Faculty, Student Groups Spearhead Community Engagement

This past fall members of the Mount Mercy community organized several public events to bring awareness to local, national, and international issues, including the economic crisis, public safety, immigration, and nuclear proliferation.

“For a community of Mount Mercy’s size, the variety of programs we hosted on campus this fall was truly remarkable,” says Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs John P. Marsden. “Our faculty, staff and students are actively engaged in learning about and discussing issues that impact them locally and globally. Each of these events represented an opportunity for students to interact with experts in specific fields and in some cases to work collaboratively with faculty and staff in the event planning process.”

Assistant Professor of Political Science Sam Whitt wanted to engage Mount Mercy students in the presidential election this past fall. For two of the presidential debates and the vice presidential debate, Whitt hosted viewing parties and post-debate analysis and open discussion. Students were also interviewed by local television stations regarding their reaction to the candidates’ platforms and performances.

“Mount Mercy students understood that the stakes in this election and the differences between the candidates were serious,” says Whitt. “We wanted to provide a forum where students could come together as a community and witness the election process in a spirit of open discussion and friendship. I am amazed by the spirit of political engagement among some of my Mount Mercy students and I am frankly proud of them for their initiative and enthusiasm in taking part in the political process.”

In October the student-led Investments Club spearheaded a community forum on the financial situation facing the United States, and specifically the Cedar Rapids community in the wake of the June floods. Economics and business professors Ayman Amer and Rob Rittenhouse served as panelists alongside Mount Mercy Board of Trustees member and President of U.S. Bank Nancy Kasparek. Two financial advisers and a realtor also offered testimony on the economic situation, which was moderated by WMT Radio’s Andy Petersen.

To bring awareness to pressing criminal justice and law enforcement issues within the Cedar Rapids community, student members of the Criminal Justice Club and criminal justice professors Deborah Brydon, Amanda Humphrey and Chad Loes ’00 organized a public debate between Brian Gardner ’96 and David Zahn ’87, candidates for Linn County Sheriff. The debate was moderated by WMT Radio’s Ryan Schlader and featured questions constructed by Mount Mercy criminal justice students.

In conjunction with Prairiewoods, Mount Mercy’s Office of Campus Ministry sponsored the Iowa Immigration Heritage/Multicultural Fair, which featured ethnic foods, artifacts, dress and culturally diverse song and dance of the immigrant populations in Cedar Rapids. The day-long event culminated with a guest lecture on the positive effects of immigration in Iowa by Dr. Mark Grey, director of the Iowa Center for Immigrant Leadership and Integration at the University of Northern Iowa. Other programming included a talk on the “History of Immigration in Our City” by Jan Stoffer and Mark Stoffer Hunter and the debut of a photo essay on immigrants in Linn County.

Professor of Religious Studies Charlotte Joy Martin, along with the College’s Cultural Affairs Committee, spearheaded efforts to host a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bomb. Ms. Yoshiko Kajimoto spoke about her experiences in the bombing and her commitment to nuclear proliferation to more than 350 faculty, staff, students and community members at a public event held at Mount Mercy. Martin also worked with the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, the organization that coordinated Ms. Kajimoto’s visit, to arrange for the group’s traveling exhibit about the 1945 atomic bombings on Japan to be showcased on Mount Mercy’s campus for a month. In total, more than 1,000 people viewed
the exhibit in the Busse Library.