Taking photos lets Mustang share his creative impulses

By Joselyn Hildebrand/Feature Editor/Jan. 16, 2023

Jordan Smith, a sophomore originally from Philadelphia, says his photography helps him follow in the footsteps of his father. He shares the film images he produces on Instagram. (Times photos by Joselyn Hildebrand)

Sophomore Jordan Smith’s passion for photography has given him a chance to express himself and share his art and creativity with the world. With plans to enter the athletic training field as an exercise science major, he still follows his father’s footsteps in photography. Smith is originally from Philadelphia but comes to Mount Mercy from Rockford, Illinois.

“My passion for photography is virtually in my blood. My dad has been a professional digital photographer for years and has made some great work, and I wanted to take after him but with my own twist,” Smith said.

After experimenting with various types of cameras throughout his years, Smith didn’t begin to take photography seriously until his freshman year of college. Another enticing factor for starting the hobby was a simple scroll through social media.

“I would see pictures that I would think were cool and wanted to recreate them with my own style,” Smith said.

The simplicity behind film is his favorite part. With film, there is no editing or post-production.

“You take a picture and it’s gone in a fleeting moment… I love that you can make some-thing so mundane and boring into a picture that can last forever and make people feel things.” Smith said.

Smith captures a moment with his camera. (Times photo by Joselyn Hildebrand)

Smith’s photography account on Instagram is his outlet to share his creativity with his community. It began growing more as he featured images from photoshoots with fellow Mount Mercy students.

“@jordysvisuals has been a hub for all my work to go and for everyone to see. I don’t really post on there to get likes or notoriety… I hope my followers gain inspiration and just pure entertainment from my account. I also hope that they view it as an extension of me and an insight into my creative mind.”

Smith started photography with the urge to act on his creativity. He has one message for anyone who might be looking for that creativity in their lives.

“I would like to let everyone know to act on any urge you have to create anything. Don’t worry about failure, failure is just an opportunity to try something else and be good at that.”

Stepping into leadership

Johnson elected president of class

First-year student Brooklyn Johnson is already taking on some leadership roles on the Hill.

By Joselyn Hildebrand/Feature Editor/Nov. 10, 2022

Brooklyn Johnson began her first year of college just under three months ago but is already making moves towards her goals.

Johnson is a freshman social work major, from Davenport, Iowa. In a competitive race to be 2026 class president, she promoted her name and mission to earn the win. She is also the treasurer of BSU and a Project Connect Student. In addition to being involved on campus, she is a student-athlete on track and field team. 

Mount Mercy was the first college visit she attended. 

“My mom told me to not get so excited for the first visit because I’m going to go visit multiple colleges, but I went to a few other colleges and every other school just felt like people were just going to class and back to their dorm room… there was no type of community,” Johnson said. “Yet here, I saw students sitting in the UC and the cafeteria. It seemed like people were actually getting to know each other.”

Brooklyn Johnson stands on the Rohde Family Plaza.

Her love for the community at MMU flourished once she realized the many possibilities here. She’s taken multiple steps in getting involved in leadership early on in her college career. She notes she has had a lot of inspiration and support from peers along the way.

“People in my church or at school, like my teachers, have said to me, ‘people are really influenced by you and want to follow you,’” Johnson said. “I don’t have a problem saying how I feel. I feel like my feelings are valid and if people don’t like that, then they don’t… I don’t want to be a bossy person. I do like being in charge, I feel like it makes me think about things. When you are a leader, you have to think about all of the decisions you’re making. It makes me think about what I am doing, who I am representing and a little more about my responsibilities.”

However, Johnson also realizes that at a predominantly white institution, some of her leadership roles as a strong woman of color may come with some criticism. When reflecting on the days leading up to the class president election, she feels like some may have not taken her as seriously as she hoped. 

“I feel like some people might’ve thought I was coming off aggressive but genuinely, I just wanted to get my name out there and people to know who I am,” she said. “I might not be what they grew up around, so it can be hard to have conversations with other people or maybe they don’t know what questions to ask me but I’m glad that I could talk to so many people.”

Mattie Chelleen, Rylee Hartig, Brooklyn Johnson and Houston Hamlett worked together in Project Connect this summer.

