E-News - September 1, 2021

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

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Homecoming 2021 registration now open

We can’t wait for our alumni to return to Home Sweet Coe to celebrate Homecoming October 21-24. Reunite with your classmates and join us for fun events such as the Homecoming Showcase Concert, All-Alumni Celebration, Kohawk football versus Luther and more. Details and registration are now available at www.alumni.coe.edu/homecoming21. A brochure with a registration card will be mailed to alumni in the coming weeks.


Three outstanding Kohawks to be honored with alumni awards

Justin Nylin ’13, Paula Ginder Lentz ’89 and Heather Daniels ’95 will be recognized at the All-Alumni Recognition Reception and Program during Homecoming. Nylin will receive the Young Alum Award, Lentz will receive the Alumni Award of Merit and Daniels will receive the Distinguished Service Award.

Nylin earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Coe and later earned a master’s degree in nursing from Chamberlain University. He is currently a nurse supervisor at MercyOne Clinton Medical Center in his hometown of Clinton, Iowa, where he has worked since he graduated from Coe. He also works as a nurse at Bickford Assisted Living in Clinton. In 2019, Nylin was named one of the 100 Great Iowa Nurses. He has served on the Coe College Nursing Advisory Board since 2014 and regularly guest lectures in Coe nursing classes.

Lentz majored in English and psychology at Coe and went on to earn a Master of Arts in English from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a doctorate in rhetoric and scientific and technical communication from the University of Minnesota. She is currently an academic program director and professor of business communication in the College of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She has dozens of publications and research presentations to her credit and has received numerous awards and accolades throughout her career, including the Meada Gibbs Outstanding Teacher-Scholar Award and the Francis Weekes Award of Merit from the Association for Business Communication.

Daniels was a biology major at Coe and earned a master’s degree in biology from Boston University and a Master of Arts in library studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has spent the past 23 years of her career at UW-Madison in a variety of capacities, starting as the assistant director of graduate studies for the Neuroscience Training Program. She currently serves as secretary of the faculty, a position she has held since February 2020. In 2007, she was the recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Service to the University. Daniels has hosted numerous Coe alumni events in the Madison/Milwaukee area and served on the Coe College Alumni Council from 2004-2016, including being president from 2012-2014. She and her husband, Alan Hiebert ’96, are longtime supporters of Coe and are members of the Heritage Club.

The All-Alumni Recognition Reception and Program will be held Saturday, October 23 in Stewart Memorial Library. A continental breakfast reception will begin at 9:15 AM with the program to follow at 10:00 AM. In addition to honoring the three award winners, the event will include the pinning of the Classes of 1970 and 1971 celebrating their 50th reunion. Go to www.alumni.coe.edu/homecoming21 to register for the event.


Athletic Hall of Fame to induct three former Kohawk athletes

The Coe College Athletic Hall of Fame will welcome Clayton Rush ’11 (wrestling), Molly Fiala Garber ’10 (women's tennis) and Tyler Burkle ’10 (wrestling) into its ranks this fall. All three inductees made appearances at their respective NCAA tournaments during their time as Kohawk athletes. Read more about the 2021 Hall of Fame class.

Rush, Garber and Burkle will be honored alongside the five inductees from the 2020 Hall of Fame class during Homecoming at the 48th Athletic Hall of Fame Reception. The 2020 class includes Brian Collier ’98 (track and field, football), Beth Rohlena Boettcher ’05 (softball), Alison Rohdy ’00 (softball), Roger Schlegel (coach, 1972-1981) and Shane Staker ’97 (baseball, football).

The reception will be held on Friday, October 22 at 5:30 PM, with a program to begin at 6:00 PM. The cost of attendance is $25 per adult and $15 per child (ages 5-12). Those interested in attending the event can register at www.alumni.coe.edu/homecoming21.


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Class of 2025

Coe College navigates extraordinary recruiting year to welcome third-largest class

High school students across the country continue to take notice of Coe College’s perennial national recognition as a leading college. Coe recently welcomed 438 students to the college, which is in the top 7% of four-year colleges and universities on The Princeton Review Best Value Colleges list, and ranks 10th nationally in the private college category on its list of Best Schools for Internships and 20th for Best Alumni Network. Coe is the only Iowa college or university to earn rankings in both categories.

The incoming students comprise the third-largest class in the college’s 170-year history, including the largest domestic first-year population ever. The nine largest classes in Coe’s history have all come over the past nine years.

Over the past year, communicating the opportunities and value that a Coe education creates took ingenuity and patience when relationship-building and campus visits were mostly limited to a virtual setting.

