Habitat for Humanity ReStore

It’s almost hard to believe that when I first came to Drake I could barely use a hammer. Okay, to tell the truth, I still miss my nail about 50% of the time, but that’s improvement. The point is that before I arrived on campus, I had no idea I would become involved with Habitat for Humanity, much less become co-president of the Drake campus chapter. But these days, my work with Habitat is one of the most important, rewarding parts of my life.

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This past weekend, I got the opportunity to delve into one of my favorite parts of one of my favorite organizations with a trip to the Greater Des Moines ReStore. Habitat’s ReStore is what I like to call a mixture between Lowe’s and Goodwill. It consists of tons of donated home improvement and décor items, sold at discount prices. And all the funds from the store go right back to Habitat to help fund their work in the local community.

So, on Saturday, I went with a Drake Habitat group to volunteer at the Restore. We hung up giant area rugs for display, assisted customers, painted carts, took apart sink hardware, and even moved refrigerators and other large appliances. Pretty impressive, right? More so, it was a lot of fun to lend a hand and talk with members of the Des Moines community and Habitat staff. Plus, as it turns outs, I’m a pretty fantastic area rug salesperson. It’s always nice to have a fallback plan.

Joe Biden Visits Drake

So this week, Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, came to Drake University. The occasion was filled with majesty, grandeur, and a thriving political and economic discourse. Okay, so full disclosure: I was not there. But I heard it was great.

Sorry to disappoint everyone as I know you were counting on my firsthand political take and detailed economic analysis of the Vice President’s message. But I do have an excuse as I was in class and at work during VP’s appearance. Ah, yet another example of how the American political system keeps the working class down. Just kidding!…Well, kind of.

The point is that I saw the Vice President’s secret service SUVs, network news crews, and a whole bunch of important people in suits roaming around campus this week, and honestly, it wasn’t that big of a deal. I know that sounds disrespectful, but what I mean is that over my four years at Drake, I’ve gotten to see some pretty important people here on campus and in Des Moines. I’m talking about individuals like Michelle Obama, Jimmy Carter, and, Diane Sawyer hanging out on campus. I met Rashida Jones and Adam Scott and heard Tim Gunn speak. And the night before President Obama got elected for his second term, I went downtown to hear him speak and listen to the Boss play. (That’s Bruce Springsteen, for you youths out there.)

What I’m saying is, we’re kind of a big deal. And though I’m used to the rotating cast of politicians, celebrities, and world leaders rolling through campus, I’m never gonna stop appreciating just how cool it is.

The Beauty of Ignorance

It’s rather unquestioned at this point that college is the source of knowledge. It’s the place one goes to discover themselves through newfound information, and the beacon of intellectual achievement. The college experience is the rare landscape where academic exploration is not only accepted, it’s encouraged. To put it simply: “Girls (and boys) go to college to get more knowledge.”

But contrary to this perception, my college experience at Drake hasn’t been so much the discovery of knowledge, but more so the discovery of ignorance. My ignorance. Because I was a precocious (okay, annoying) kid, I believed if I just completed a checklist of reading materials, I would know it all. I would be educated. It’s taken me maybe my whole educational career to realize that I could read every book in the Western cannon and still have so, so much more to read. No matter how much I learn, there will only be a boatload more that I don’t know. And though I initially saw this ignorance as a hurdle to overcome, as a problem to be fixed, I’ve come to revel in it. The fact is, ignorance can be a beautiful thing.

I’m not saying we should all strive for stupidity or give up learning new things. Actually, quite the opposite. Becoming aware of how much I don’t know is the best thing that could’ve happened to me academically. In my last semester of college, I now know that a checklist of courses isn’t going to complete my knowledge. Thus, I’m free to learn and explore as much as I possibly can. I’m going to take advantage of every opportunity presented to me, and perhaps especially ones that emphasize my ignorance and challenge my abilities. So I’m taking classes this semester about African colonialism, Renaissance women, and European nationalism. In short, things I know nothing about. But, I’m learning, I’m working hard. And at the end of the semester, I’ll know a little more than I did before. I’m embracing the ignorance, even as I strive to eradicate it.

Doughnut Tour of Des Moines

This weekend, some of the best athletes in the nation have reached the pinnacle of their profession. After years of training and studying, injury and sacrifice, they’re playing in the Superbowl, the peak of American athleticism. Meanwhile, I too have achieved greatness this weekend. Like my comrades in the NFL, I’ve trained for years, and was able to showcase my skills in the best possible way: A Donut Tour of Des Moines. I know. Pretty impressive, right?

The thing is, I was craving a doughnut, but wasn’t quite sure where to go. So, like any good American, I just decided to eat all the donuts, to experience all that Des Moines had to offer in the field. I grabbed my roommate and we set off on a noble quest for fried dough. We decided to eat one doughnut at each place, and to keep going around the city until either time and/or sickness stopped us. And though we didn’t make it very far, we did experience some great, delicious, and unique doughnuts in the city of Des Moines.

They look pretty good, right?

They look pretty good, right?

