These recent grads are crushing it!

Sarah Mayer with Herky graduation statueSarah Mayer (BA/BS 2015, Spanish; Biochemistry)
(Fulbright award winner)

Age: 23

What I did with my Fulbright award: I was an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in Barranquilla, Colombia, working with college students at the Universidad Simón Bolívar.

My best moment since arriving overseas: Experiencing the Carnaval of Barranquilla, the #2 carnaval outside of Rio de Janeiro. The entire city had an amazing energy to it and I felt like I really got to experience the soul of my adoptive city.

Favorite CLAS academic experience: Donna Parson's Harry Potter class!

Advice for undergraduates: I'm a medical student now, so I spent most of my undergrad experience laser-focused on that goal. I'm so glad that I decided to major in Spanish, too, or I never would have gotten my Fulbright opportunity. If you think something is interesting, make room for it, because it can open doors to experiences that will make you even better prepared for your ultimate goals.   Added August 2016

Acadia RobertsAcacia Roberts (BA 2014, Linguistics/French)
(Fulbright award winner)

Age: 24

What I’m doing with my Fulbright award: I was an English Teaching Assistant at Mohamad V University in the English Literature Department, and then I was a Business English Teacher at École des Sciences de L'Information. Both universities are in Rabat, Morocco. I'm still teaching Business English at l'ESI. 

One thing I’ve learned so far: When you approach every situation with a positive outlook, it makes everything better, even if it's only your own point of view that you can control. This can be really difficult at times, but it is so rewarding! In my Fulbright experience I faced some issues that were unprecedented, but ultimately I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to make all these special memories and learn so much in my time here.

Favorite CLAS academic experience: Studying linguistics was really fun for me - especially phonetics. It really changed the way I look at language and how I try to learn languages now. I also loved every one of my Arabic classes with Denes Gazsi! He's a great professor and really understands the language learning process. 

Advice for undergraduates: People skills/communication skills seem to be more important than everything else that I learned in undergrad. You should definitely work hard in your courses, but you should also seek out professors that you admire and get to know them. Anyone can get good grades but not everyone has empathy and compassion, and sometimes you really have to push yourself outside of your comfort zone to be a more complete person. Being able to relate to people has helped me in so many situations in my Fulbright experience and in life!   Added August 2016

Julia Julstrom-Agoyo

Julia Julstrom-Agoyo (BA 2015, International Studies)
(Fulbright award winner)

Age: 23

What I’m doing with my Fulbright award: English Teaching Assistantship (ETA): I am classroom teaching at the secondary school level, organizing speaking-focused English camps and programs, and leading after school clubs and activities based on environmentalism, geography/culture, art and dance.

My best moment since arriving overseas: One of my highlights would have to be taking five students to a U.S. Embassy-sponsored social entrepreneurship camp where my students developed a plan to tackle our school's littering and recycling problem. The camp itself was a great experience for both the students and myself and working with them in the project implementation phase these last few months has been invaluable for me. Other highlights usually present themselves while simply spending time with students outside of formal classroom teaching: lunchtime in the school cafeteria, cycling around town on the weekends, breaking fast at McDonald's during Ramadan....

Favorite CLAS academic experience: Internship at the UI Center for Human Rights: I (1) got to to apply what I learned in my human rights courses while still in school and (2) learned that working within my field of choice was possible. It also never felt like work because I enjoyed everything I got to do so much.

Advice for undergraduates: Don't overwhelm yourself, but do make yourself aware of the vast amount of incredible opportunities you have available to you during your years at the U of I. If you see something and think "I'd like to do that"--don't be afraid to pursue it! Get inspired in class, find ways to intersect those passions out of the classroom, and commit yourself to them.   Added August 2016

Audrey WilliamsAudrey Williams (BA 2013, Political Science; French) 
(Fulbright award winner)

Age: 25

What I’m doing with my Fulbright award: During my Fulbright, I was based in Ankara, Turkey at Ankara University’s Center for African Studies. I studied the role of non-state actors in Turkey’s relations with Sub-Saharan Africa. I also conducted an academic writing workshop at Ankara University.

My best moment since arriving overseas: I was on cloud nine the day I got to give two presentations in Turkish at two different universities (one on my Fulbright research and another on my professional experiences). I have been learning Turkish for six years, and it has always been my goal to be able to use Turkish academically and professionally.

One thing I’ve learned so far: No matter where you go abroad and for how long, your experience will always be more meaningful if you make an attempt at learning the language. Not only does it make life a little easier, but it also helps you become more integrated into your community, as locals really appreciate it when you try to engage in their language (even if they know English too). Your ties to the local community can really help you when you start feeling homesick. 

Advice for undergraduates: Don’t stress about your five-year plans or ten-year plans, and don’t stress if you don’t have one. Your undergraduate experience is about exploring the many opportunities available to you. You don’t have to follow a cookie-cutter path, and even if you are studying a major that has a stricter structure than others, that doesn’t mean you can’t also explore different types of opportunities (including study abroad!). You never know when the club you joined for fun or the class you took as an elective could lead you down a new, exciting path.   Added August 2016 

Caroline DvorskyCaroline Dvorsky (BA 2014, Political Science; International Studies)

Age: 23

Current job: Confidential Assistant, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, United States Department of Agriculture 

Cool thing you've done since graduating: Went to the Canadian State Arrival Ceremony at White House and saw Prime Minister Trudeau. 

Favorite CLAS academic experience: Hawkeye Marching Band [Where else can you get a quality musical education and perform for over 70,000 Hawkeye Fans in Kinnick Stadium?] 

