E-News - December 1, 2020

Coe College E-News — Updates and information for alumni, parents and friends of Coe

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#GivingTuesday is today!

#GivingTuesday is a celebration of our greatest traditions: generosity and community. Every act of generosity counts, and those acts mean even more when they are done together. Join us online and on social media to see how the Coe community has banded together for storm cleanup efforts after the devastating August 10 derecho and how you can help. Coe College Trustee Gene Henderson ’68 and Glenda Sullivan Henderson ’75 are generously matching every gift dollar for dollar up to $10,000 today. Click here for more information.


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Coe College presents virtual Christmas Convocation

Christmas will be celebrated with a virtual Christmas Convocation beginning at 7:00 PM on December 1.

The prerecorded service will feature pieces performed by the Coe College Concert Choir and Crimson Singers, directed by Assistant Professor of Music Jesse Bunge; the Handbell Ensemble, directed by Velma J. MacMillan Assistant Professor of Music Brett Wolgast; the Concert Band and Percussion Ensemble, directed by Alma A. Turechek Professor of Music Bill Carson; and the Jazz Band and Orchestra, directed by Pearl M. Taylor Associate Professor of Music Steve Shanley.

Coe’s Christmas Convocation follows the grand British Lessons and Carols tradition and is patterned after the Christmas service of King's College Chapel in Cambridge, England. During the convocation, hymns and carols are used in place of psalms and canticles.

A beautiful perspective on the meaning of the Christmas season will be presented through the message of biblical scriptures and verses in carols and anthems. The service will include the story of Jesus’ birth presented in lessons read throughout the service by Coe College Chaplain Melea White, as well as students, staff and faculty members.

The Coe College Music Department and the Office of the Chaplain are co-sponsoring the service. The recording can be accessed here and will be available to view on-demand beginning at 7:00 PM on December 1.


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Coe students gain entrepreneurial experience through virtual Kohawk Startup 

The room burst into cheer and applause to mark the end of the third annual Kohawk Startup — in a Zoom room of course. Coe College students let out a sigh of relief and smiled in triumph after presenting their business models to a panel of judges. They worked hard for this moment over the course of four weeks after splitting into teams to research and create their own startup.

Kohawk Startup is a C3: Creativity, Careers, Community series of workshops and mentorships with local business professionals. It typically includes a weekend of hands-on entrepreneurial experience in partnership with NewBoCo. This year’s event lasted a full month to accommodate the virtual setting.

“Kohawk Startup is designed to help students get exposed to entrepreneurship. It's about starting something and then finding the resources you need to advance it into reality. Students come away realizing that if the ideal job for them doesn't exist, they can create it themselves. But most importantly, they learn more about themselves as they seek out opportunities to make an impact in this world,” said NewBoCo Chief Relationship Officer and Coe Entrepreneur-in-Residence David Tominsky ’98.

The first place prize of $1,000 and an opportunity to participate in the Iowa Startup Accelerator program was awarded to team Renewable Waste, a home-pickup composting service. Pizza Lab, a farm-to-pizza experience, took second place with a prize of $500, as well as the Audience Choice prize of $250. The third place $250 prize went to Simply Living, an online platform connecting students to social and professional opportunities. In addition to cash prizes, the three winning teams have exclusive access to legal and marketing services to jumpstart their business models.  
 
“It’s a very valuable experience for students. Regardless if they win or lose, they come out the other side with new skills. It provides students the opportunity to meet and interact with other professionals for more tangible and impactful conversations on entrepreneurship practices. C3 created Kohawk Startup to further our effort to make our connections their connections,” said Executive Director of External Partnerships and Annual Giving and Co-Director of C3: Creativity, Careers, Community Barb Ernst Tupper ’89.

Tominsky’s own connection to Coe is a driving force in lesson planning for student success. The flexibility and resources Coe provided tapped into a passion that led to a career.

“Coe made it possible and helped me understand that I didn't need to narrow my perspective. Today, I'm a chief relationship officer for NewBoCo because I realized the most important skill I have is an interest in helping people make meaningful connections and define their own success,” Tominsky added.

To learn more about this year's event and watch the final presentation, go to www.alumni.coe.edu/kohawkstartup20.


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Top row: Zhen E. Rammelsberg ’14 and Nick Sohm ’20
Bottom row: Carmen Chavez ’21 and Kenzie Macon ’23

Coe shared the spirit of Halloween in Theatre Cedar Rapids’ play fest

Kohawks played a major role with Theatre Cedar Rapids’ first virtual “Halloween Horror Night!” Flash Play Fest. Coe students and alumni wrote two of the 12 short plays showcased on October 30 before a panel of judges and over 100 attendees. In addition, a few Kohawks took center stage acting or directing various plays.

