas morning they deserve,” Orton said. “While the toys under the tree isn’t what Christmas is all about, spreading joy and giving to others is.” 

With this thought in mind, Orton began selling hot chocolate bombs and giving all the proceeds to the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree. She posted it on her Facebook profile and explained exactly where the proceeds would go. Orton was expecting to sell 25 to 50. 

The orders and donations immediately started to flow. And overflow. 

“As of right now, I am up to 364 hot chocolate bombs sold,” Orton said. “I had to scrap my simple loose-leaf “order-sheet” for a complex Excel document to keep track of them all.” 

The hot chocolate bombs are $4 each. So far, she has raised over $1,700 and has purchased over 75 gifts for kids and tweens in Linn County, Lee County, and Johnson County. 

“Making them (hot chocolate bombs) was a learning curve,” Orton said. “They are so delicate and of course chocolate melts, so I have to work quickly and gingerly.” 

Orton typically makes about 30 every evening and makes deliveries when she has about five orders compiled. 

As of Dec. 3, she had used 20 pounds of chocolate, five bags of mini marshmallows, and 62 cups of hot chocolate mix. 

With a lot more shopping to do, Orton doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon. In fact, she plans to make deliveries to her hometown, Fort Madison, later this month. 

Latest Borat Film Not for the Faint of Heart

By Viktorja K Heires/News Editor/Dec. 8, 2020 

Borat is back after a 14-year absence. Sacha Baron Cohen’s new mockumentary comedy is set during the coronavirus pandemic and 2020 presidential campaign. Filmed and produced in secret earlier this year, it was released on Amazon Prime on Oct. 23. 

In the opening of the film, we find Borat, the fictious and famous Kazakhstani journalist played by Baron Cohen (also seen in “Borat,” “Bruno,” and “The Dictator”) being released from a gulag and sent back to “the US & A” to give a gift to Vice President Pence (a pet monkey) as a bribe to help restore his home country to its former glory. 

As can be expected from one of Baron Cohen’s films, hijinks ensue almost immediately upon his arrival in America when he discovers that his daughter has stowed away on the journey and has, in fact, eaten the gift he was to give to Pence. 

Borat finds himself recognized and asked for autographs by fans who recognized him from the first film, and so much of the rest of the movie sees Borat in disguise trying to be an “average” American male complete with a beard and skaterboi haircut. 

Throughout the film, Borat and his daughter, Tutar, seemingly fumble their way from encounter to encounter, for all intents and purposes appearing to be dull-witted tourists. In every situation, they create on pointe improv against the unwitting people who find themselves in their presence. 

As with the first Borat film, only Baron Cohen and his co-star Maria Bakalova know what’s going on, giving the movie a sort of “Candid Camera” or “Punked” feel. Part of the comedy comes from the intentional misuse of their broken English when interacting with the people they encounter 

Part of the attraction of the Borat films is that the character comes across as so naïve and awkward that even though they are on camera, people let their guards down and start showing their true colors. Borat meets up with people who are certain COVID is a hoax, manages to make it on stage to sing at a gun rally in DC, and even crashes Pence’s speech at a CPAC rally. 

Baron Cohen seems to enjoy finding ways to get people to be their true selves in order to see what they really think about things, and what they will say when they think they won’t be challenged by anyone, especially in politically charged atmospheres. 

There are a lot of “did he seriously just do that?” moments making this film not for the faint of heart or easily offended. Although it will be easy for some to dismiss this as an offensive film that should be “cancelled,” there is a lot more at play that is politically en pointe and much-needed social commentary beneath the surface. 

I give this raucous comedy 4 popcorn buckets out of 5. 

Taylor Swift Shines in New Disney Plus Documentary

By Jada Veasey/Senior Opinion Editor/Dec. 8, 2020 

A new Taylor Swift documentary was not on my 2020 bingo card, but neither was a new Taylor Swift album. This year has been full of surprises. Most have them have been bad ones, but I’m glad nice ones have been thrown in the mix as well.  

Swift dropped her latest album, “Folklore,” back in July. The album quite literally came out of nowhere, it was brought into the world less than a year after Swift’s previous record, “Lover.” 

Swift is an artist who tends to release music on a predictable schedule. She usually drops an album every two years. Consistency went out the window in 2020, though. And who can blame her? 

“Folklore” is the brainchild of Swift, Aaron Dessner (The National) and Jack Atononoff (Bleachers). It was written and produced during the pandemic, and it shows. The album is a unique blend of sad yet hopeful music with Swift’s trademark narrative lyrics.  

Apparently dropping a surprise album was not enough for Swift, because she then decided to drop a surprise documentary as well. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, “Taylor Swift Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions” was released on Disney Plus. 