Advice for undergraduates: Study abroad! The University's International Programs and Office of Study Abroad are excellent resources and available to all students looking to enrich their academic experience. The U of I offers a breadth of study abroad programs for all academic focuses and interests, and knowledgeable advisors who help students navigate applications and financial assistance. My semester in London enriched my education in so many ways- take advantage of opportunities to explore different cultures.   Added August 2016

Dionna LangfordDionna Langford (BA 2013, Social Work)   

Age:  24

Current job (and elected position!): I'm a career planner with a program called Connect 2 Careers through Children and Families of Iowa in Des Moines. I also was recently elected to the Des Moines Public School Board.

Cool thing I've done since graduating: I did an internship with an organization called the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) learning how to organize communities around issues they care about in the Bay Area in the fall of 2014. I learned a lot about power and how to build it. I had a few hard moments of learning, but it shaped me in some significant ways that I am extremely thankful for.

Favorite CLAS academic experience: Women in Islam course with Professor Ahmed Souaiaia in Religious Studies.

Advice for undergraduates: Take a classes that interest you, even if they don't directly relate to your major. I did some of that my Freshman year, but it was before I could really appreciate what I was learning. I wish I would have made space to take classes around topics that interested me later on in my undergraduate experience.   Added February 2016

Kyra SeayKyra Seay (BA 2015, Social Entrepeneurship)

Age: 23

Current job: Educational Support Services Assistance in the UI Chief Diversity Office 

Cool thing I've done since graduating: I was tempted to share the fact that I started a retirement plan, however I’m not so sure how many people would consider that to be as cool as I do. Starting a blog/podcast with my best friend from college comes in a close second!

Favorite CLAS academic experience: Any class that professor David Gould teaches will change your life. He’s one of those talented professors that helps his students begin the journey of discovering their true passion, but also teaches them how to connect that to the world, and to their University of Iowa education. He intentionally and passionately helps all of his students answer the question, “So What?” Learn something new about yourself, and how you and all of your brilliance can make a difference in the world, by taking a class with David Gould. You won’t regret it.

Advice for undergraduates: You come to the university to learn, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that the classroom is the only place in which that will occur. Take learning to the next step. Find ways to apply what you’re learning in the classroom outside of the classroom. Take advantage of all of the opportunities to learn about other parts of the world, to try new food, or meet new people. Your future self will thank you for it!    Added February 2016

Dora GroteDora Grote (BA 2015, Journalism & Mass Communication; Political Science)

Age: 23 (getting old!)

Current job: I'm a reporter with the Kansas City Business Journal covering health care and publicly traded tech companies, what we call "big tech."

Cool thing I've done since graduating: I've done so much since graduating! Most notably my fellowship in New York City with the International Radio and Television Society. There, I got to tour YouTube, go to the New York Times, I was on Good Morning America, was on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, toured Facebook, I could go on. :) I ended up living in New York for a month after the fellowship and I recently just visited the city for New Years Eve! Probably my favorite part of that trip was seeing a show at the Comedy Cellar, where a lot of famous comedians have performed. I got to see Michael Che from SNL's Weekend Update do a standup.

Favorite CLAS academic experience: Probably working as a College Transition Lab Leader, helping mentor freshman to the University of Iowa campus and college lifestyle, but I have so many!

Advice for undergraduates: Pick interesting classes you normally wouldn't choose for your electives. It's fun to learn about new things and widen your horizons. You'll end up using some of the random facts and information more often than you think!    Added January 2016

Natalie VeldhouseNatalie Veldhouse (BA 2015, Ethics & Public Policy)

Age: 22

Current job: Community Food Security AmeriCorps VISTA with the Crisis Center of Johnson County

Cool thing I've done since graduation: I went hiking in the Swiss Alps last summer during a trip to Switzerland and Italy.

Favorite CLAS academic experience: Serving as the Vice President of the Sociology Club.

Advice for undergraduates: Be nice to yourself! Taking time to volunteer or talk with a counselor through student health can help put things into perspective if you're stressed out. Sleep is your friend.    Added November 2015

Jack CummingJack Cumming (BA 2014, Dance)

Age: 24

Current job: White House Office of Presidential Correspondence

Cool thing I’ve done since graduation: I interned at the White House in the fall of 2014 after which I waited tables in New York City for six months.

Favorite CLAS academic experience: Ballet—The Department of Dance is truly one of the hidden gems on campus. I was very fortunate to study ballet under George de la Peña and Eloy Barragan.

Advice for undergraduates: Become involved on campus; whether it’s in the performing arts, a student organization, a philanthropy group, or having a campus job. I believe that growth is not limited to the classroom, and that extracurricular activities have a significant impact on how you develop as a person. I would not be the person I am today had it not been for the opportunities provided by the university, and the student organizations that I was engaged in.    Added October 2015

Katherine ValdeKatherine Valde (BA 2014, History/Political Science)

Age: 23

Current job: Research and Program Associate, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law (focusing on campaign finance reform and other democracy improvements) 

Cool thing I’ve done since graduating: Attend a taping of "The Daily Show" during Jon Stewart's final year as host.  

Favorite CLAS academic experience: Iowa Policy and Research Organization with Professor Rene Rocha

Advice for undergraduates: Take advantage of learning experiences available outside of the classroom. Listen to a visiting speaker, attend a reading at Prairie Lights, check out a museum or art exhibit on campus. Remind yourself it’s important to make time for these opportunities—even if it comes at the cost of cramming for tomorrow’s exam—because they are a valuable part of your liberal arts education, too.     Added October 2015


The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Iowa is a comprehensive college offering 68 majors in the humanities; fine, performing and literary arts; natural and mathematical sciences; social and behavioral sciences; and communication disciplines. More than 17,000 undergraduate and 1,900 graduate students study each year in the college’s 37 departments, led by professors at the forefront of teaching and research in their disciplines. The college teaches all UI undergraduates through the General Education Program, and confers about 70 percent of the UI's bachelor's degrees each academic year.