E-News - February 3, 2021

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

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Update from the Coe College Board of Trustees

This week following the January board meeting, Coe Board of Trustees Chair Ken Golder ’82 updated the campus community on the status of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at Coe, as well as plans for continued progress in these efforts.

A message from the Board of Trustees and Board Chair Ken Golder to Coe students:

I write to share an update with the Coe community about the endeavors underway at the college in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and to draw your specific attention to several actions taken by the Board of Trustees. We recognize an institution’s history, policies and practices require critical and honest self-reflection, and we are committed to taking action whenever possible to make Coe a more inclusive and equitable college. This work is among the highest priorities at Coe and although we still have much more work ahead of us, I want you as students of the college to be informed of how your Board of Trustees is moving to address these important issues.

During a June 2020 meeting of the Board, the Trustees unanimously passed a resolution that set forth several key action steps related to DEI, including requiring anti-bias training for all current and future board members, providing for a standing agenda item for DEI topics at all future board meetings to assure appropriate oversight and priority be given to these concerns, directing the college to further develop anti-discrimination/anti-bias courses and programming for students, establishing a mechanism to evaluate the names of campus buildings and endowed chairs and directing the administration’s continuing work with key student groups to address several concerns raised by Coe’s students over the summer.

At our recently completed January meeting, the Board participated in anti-bias training conducted through an outside professional facilitator, and we anticipate future opportunities to continue our collective growth so that we can work to make the college more diverse and welcoming for all students, faculty and staff. To more fully embed these concerns in our governance structure, the Board also amended the college’s bylaws to form a new committee devoted to DEI issues. The committee will be chaired by Coe Trustee Robert Darryl Banks ’72, and will consist of several Trustees, Interim President David Hayes ’93, members of Coe’s senior staff and three students representing a diversity of backgrounds and viewpoints. The committee will review the college’s programs and operations related to racial justice, diversity, equity and inclusion on a consistent basis to ensure Coe continues to improve its efforts in these areas, as well as continue the work set forth in the June resolution.

Beyond these specific actions of the Board and throughout the fall term, faculty, staff and students have engaged in training and programming to broaden their knowledge of and sensitivity to diversity, equity and inclusion issues. Faculty and staff participated in workshops through the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, as well as anti-bias training sessions. Many more educational opportunities will be available this spring. The college administration has provided paid time off so that employees can participate in these activities during the normal work day.

I would also highlight the work of Coe’s newly created Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. These staff members are dedicated to ensuring every student at Coe feels welcome and valued, and they provide a wealth of resources and learning opportunities to the college community. Toward that end, many campus partners and offices have prepared a full schedule of Black History Month events, and I invite you to participate in these activities and opportunities.

Finally, Coe’s administration and the Board of Trustees continue to connect with our students of color and student organizations including the Black Self-Educated Organization (BSEO) to ensure their voices are heard. Their input and concerns are of the utmost importance to us as we move Coe forward and seek to always do better for our students. Working to address some of the concerns raised by our students, Coe has expanded scholarships, made improvements to the BSEO house, expanded counseling services and offered faculty and staff training specifically focused on microaggressions.

While much of my message today highlights the commitment of Coe’s Board, I recognize that true progress in this area will be not the work of a few, but stem from the collective efforts of our entire college community. I encourage and invite you to join us on this journey, share your suggestions and reflections and help us build a better Coe experience for each and every Kohawk. Together we can fully deliver on Coe’s mission to deliver a life-enhancing liberal arts education within a safe, welcoming, diverse and inclusive campus for all members of this college.


Ken Golder ’82
Chair, Coe College Board of Trustees

Cindy Heidt.pngCindy Runner Heidt ’75 at the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Coe nursing alumna participates in COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial

As the COVID-19 pandemic intensified last spring, retired nurse Cindy Runner Heidt ’75 wanted to do something to help the situation. So one night in May, she turned to Google in search of COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials near her.

“I was just curious. I figured they were all in New York City, Washington, D.C., certain large places,” Heidt said. But to her surprise, there was a clinical trial taking place at the University of Pennsylvania, not far from her home in suburban Philadelphia. She filled out the participant screening form to see if she qualified and got a phone call a few days later about taking the next steps in the process, which included more screenings, blood draws and an extensive physical examination. She also had to provide a copy of her medical records, which proved especially difficult to obtain since her physician’s office was only open for emergencies due to the pandemic.

After passing every test, Heidt was approved to be part of the Phase I trial for the INO-4800 vaccine manufactured by INOVIO, a biotechnology company located in the Philadelphia area. Heidt was impressed with INOVIO’s history of research into other coronaviruses, and she liked that they were a local, midsized company. “It’s kind of like your hometown team,” she said.