Some of her short-term goals for the university include growing student sections at sporting events, increased current student interaction with prospective students on visit days, and overall ensuring that MMU is a safe space for everyone.

Johnson especially hopes more students will begin to attend BSU meetings.

“BSU might seem very distinct, like only people of color can attend, but I want to make sure everyone knows it’s a safe place for everybody.” Johnson said. “You can come to just sit in here and have conversations or become educated and mindful about the things people experience on campus. We put a lot of thought and effort into what we do, and it has a great outcome,”

Maintaining social balance is key. With the cold winter months coming, there is one thing she wanted students to remember.

“It’s important now that it’s getting cold outside and people start staying in their rooms more, to get out on campus, talk to people in the UC,” she said. “Even though you’re not really at home, when you’re here this is your home, so make the best of it.”

Johnson’s plans after graduation mirror work she’s done in the past engaging with children.

“Back home, I was a counselor at a summer camp. I worked with fourth to sixth graders. I like that age range because I feel like even though they are so young, they still say things that you really have to think about. They don’t even really know if their home situation is bad or not, they just need to ask questions and have a person to talk to. They have feelings, and they’re going through stuff, so I just want to be that outlet for them.”

Soul Patch: Clark-Bridges says planting helps heal her

Librarian Robyn Clark-Bridges has tended the gardens by Busse Library since she planted some hostas from her home garden there in 2008. Clark-Bridges has since become an official Master Gardener. She is also a neighborhood Tree Captain for the Cedar Rapids ReLeaf program and Trees Forever, promoting the plantintg of trees to replace those destroyed by the 2020 derecho. The red-leaf tree behind her is a hornbeam, a native tree that can live for a century or more, replacing a short-lived pear tree that had been there. (Times photos by Annie Barkalow)

By Catherine Kratoska/Opinion Editor/Oct. 27, 2022

It all started with a weedy garden, and some hostas.

“I approached facilities. I said, ‘I’ve got a bunch of hostas from home that are hard to kill,’” said Robyn Clark-Bridges, a reference librarian at Mount Mercy University.

Clark-Bridges began her MMU gardening journey in the fall of 2008. She would walk past the bare gardens in front of the Chapel and Library every day for work, so one day she went to facilities to get permission to plant some hostas from her home, which you can still see in front of the Chapel.

“I chose the library and chapel area because I walk by it every day, and it’s important to me to look at things and be happy.”

While Clark-Bridges first began dabbling at gardening as a girl, she wasn’t a gardening expert when she planted those first hostas at MMU. But now, she is literally a Master Gardener, after taking the intense courses from Iowa State University’s county extension program to get that certification in 2010. Since then, she also volunteers at public gardens around the community to keep her Master Gardener title.

What started out as a way to give back to the Mount Mercy community has become so much more to her.

“This garden… has been very instrumental… as part of my healing process.” said Clark-Bridges. As a child, she experienced abuse that she has been working through with a MMU graduate since 2009. Gardening has been a great help in working through her past trauma, using it to help center herself.

She uses another garden analogy to explain her therapy journey and healing process.

“It’s kind of like peeling an onion, there’s more and more and more that I have to remember, more and more and more (of) oh gosh, I thought I’d already worked through that.”

“I think gardening is a very spiritual activity,” said Clark-Bridges. “I also have appreciated being here because when I first interviewed here, I really felt God’s presence.”

Her Christian faith is very important to her, and it influenced her gardening as well. “I started building and every year I brought more into the garden and every year I prayed for God to guide me,” she said.

Clark-Bridges’s Mount Mercy journey has led her to be her happiest and healthiest self. “I am 63 years old… and I’m healthier emotionally than I’ve ever been in my life… and it’s because of Mount Mercy.”

Healing power of art: stained glass helps senior heal from trauma

By Annie Barkalow/Editor-in-Chief/Sept. 27, 2022

Kim Clements didn’t know she was an artist until 10 years ago, when she would take trips to the library with her kids and check out books on stained glass.

“I was always interested in blown glass and mosaics,” said Clements. The idea of taking broken pieces of glass and turning them into something beautiful appealed to her.

