Iowa City Stories

February 18, 2010

Korea to California to Iowa: Professor Jae-On Kim’s Journey from the Far East to the Midwest

Jae-On Kim

Professor Jae-On Kim, along with a recent award for his scholarly achievements, and his picture on the cover of a national Korean magazine.

By Clae Goater

Jae On-Kim’s life story begins in a poor mountain village in prewar South Korea. Now, at 72 years of age, Kim finds himself as one of the most respected professors in the University of Iowa’s Sociology Department. In the interim, Kim has fled from the North Korean army, participated in the overthrow of South Korea’s first president, taken part in the American civil rights demonstrations of the 1960’s and helped author more than 40 scholarly publications. And that barely scratches the surface.

Humble Beginnings

Kim was born in South Korea in 1938, in a remote town an hour away from the nearest modern road system. His grandfather died before his birth, so Kim’s father was thrust into the patriarchal family role very early. Right before Kim entered elementary school, his family had to move cross-country following a prophecy from Kim’s grand-uncle.

Kim’s first year of elementary school took place under Japanese colonial occupation. “Americans don’t realize that when Koreans still show certain animosity to Japan, that Japan carried out one of the harshest colonial policies ever,” says Kim. “They forced us to give up the Korean language. It was forbidden. They forced us to change our names so they sounded more like Japanese names.” Kim went through half a year of Japanese elementary school before the country was liberated.

The Korean War

Three years later, the Korean War broke out. Kim’s village was soon occupied by the North Koreans. Kim’s father and grand-uncle were forced to flee, while Kim stayed behind. Kim parent’s were labeled as reactionaries, and was he ostracized from other children.

Soon, Kim also had to flee from his village along with his brother and a deserter from the North Korean army. While fleeing through the mountains, Kim and his party ran into members of the Red Army digging trenches. “Normally, if they caught us, they knew. But the North Koreans digging up the holes were too busy. They simply asked us, ‘Are you civilians?’ We said ‘Yes,’ and they let us go away. So we had a very narrow escape.”

Kim sought refuge with his companion’s sister, subsisting on whatever resources they could scavenge.  “The mushrooms we ate there were fantastic,” Kim said. “They tasted like chicken.”

Kim hid from the North Koreans for about 10 days. Then an airplane passed over, distributing pamphlets saying that their area had been liberated. So Kim and his brother returned to their home, soon followed by their father and uncle.

Korean Education and The April Revolution

At age 12, Kim left home to attend school in Daegu. He went on to attend Seoul National University from 1957-1961. There, he participated in the famous April Revolutions, a nationwide protest that resulted the resignation of South Korean President Syngman Rhee.

There were many reasons for political unrest in South Korea at the time. The economy was doing badly and Rhee was exercising nearly unrestrained political power. An incident in Kim’s youth illustrated how far Rhee’s underlings were willing to go to shield him from the social realities of the time.

Protests began following the fraudulent election of an unpopular vice president . Soon after, the body of protester Kim Ju-Yul washed up on the shore of Masan beach. An autopsy revealed the high school student’s cause of death when doctors found grenade fragments behind his eyes. Kim and thousands of other college students marched from their campus to the presidential palace. Protesters were soaked with high-pressure water from fire trucks. When that failed to stop them, troops opened fire, killing several. “I ran immediately when they really began to shoot,” Kim said. More protests followed, ultimately resulting in Rhee’s resignation.

Kim says that the student protests demonstrated to him the corrupting potential of power. Once the South Korean students realized how much influence they had, they began to throw their weight around for less altruistic causes. From that point on, Kim resisted taking high-status positions. Looking back, Kim was baffled by how often power was thrust upon his reluctant shoulders.

Berkeley in the 1960’s

After four years at Seoul National University, Kim did a mandatory tour of duty in the South Korean Army. After one year, Kim received an honorary discharge so that he could study abroad. After two years at Southern Illinois University, Kim went to UC Berkeley to get his Ph.D.

Kim’s stay at Berkeley during the late 60’s put him in the center of the countercultural movements of the time. Kim lived in a 2nd floor apartment directly across from the UC campus. His apartment was frequently filled with the teargas used to disperse nearby crowds.

Kim’s participation in anti- Vietnam War protests eventually roused the awareness of the Korean CIA. He was warned by the military government that if he returned to his home country, he’d be imprisoned. Kim’s father worried for his safety. Kim’s uncle was proud that his nephew had become noteworthy enough to earn the government’s ire.

Kim made a name for himself in academia when he attended a joint conference between Stanford and Berkeley. Kim was a lowly research assistant, surrounded by some of the biggest names in the field of sociology. There, he pointed out faulty research methods that had gone unnoticed by the auditorium full of worldly scholars. According to Kim, “That determined my academic career.” His willingness to dissent gained him the attention of Sidney Verba, who later provided a glowing recommendation of Kim to the University of Iowa.