INO-4800 is a DNA vaccine that can be stored at room temperature for up to one year, making it suitable for locations without access to the sophisticated refrigeration required for some COVID-19 vaccines. The clinical trial not only tested the vaccine itself, but also the method used to administer it. The shot is injected just below the first layer of skin and creates a small bubble, similar to a tuberculosis test. An electrical pulse is then applied to the injection site with a special device created by INOVIO called CELLECTRA, which is intended to help the body’s cells take in the DNA plasmid from the vaccine.

Heidt received her first dose of the vaccine on June 9. Having grown up on a farm in Iowa, she thought the electrical pulse might feel like brushing up against an electric fence but found it to be just a slight sting. She has since gotten her second dose as well as a booster shot and has not experienced any adverse effects.

Heidt was motivated to take part in the trial because of her extensive experience in health care and her desire to help others. Early in her career, she served two years’ active duty as a U.S. Navy nurse and later joined the Navy Reserves. After earning her bachelor’s in nursing from Coe, she spent two years in Kenya, East Africa, with the Peace Corps. She has worked in a variety of specialties, earned her master’s in nursing from the University of Pennsylvania and spent the latter part of her career in nursing education and administration. Due to her background, she was familiar with clinical trials and had no reservations about taking part in one. “I figured if I wasn’t working — if I wasn’t in my traditional role — I could help in a different type of role,” she said.

Concern for her family also influenced Heidt’s decision to volunteer for the trial. She saw the disruption the pandemic caused in the lives of her two daughters and the strain it was putting on her sister, who continues to work overtime on the front lines as a nurse in infection control with a public health department. Heidt is glad that everything worked out and she has been able to help with the vaccine effort. “Google led me down a good path,” she said.

Tupper Family edited.jpgBarb Ernst Tupper ’89 and her family

Tupper named associate vice president for Advancement

Barb Ernst Tupper ’89 has been promoted to the role of associate vice president for Advancement. The Advancement Office previously was led by David Hayes ’93 until his appointment as Coe’s interim president began January 1.

In her role, Tupper will serve as the external face of Coe Advancement and will direct the functions and operations of the office. She has been part of the Advancement team since 2014, beginning as director of the annual fund and most recently serving as executive director of external partnerships and annual giving and co-director of C3: Creativity, Careers, Community. She has developed strong relationships with companies and organizations in the Cedar Rapids area and has been a driving force in establishing C3 as a nationally recognized program connecting Coe students to a range of opportunities and experiences.

In addition to her degree from Coe, Tupper holds a master’s in student development from the University of Iowa. She and her husband, Eric Tupper ’88, have been active alumni ever since graduating from Coe, donating to the annual fund, volunteering at campus events and serving on the Alumni Council. They are the proud parents of Claire Tupper ’18, Kyle and Jack.

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Coe College ranked as a top sustainable college by The Princeton Review

Coe’s campus is known for being an oasis among the hustle and bustle of Cedar Rapids. The lush green lawns and serene gardens are more than breathtaking, they are part of a carefully crafted ecosystem allowing Coe and the surrounding habitat to live harmoniously.

For the fourth year in a row, Coe College is recognized as one of the nation’s most environmentally responsible colleges in the 2021 edition of The Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges.

“We’re so proud to be champions of sustainability. Our community is relentlessly finding ways we can make our college more environmentally friendly. Coe’s 15-year-old commitment to sustainability efforts is supported by a committee of students, faculty and staff. The collaborative work of this group has led to new infrastructure like rain gardens, solar-powered energy and a green roof,” said Coe College Chancellor David McInally.

In the last few years, Coe decreased its campus carbon footprint 19% by switching from coal to natural gas central heating. Solar panels generate 10% of Coe’s annual electricity use. A campus pollinator garden is filled with native plants to support species like butterflies and bees.

“It’s important to realize this is bigger than Coe. Our efforts empower a new generation who understands the need for conservation and preservation. I’m excited to see what Coe will continue to accomplish in a more sustainable world,” McInally said.

These efforts are supported through the Williston Jones Full-Tuition Sustainability Scholarship, which is available to students who are passionate about the environment and sustainable practices. In addition, Coe is a member of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.

Sophia John.jpgSophia John ’24
Photo by Josie Finch ’22

Heroes in white coats: A Coe family’s vocation for the medical field

Sophia John ’24 set foot on campus for the first time eagerly facing a future where she graduates from Coe and puts on a white lab coat. John’s medical career aspirations are inspired by her mother, Shivanthi Ponniah ’96, a nurse practitioner who taught John medicine isn’t a profession. It’s a way of life.