“A lot of our lives are like that—we all have a story of brokenness in some way or another,” the senior art major said.

Kim’s own story of brokenness began at a young age when her grandparents died. Her sisters, in and out of group homes while she was growing up, helped her decide early on to be someone her parents could be proud of. Then, in 1999, the unthinkable happened—her sister Beverly was murdered, and her family was never the same.

Several years later, her dad died as well. “I couldn’t imagine life without him,” Clements said.

Clements married at age 19. At age 23, she took in her sister’s children and had her first child at the age of 28. The marriage was not a happy one and she found herself totally reliant on someone who was abusive. When she left, she had a 20-centimeter mass in her stomach, no job and no money, and she would have wound up in a worse situation if not for Waypoint.

“They never made me feel like a victim,” she said. It was as she was getting back on her feet that her passion for glass was reignited, and she enrolled in college to learn more.

“I don’t want to be stuck in the same place. I want to learn, grow,” Clements said. 

“I want to be the best I can be, and we are not promised tomorrow…I’m not always perfect at it, but I always try to live my best life,” she said.

These days, she is in a good place. Her art is evolving and becoming more intentional. “My life has been so broken, and I’ve never felt so safe, loved and happy as I do now,” she said. 

Clements, who deals primarily with stained glass, said she prefers shaping glass over breaking it. In college, she learned about values and lines and was inspired by another artist’s use of stained glass to create portraits. Clements would like to create memorial portraits for others. 

After school, the sky’s the limit. Currently, she runs a food truck on the weekends called “Beverly’s BBQ,” named after her sister, and helps manage properties. At some point, she’d like to give back to the organization that helped her escape her situation and create more art. She has sold some pieces, and one of her creations hangs in a local BBQ joint in Marion—QDog’s.

“I’ve learned that life is short. Love on people who love you, because you don’t know (what will happen).”

Yoga is her form of self-care

By Elaina Sanders/Staff Writer/Sept. 11, 2022

Many students at MMU are very busy and need to relax. 

J’Lyn Knutson, a sophomore exercise science major, is a prime example. From being a full-time student, track and cross-country athlete, participating in countless clubs such as Emmaus, Eco Club, and the Green Bandana Project she is always on the go and has found an outlet for stress in yoga.  

“I have always been involved and was an athlete in high school,” Knutson said. “Mom suggested yoga to me, she was always there with Google (to) look up what I could do to relieve soreness. I really began in freshman year (of high school)–it became my thing the night before a run to stretch using yoga.” 

She explained that it was a ritual to calm herself before a run, similar to how others use a specific routine, meal, or items to achieve good luck. 

Doing yoga when she has free time in her schedule is her form of self-care. 

“Self-care is important even if I’m not very good at it,” she said. She encourages anyone to try yoga and recommended “Yoga with Adrian” on YouTube.  

“Her voice is just so soothing to me . . . since yoga is full of stretching, deep breathing, and meditation it would be great for anyone. I use it to feel my own thoughts,” she said. 

While Knutson is engaged in yoga on her own, there’s no “yoga” club at MMU. 

“I would love to participate in a club but I’m just too busy to lead one,” she said. “I would love to get together with some friend and do yoga outside though, but I would love to get to one of the yoga classes again.” 

The Universe is her Hobby

One Mount Mercy freshman has a fascination with the cosmos, a flare for music and an astounding number of hobbies. 

Clare Bechen has many extracurricular interests, only about half of which point in the direction of her choice to major in outdoor conservation. 

Bechen was inspired to choose her major by a middle school project involving a presentation on a global issue and writing a letter to a notable figure. She chose to present on oil spills and ocean pollution, and she wrote to then-president Barack Obama. 

The lightbulb moment came when he wrote back telling her to stick with it. 

She chose Mount Mercy because it was the only school on her list that offered her desired major and was in the Midwest. Some of her other options were farther away and did not offer music outside of clubs.  

Bechen grew up “surrounded by music” and was determined to keep it in her life. She plays French horn, organ and piano, and says that “people can always tell” when she is at a piano because she habitually plays “Linus and Lucy,” known to most as the Peanuts theme song. 