Iowa City

Kim’s move from California to Iowa City came with some culture shock. “Iowa, in some ways, is very advanced, but it had very rural qualities. Since then, of course, it’s changed substantially.”  During Kim’s stay here, attitudes towards women and minorities have become far more liberal. Kim recalls boarding a bus in Iowa City and hearing a child using racial epithets towards an African-American. When Kim came to Iowa in the 70’s, women were criminally underrepresented in the faculty. The single, token woman professor was looked down upon by male faculty members.

Kim never felt that he was mistreated because of his race. He saw himself as being judged on the merits of his work. He’s also willing to admit that prejudice is universal, so he recognizes a certain amount of cultural uneasiness is natural.

The Future

Professor Kim is proud of his accomplishments here at the University. As Chair of the Sociology Department, he helped shape the University of Iowa’s program into one of the best in the nation. During his time as Director of the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies, Kim made large advances towards making Asian culture more prominent here in the Midwest.

Kim is reluctant to call himself a good teacher. Sociology major Ryan Maher applauds Kim for his international viewpoint. “He seems able to look at everything from a global perspective,” Maher says. ”That’s good for a professor. It expands your outlook on everything. It opens your eyes.”

At 72, Kim maintains his exhaustive pace, although he claims to be “not a very diligent scholar.” He expects that his academic output will increase in the next few years. “What gave me longevity was that I kept up with new technology,” says Kim. “I try to stay up to date with…computer software. “ Kim also says that he’s never lost the spirit of intellectual curiosity during his lifetime. He believes he has at least another 10 years worth of work in him, and he hopes to repay the University of Iowa for all it has done for him.

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Iowa City, the Japanese Perspective

Filed under: Local Profiles — TK @ 3:33 pm

By: Tonya K. Vrba

In order to become a professional Japanese teacher, Chie Muramatsu has traveled the ocean to come to the University of Iowa.  “Japan is no different from Iowa in the United States,” Muramatsu said.

Chie Muramatsu-san reflects fondly on her life in Iowa City

Muramastu grew up in the sister city of Des Moines, Iowa.  Des Moines is the sister city of Kofu, Japan, and 5 other cities around the world.  Kofu has been connected with Des Moines since 1958.

“I wanted to be a professional Japanese teacher,” said Muramatsu, “[but] back then, many universities didn’t have the program.”  Muramatsu is a graduate teaching assistant working with the Asian and Slavic Language and Literature.

Already knowing people from Iowa, she made the decision to come to the university and now dedicates all of her time to her studies.  She says, aside from the dominate languages, Iowa and Japan are not that different.

“People in Iowa generally don’t know about Japan,” said Muramatsu,  “You say “I’m from Japan” and they say, “you people ride bicycles everyday.”  This is a stereotype.  Muramatsu said it is because Japan is so far away, across an ocean even, that people expect to be so unusual.  Americans are also not as immersed in Asian media and food.

“If I stop by [a] gas station on the way to somewhere, those small kids know that I’m not from here,” she said, recalling an encounter with how foreigners are viewed in America, “They know I am from a foreign country, and they immediately start speaking Spanish to me.”

Muramatsu laughed.  She doesn’t believe she looks Hispanic at all.  It surprised her that it would just be assumed that being foreign meant you must speak Spanish.

Listen to Muramatsu-san’s encounter in the Gas Station

Muramatsu smiles and laughs when she speaks of her encounters with Americans.  She says she wishes she was able to get to know more American students.  “My stereotype of American people was very active, positive, [and] friendly,” said Muramatsu.  She became familiar with many international students, like herself, but not as many American students.

Drunk students are, however, often unavoidable on a college campus.  She said that it can be noisy and annoying.  This same culture is also found among the youth in Japan “I think even more,” Said Muramatsu.

Iowa has one more annoyance that even its residents, who have spent their whole lives here, admit can be annoying and sporadic, is Iowa weather.

“I never paid attention to weather in Japan because it was so minor,” said Muramastu.  Japan usually has four seasons, but Iowa only has summer and winter, she said.  Iowa temperatures often jump around and lack smooth transitions from season to season.

Muramatsu currently teaches 3rd Year Conversational Japanese under the course supervisor Ikuko P. Yuasa.

Kamille Wahlin — A point guard, playmaker, and leader

Filed under: Local Profiles — RichieZ23 @ 3:29 pm

When the Iowa Hawkeyes host the Minnesota Gophers in women’s basketball Thursday evening, a certain Minnesotan will be wearing Hawkeye white and gold.

Kamille Wahlin, a native of Crookston, Minn grew up in the gopher state playing basketball with her younger brother and father from a young age.