“I’m thrilled to be able to welcome these students,” said Associate Vice President for Enrollment Josh Kite. “This past year was atypical in so many ways, but the one thing that never waivered was the resiliency of the admission staff and Coe community working together alongside our incoming class to navigate this unforeseen situation.”

Coe remained committed to connect on a personal level with students who were interested in enrolling at Coe. In addition to limited in-person contact, online chats, video calls and virtual tours with an in-person student guide allowed admission counselors to demonstrate and discuss what being a student at Coe was like.

The efforts resulted in the impressive class, which is composed of students from 27 different states and six countries — the second-largest state distribution in the college’s history. Of the 438 students, 48% will play varsity athletics, 42% are first-generation students and one-third (33.5%) come from underrepresented backgrounds, also the second-highest percentage in the college’s history. The class academic profile features an average GPA of 3.7 and average ACT of 25.

“It’s a historic class in historic times. It speaks to our reputation and to our commitment to foster academic excellence and student success,” Kite said.

The Class of 2025 is currently working with members of the newly-formed Office of Student Success and Persistence to aid in their transition to college. Success coaches will work with members of the class throughout the year to provide guidance on how to assimilate into a college environment.

“Coe is poised to meet the needs of this generation of students. We recognize the uniqueness of the times and have risen to provide the needed services to our community,” said Vice President for Enrollment Julie Kleis Staker ’93. “In addition to the Office of Student Success and Persistence, our C3: Creativity, Careers, Community center is connecting students to alumni and internships in a way that’s nationally recognized, and Coe continues to proceed with innovations like our Center for Health and Society.”

“We’re excited to not only welcome these students to their new home, but to begin to pair them with these opportunities while they are undergraduate students which in turn will create valuable professional experience and networks to open doors upon graduation,” Staker said.

The efforts to enhance academics with career-affirming experiences and professional connections have been effective. For the past decade, reporting Coe graduates have been employed, in graduate school or involved in service opportunities nearly 100% of the time within nine months of graduation. The latest national average is 83%.


Golf outing brings Kohawks together to support student-athletes

More than 100 alumni and friends of Coe Athletics teed off at the 39th Annual Coe College Golf Outing Kohawk Club Athletic Fundraiser at Hunters Ridge Golf Course on July 29. The golf outing is the Coe Athletic Department’s major annual fundraiser that supports Coe’s 26 men’s, women’s and co-ed varsity sports in the American Rivers Conference. Participants enjoyed a round of golf, a meet and greet with Coe coaches, a silent auction and a Kohawk celebration in the evening. Since the event was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, golfers were more than ready to get out on the course for a day of camaraderie and fun to raise nearly $28,000 for Coe’s student-athletes. Go Kohawks!

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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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The Brazell family (L-R): Jenny, Ava, Sophia, Ella, Grace and Bill

‘Leaving her at a place I love’: Another Coe legacy began this Move-In Weekend

Ella Brazell ’25 was facing a decision typical of others her age on May 1, National College Decision Day. The then-high school senior had narrowed down her college list to two — one of the options being Coe College. But, it was time to decide where she would enroll in the fall. What wasn’t typical, though, was that both her parents — Bill Brazell ’97 and Jenny Kallevang Brazell ’97 — are alumni of Coe, and both had tried their best to be unbiased for the last two years as Ella explored colleges. But on the morning of May 1, they just couldn’t keep it inside any longer.

Both Bill and Jenny and each of Ella’s three siblings showed up to breakfast downstairs at their Rochester, Minnesota, home wearing Kohawk gear.

The official decision came soon after, and Ella was going to be a second-generation Kohawk.

“This was definitely my choice,” Ella said.

The display at breakfast wasn’t why Ella chose Coe, it just made her announcement a little sweeter. She knows Coe will provide the environment and experience to help her reach her goal of becoming a CEO. She plans to double major in history and business administration.

While Ella had grown up hearing about Coe, serious consideration started with a 2019 campus visit.

“There was just a feeling I left with,” Ella said about the visit.

“There was an energy on campus, and everyone was saying ‘hi,’” Bill added. “It’s still the same as how I remember it because you always feel like you’re part of a community. Nothing else felt like Coe.”

Fast forward...the crimson and gold breakfast gear her family adorned was swapped out for a Coe Orientation shirt this past weekend as Ella was one of 438 new students who moved into their Coe residences for the first time. Ella’s Kohawk experience already has started quickly with dance team practices.

“It hasn’t been overwhelming, but it is a little nerve-wracking,” Ella said.

Mostly, though, the weekend was a prolonged moment of pride for the entire Brazell family, who all came to move in Ella. This includes her three younger sisters, Ava, Grace and Sophia.

