The place for all things Iowa and Honors.

Brains and Beauty: Meet Aly Olson!

Aly Olson is a senior at the University of Iowa pursuing a bachelor of music in vocal performance, along with certificates in music education and performing arts entrepreneurship. A Hawkeye to the core, Aly is involved in UI Opera Productions, Walk It Out: Multicultural Fashion Show, and the University of Iowa Foundation Student Philanthropy Group. Aly recently performed the National Anthem at the opening of the UI Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center.

But Aly is more than just a UI student; she is also the reigning Miss Iowa. Aly was Miss Iowa’s Outstanding Teen in 2010 and went on to win the Non-finalist Interview award at Miss America’s Outstanding Teen. Building upon her experience as a teen titleholder, Aly has been traveling the state of Iowa and promoting the Miss Iowa Scholarship Program, Children’s Miracle Network, and her personal platform, Do One Thing: Diversity Every Day. Through her platform, Aly encourages all to pursue simple actionable tasks every day that will lead to significant change for diversity and inclusion.
Aly will compete for the Miss America title in Atlantic City on Sept. 14 at 7 pm Central Time on ABC.
Here is how YOU can help Aly! The Miss America Organization gives the public the chance to vote for a finalist at the 2015 Miss America Competition. Iowans can vote for Aly by visiting Voting closes at 9:59 pm Central Time Sept. 11.
Aly’s birthday is Sept. 24, and she has one birthday wish this year. “For my birthday, I want to be Miss America.”
Let’s help this Hawkeye achieve her dream! Good luck, Aly! 

People and the Environment: Technology, Culture, and Social Justice

Fall 2014

MW 3:30-4:45 in TILE Classroom 350 VAN

ANTH:1046 (113:046); GWSS:1046 (131:046), GEOG:1046 (044:046)

This course explores how resources, commodities, people and ideas cross borders.  It examines globalization through issues of technology, social justice and environment and brings together perspectives from anthropology, gender studies, geography, energy science and development.   This is a course about “big questions” related to the interaction between environment and culture: How is my life connected to that of a tribal woman living in rural India?  What is the cause of drought, in Iowa and Rajasthan?  What does Google Earth tell us?  What does it NOT tell us?   This course will guide you through the process of addressing urgent, real world problems by focusing on the causes, impact and potential solutions of rapid deforestation in Rajasthan, India.  It will do so through active, inquiry-based learning that involves classroom-activities, discussion, team work and a combination of short lectures, exams, writing assignments, discussion, and projects that all relate to one guiding question of the course:  What is the relationship between my daily life and large-scale environmental and social processes? 

This course fulfills GE requirement for International and Global Issues.

This course links to study abroad through the 3-week India Winterim program for interested students.

This course can be taken as an Honors Contract course for Honors students.

This is a Big Questions course team-taught by five faculty members:

            Meena Khandelwal, course director (Anthropology and GWSS)

            H.S. Udaykumar (Mechanical Engineering)

            Matt Hill (Anthropology)

            Marc Linderman (Geography)

            Jerry Anthony (Urban Planning)

The Real Students of Iowa Med

Join us for a “reality show-esque” look into Iowa Med school!

Our special guest speaker will be Ellen Franklin, a manager of clinical skills assessment and learning community at the Carver College of Medicine. She will be discussing the new Iowa Med curriculum and the Performance Based Assessment (PBA) program that Iowa Med runs among other topics.

 We will also have a panel of medical students at the event to share their medical school experiences at Iowa. They’ll offer a great student perspective on what medical school is really like.

Date: Thursday, April 10

Time: 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Location: IMU Illinois Room

  • Do you want to have an impact through your education?
  • Do you feel like making a community a better place?
  • Would you like to work as a team and build on your ideas
  • Would you like to get a first-hand look at one of the great social experiments of our time - the Las Vegas’ Downtown Project?

This spring, The University of Iowa is offering an innovative new major for a select group of first-year Honors students.  The major track, Engaged Social Innovation, is meant for students who want to learn more while helping others.  Selected students will apply their education and creativity toward a specific initiative – the Downtown Project, located in the Fremont East and Arts District areas of Las Vegas, Nevada (  Working in teams, students will create an initiative that helps improves the community of Downtown Las Vegas.  Students who are majoring in the arts, humanities, or natural and social sciences that would apply their interests towards making a city or community a better place are encouraged to apply.

To learn more about the major, attend an information session on Monday, April 7th at 5:00 p.m. in the South Commons on the third floor of the Blank Honors Center.

You can also learn more from our website at or by emailing us at  We will be happy to answer any questions you have.

Student Profile: Sarah Mayer, Vice President of the Presidential Scholars Program

Year: Junior
Area of Study: Biochemistry, Spanish, Pre-Medice
Hometown: Johnston, IA
Involvement: Presidential Scholars Program Vice President, UIHC Student Leader Board, Research Assistant in the Bartlett Lab, Big Brothers Big Sisters, WiSE, Alpha Chi Sigma, Medicus, Biochemistry Majors Club
Interesting Fact: I learned that my name means “corn” in Quechua (the indigenous language of Peru) - quite fitting for an Iowan!
Much of my involvement with the new Presidential Scholars Program developed from a meeting in the Burge cafeteria, and a summer in Cusco, Peru — very different places, but a satisfying integration of interests. Freshman year, Fellowships Director Kelly Thornburg met with my class of Presidential Scholars to discuss future fellowship opportunities as well as other ideas for scholarship recipients. One idea was having regular meetings where people could get together to discuss different articles, stories, or lectures so that we could practice professional discourse while learning about a wide variety of topics. That great idea got filed into a back corner of my brain for a few semesters, until I spent a summer studying abroad with a group of eight people with the most random combination of majors you could imagine. Leaving my bubble of science reminded me that there are so many other perspectives out there that I might miss as I specialize more and more, and I came back to the States excited about diversifying my intellectual consumption.
With the help of two of my classmates, Allison Kindig and Alex Hjelmaas, I approached Honors Director Dr. Art Spisak about starting those events Kelly had suggested back in that Burge meeting, since the new organization of the PSP was taking shape. The Honors Program’s willingness to support a few students’ pet project led us to start monthly events called “Discourse” that have helped build more of a community among Presidential Scholars. The mix of intellectual discussion, a casual setting (with food, of course!), and a variety of people from really diverse disciplines leads to enlightening, enjoyable discussions. I always come away from Discourse with more questions than answers, but pleased to hear so many cool perspectives. I’ve since joined the executive board as Vice President, helping plan other events for Presidential Scholars, dreaming up new ideas for the program, and working with the rest of the board on a proposal with the UI Foundation to potentially secure funding for more activities within the PSP, such as workshops or group travel.
The best part about the PSP is that its future direction is completely up to all of us. All ideas from students are valued, because the goal is to create a community that develops scholars individually and as a group, so they can go out in the world and meaningfully contribute to whatever they are called to do. I hope other scholars will use the PSP community to make a new idea brought up over dinner, or overseas, a reality. I’m so excited to see where this community will go!