E-News - May 5, 2021

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

Coe celebrates Commencement for classes of 2020 and 2021

On May 1 and 2, Coe recognized the achievements of the classes of 2020 and 2021 in separate graduation ceremonies. Watch the videos to see highlights from this special weekend.

Class of 2020


Class of 2021


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U.S. Army Col. Matt Clark ’95

Clark serves alma mater as Commencement speaker

Coe College alumnus and leader in the COVID-19 response Matt Clark ’95 addressed the classes of 2020 and 2021 in separate graduation ceremonies as this year’s Commencement speaker.

Clark is a colonel in the United States Army and is leading in the fight against COVID-19 as a program manager for the Federal COVID Response, the group formerly known as Operation Warp Speed. The program is a public and private partnership within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is responsible for developing, manufacturing and distributing COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics for the nation.

Clark’s focus is on vaccine development. He leads other program managers and collaborates across coordinating teams at the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority in HHS. At Coe, Clark majored in psychology and was a member of the Army ROTC program, graduating magna cum laude as an ROTC Distinguished Military Graduate. He also currently serves on the Coe Alumni Council.

“Growing up, Coe College was a playground I always had but never recognized until I was in a time of need. Coe’s support of Army ROTC was how I finally noticed that Coe was where I belong. Coe embraced me, challenged me, trusted me and raised me intellectually while supporting a purpose-driven, service-oriented path,” Clark said.

This year’s Commencement weekend was filled with even more celebration than usual. The Class of 2020, whose ceremony was postponed due to COVID-19, finally got the opportunity to walk across the graduation stage on May 1, and the ceremony for the Class of 2021 took place on May 2. Although guests were limited to maintain established social distancing measures, many of Coe’s beloved graduation traditions, such as the ringing of the Victory Bell, still took place.

Clark was humbled and excited to serve the classes of 2020 and 2021. In his address, he asked critical questions like “Who cares about the future and making it a better place?” and “How can you develop yourself and the world at Warp Speed?” He drew upon his experiences to explain how to convert a vicious cycle into a virtuous cycle.

Clark’s remarks at Commencement were a family affair. He is married to fellow Coe grad Katie Kraft Clark ’95, and they were in Cedar Rapids celebrating their son, Griffin Clark ’21, who participated in the Commencement ceremony as a graduating senior. Like his father, Griffin also was a cadet in the Army ROTC program.


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Coe College is top 10 nationally as a Best School for Internships; earns Best Alumni Network ranking for first time

Coe College remains a national leader in student internship and networking opportunities. This commitment to enhancing education with professional experiences and valuable mentorship continues to be nationally recognized, but also pays off for Coe students. For many years nearly 100% of reporting Coe graduates have been employed or in graduate school within one year of graduation.

This year, The Princeton Review ranked Coe 10th nationally on its list of Best Schools for Internships in the private college category. This is the fourth consecutive year Coe has been ranked in the Top 25 in the internship category, with 10th being its highest ranking. Coe also was ranked 20th nationally for Best Alumni Network for private colleges, which is a new recognition for the college.

Coe is the only Iowa college or university — public or private — to earn rankings in these categories.

The rankings are part of a broader list of the 200 Best Value Colleges compiled by The Princeton Review. The publication evaluates four-year colleges and universities across the country, with the top 200 earning recommendations as offering the best return on investment. Coe made the list once again, which places the college in the top 7% of four-year colleges and universities nationwide.

“Focusing on the student experience and providing the exposure and guidance they need out of the classroom to thrive after graduation is one of our main objectives,” said Interim President David T. Hayes ’93. “I’m pleased our efforts have coincided with these national rankings, but they don’t rival the satisfaction we get from seeing our students enter the world, find success and create positive change.”

Much of Coe’s achievements in connecting students to internships and alumni can be attributed to the vision and development of the C3: Creativity, Careers and Community center. The on-campus resource assists students with career exploration, interviewing, applications and identifying engagement opportunities.

“The opportunities to engage with professionals outside of campus is a decided advantage for our students. I’m grateful to all our alumni, community members and business partners for the role they play in providing these experiences for our Kohawks,” Hayes said.

Coe guarantees each student access to an internship, research or off-campus study before graduation. The Cedar Rapids metro area provides hundreds of internship possibilities, including with Fortune 500 companies, but Coe students also engage with national companies and organizations like Google, the Chicago Board of Trade and the United States Senate.


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Data is the future, and the future is at Coe College

2.5 quintillion bytes, or roughly 75 DVDs. That’s how much data a single person produces in a day, according to IBM. As we learn to harness and understand all that data, it’s leading to world-changing innovations and is leading Coe to introduce a new interdisciplinary data science major, beginning fall 2021.

As a college dedicated to equipping its students with the tools and connections to be positive change leaders, adding data science is a natural forward-thinking step. Less than one-third of college campuses in Iowa offer a data science degree.