In between unpacking boxes and shopping, Bill and Jenny have marveled at how the campus has changed physically with the addition of new student apartments and upgraded athletic facilities. They also relayed some insider advice.

“I told her the best spot to study by far is the third floor of the library,” Jenny said. “It’s also a good napping spot,” she added with a wink.

“I told her where all the Diet Pepsi spots are,” Bill chimed in.

Despite all the great memories and good-natured advice, the goodbye was hard as the family headed back to Rochester without Ella.

“But at least I’m leaving her at a place I love,” Jenny said.


Remembering the derecho at Coe

Coe's derecho story is one of quick-thinking reactions, ingenuity with limited resources and careful planning on the road to recovery. But most of all, it's a story of community and care for one another and our nest.


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Rachael Van Essen Murtaugh ’11

Kohawk leads post-derecho Cedar Rapids reforestation efforts

On August 10, 2020, Cedar Rapids experienced a severe storm with damaging winds reaching more than 100 mph. Called a derecho, the storm left thousands without power for weeks, affecting access to food, fuel and even shelter. Coe College lost more than 200 trees alone, while Cedar Rapids lost more than 670,000 trees. With over half a million trees destroyed, ReLeaf Cedar Rapids was born to lead the reforestation of Cedar Rapids with Rachael Van Essen Murtaugh ’11 leading the charge.

“With time, I’ve gotten used to what we see until I go to a city that wasn’t affected and has all their trees. I can see the difference, and you feel grief. That’s something I hear from a lot of people. They have experienced true grief for losing a tree,” Murtaugh said.

Murtaugh wears many hats as the ReLeaf program manager. She works with a core team creating a derecho recovery plan, writing grants, coordinating volunteers and budgeting with the goal to finalize a long-term reforestation initiative in partnership with Trees Forever, Jeff Speck of Speck & Associates and Confluence Inc. Her role is only two months old, but her roots run deep in research to replant trees responsibly for people and the local ecology.

“It isn’t just plopping trees in the ground. We need to consider climate change, wildlife habitats, pollinators, pests, species diversity and social equity,” she said.

Murtaugh is arranging to plant Iowa native trees. Because people with consistent access to green spaces have reduced stress and anxiety, among a variety of health and environmental benefits, Murtaugh is paying close attention to underserved communities to ensure equal access to trees. Her biggest responsibility is ensuring the species of trees and their specific locations across Cedar Rapids are compatible.

“Native species are adapted to our climate. We have to plan on species that can survive from drought and heat stress. The tricky thing about climate change is that trees can live for more than 150 years, but we don’t know exactly what the climate will look like then. The trees we plant may have to deal with periodic flooding, drought, increased heat and possibly colder winters,” she said.

Murtaugh brings years of valuable experience in forestry and building departments from the ground up. After graduating from Coe with degrees in environmental science and biology, she earned a master's degree in conservation biology from Illinois State University. Following her time at Illinois State, she set up the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center’s environmental chemistry lab at Lewis and Clark Community College and moved on to create and spearhead Mount Mercy University’s sustainability office before taking on the role of ReLeaf program manager.

But first, Murtaugh found her way to conservation on a canoe trip singing Taylor Swift and showtunes at the top of her lungs with friends in the Boundary Waters of Northern Minnesota as a student at the Wilderness Field Station — Coe’s learning oasis and living laboratory in the Superior National Forest. The idyllic setting is open to all students and is a literal change in scenery from the typical classroom allowing curious students like Murtaugh to study a variety of nature-centric topics under the stars and on the water. The memories created at the Field Station are often unforgettable, and it was in this setting that Murtaugh took an interest in wildlife management with a class in mammalogy.

She went on to spend summers taking inventory of state park trees as part of Heins-Johnson Professor of Biology Paula Sanchini’s forestry research with Trees Forever. Paula was instrumental in encouraging Murtaugh to pursue an environmental science major in addition to her biology studies.

“Paula was interested in developing me as a researcher. She valued the impact of my work and took my ideas into consideration. It was key to me building my confidence in decision making, critical thinking and independence,” she said.

Coe’s student-centered approach and interdisciplinary curriculum provided Murtaugh unique opportunities to gain skills like writing with Retired Professor of English Ann Struthers. In addition to helping Murtaugh express herself outside of science, she’s falling back on lessons in poetry to fuel the creativity of her new role.

“Part of my job is telling the story of the derecho and recovery. There’s a creative aspect to that,” Murtaugh said. “I took all of Ann’s poetry classes. She broke her hip my senior year and instead of canceling classes we all went to her apartment to have class. Her husband made us brownies. She was amazing.”

