Out and About, That's the Kohawk Way

C3-Career-Specialist-working-with-Coe-Student.jpgFor decades, the people, businesses and organizations of Cedar Rapids have welcomed Kohawks to their new hometown. And, for decades, Kohawks have strived to give back to the Cedar Rapids community. While the importance of community building and involvement remains, the manner in which the Coe community reaches beyond the physical space of the campus is always evolving…


Going out to give back always starts from within. For five years, Coe has secured grants from the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE). The grants have impacted the curriculum and created seminar, practicum and professional development opportunities for Kohawk students, faculty and staff to explore meaning and purpose within vocation.

Intentionally cultivating discussion around finding satisfaction personally and professionally leads many to question how they can contribute in the community and help others. In short, the NetVUE programs proactively instill a community-centric mindset on campus.

“The conversations that occur inherently compel people to consider what is needed in the world and how they, given their set of gifts, interests and skills, can make the world better,” said Assistant Professor of Psychology and Faculty Co-Director of C3 Samantha Brown.

Brown’s background in vocational psychology centers on researching the career development of adolescents and young adults. She has helped integrate the NetVUE concepts into campus activities.

Currently, NetVUE grants have enabled Coe to build conversations and education around pursuing meaning and purpose into First-Year Seminar curriculum, establish a sophomore experiential opportunity practicum and create faculty and staff professional development retreats.

The collaboration with NetVUE also aligns with the mission of C3: Creativity, Careers, Community. The C3 staff specializes in getting students out of the classroom and into real-world experiences. These opportunities are emphasized through volunteering, community engagement and internships.


There is such a concept as a win-win-win scenario, and students in Assistant Professor of Accounting Amy Perry’s Advanced Managerial Accounting course have been at the forefront of creating wins for themselves, local businesses and Coe. 

Perry and her students have partnered with NewBoCo, and more specifically a company called Kiva, for a few years. Kiva is a global non-profit organization whose mission is to provide capital to small businesses, particularly those owned by women and minorities. Kiva is a featured program of NewBoCo, which began as a business startup accelerator in 2014, located in Cedar Rapids’ New Bohemia neighborhood. 

The students in the managerial accounting course are matched with small businesses which could benefit from the skills and deliverables students provide. Some examples are profit/loss statements, more efficient accounting processes, inventory tracking and implementation of point-of-sale systems.

“It is a perfect fit to partner with small local businesses who could use some help in the areas of accounting functions and business acumen. It’s really a win for the students who are learning, a win for the small businesses in getting help with their business and a win for Coe with the enhanced footprint we get with our connection to our local community,” Perry said.

Since fall of 2022, students have assisted coffee shops, an ethnic grocery store, hair salon and a mobile pet grooming service.

“One of the best things about this project is that no company is the same, so each student group is getting a unique experience. This partnership often stretches students outside of their comfort zones because they are used to class problems where there is always a right way to calculate a problem to get to a correct answer. This mindset is challenging and has so much potential for growth and understanding for students,” Perry added.

In addition to business scenarios that have real-world applications and consequences, Kohawks are also cultivating valuable soft skills as they communicate with business owners and use time management, problem solving and critical thinking to approach solutions.

Students rave about the experience, even if it is challenging in the moment. A lot of the satisfaction is derived from helping someone who is in need and ultimately making the world a better place.

“I believe we each have a light to shine, and when we shine that light, we light the world. In this project, students are truly shining their lights and skills onto our local community, helping to brighten the experience of our small businesses. This in turn shines back to our students as they continue their journey here at Coe, and beyond as they begin their careers,” Perry said.

Prison Learning Initiative

Among the intentional opportunities for Kohawks to be involved in the community, one of the most unique is Coe’s Prison Learning Initiative (PLI). The goal of PLI is to provide a range of hands-on, highimpact experiences for students and community members to learn about and get involved with the criminal legal system. More specifically, PLI seeks to focus on the challenges of incarcerated individuals reentering society, reduce the longterm consequences of incarceration and build welcoming communities to support returning citizens and their families.

The initiative can be a profound experience for those involved.

"Events like this remind me there is still humanity throughout this world"
-Yennifer Salgado

Yennifer Salgado ’24 helps organize PLI events as a work-study student and often participates in the events in varying capacities. She is considering a career in either law enforcement or the legal field and will carry a heightened sense of empathy into her profession.

“I want to help those in the community, including those recently released from prison that need help to get back on their feet. Through PLI, it’s become clear those recently released are just expected to be ‘better,’ but in reality they don’t have the opportunities to do better,” Salgado said.

Community events are critical to the PLI mission, and one of the most impactful is an annual reentry simulation. Members of the campus and Cedar Rapids communities role-play the part of an individual recently released from incarceration. They have to navigate a simulated month post-release and attempt to successfully meet all the mandated steps like counseling and parole meetings. To accomplish everything is a challenge and the exercise is an eyeopener for participants. Reentering society is not easy — in many more ways than anticipated.

Salgado sees hope in the exercise, though.

“To see people from all over Cedar Rapids come together and participate was amazing. They all were trying to help each other out. Events like this remind me there is still humanity throughout this world,” Salgado said.

United Way BOLD Program

The backbone of any organization is its board of directors, and a collaboration between Coe and the United Way of East Central Iowa is inspiring and equipping emerging Kohawk leaders to serve on boards and lead positive change.

The Board Orientation & Leadership Development (BOLD) program has aided 17 Coe students in the past three years to prepare for board service. Kohawks collaborate with community leaders, are assigned a BOLD program mentor, audit board meetings and participate in an experiential learning component on top of attending a monthly two-hour course for six months. Overall, the education series is designed to instill the basics of what board membership entails as far as skills needed, responsibilities and expectations.

Kohawk graduates of the BOLD program have continued their engagement both on campus and in the community through internships, research, community-based service projects and as AmeriCorps members.

“There are a multitude of reasons why this experience is important for students,” said C3: Creativity, Careers, Community Director Joe Demarest. “But beyond the opportunity to learn about the basics of board operations, functions and responsibilities, participants gain a deeper understanding of how boards can help shape the direction of an organization in order to meet the needs of the community members they serve. That is the ultimate goal.”

Participants are also able to proactively broaden their professional networks as a natural effect of the handson training. This benefit is familiar to Kohawks who are often set up for networking success between C3 events and the robust local alumni network.

“The BOLD program is also an excellent opportunity to gain insight or introduction to career paths and connections to professionals that may align with a student’s long-term goals,” Demarest noted.

Over the past two years, the BOLD program has gained enough popularity that there is a college student-only path. In the beginning, students were blended with young professionals. Either way, there is a growing number of Kohawks who are interested and ready to serve their communities from a leadership perspective.

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