In the category of non-musical hobbies, Bechen has a sizable list as well. Being fond of Lake Michigan, she is a capable bodysurfer and amateur astronomer. She also enjoys sculpting snow into the shapes of her friends’ favorite animals and is perfectly willing to be out in the cold for multiple consecutive hours to do so. Her love of the outdoors does not round out her collection of hobbies, though— tap dancing and an extensive knowledge of card games also make appearances. 

She credits her wide range of interests to being raised by “the last of the Baby Boomers.” 

Bechen is already planning for graduate school, preferably somewhere near a body of water, and wants to add a minor to go along with outdoor conservation. Which of her many passions will rise to such a rank is anyone’s guess, but she has an abundance of options to choose from. 

Student Poet Aspires to be a Librarian

By Jada Veasey/editor in chief/February 17, 2022

Despite growing up in Cedar Rapids, senior English and psychology major Sierra Earle had not heard of Mount Mercy until they were ready to begin applying to colleges. Earle’s mentor, Renate Bernstein, used to work in Busse Library, and suggested that Earle apply to Mount Mercy. Earle has been a Mustang ever since.  

In their time at Mount Mercy, Earle has been heavily involved with PAHA, Mount Mercy’s student-run literary magazine. Earle says, “I joined the PAHA during my freshman year because I had to work on one of the university’s publications to keep my creative writing scholarship.” Since initially submitting to the PAHA as a freshman, Earle has climbed their way up to the rank of editor.  

Though Earle has thoroughly enjoyed their experiences with PAHA, they recently decided to expand their horizons and pursue an off-campus poetry competition run by Lyrical Iowa. Earle ended up winning the student division of the competition with a poem called “Unnatural.” What makes Earle’s win that much more impressive is the fact that it was the very first writing competition they ever entered.  

“Unnatural” came from a collection of poems Earle wrote as a final project in Dr. Hannah Saltmarsh’s Topics in American Literature Course. Earle said, “The poem draws on a theme that overlaps in ‘Go Tell It on the Mountain’ and ‘Sula.’ That theme being queerness and not exclusively the sexual kind.” They then added, “Materialism, class-stratified urbanization, and dwindling access to natural spaces are all addressed within the poem’s imagery.” 

Earle has helpful advice for other aspiring writers and poets at Mount Mercy. “Read as much as you can and think critically about why the writing works. I would also say that you should find what you know most about, what makes you unique, and start from there.  

 “Stay interested in the people around and you will never run out of things to write about! Also, taking a few English courses doesn’t hurt,” they said. 

After graduation, Earle plans to pursue a master’s degree in library science. Earle has had a lifelong dream of becoming a librarian. They would also like to take the experience they’ve gotten working with the PAHA and an additional multicultural lesbian literary journal called “Sinister Wisdom” and work somewhere within the publishing industry. Above all, though, Earle says that after graduation, “I would say that I do not want my future to be defined by the career that I have.” 

Mount Mercy Junior Shines as an Artist and an Athlete

By Jada Veasey/editor in chief/Nov 11, 2021

Student athletes are often dismissed as ‘just’ being student athletes. Some people forget that they are interesting, awesome, multi-layered people.

Andrew Lorig, junior and member of Mount Mercy’s track team, is certainly a student athlete, but is also much more than that.

Lorig came to Mount Mercy after graduating from high school in Pearl City, Illinois. He settled on Mount Mercy after visiting several other colleges. Lorig found himself drawn to Mount Mercy’s chemistry program, and was particularly dazzled by Dr. Kristopher Keuseman, associate professor of chemistry. “I thought, ‘this guy is awesome,’ and now he’s my professor and mentor,” said Lorig.

Lorig wasted no time getting involved on campus. In addition to running track, he sings in the show choir, serves as the treasurer of Science Club, and recently joined the campus improv group, Begging for Mercy, by accident. “We had a show choir practice and I lingered afterwards,” said Lorig. “It turned into an improv meeting, and now I’m in it.”

Show choir and improv are not where Lorig’s creative pursuits end. He has also played guitar since the age of 15, after taking inspiration from his father. “My dad wanted to be like Bob Dylan when he was younger,” said Lorig. “He recorded two albums!” Though Lorig hasn’t recorded an album of his own, he has performed locally at open mic nights, some of them at Brewhemia, a Newbo coffee shop popular among students at Mount Mercy. He also contributes his guitar talents to the Mount Mercy jazz band.