“My mother is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. She always says she loves to help people. I watched her get ready for work and put on a lab coat. It makes her so happy to make an impact in people’s lives. That’s what I want. At the end of the day, I want to do something that is beneficial to people. My mom definitely taught me how fulfilling it is to be in the medical field, and it pushed me toward medicine,” John says.

Campus is a long ways away from John’s hometown of Atlanta, but she is no stranger to Kohawk nation. She grew up hearing stories of the great memories her parents have of Coe. Her father, Shayne John ’93, encouraged her to apply. A meeting with the admission team helped John realize she made the right decision choosing Coe. She was impressed at how comfortable the team made her feel and their genuine interest in getting to know her. John was pleasantly surprised to receive a Diversity Leadership Scholarship offer. As an undecided pre-med or pre-dental student, she decided Coe would be the perfect fit to explore her passions.

In her short time at Coe so far, she’s already taken a deep dive into campus life. The biochemistry major is a part of Women in STEM with an interest in joining Pre-Health Club and Coe Review. John hopes to minor in creative writing or literature. But for now, she’s focused on juggling a heavy class load she is thoroughly enjoying.

“It’s great to have devoted professors who are dedicated to making you feel comfortable in class. You can tell it isn’t just a job for them. They enjoy teaching and love their class material. I’ve met other girls in Women in STEM who are interested in the same field, and hearing what they are doing is very motivational for me and inspiring. People here seem really close like a family. I appreciate what Coe has done for me. I’m grateful to be here and for the people who have helped me make it possible to be here,” John says.

John aspires to join Doctors without Borders after medical school.

Matthew Salesses.jpgMatthew Salesses

Salesses’ new book gains national attention

Assistant Professor of English Matthew Salesses’ most recent book “Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping” was released in January and reviewed in The New York Times.

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Stay up to date on Coe Athletics

Coe Athletics is happy to welcome student-athletes back to campus for the spring term. While fans and spectators are limited at events, we encourage alumni, parents and friends to check out KohawkAthletics.com for all athletic updates and watch your favorite sports through our livestreaming portal. Go Kohawks!

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C3 Career Communities host virtual events to connect alumni and students

The Career Communities sponsored by Coe’s C3: Creativity, Careers, Community enable alumni to network with current students and serve as resources to help them on their career journeys. Many of the communities are hosting virtual events through Zoom to connect with students until it’s safe to do so in person.

Each event is a panel discussion with a group of alumni sharing their knowledge and insights on a particular topic. Students have the opportunity to engage with the alumni panel and ask questions. For events with large turnouts of students, Zoom breakout rooms are utilized to ensure all Kohawks get the most out of the experience.

The Business & Entrepreneurism community recently held an event about pursuing an MBA after Coe. Four alumni took part in the discussion and shared their experience and advice with 30 students. Brad Wimmer ’88, a professor of economics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, was happy to participate and enjoyed meeting current students. “The student questions were thoughtful and insightful. It’s always great to meet with folks from Coe,” he said. Trish Meaney Cruz ’06, a senior global buyer at Hallmark, had helped with Coe’s Spring Break Externship in the past and wanted to be involved in the panel discussion as well. “The event was very well organized and expectations were very clear. I thoroughly enjoy getting to know the next graduating classes and hope I can help in any way as they start their careers or further their education,” she said.

Two other communities have upcoming events this term:

  • Social Sciences, Counseling & Education – Wednesday, February 17, 4:00-5:00 PM
    • Topic: Grad school vs. workforce
  • Arts, Communications, Media & Entertainment – Wednesday, March 24, 3:30-4:30 PM
    • Topic: Art major – what's next?

With 10 communities based on broad categories of careers with similar skill sets and interests, there’s an opportunity for every alumnus to get involved. Those interested in taking part in an event or joining a Career Community are encouraged to contact Director of Careers Nanci Young at nyoung@coe.edu.

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Coe Sweethearts 2021

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and we’re celebrating by featuring love stories from Kohawk couples! Click here to read about this year’s Coe Sweethearts.

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#KohawkDay is April 8!

Mark your calendars, Kohawks! Coe's annual Day of Giving is Thursday, April 8. Visit alumni.coe.edu/KohawkDay for unfolding details.

Busy on April 8? Make your gift early to count toward the challenges and goals of the day.

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Kent Herron Aspen Reunion Update

While we wish we could celebrate in person for an Aspen reunion in March 2021, we have made the decision to delay this reunion one more year until March 2022 due to the ongoing pandemic and for the safety of our alumni and friends.

When the time is right and it’s safe to do so, Kent and several others from Coe are very much looking forward to meeting up with old friends and making some new ones on this ski trip reunion in Aspen! For the most up-to-date information, visit alumni.coe.edu/kentherronaspenreunion.