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Conversation Center

Our People



Co-Director Benjamin Hassman, Ph.D: Ben is an Associate Professor of Instruction in the Rhetoric Department. Directing the Conversation Center builds on experience with peer-leadership programs like the Berwick Boys Foundation, formative time advocating for Service-learning at Onondaga Community College, and teaching for Gen-ed Rhetoric and the Rhetoric Minor, including Speaking Skills, Advanced Speaking Skills, and the Conversation Center’s own RHET 2090 Conversation Practicum. His Ph.D. in Philosophy of Language studied paradoxes, and their implication for how we understand the relationship between our sentences and the world. Current interests include informal and intercultural communication especially as a lynchpin to learning.



Sonja Mayrhofer

Co-Director Sonja Mayrhofer received her Ph.D. from the University of Iowa’s English Department and is a Lecturer in the Rhetoric Department. Her scholarship is often interdisciplinary and is informed by her interest in comparative literature and the health humanities. Her dissertation focused on how humoral psychology influenced representations of bodies in medieval literary texts. Emotional complexity and its rhetorical expressions in any age and/or context continue to fascinate her and influence her teaching and writing. In the Rhetoric Department, her teaching explores many of her interests: the rhetoric of self-hood (both in advertising and memoirs), forensic rhetoric (how we use the past to make arguments), and intercultural experiences. She’s excited to co-teach the Conversation Practicum and contribute to fostering intercultural empathy on campus.



Peer Leaders: 

These graduates of RHET:2090 semester of on-the-job training return to mentor new students and build intercultural skills across academic units and cultural contexts

Hannah Birkey

Hi! My name is Hannah Birkey and I am a sophomore majoring in Neuroscience at the University of Iowa. I am hoping to work in the medical field as a Physician’s Assistant in the future. In my free time, I enjoy taking walks, playing the piano, and spending time with friends and family. I am from a small town in central Illinois and I love learning about the world from people from all walks of life. I am looking forward to meeting you!

Naudya Chhuon

Naudya Chhuon is a sophomore and majoring in global health studies and has a minor in Korean studies. She likes eating sweet things like strawberry cheesecake and green gummy bears, she also loves to drink boba tea. She also enjoys playing games, the color pink, and meeting new people. She is involved in NAMI, UNICEF, and recently joined a Sorority; she is also in smaller clubs and organizations at the University of Iowa. 

Savannah Dalsing

Macayle Devore

Hi everyone! My name is Macayle DeVore. I am a Health and Human Physiology major hoping to become a Physician's Assistant and I am also getting a certificate in Public Health. I currently work part-time as a Pharmacy Technician in the Stead Family Children's Hospital. In my free time, I love writing Penpal letters :) I currently have some in Hawaii and Ohio! I love learning about how their lives are so different from mine! I also love reading, writing, bullet journaling, tea enthusiast, and so much more! I love talking about other cultures and have been to Germany twice! I also have Korean and Thai Aunts and understand some of those cultures but would love to learn more! I can be shy when first meeting, but once I open up I will be unable to stop talking! I look forward to meeting you!!

Julia Fout

Hi everyone! My name is Julia Fout and I am a self-proclaimed mediocre rock-climber, moderate bookworm (with room for improvement), and master cook of breakfasts. I love learning language, and revel at how words exist for ideas in some languages and not others. For example, did you know there is a German word "Kummerspeck" which literally translates to "grief bacon", referring to emotional eating? I experience kummerspeck before exams especially. I am majoring in English with minors in French, Psychology, and Rhetoric. Looking forward to getting to know you and embracing awkward Zoom silences.

Maggy Hovden

Maggy is a junior at the University of Iowa, majoring in Spanish and Global Health Studies with a minor in Latina/o/x Studies. She studied at an intensive Spanish language immersion school in Costa Rica during summer 2017 and traveled to Cuba in summer 2018 for a service trip, and has cultivated a profound passion for human connection across borders. She has served as an Orientation Leader for the university, helping to acclimate new students to campus and currently works at the Women's Resource and Action Center as a peer educator. In her free time, she loves to hammock with friends when the weather is nice, take long walks and listen to music. 

Lauren Philips

My name is Lauren Philips, and I am a second-year student at the University of Iowa. I am majoring in International Studies (International Communications & Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies) and French (Arabic Language and Studies) while also working towards a certificate in Human Rights. Outside of the classroom, I enjoy traveling, staying active, and spending time with my friends. I love nothing more than meeting new people, I look forward to talking with you!

Julia So

Hi there! My name is Julia, and I’m a senior studying Marketing and Business Analytics with minors in Rhetoric and Psychology. I'm fairly involved within Tippie, and my favorite student organization is the Multicultural Business Student Association. Outside of studying and running to meetings, I love drawing, cooking, and learning how to play the guitar (my third instrument!). I’m always happy to help and listen, so whether you have questions about campus life or would like to share a story, I’m here for you!



Undergraduate Conversation Partners

Each available for appointments in our scheduler, these dedicated students are building communication skills integral to their futures (and that of their communities and Iowa writ large).