In addition to his academic, creative, and athletic pursuits, Lorig also manages to juggle employment. He works in the Academic Center for Excellence on campus as a writing tutor and as a chemistry content tutor. Off campus, he works as a barback at a local restaurant.

Of course, his sport is a big part of Lorig’s life as well. He runs mainly 200-meter and 400-meter races. Due to a head and neck injury he sustained in his freshman year, Lorig has yet to compete as a Mustang. He had two surgeries to repair the injury, the second which happened in May 2020. “This will be my first year competing, I’m excited,” said Lorig.

Lorig is a shining example that Mustangs can have it all. You can be involved in academics, athletics, music, and more, and still make it all work.

From Scrubs to Sashes

By Jada Veasey/editor in chief/Oct 28, 2021

Nursing school is not for the faint of heart. Nursing majors have packed schedules and rigorous schoolwork, and the demands of the major can sometimes make it hard for nursing students to be involved in activities outside of classes. Junior nursing major Aubree Driscoll, however, is working hard to make sure she balances school and all of her other involvements.  

Driscoll is no stranger to hard work. She currently has jobs both on and off campus. On campus, Driscoll serves as a peer academic coach and a content tutor in the Academic Center for Excellence and is also a manager for the women’s volleyball team. She also serves as both an orientation leader and a Mustang Welcome leader. Off campus, Driscoll works as a tech in Mercy Medical Center’s float pool.  

Driscoll is also involved in a few registered student organizations on campus. She is involved with Nurses of Vision and Action (NOVA), Dance Marathon, and is the president of the Mount Mercy University Association of Nursing Students (MMUANS), as well as the president of its state parent organization, the Iowa Association of Nursing Students (IANS).  

That all sounds like plenty for one person to juggle, but as the cherry on top of her already daunting list of responsibilities and activities, Driscoll also competes in pageants.  

“I actually became really good at it and passionate about it by mistake,” Driscoll said when asked about her involvement in pageants. A friend of Driscoll’s from her high school Future Farmers of America (FFA) club was involved with pageants and encouraged Driscoll to get involved as well. She competed for Jackson County fair queen the summer before her senior year of high school and won the princess title, and the rest is history.  

Last year, Driscoll won the Iowa title for Miss United States Agriculture. Driscoll said, “you’re required to reign for a year and then compete at the national pageant.” Driscoll competed for the national title in Orlando, Florida, and won first runner up in that competition.  

This past summer, Driscoll decided to pursue the Jackson County fair queen pageant again for the first time since she first competed for that title in high school. In her second attempt, Audrey found success – she was named the 2021 Jackson County fair queen. The title gave her the opportunity to compete for the title of State Fair queen in August. She won second runner up out of 101 participants.  

Driscoll said she loves pageants so much “because of the relationships you make.” She added that she recently “looked into other local pageants, I’m just trying to balance nursing and life right now.” 

Luckily for Driscoll, she has a great resource to lean on when nursing gets overwhelming. Her dad is also a nurse. He completed his nursing program just last year, pursuing nursing as a second career. Driscoll said, “it’s been useful for me to use him as a resource,” and added, “I always have somebody to call!”  

With everything going on in Driscoll’s life, it is important to her that she feels so supported at Mount Mercy. She said, “it’s great just being here, knowing there’s a ton of people who want to see you succeed.”  

Sophomore Heavily Involved on Campus Despite a Bumpy Start 

By Jada Veasey/editor in chief/Sept. 30, 2021

Though her first year on campus was a little strange due to COVID-19 restrictions, sophomore Faith Janaszak has not let that be a setback in getting involved at Mount Mercy. The accounting major is involved in several clubs and activities and is even helping to spearhead a new registered student organization (RSO) on campus –the Green Bandana Project.

The Green Bandana Project originally began as a grassroots movement on the Madison campus of the University of Wisconsin. Since the program’s inception there in 2016, it has spread across the country to other campuses, including here in Iowa at the university of Iowa, Kirkwood Community College, and now, Mount Mercy University.