This is far from Swift’s first documentary rodeo. Several of her world-tour concerts have been made into documentaries for both Netflix and Apple Music. The process of creating 2019’s “Lover” album was documented in Netflix’s “Miss Americana.” 

The “Folklore” documentary is a new angle for Swift, though. It’s not a concert per se; it’s a series of live recorded studio sessions. Swift sings and occasionally plays piano or guitar, Antonoff and Dessner provide additional instrumentation when necessary. As the three play though the entire album (including a bonus track), they also talk about the inspiration and the feelings behind each song.  

The documentary is laid back and interesting to watch. Obviously, it was filmed during a pandemic, so guest stars are kept to a minimum, they video in when needed. The recording was done on a beautiful property, which I found very fitting for such a beautiful album. 

I’d recommend this documentary to anyone who likes Taylor Swift, even just a little bit. Getting to see how such a well-known artist goes through the creative process is both fascinating and entertaining.  

‘Postcard Killings’ Not What It Could Be

By Viktorja K Heires/News Editor/Dec. 2, 2020

In “The Postcard Killings,” a pair of serial killers are stalking honeymooning newlyweds as they make their way through Europe. Inspired by classic and well-known paintings, the pair leave their victims in sadistic poses. They further taunt the police and journalists by sending postcards days before they kill, each one containing a cryptic message.

American detective Jacob Kanon (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who is also known for his roles in “The Watchmen” and “The Walking Dead”) flies to Europe to help solve the case after his own daughter and her new husband fall victim to the killers.

Kanon is assisted with his investigation by an American reporter in Sweden, Dessie Lombard (played by Cush Jumbo from TV’s “The Good Wife” and “The Good Fight”) and inspector Klau Bublitz (Joachim Krol) when it becomes clear that the perpetrators are moving throughout European cities, and the local authorities don’t take him seriously.

The first half of the movie develops slowly, being driven by character interactions and dialogue, rather than action. In the second half, the action speeds up as Kanon, Dessie, and Bublitz race against the clock to find the killers before they commit their ultimate crime.

The movie is based on the novel of the same name by Liza Marklund and James Patterson, and Marklund contributed to the screenplay.

Overall, the film is okay but not fantastic. There are a few small plot points that are not fully explained and seem to happen quite suddenly, catapulting the audience into the second half.

There are also a couple spots where the dialogue feels stunted. If not for that, this could have been a great slow burn flick, because there are some solid plot twists that you won’t see coming, unless of course you’ve read the book.

I’d give this film 3 popcorn buckets out of 5.

Hank Green Book Does Not Disappoint

By Jada Veasey/Senior Opinion Editor/Dec. 12, 2020

Please don’t judge me too harshly; I’m about to review a book that came out in July. Yes, July, four whole months ago. In my defense, I purchased and started this book as soon as it was released, it just took a long time to find the focus to finish it. “Just pandemic things,” or whatever.

Hank Green’s latest novel, “A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor,” did not disappoint. The book is the sequel to Green’s 2018 “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing,” which I was dazzled by then and continue to love re-reading now.

Since Green impressed me so much with his debut novel, I went into its sequel with pretty high expectations. I hoped to be just as invested in the second book in the series as I was in the first, and I certainly was.

Cover of Hank Green’s latest novel.

In fact, I feel that Green may have accomplished an incredible and elusive feat – the sequel might actually be better than the original installment. Somewhere in the distance I can feel George Lucas oozing with jealousy. Good.

In “A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor,” readers are re-introduced to most of the last novel’s main characters – Maya, Andy, Miranda, and the hilariously named April May. The previous book ended on a cliff-hanger of sorts, and Green takes his sweet time resolving it.

The slow answering of the question, “What really happened to April May?” is part of what makes this book so interesting. Over the course of the novel, bits and pieces of what happened to April are revealed, but you have to keep reading and stay in the story to truly get to the bottom of just what happened.

The plot revolves around many of the issues that the first book touched on – the dangers of technology, the implication that humans aren’t alone in the universe, and how navigating love and friendship in the 21st century can be tricky sometimes.

Like “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing,” Green’s latest work also touches upon just what it means to be famous in a society fueled largely by social media.

If anyone would understand what it means to be an internet celebrity, it’s Hank Green. He has a giant following on YouTube, founded VidCon, and is now one of the most popular creators on Tik Tok. It is always refreshing to read a take on the impact of the power of social media that isn’t just “gosh, kids and their dang phones these days!”

One of my favorite parts of this book was Green’s devotion to giving each of the main characters near equal time on the page.