As the first theater festival to go completely virtual, it’s creating new opportunities for thespians and audiences alike. Chelsea White ’12 has volunteered with Theatre Cedar Rapids since 2018. Her co-coordinating duties required swift action to get plays selected, cast and rehearsed in just 12 days.

“We had plays that could be considered everything from mini-horror films to musical comedies, and each one was exceptionally well done. It is exciting to see how our directors and casts have expanded upon the ways you can use Zoom to deliver theater. I think our audiences see Zoom theater is still theater in a more traditional sense than they were expecting,” White said.

Kenzie Macon ’23 saw White’s Facebook post seeking director applications. The theatre arts and film studies major has been directing shows since she was a junior in high school. It was a match made in Kohawk nation for Macon to be partnered with writer and actress Zhen E. Rammelsberg ’14 on her play “ASMR.”

“I realized when we were all just hanging out afterward on Zoom how much I really miss the social aspect of theater and going to events. The play turned out even better than I had dreamed it could,” Rammelsberg said.

Students also were encouraged by faculty to step outside of their comfort zones as part of the play fest. “The Creative Writing Department certainly has [provided me with resources to further my work]. I can definitely say my playwriting professor, Kate Aspengren, is more than willing to talk at any moment about anything related to writing. She told me the festival was looking for submissions,” writer and director of  “New Department” Nick Sohm ’20 said.

“I’ve learned quite a lot from my peers. The only reason I started auditioning for community theater in Cedar Rapids was because a classmate of mine told me about auditions. The faculty have been really helpful with professional acting resources,” Carmen Chavez ’21 said.

Writers, directors and actors alike all were grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the theater community during the pandemic.

“It’s still a great way to work on new scripts, and I think what a better time to be writing new scripts than when we’re all stuck inside and bored,” said Chavez.

At the end of a spooky night, two Kohawk plays received a distinction. Sohm’s play was first runner-up for Best Production and “ASMR” by Rammelsberg won Best Sound Effects.


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Leeann Oelrich ’16 (left) and Gretchen Oelrich ’19 (right)

Sisters, Kohawks, Fulbrighters...Oelrichs push each other to succeed 

Sisters (and Kohawks) Gretchen Oelrich ’19 and Leeann Oelrich ’16 share a passion for international travel, study and culture that has led them to share one more thing: the honor of receiving Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships.
 
Leeann completed her Fulbright in South Korea, first teaching English at a boarding school in Andong, then extending her grant for a second year to teach at a unification school in Busan. There she was able to work with North Korean, North Korean-Chinese and South Korean students, all living and studying together to learn about their shared cultural history.
 
“It was such an extreme privilege to be welcomed into a country I really knew so little about and be granted the connections, opportunities and patience to learn and explore,” Leeann said. “I formed intense, lifelong friendships within the Fulbright cohort and my host community, and I gained confidence in my ability to navigate the unfamiliar with flexibility and positivity.”
 
Gretchen’s teaching assignment will begin this January in Taitung, Taiwan.
 
“I've traveled to many places around the world throughout my college career, but I'm hoping my Fulbright will equip me with new tools for cultural insight and ambassadorship,” Gretchen said. She credited Leeann with opening her eyes to opportunities abroad, following in her footsteps by studying in Nicaragua while in high school, then Spain and South Korea while in college.
 
“Leeann's intentions to connect, learn and help are always met with action and intelligibility. Leeann is the first person that explained the Fulbright mission's importance to me,” Gretchen said.
 
As the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program, the Fulbright is the most widely recognized and prestigious international exchange program in the world. It offers grants to more than 1,900 U.S. students, artists and young professionals each year to study, teach English and conduct research abroad. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program operates in over 140 countries throughout the world.
 
Coe College has produced 32 Fulbright Scholars in the last eight years.
 
“Coe helped expose me to opportunities for myself and my career and gave me the resources to start pursuing them,” said Leeann, who majored in English and Spanish. She attributed her success to the individualized attention she received at Coe, especially guidance from her advisor, retired English professor Ann Struthers, and Coe’s director of off-campus study.
 
“Coe allowed me to explore an international education,” said Gretchen, an international studies major who, in addition to studying in Spain and South Korea, participated in Asia Term and Washington, D.C., Term. “It's not traditional to study abroad so many times, but Coe introduced me to the right people, and I made it happen.”
 