“We are proud to offer a new major and opportunity. Gathering and interpreting data is a crucial practice in high demand for medicine, education, aviation, agriculture, media, public health and many more fields,” said assistant professor Michael Stobb. “For example, think about the role data played in the COVID-19 vaccine development and distribution. Students with a data science background are going to be ready to make significant contributions in their field that improve the lives of others.”

For the new major, Coe has taken care to create fresh courses to meet the industry’s evolving needs. In the classroom, Coe data science students will learn the fundamental computational and mathematical skills required in data science, but also be able to choose from a variety of other courses that align with their specific interests. By graduation, they will be able to build data sets, construct hypotheses, analyze supporting data, form conclusions based on analysis and then present their findings. The applications are wide-ranging and, for example, could include improving aerodynamics on the next generation of jets, managing deforestation in the Amazon or using analytics to manage the roster of a baseball team.

“One of the advantages of being a data science student at Coe is the flexibility to work across disciplines, always in small classes. It helps you develop a personal understanding of all the applications data can have in any industry and builds valuable critical thinking skills,” Stobb said.

Outside the classroom, Coe students will have an incredible advantage. For four years in a row The Princeton Review has named Coe one of the nation’s Top 25 Best Schools for Internships, including ranking 10th for 2021. The college maintains relationships with local businesses in areas such as data, insurance and aerospace that will create meaningful internship opportunities. Students will be able to apply what they learn in the classroom to real world experiences before they graduate.

The market for graduates is strong. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for data scientists exceeds $100,000 nationally, and the demand for data science skills will drive a 15 percent rise in employment in the field through 2029.


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Coe student and professor awarded Campus Compact Presidents’ Awards

Harold Walehwa ’21 and Dr. Neal McNabb, Assistant Professor and Chair of Social & Criminal Justice, have been named Coe College recipients of 2021 Iowa and Minnesota Campus Compact (IAMNCC) Presidents’ Awards. About 90 individuals and organizations are honored for accomplishments that exemplify and celebrate the public purpose at the heart of education.

“Both Harold and Dr. McNabb deserve the recognition of these distinguished awards,” said Coe Interim President David Hayes. “They have demonstrated the drive to uplift the people and communities around them, and we are proud they are Kohawks.”

Walehwa earned the Student Leadership Award. He is a member of Coe’s Black Self-Educated Organization and CoeVotes and also interned and volunteered for Advocates for Social Justice.

The Presidents’ Student Leadership Award honors an individual who models a deep commitment to civic responsibility and leadership, evidenced by initiative, innovative and collaborative approaches to addressing public issues, effective community building and integration of civic engagement into the college experience.

As part of Walehwa’s nomination, Coe Director of Community and Civic Engagement Joe Demarest wrote, “His dedication to fighting injustice while also increasing voter participation among students at Coe is exemplary, and his development as a leader has been inspiring to witness.”

McNabb was awarded the Civic Engagement Leadership Award. He has been instrumental in creating opportunities for students to engage as volunteers or interns within the community, forming partnerships with several local organizations, including RISE (Reintegration Initiative for Safety and Empowerment), Waypoint Services, The League of Women Voters of Linn County, the Riverview Center, Advocates for Social Justice, Amani Community Services and Willis Dady Homeless Services.

The Presidents’ Civic Engagement Leadership Award recognizes a member of the faculty who has significantly advanced their campus’ distinctive civic mission by forming strong partnerships, supporting others’ civic and community engagement and working to institutionalize a culture and practice of engagement.

“His ability to drive engagement uplifts not only our students, but our community as well,” Demarest wrote as part of McNabb’s nomination.

IAMNCC is a statewide association of college and university presidents providing leadership for the civic mission of higher education and strengthening the capacity of its member colleges and universities to prepare all students to become engaged citizens.


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Brittany Shickell ’13

Alumni tree donation aids campus restoration efforts

With spring in full swing, Coe continues to replace trees across campus that were lost in the August derecho. The college’s replanting efforts received a recent boost from Brittany Shickell ’13, Aubrey Walters Brinkman ’13, Zach Walters ’08 and Riley Galbraith ’16, who collectively donated 20 trees to Coe.

All four alumni are employees at World Class Industries (WCI) in Hiawatha, Iowa. WCI partnered with the Monarch Research Project to offer each of its employees six trees to replace ones that were lost in the derecho, or to give to friends and neighbors who needed them. Shickell didn’t need to replace any trees at her home, so she decided to donate her trees to Coe since the college is such a special place for her.

“My fiancé, Matt Walter ’09, graduated and works at Coe, I met my best friends at Coe and I am there almost every day, so Coe has and always will have a huge part of my heart. Coe has always been known for its beautiful campus and I knew the derecho hit the campus pretty hard. It is so sad to see how drastically different the campus looks without all of its trees, so I wanted to give my trees to Coe to help in a small way,” Schickell said.

