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.