Emeritus Whipple Professor of English Robert Drexler had a profound impact on Gretchen’s path at Coe and beyond. “He taught me how to draw knowledge from experience, perspective from compassion, trust from sincerity and purpose from originality,” she said.
 
She also praised Amber Shaw, national fellowship advisor, for guidance on her Fulbright application.
 
Leeann said Gretchen’s Fulbright award came as no surprise.
 
“She is so articulate, quick to learn, eager to connect with others and tenacious in pursuit of her goals,” Leeann said. “She’s already a powerhouse, so I can’t wait to see the ways this Fulbright will help her grow.”
 
Gretchen, having previously studied independently in Taiwan, is eager to make new connections.
 
“Building relationships abroad helps me reframe my worldview. I travel and live internationally frequently. Consistent confrontation by perspectives and peoples I don't understand energizes me to engage with the world further,” she said.
 
“I applied to Fulbright Taiwan because I want to learn how the country’s complicated political identity influences the way individuals are anchored in their personal identities,” Gretchen said. “I’m interested in how this interplay affects the way the Taiwanese relate themselves to the international community, particularly as it relates to English education as a tool for facilitating cross-cultural exchange.”
 
Both Gretchen and Leeann have prior experience teaching English as a second language. Gretchen has six years of experience working with English language learners at all levels, and Leeann worked with immigrants and refugees at the Catherine McAuley Center in Cedar Rapids after graduating from Coe.
 
Both were influenced by those experiences, taking to heart the importance of cross-cultural communication and the impact of immigration systems on the individual.
 
Today, Leeann works as a freelance English teacher and writing consultant for international business professionals. She is interested in pursuing a career in refugee resettlement or going back to school to obtain a master’s degree in migration studies.
 
No matter what the future holds for these sisters, they will continue to push each other to succeed.
 
“I really believe that you grow and change according to the company you keep. Especially as a young woman, it’s so crucial to have someone alongside you that is pushing you and pushing themselves to apply for the big internship, the big grant, strike out on their own and take risks,” Leeann said. “Gretchen is definitely that person for me, and we’re lucky that our support and challenge of one another is reciprocal.”
 
“Leeann and I will continue to grow together and learn from the communities in which we work,” Gretchen said. “We are grateful for the opportunities to be Fulbrighters, Kohawks, sisters and each other's biggest supporters. We will continue exploring the world and international education, drawing from our Fulbright and Coe experiences!”


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Olivia Leisinger ’17

Leisinger puts artistic talents to work for the NFL

It may seem like the National Football League (NFL) is all about sports, but it has an artistic side to it as well. That’s where you’ll find Olivia Leisinger ’17, a digital content producer editor who uses her Coe art and film studies background every day on the job.

Leisinger works as part of a team to tell the story of the NFL through graphics and videos on the organization’s social media and digital platforms. She edits content, designs and builds various graphics and even assists on set, which is one of her favorite parts of the job. “My day-to-day duties change pretty frequently depending on what my department needs. I actually really appreciate the opportunity to switch it up and do a bunch of different things,” she said.

The skills Leisinger gained at Coe serve her well on the job, as does the guidance she received from her professors. She learned the value of time management from Robert O. Daniel Associate Professor of Art Jen Hovey Rogers ’03, who stressed the importance of routinely putting in work even without a pressing deadline. Leisinger also benefited greatly from her senior thesis critique sessions. “I cannot stress enough the importance of being able to give and receive constructive feedback,” Leisinger said. She is especially grateful to Coe for the emphasis placed on cultivating relationships by getting involved on campus. One of her Coe volleyball teammates, Jaimee Rindy ’19, helped her get where she is today by putting her in contact with a hiring manager at the NFL.

The many changes in the NFL this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic have meant changes for Leisinger as well. “Aside from working fully remote, COVID-19 has forced us to be more creative in how we approach interviewing our talent — utilizing online platforms like Zoom and handheld phone footage,” she said. She is grateful for the technology and the many NFL employees that are making it possible for her and others to do their work remotely.

A few weeks ago, Leisinger was part of the team that produced this video about the NFL’s new protocols and procedures.


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Chelsea Crain Lensing ’14 and
Mario Affatigato ’89

Coe professors recognized in national news

Assistant Professor of Stead Department of Business Administration and Economics Chelsea Crain Lensing ’14 and Fran Allison and Francis Halpin Professor of Physics Mario Affatigato ’89 recently were mentioned in national news. Lensing was recognized by The New York Times for her work on a study linking coffee shops to innovation, and The Wall Street Journal consulted Affatigato for his expertise in glass science.