“I started playing [basketball] when I was really little, maybe four or five with my brother and dad.  I always played with them in the backyard, and it’s always been my favorite,” said Wahlin.

Wahlin will be playing against her native state for the second time this season, after a nail-biting overtime game back on Jan. 3.

One of the best playmakers on the team, Wahlin has made 62 three-pointers this season, tied for the most all-time with Wendy Ausdemore for the most three-pointers by a UI sophomore.  However, Wahlin is more than just a scorer, as her 71 assists are the second most on the team.

Wahlin often times plays point guard on the court.  The point guard — at times referred to as a “floor general” due to their control over the offense – is one of the most important positions on the floor, and viewed as the “quarterback” of a basketball team.

While just a sophomore, the young guard is a key leader on a young UI women’s basketball team.  After seeing extensive playing time as a freshman, Wahlin thinks that her experience last season has helped her be a leader to the several young players on the Hawkeye squad.

“It’s one of the thing that’s talked about is how young we are and who the leaders are,” said Wahlin.  “Like I’ve said all along I’ve learned a lot from the seniors last year and their leadership, I just hope that I’ve been able to help the freshmen in adjusting, and I was there last year so I know what they’re going through.”

Kamille Wahlin talks about her leadership

UI head coach Lisa Bluder see’s Wahlin as a leader as well.

“Kamille had so much experience last year as just a freshmen,” said Bluder, “It’s hard to believe that she’s a sophomore this year.  She’s a leader by example, she’s not the emotional type, but she’s a definitely a leader by the way that she plays the game.”

Being a leader is more than just playing well though.  It is a key element, as there aren’t too many leaders in athletics that ride the bench, but it is based on more than just performance.  If it were that easy, every player who performs well would be a leader.

“I just try and do the best job that I can to keep everyone calm and composed on the court so we don’t get too rattled,” said Wahlin. “I try to keep everyone controlled.”

That is exactly what coaches and fans want to hear from a leader on a team, but more specifically from the point guard position.  Bluder also likes what she see’s from Wahlin on the floor.

“Kamille has a very aware sense about her, a very even keel,” said Bluder.  “She doesn’t get overly emotional out there, and stay’s calm.  She just has this sense on the basketball court that can’t be taught.”

This allows Wahlin to be both a playmaker while scoring, yet also be a playmaker passing the ball too.  It is critical for Wahlin to find a balance between scoring and setting her teammates up to score, and she does a great job of doing both.
“Our offense is made for a lot of motion,” said Wahlin.  “We have a lot of freedom to create things, so I just try to read the defense the best that I can.  If I have a shot I’ll take it, and if I see one of my teammates open I try to get it to them the best that I can.”  

Kamille Wahlin talks about the Iowa offense

Bluder has the ut-most confidence in Wahlin, be it scoring, or as an assister, as the coach gives Wahlin the “thumbs-up” throughout the course of a game.

“We have a lot of confidence in Kamille,” said Bluder.  “You hear about players having the green light, and she has that.  Not only with her shots, but she does a great job of finding others, and she has that ability to pull a shot from her hat so to speak.”

While some players will rely on set plays to score points, Wahlin’s athleticism allows her to create her own shot, whether it be off-the-dribble, or a set-shot from way beyond the arc – Wahlin’s specialty.

She is always looking to improve though, as they say great players are never complacent.

“My ball handling can get better,” said Wahlin, “I can always get more complete in my ball handling and taking care of it.  Also my decision making and lessening my turnovers could improve too.”

Having a leader that is looking to improve sets the tone for the younger players on the team.  Learning from Wahlin has helped freshman and co-point guard Jaime Printy have a fabulous freshman campaign.

However, while Wahlin is constantly looking to improve her individual game, she is more concerned with the results of the team, not her own.

“Our goal is to finish the year strong so we have a chance to get in the NCAA tournament,” Wahlin said.  “Also going as far as we can in the Big Ten tournament and hopefully getting in the Big Ten tournament.”

The Hawkeyes must like their chances of doing so with the help of Wahlin.

Sakshi Handa Mears: Owner of a Blossoming Business

Filed under: Local Profiles — nawaar @ 3:27 pm

SAKSHI HANDA MEARS: Owner of a Blossoming Business
by Nawaar Farooq

_________________________

Sakshi Handa Mears

Sweet smelling rose smoke slowly exits her mouth. She sits comfortably on a white couch with black floral print in the main room while people come in through the front door to greet her. French music plays in the background while she smiles and drinks red wine out of a petite porcelain cup.

Welcome to the Red Poppy Tea and Hookah Parlour, owned by Sakshi Handa Mears and her husband, Mayes. Delightful and witty, Sakshi has created a cozy and charming atmosphere for her customers. The Red Poppy opened in 2005 and brings in a good amount of traffic. So much, that it has already gone through two expansions. Sakshi is a very charismatic character who loves her friends and family, her husband and her business, which is a large part of her life.