The story flip flops between the viewpoints of the primary cast of characters. One of Green’s many writing talents is his ability to make the voices of each character sound different from each other, and it makes for a fun reading experience. Every character has their own way of speaking and telling their part of the story.

Overall, I think “A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor” is a wonderful piece of literature. I give it 5 out of 5 stars. I don’t think I’ve ever given out a perfect score, but this book is just that interesting.

ISSUE 12

Work Study Students Struggle With Job Changes

By Ekaterina Rangelova/Staff Writer/May 14, 2020

As a work study student at Mount Mercy, I can speak of the struggle we all went through when the emergency situation was initially announced. Experiencing the fear of losing my job created a lot of stress. As an international student, contemplation about how I would get through this in the United States all alone was not easy.

For some of us, travelling was and still is not an option, and making a profit to support our changing lifestyle has been met with difficulties. And while some places on campus are closed for working, such as the gym and the cafeteria, others are still open and allow students to work and make money needed for their living.

 As an international student, I rely solely on myself for support due to my current circumstances, and it is crucial for me to sustain my job in our school library. We have kept on working on various tasks online, making sure our website is up to date and working on projects that would be implemented in the near future. 

Students working for facilities have also been active since the pandemic started. 

“We need to stand six feet apart while working with others and we need to wear face masks and gloves,” said Sophie Feahn, a sophomore criminal justice major. “Facilities has been flexible and we can go to work when we want and still get the job done.”

Others have also been working online since the transition started. Franchelie Sonia Mounzeo Mampassi, a senior nursing major, used to work in Student Services and is now taking the online transition with difficulty.

“Everything that I have been doing before I don’t do anymore because I was mostly engaged with students. But now I have been making posters and checking on students. I don’t feel as engaged as I was before,” she said. 

For some, work study has remained the same, while for others it has taken some adjustment. Students remain hopeful that they will keep their current positions until the pandemic is over.

Faith on the Hill: Surround Yourself with God to Keep the Faith in Isolation

By Kasey Kaimann/Columnist/May 14,2020

Since we are not in each other’s physical presence, I figured it was fitting to write about the thing that’s taking up most of our time: Media and entertainment. Whether that be TV shows, YouTube, music, podcasts, social media, or whatever it may be, I think it’s safe to say that we are all on it.

As a Christian, it’s important to be mindful of what I am consuming. I don’t know about you, but I have found that it is super easy to consume things that aren’t so good for me. There are times I get off social media angier and more exhausted than when I got on it. This can be really toxic, especially if this is the only voice we are consuming during our day.

If it is, then it’s time to start consuming the word of God again. Scripture is so important because it feeds us truth and life. Scripture gives us the tools to fight the things we hear from the world. And the less we hear what the world is saying, the less battling we have to do. 

This is an important topic because what we consume affects who we are. Whether you agree with me or not, everything you see and hear matters. I’ve heard many people tell me that they are able to watch something bad but not be affected by it. This is simply not true. Submitting to this lie is really just a win for the devil because that’s how he works. He is sneaky and makes you think there is no harm, when there really is. 

There’s a popular quote that says you become the average person of the top five people you hang out with. For example, if I don’t cuss, but go into an environment for a period of time surrounded by people who cuss constantly, I can guarantee you, it’ll be a hard fight to not cuss occasionally. This goes to show that the things we consume truly do affect us. 

If we want to truly live out our calling as Christians, then everything we do must be in accordance with our pursuit of the Lord. We should be striving to glorify the Lord in all things. This includes media and entertainment. If what we watch and listen to is not bringing us closer to Christ, then is it really worth listening to?

 I’m not saying all media and entertainment are bad. But what I am saying is that we should examine what we take in and ask ourselves if it’s bringing us to God. So today, I invite you to join me in not partaking in shows that objectify humans, in not listening to secular music, in not following people on Instagram that lead me to sin. I invite you to join me in not allowing Satan to get in my head. I invite you to join me in opening God’s word and striving to care only about what He says.

ISSUE 10

Hamen, Burke Henderson Receive Women of Achievement Award

By Courtney Hoffman/Campus Editor

Since the fall of 2017, HER Magazine, a publication of the Gazette, has focused on showcasing accomplished women in business in Eastern Iowa. Now, at the beginning of 2020, two Mount Mercy women have become honorees of the Woman of Achievement Award.

Mount Mercy President Laurie Hamen and Keesha Burke-Henderson, director of diversity and international student success, both say they’re honored to be recipients. 

“There’s a lot of really talented, wonderful women who have received these awards,” Hamen said. “I’m happy to be among them.” 

Burke-Henderson says she feels “very humbled” that she was considered.