Donut Hut

The first stop on our journey was also probably the best. A family-owned shop filled with homemade doughnuts, you really can’t beat the fun, community vibe of the Donut Hut. I had a Cookie Dough Donut and it may have been the greatest thing I’ve ever eaten. Seriously. It was good. The owners were really lovely, friendly people, and just made it an awesome experience. But honestly, even if they were terrible people, it would be worth it for those fresh homemade doughnuts.

Donut King

Our second stop on the grand tour took us to the Donut King. Majestic, right? Despite the royal name, Donut King was actually a really adorable, down-to-earth place. It’s set up like an old school diner with a long bar, swivel stools, and an old-fashioned cash register. Oh, and the doughnuts? They were pretty great too. My red velvet concoction was definitely worth the trip to West Des Moines.

Mahalo Mini Donuts

Our third, and sadly last, stop brought a little fun and diversity to the Des Moines doughnut experience. Not only does Mahalo serve batches of mini donuts, but they have island-inspired flavors and toppings like coconut, blueberry, and s’mores. Through the setting inside Jordan Creek Mall isn’t as charming as the other two shops, the donuts themselves were actually really good and fresh.

By this point, we were pretty full, I’m not going to lie to you. Although we had grand ambitions to survey the entire Des Moines doughnut market, alas, this was not the time. Nonetheless, we found some great new doughnut spots, and got a dose of inspiration for Doughnut Tour II, coming soon.

J-term @ Drake

It’s only fitting that in the grips of Iowa’s frigid winter, I should delve into the Cold War.

For the past three weeks, I’ve been immersed in my j-term class, The Cold War Through Film. We’ve looked at various films that describe and characterize Cold War history and culture to gain a better understanding of the period, and its politics and ideology. And yes, what I’m saying is that we got to watch movies in class every day.

But honestly, the class, like all j-term courses at Drake, was a cool opportunity for me to step outside of my academic comfort zone and do something different, something interesting and challenging. I decided to take the class primarily because of my sketchy knowledge of Cold War history. I wanted to learn, and learn I did. We started with end of World War II and moved through history all the way to the late 80s, completing readings and lectures that described historical events and watching complementary films that portrayed history in unique ways. Some of the films I’d seen before (Platoon, Apocalypse Now, War Games,) and others I hadn’t (The Manchurian Candidate, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Red Dawn.) But each one was enlightening and helped us all think critically about the reality of the Cold War. And spoiler alert: The United States is not always the good guy.

The fact is, I’m leaving the class with a new appreciation of Cold War history and the ways in which economics, culture, and international relations are linked throughout American history. I’m a more critical consumer of the U.S. politics and political rhetoric. And in general, I’ve come to think carefully about the messages I’m given through culture and history. Isn’t that kind of what college is all about?

To learn more about j-term at Drake, check out the full list of on-campus and travel seminars here.

Best Films of 2014

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Kristin Wiig is a national treasure. She shines again in The Skeleton Twins as a woman dealing with inexplicable unhappiness. But as brilliant as Wiig is, it’s Bill Hader who steals the show as her estranged brother. The word dramedy gets thrown around a lot, but this film truly is as funny as it is heartbreaking. The Skeleton Twins has the makings of an indie classic: great band tees, great performances, and perhaps the greatest lip synching scene in the history of cinema. Photo via more.com

This gallery contains 10 photos.

Before we launch into 2015, it’s necessary to deeply reflect upon the past year through the only format that matters: the Top 10 List. You see, in a few days, I’ll be launching into my j-term class about the Cold … Continue reading

Internships @ Drake

Internship. It can be a scary word for college students. One that conjures up images of coffee-fetching, menial drudgery, or the strategically worded resume. We’re often told that you can’t go anywhere post-grad without some successful internships under your belt. And though I think that philosophy is perhaps a little dramatic, it’s not entirely untrue. In fact, probably the main reason I came to Drake is because I knew there was a plethora of internship opportunities to give me real world experience before I even left college. Being situated right in the heart of Des Moines, means Drake is connected to massive industries just minutes from campus. And to be honest, most college towns just simply can’t compete with those resources.

I’ve been lucky enough to take advantage of Drake’s location and connections for some incredible internships in my college career. I spent a year at the Meredith Corporation working for and alongside some of the biggest names in magazine publishing. Then I spent the summer pursuing my dream of non-profit communications. This year, I’m working as a marketing and communications intern with the Boys & Girls Club of Central Iowa. In this position, I get to travel to the different Boys & Girls Club sites in the Des Moines area, write stories and take photography to illustrate the stories of club kids, and work on social media promotion. Essentially, I get to do what I love while hanging out with some really awesome kids. Sorry if this sounds braggy, but what I’m saying is that my job is kind of the best.

Some of the Boys & Girls Club kids. Who wouldn't wanna hang out with those cuties?

Some of the Boys & Girls Club kids. Who wouldn’t wanna hang out with those cuties?

It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that Drake has been entrenched in my internship experience from the very beginning. Not only did I get the job because my future boss came to speak in one of my classes, but I often work in a club site right across from campus, and collaborate with Drake students and alumni in the Boys & Girls Club organization every day. And maybe the best part? There’s nary a coffee run in sight.

