By Gretchen Teske, Mt. Pleasant News
Iowa Wesleyan (IW) was the place to be last night as over 500 faculty, students and community members came out to usher in the new school year.
The welcome back picnic is an annual event at IW that hopes to connect students with the community and the community with students. The night hosted food trucks, dinner catered by the university, dancing, games, performances by the Mt. Pleasant High School marching band and color guard, the Mt. Pleasant High School cheerleaders and the IW cheerleaders. Meg Richtman, vice president for strategic initiatives at IW, says getting the community involved is what the night is all about.
?This is their university,? she said of the community. ?I think it?s important that they feel that, and that they know they?re welcome to come onto campus and that they can meet students and see what?s going on.?
One special event they added for the evening was carriage rides, provided by Smith Family Carriage Rides, of Fairfield. Richtman said a member of the IW staff was helping to give tours of the campus, throughout the ride, and providing the history of buildings as well. She says people often drive by without getting to know the history and by the community showing support and interest, it creates a level of camaraderie with students.
Alumni were welcomed back to campus as well. Director of Alumni and Parent Relations, Holly Jones, echoed Richtman?s sentiments on community by saying the alumni are part of the campus community as well. ?The thing that makes IW so special is that we have a really close-knit community here,? she said. ?Having our alums come back to campus means that they are able to engage with our community and stay connected, which just makes our community that much stronger.?
She says her goal is to create a lifelong connection with students, current and past, because their experiences help shape the atmosphere and morale of the school within the community.
Erin Ireland, a Mt. Pleasant native, is a freshman digital media design major. She said she chose IW because she liked the campus and the way students, staff and the community interacted. ?(Events like this) shows that the community cares,? she said. ?That everyone is supportive just with their presence.?
Director of marketing at IW, Lori Baerg, organized the whole night. She said it took several months of careful planning to create a unique experience for both the community and the students. She said creating fun events and keeping students active in the community is important to the university because they come from 30 countries and 19 different states, so providing fun opportunities for them to be involved and for the community to be involved with students is what makes IW stand out. ?We want this to be one more fun thing for them,? she said. ?We just want our kids to know they have community support.?