“I have only been here for a year and know many in the community that are doing great work,” she said. “It feels humbling and an honor to be among women that are so great at what they do, including President Hamen, and to represent Mount Mercy University in a positive way.”

Hamen, proud of all that Mount Mercy has been able to accomplish in her time at the institution, says she can’t possibly take credit for all of it.

“I think there are certain things that the institution has done; sometimes those things are attributed to the leader when they actually should be attributed to the leader and the people that have truly done a tremendous amount of work to make those things happen,” she said.

Though Hamen is particularly proud of the recently built athletic center, Wente Education Center, and doctoral programs Mount Mercy has added, she thanks all of the donations, departments, faculty and staff that have put so much work in to help make it happen.

“Working at Mount Mercy is the biggest honor of my life. It’s been a tremendous opportunity. Our faculty and staff are just tremendously talented and it’s been fantastic,” she said. “I would say my biggest accomplishment really is just having the ability to lead that group of people over the last six years. It’s been wonderful.”

Burke-Henderson cites a natural curiosity about a variety of subjects and their application to different people and social groups, and a whole-hearted approach to everything she does, as her best assets. 

“Without question, whatever the task or whomever I am responsible for, I just want to do the best I am able and then move past that limit,” she said. “My gift is translating complex ideas into action steps. As a professional, I hope that makes a difference in helping people—especially the students I serve—have the tools they need to fulfill their goals.”

Hamen says she didn’t think much about how female role models and faculty members helped her succeed when she was in college, but looking back now, she attributes her success to their presence in her life.

“If young women had mentors or are able to connect with people who have done some really important things—and on our campus there’s an awful lot of people who have done important things—I think they look at their horizons differently because of the mentorship and sponsorship that they get from role models,” she said.

“I wouldn’t be sitting in the seat I’m sitting in or getting this award or being the president of Mount Mercy without the people who have influenced my life, particularly women who have been in my life and paved the way.”

The HER award series was set to include a speaker series and luncheon panel discussion including Hamen in April, which has currently been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. An awards ceremony is currently set for June.

In addition to this, each woman is profiled in the Fall HER Women in Business Magazine. To read Laurie Hamen’s profile, find the Spring 2020 issue of HER at https://her.today/.

Opinion/Faith on the Hill

Remember that You Are Never Completely Alone

By Kasey Kaimann/Columnist

According to several references, college students experience a tremendous amount of loneliness. The stats are crazy high! And I don’t know what your situation is, but perhaps you are experiencing even more loneliness during this time of social distancing and isolation.

If this is you, I’m here to remind you of a reality that I’m almost most sure you haven’t heard recently.  I’m here to remind you of the spiritual world, specifically the angels that surround you. 

From Wikimedia commons, angel statue at Vatican. Image was originally posted to Flickr by Shoes on Wires at https://www.flickr.com/photos/9290458@N07/3086617192.

If you are a Christian and believe everything in the Bible, you know angels are real. But do you really believe in angels? Do you really believe there are spiritual beings flowing in and out of your space protecting, guiding and interceding for you?

In all honesty, I think this is a belief that gets overlooked. It’s hard for us to imagine the reality of angels when our society gives us images of angels that consist of chubby babies floating around with wings. If this is the image you have, I can see how you might doubt angels’ existence. But this is certainly not what angels are.

According to scripture, they are terrifying! Almost every time someone from scripture encountered an angel, the first words out of the angels’ mouth are, “Be not afraid.” Angels are truly huge, terrifying, mighty, mystical and magnificent beings. They are only terrifying because of the amount of God’s glory that shines through them. And each one of us has an angel that guards us and never leaves us alone. Did you catch that? We are never alone. Our angel is always there beside us. 

We are surrounded by an entire spiritual world—a world with angels everywhere and saints constantly interceding for us. This world is hard for us to partake in since we can’t physically see it, unless of course you have that spiritual gift. 

So, during this time of the unknown amid this craziness, in the endless amounts of free time, I want to encourage you to think of these questions: 

When was the last time you thought of your guardian angel? 

What do you think the spiritual world around us looks like? 

When’s the last time you prayed to your guardian angel? And I don’t mean saying that short cute little prayer, but actually talking to your guardian angel as if they were your friend. I want to encourage you to get to know your guardian angel, because I mean after all, they were assigned to you for a reason!

It makes me wonder that if we truly believed in the angels that surround us, how much less lonely we would feel. How much more joy, comfort and love would we feel if we truly believed what scripture tells us? So, let this be your reminder.

The reality is that there is a spiritual world. The reality is that angels surround you. The reality is that you truly are not alone. 

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