As one of the main organizers of WCI’s Planting Forward program, Shickell noticed that Brinkman, Walters and Galbraith each only wanted a couple of trees, so she approached them about donating their remaining trees to Coe, which they were happy to do.

“I was excited when Brittany approached us about the opportunity because Coe has forever held a special place for myself and my family. I hope that these trees help restore some of the campus’ natural beauty,” Galbraith said.

Shickell delivered the 20 trees to campus on April 12. The trees represent several different species and will contribute to the biodiversity of Coe’s campus. They were planted in Coe’s tree farm area while they mature and will later be transplanted onto the main campus.

Coe is grateful to all alumni and friends who donated trees or made contributions to the Storm Relief Fund, as well as the many dedicated students who helped with the replanting efforts.


We love to see our Kohawks making headlines for their accomplishments and contributions to their communities. Check out these alumni who recently made the news.


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Kalina Eskew ’21

Kohawk awarded prestigious National Science Foundation fellowship

“Complete shock” is how Kalina Eskew ’21 described their reaction when notified they were the recipient of a prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) award from the National Science Foundation.

“Honestly, I had practically forgotten that I had applied for the GRFP back in October, so I was not expecting to find out I had gotten it that morning. I read the email over and over until I decided to text my loved ones, then rushed to tell my advisor at Coe, Dr. Jesse Ellis,” they said.

The fellowship supports outstanding graduate students pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in a STEM field. Five other recent Coe alumni have been awarded the fellowship in recent years — Rebecca Welch ’20 and Annie Ruckman ’20, Nathan Dvorak ’19, Dahlia Baker ’18 and Emily Roberts ’16.

Eskew is a biology and environmental science major at Coe, and their graduate studies will focus on animal behavior. Which graduate school is still undecided, though. As a GRFP fellow, they will receive a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 and a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance along with opportunities for international research and professional development.

“I want to continue asking questions through research and support other underserved students to reach their goals. It can be difficult to find graduate advisors with funding in the area that you are most interested, but with the GRFP, essentially you bring funding from the NSF with you,” they said.

Achievement is nothing new to Eskew. They will be the first in their family to earn a bachelor’s degree and now also the first to earn a doctorate. The breadth of opportunities at Coe, coupled with the level of support Ellis was able to provide were catalysts for this accomplishment.

“Coe has given me a lot of opportunities to get field experience and know how to set up my own research projects. I spent two summers at the Wilderness Field Station, first taking a class and then working on both my own independent study and Dr. Ellis’s work on Ovenbirds. I have also had a lot of chances to practice writing proposals and lab reports in my science classes and then presenting my information to other students,” they said.

Ellis is the director of Coe’s Wilderness Field Station in the boundary waters of northern Minnesota. The station puts 2 million acres of pristine natural habitat at students’ fingertips, providing everything from serenity for contemplative creative writers to live island labs for biogeography study.

“Dr. Ellis was a huge help in preparing my materials. He understands the kind of work I am interested in and helped me make my application the best it could possibly be, right down to the deadline. I do not think I would have been nearly as successful without his help. I owe a lot to Dr. Ellis.”

This year, the NSF awarded 2,074 fellowships throughout the country. More than 12,000 typically submit applications.


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#KohawkDay breaks records

On April 8, Kohawks from around the world united on Coe’s Day of Giving. Thank you to everyone who donated, participated in celebrations and connected on social media.

#KohawkDay is a 24-hour giving day, but it’s about much more than raising money. It’s a day to connect members of the entire Coe community, no matter how far away from campus they may be, through school spirit and the common goal of supporting the college.

Because of you, we had the most successful #KohawkDay to date with 812 donors, raising $664,298.06 in gifts and pledges for Coe! A special thank you to all of our challenge leaders and social ambassadors who helped promote #KohawkDay.

If you haven’t already done so, we hope you will visit our #KohawkDay website to check out the complete results. If you missed #KohawkDay, please consider making a gift today to keep the momentum going for Kohawk nation! Please reach out with any questions to Associate Vice President for Advancement Barb Tupper at 319.399.8662 or btupper@coe.edu.


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Support Coe’s Greece excavation

Since 2016, Associate Professor of History Angela Ziskowski has been taking teams of current students to the Lechaion Harbor and Settlement Land Project site in Greece for six-week summer archaeological excavations in collaboration with an international team of students, archaeologists and specialists. In all, more than 30 Coe students have joined her for the archaeological experience of a lifetime.

This summer, Ziskowski will run a small study season with a few students and a small staff to finish the analyses and conservation work from previous excavations. This trip relies on the generosity of alumni and friends of Coe and the greater community. Gifts to the project will help provide supplies, housing, transportation and food for the team, and will ensure the students receive an amazing educational experience as they continue the important work at Lechaion. Click here to learn more and support the project.