“Education is often seen as a training course for a career, but it is so far beyond that. The goal of liberal arts is to develop you and your skills beyond training for a job. I learned to think creatively and developed empathy, compassion and respect for different cultures at Coe. I use all of these every day for my job,” she added.

Armed with skills and expertise, Murtaugh is a force of nature leading a new program with heart.

“I can look back over the course of my life and see the change that has happened. I see the reduction in insect population. I can see it with my own eyes. I can see changes in our forests. I can see and feel the changes in climate from when I was little. Looking at the projections, I'm genuinely afraid for the future my son and his children will have. I want to spend my time trying to protect it. I wake up knowing time away from my family is improving our city and  environment. It’s making people’s lives better,” she said.


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In-person Thursday Forum lectures return for the 2021-2022 year

Coe College is pleased to announce the 2021-2022 Thursday Forum lecture schedule. The lecture series is for older adults seeking to expand their knowledge in an academic setting. Throughout the academic year, the forums will explore topics in music, science, politics, literature and education using a blend of lecture, media and discussion.

Over 30 years, Coe College has presented more than 150 different speakers during Thursday Forum to create one-of-a-kind opportunities for the Cedar Rapids community. This year, 12 Coe faculty speakers will present the following lectures:

  • September 2, 9, 16 and 23: Film Music, Concert Music and the Hollywood Connection - Over the course of this four-week forum, Instructor and Teaching Artist in Music Alan Lawrence will explore significant milestones in film music of the past century. Through film clips and audio recordings, audience members will learn about important film composers, such as Max Steiner and Bernard Herrmann, and the connections between concert and film music.
  • September 30, October 7, 14 and 21: Jane Austen, Then and Now - This four-week forum will explore the literary and cultural importance of Jane Austen, one of Britain’s most celebrated novelists, by introducing and examining Austen’s life and literary works. Associate Professor of English Melissa Sodeman and audience members will assess the scope of Austen’s accomplishments and why her works continue to captivate and inspire the world.
  • October 28 and November 4: The Science and Politics of Pandemics - This two-week forum, led jointly by Ben Peterson Professor of Chemistry Maria Dean and Professor of Political Science Lynda Barrow, will examine a variety of compelling scientific and political questions regarding pandemics past and present from the vantage points of a biochemist and a political scientist.
  • November 11 and 18: The Past, Present and Future of Biodiversity - In this two-week forum, Assistant Professor of Biology Daniel Hughes will provide attendees with an overview of biodiversity research, from the origins of conservation biology to the contemporary climate and extinction crises. Integrating his own research on biodiversity in Central Africa and eastern Iowa, Dr. Hughes will offer a variety of examples and perspectives about the range of threats to biodiversity and the actions that can be taken to conserve species for future generations.
  • February 3, 10, 17 and 24: The International Year of Glass - The United Nations declared 2022 the International Year of Glass to celebrate “the essential role glass has and will continue to have in society,” including its tremendous technological, scientific, economic, historical and artistic importance. In this four-week forum, professors from the Coe Physics Department will highlight the important role glass and glass research play in our daily lives.
  • March 3, 10, 24 and 31: Teaching and Learning Inside: The Transformative Potential of College-in-Prison Programs - This four-week forum with John William King Professor of Literature & Creative Writing Gina Hausknecht will examine the debate surrounding national and local rehabilitative programs that promote education and the arts in prisons, such as the pioneering Bard Prison Initiative and the Liberal Arts Beyond Bars college-in-prison program at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center.
  • April 7, 14, 21 and 28: BREXIT: Why, How and What Now - In 2016, the British public voted to withdraw the United Kingdom from the European Union (EU), an action that has destroyed political careers, strained international relations and triggered constitutional crises and acrimonious public and Parliamentary debates. This series with Joan and Abbott Lipsky Professor of Political Science Kimberly Lanegran will explore what BREXIT is and why it matters to the world.

In-person forum sessions are held Thursday mornings in Kesler Lecture Hall of Hickok Hall on the Coe College campus. Each session begins with registration from 8:45 AM to 9:15 AM, followed by the presentation until 11:30 AM.

Admission to each four-week course can be purchased at the door or in advance. For more details or information, visit www.coe.edu/thursday-forum or call 319.399.8523.


Important Dates and Upcoming Events

September 27 — Phonathon Begins — Watch for a phone call from one of our student callers who would love to talk to you about how you can support Coe!

October 21-24 — Homecoming: Home Sweet Coe — We missed seeing alumni on campus last year, so we are really looking forward to celebrating Homecoming this fall! Make plans to reconnect with your classmates and friends while reliving traditions and reminiscing about your years at Coe.