In Janaszak’s words, the Green Bandana Project is “a mental health awareness and suicide prevention program.” She said it allows people to “act as bridges between someone who is suffering and a professional who can help them.”

Janaszak is currently serving as the new RSO’s treasurer and secretary. Janaszak is no stranger to RSO leadership or to being busy –she also currently serves as the secretary for Emmaus, is a student ambassador, is a resident assistant in Regina Hall, and plays in both the university band and the jazz band.

Janaszak got involved with the organization after Alison Taylor, a friend and now president of the Green Bandana Project, asked if she would like to be involved. Her response was simple, she said, “why wouldn’t I want to be involved with this?” For Janaszak, getting involved with the Green Bandana Project was a no-brainer. She is passionate about mental health, especially since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Janaszak said, “the pandemic hit hard. Being isolated from everyone took a toll.” She also added, “it would have been nice to have a mental health resource that’s more student-based.” She also emphasized that while those involved with the RSO do support their peers, they are not counselors. Instead, they help point students who are struggling in the right direction, so it becomes easier for them to seek professional help.

Once members receive proper training, they will be given green bandanas to carry around on their backpacks to signal to others they are a safe person to talk to. Those with the bandanas will also have cards with resource information for students who are struggling.

Taylor and Janaszak combined their efforts to help make the Green Bandana Project a reality at Mount Mercy. They worked with Jennifer McNabb, who was Janaszak’s freshman year staff mentor, to help get the organization up and running. Together, they completed the executive board, which consists of Sarah Peck, outreach coordinator, Jillian White, co-event coordinator, Cameron Gauthier, co-event coordinator, and Tiara Soeder, marketing coordinator. The RSO’s faculty advisor is psychology professor Dr. Matthew Bejar.

While the RSO is still getting a few things ironed out, Janaszak says they have big plans for the upcoming year. Foundation 2is the organization that will train students on how to advocate for their peers, and the dates for those trainings should be finalized soon. Janaszak also mentioned that the RSO is planning to co-host a walk for mental health with the help of the Council for Student Athletes.

Music student says MMU worth the drive

By Jada Veasey/Managing Editor/September 16

Sam Scheetz goes the distance –quite literally. The sophomore music education major is a commuter, and she drives 45 minutes to campus each day from her hometown of Oxford, Iowa. That drive is worth every minute for Scheetz, because MMU was always where she knew she belonged.

While in high school at Clear Creek Amana, Scheetz participated in a myriad of artistic extracurricular activities. She was in choir, show choir, concert band, marching band, theater, and speech. Scheetz’s love of music and performing drove her to sign up for Mount Mercy’s musical all-state camp for her final two years of high school, and after visiting campus for the camp, Scheetz knew where she wanted to be for college.

Scheetz was attracted to the university’s strong music program, and added, “I thought the campus was pretty, and figured I’d apply.” Scheetz applied and was accepted to another college during her senior year but didn’t even consider attending. She said, “as soon as I found out I was accepted at Mount Mercy, I thought, ‘perfect!’”Scheetz is involved in choir, show choir, jazz choir and acapella club. That means she participates in every vocal ensemble Mount Mercy offers. Her preferred performance space on campus is Stello Hall. “It’s gorgeous,” she said. “It just sounds heavenly.”

The combination of Mount Mercy’s strong education program and excellent music program is one of Scheetz’s favorite things about campus. As the oldest of three children, Scheetz spent much of middle school and high school teaching things to her younger siblings and says she has wanted to be a teacher for “at least 10 years.”

Scheetz is getting a jumpstart on her education career as an undergraduate, as she works 25 hours a week in before-and-after-school programs, as well as assisting with lesson plans. She currently works for three elementary schools, and said she has worked at nearly every school in both the Iowa City Community School District and the Clear Creek Amana Community School District.

She believes her early exposure to the field of education will help her once she becomes a teacher. Scheetz said, “I’ve been put in more difficult situations with kids that have needed help. I know it will be helpful to me in the long run, but it is hard to see children in these heartbreaking situations.”

It is clear that Scheetz is passionate about music and teaching. Her varied experiences on and off campus are preparing her for her career.