Obviously I talk about myself quite a bit, but my experience is definitely not unique. Every Drake student I know has had at least one internship experience, and perhaps more importantly, at least one truly meaningful internship experience with real responsibilities and learning opportunities. So I’ll revise the previously stated internship maxim. It’s not that you can’t go anywhere post-grad without some successful internships under your belt. It’s that you’ll go so much further and be much so better prepared if you have completed meaningful internships. Although I’m just now figuring this out, I guess Drake has known it all along.

Homemade Drake Hot Chocolate Recipe

Growing up, some of my favorite memories took place in the cheery warmth of my grandma’s kitchen. Okay, I know this is not exactly a groundbreaking narrative, but bear with me. As a kid off school for winter break, I would trek to southern Missouri for sleepovers at Nana’s house to relax, play games, watch movies, and of course, eat. And through we had a ton of fun baking and cooking, the best was undoubtedly breakfast and the homemade hot chocolate that came with it. I would cuddle up in Nana’s green recliner, most likely sporting some seriously cool snowman pajamas, and watch the snow pile up on the giant black walnut tree outside while I enjoyed the greatest hot chocolate of all time.

These days, years later, I have grown up a little. I am a college student, after all. But my fledgling adult status doesn’t mean I can’t still enjoy some good, old-fashioned hot chocolate (and some snowman pajamas too, for that matter.) In fact, I’ve kind of reclaimed the homemade hot chocolate tradition to become a staple of my Drake life. As cold weather encroaches, I begin to crave the calm and winter cheer of a cup of cocoa. So, in celebration of the impending Drake basketball season and all things winter, I present my own Drake hot chocolate recipe (as best as I’ve been able to replicate and quantify my grandma’s brilliant process.)

The finished product!

The finished product!

1. Retrieve your favorite saucepan (or if you’re me, your only saucepan.)

2. Add a dash of water to the pot, probably just a little less than a cup.

3. Then, dump in ½ cup of unsweetened cocoa powder and ¾ cup of sugar. I also like to add a couple pinches of salt.

4. Heat up the mixture and keep stirring it until it starts boiling, then turn down the heat

5. Now, it’s time for the milk. 2% probably tastes best, but gradually add 5 cups of your choice of milk to the mixture, making sure to keep it warm and keep stirring.

6. At this point, add in an optional teaspoon of vanilla extract, and give your hot chocolate one final stir!

7. Get out your favorite Drake/Bulldog-themed mug, and fill her up with the warm hot chocolate straight from the saucepan. Top with whipped cream and an assortment of blue and white sprinkles.

8. Drink up, enjoy, and Go Bulldogs!

The Last Registration

Today I did something pretty crazy: I registered for my final semester of classes at Drake University. Okay, so maybe crazy is a relative term. But honestly, it’s hard to believe that I’m nearing the end of my college career and selecting the courses that will cement my Drake education. And yet, here I am. In the grand tradition of senior year nostalgia, it’s only natural that my last registration should cause me to reflect on all my previous registration periods. The stress, the worry, the late night snacks, and the early morning cramming, praying to get first pick of classes have all come flooding back. And in this reflection, two things have become clear:

I’m still the same student I always was.

Planning for the long-term has never been my strong suit, so picking out classes months in advance has always been a little counter-intuitive. Nonetheless, I acquiesce to the demands of higher education bureaucracy by planning and plotting, projecting and outlining my courses months, and even years, ahead of time. But that doesn’t mean it will necessarily go smoothly, and in fact, it never has. Once a procrastinator, always a procrastinator. And that I certainly am. I will inevitably wait until the last moments to pick out courses, thereby leaving my future in the hands of a sleep-deprived version of myself high on sugar and pure panic. And yet, it always turns out okay. I’m not saying I won’t eventually face the impetus of change, forcing me to responsibly plan out my life decisions, but that day is not today. Mac Miller once said “I Am Who I Am”, just as Popeye told us “I Yam What I Yam.” I stand by both of these gentleman as the same person I was when I began my Drake journey four years ago.

And yet, I’m so much different.

I started the process of registering for classes at Drake with my checklists in hand. I knew what I needed to take to get my two degrees and thought of little else than following my prescribed course listings. Now in my senior year, that outlook is almost unfathomable. I’m not saying that the courses dictated by my majors aren’t essential, helpful, and enlightening, because they are. But what I’ve come to realize is that the best learning experiences I’ve had at Drake have come from me pushing boundaries and stepping outside my academic comfort zone. So these days, the checklist is less of a rulebook and more of a guide. This semester, I’ve chosen courses that will challenge me and force me grow, courses I probably never would have picked for myself four years ago. I’ll be tackling subjects such as colonialism in Africa, women in the Renaissance, European Nationalism, and magazine production, not necessarily because I have to take them, but because I want to. Because I’m genuinely excited for my last chance to soak up all the Drake knowledge I can. And yeah, that might be the definition of a nerd, but I think it’s also the definition of personal, professional, and academic growth. So, there.