CLAS junior Charlie Ellis leads Dance Marathon 25 to $2.96 million haul

An Enterprise Leadership major, he is leaving an impact on the multimillion-dollar charity
Friday, February 1, 2019

Charlie EllisAs the Executive Director of Dance Marathon, junior Enterprise Leadership major Charlie Ellis has made a large impact on the direction of Dance Marathon for years to come. In addition to overseeing 13 other directors, Ellis implemented the organization’s first year-long campaign to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

The “Shape Your Impact” campaign revolves around the idea that any donation, large or small, helps leave a positive impression on the youth cancer patients and families.

“My idea for the campaign was to create a unique brand for Dance Marathon that got conversation rolling about different ways each person can contribute to help these kiddos,” Ellis said.

In a position that is usually held by a senior, Ellis, of Le Mars, Iowa, stood out to executives during the interview process by presenting his ideas for change to the current Dance Marathon brand.  

“Charlie is able to think very critically while still being able to keep the bigger picture in mind,” UI Dance Marathon Coordinator, Brock Cavett said. “He proved this by being able to challenge tradition and create a campaign that would push our organization to new heights.”

As the Executive Director for last year’s Dance Marathon, Alex Linden knows what it takes to be a successful leader. He describes Ellis as having confidence and determination when speaking about his goals for the future of Dance Marathon during his interview. 

“Part of the Executive Director’s job is to speak in front of thousands of students to motivate them to participate in the organization and philanthropy on campus,” Linden said. “He was convincing and authentic in his message.”

After Ellis’ first year as a dancer for Dance Marathon, he knew he had to be more involved and wanted to make a bigger impact within the organization. By the end of his sophomore year as a moral captain, his yearning for more involvement became even greater.

“Seeing my group participants engage and grow throughout the year inspired me to continue on to pursue the Executive Director position,” Ellis said. “I realized that if I could motivate one group of Dance Marathon dancers, then I want to do it for the whole organization.”

Ellis leads members of the Executive Council to work together as one to achieve the same goal, even when the organization is faced with difficult situations.

“Seeing his optimism encourages me to be positive too, and it leads me to be confident that we can find solutions to any issues that may arise instead of dwelling on the negative,” Executive Chair, Lexi Breitbart said. “The light that he brings to every situation rubs off on me and motivates me to be positive about all that we do.”

Along with his involvement in with Dance Marathon, Ellis is working toward an Enterprise Leadership degree with a minor in Sociology.   

Ellis began his journey at the University of Iowa as an open major. After first pursuing an Education major and then switching to Enterprise leadership, his goal of assisting others to reach their goals has stayed consistent. Dance Marathon has motivated him to pursue a career in student affairs for a higher education institution in the future.  

Enterprise Leadership has given Ellis the opportunity to be creative with endless possibilities to cater to other people’s needs. His classes have given him skills that are transferable across many different careers.

“I have had a lot of unique experiences through the University of Iowa that have allowed me to find what I am passionate about,” Ellis said. “I want to transcend what I have learned onto other students looking to find their passion and allow them to fulfill their dreams.”

For students looking to build their leadership qualities, Ellis suggests stepping out of their comfort zone and trying anything that interests them to find something they are very excited about.

“Taking the time to find what is meaningful to you will naturally allow you to grow and excel in your leadership abilities,” Ellis said. “Allow yourself to be vulnerable and recognize that there is always room for improvement.”

The University of Iowa Dance Marathon creates and sustains special projects to provide emotional and financial support and services for pediatric oncology and bone marrow transplant patients and their families treated at University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital. A year-round organization, it culminates in the Big Event, taking place this year on February 1 and 2, 2019.

Story by Katie Ehlers


The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Iowa is a comprehensive college offering 73 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.