A LITTLE BIT OF BACKGROUND

Sakshi was born in New Delhi, but lived in Princeton, New Jersey growing up. She started her junior high career in Iowa City and has lived there ever since the sixth grade, aside from living in Maui for eight months after she and her husband were married. She says that living in Maui was an incredible experience, but she and her husband “still love the simplicity of the Midwest.”

The eldest of three children, Sakshi was the only daughter. She has a 23-year-old brother who lives in Chicago and runs his own computer related business. She also has a 6-year-old brother who lives in Coralville and currently is in kindergarten.

Sakshi graduated from Iowa City West High in 2000 and then attended the University of Iowa, where she graduated a year early in 2003. She majored in English and minored in Spanish. She originally was a biological sciences/pre-med student, but that changed shortly into her college career. Art, literature, dance, and acting classes soon consumed her life. Even now, she enjoys reading children’s fantasy novels and hopes to write one someday.

In fact, in college she wanted to write a great story. She realized that wasn’t a realistic aspiration unless she stepped outside of the world of academia and lived life. After graduating, she did live life and still keeps writing. She worked for small local businesses and decided to try her hand at that. Sakshi says she has new aspirations every day.

“I try to achieve anything I set my mind to,” says Mears.

MEETING MAYES

Shortly after graduating college, she set her mind to catching her dream man after meeting him. Mayes caught her attention when she stopped at his glass blowing shop. He picked up on the attraction, but was afraid to take her out at first because he felt that he might have been a bit too old for her.

“I thought she was way too young for me, so I didn’t really pursue it, but she kept on pursuing me. But after the first time we officially had a date and met, from then on we knew—we both knew that we would be together,” says Mayes.

Although hesitant at first, it didn’t stop him from sweeping her off her feet. Mayes married Sakshi in February of 2006 after dating for nearly two years.

One of the most memorable moments in her life is the first time she and her husband kissed. She excitedly talks about how lovely it was. Other moments include enjoying the sunset in Maui, dinner in Paris with her husband while a live band played her favorite French song, and swimming with hammerheads in the Galapagos.

HER BRAINCHILD

So, what about the Red Poppy? How did Iowa City acquire such a lovely cultural addition to its plethora of businesses? It turns out Sakshi always wanted to start a tea house, and it occurred to her that hookah would be the perfect complement to the tea.

Mya hookahs for sale at the Red Poppy

“I had never smoked a hookah before, but just had this idea. In Seattle, my husband and I stopped for a falafel and they offered hookahs as well. We smoked rose and after one puff I knew this was a great idea with the tea. We opened three months later.”

She and Mayes didn’t have much trouble finding a name for their burgeoning business.

“We went through animals, trees, and ended up with flowers.  I said poppy, then red poppy. It was simple and catchy, so it stuck.  I invented the term tea & hookah parlour because of the decor.  I wanted the space(s) in the business to be little private parlours.  Parlour is the European spelling, instead of parlor, which I thought seemed more appropriate to the cultural fusion concept,” says Sakshi.

Sakshi does make a point to clarify the difference between a hookah bar and hookah parlour. She says that a hookah bar is the more common term for the average hookah establishment and the word “bar” implies that alcohol is being served. She thought the word “lounge” was a bit too modern for her taste, so she coined the phrase tea & hookah parlour from the commonly used term “tea parlour,” and just added the “hookah” to it.

Listen to why Sakshi thinks her hookah parlour is different from others.

LIFE AS A SMALL BUSINESS OWNER

As a South Asian and female business owner, Sakshi does feel that there are some pros and cons, which are listed below.

Pros

  • She gets to be her own boss and have her own hours
  • There is a greater sense of flexibility with what she wants to do
  • She is able to decorate a beautiful space
  • She constantly meets new people and makes new friends

Cons

  • The government doesn’t take care of small business owners in America, especially in terms of health insurance and over taxation
  • As an Indian, being a small business owner is considered a risky option when compared to being a doctor or an engineer

EXPANSION AND EXPECTATIONS

Welcome to the Red Poppy!

Since its opening, the Red Poppy has expanded twice. The first expansion was in early 2007, and the second occurred in mid-2008. Her husband, who has been glass blowing for almost ten years, displays his work at the Red Poppy. He used to own his own shop, but he closed it when they moved to Maui in 2006. His work is well received by the clientele.

“We definitely needed the extra space, we were turning away customers on busy nights.  It has been a great success!”

So what can people expect when they visit the Red Poppy? Along with the Mya hookahs filled with a large selection of Romman shisha flavors, Sakshi says,

“They can expect to have some amazing tea and have a relaxed evening with friends around a hookah.  We like to seat people and then leave them to have a good time.  It’s a cultural and social experience unlike any other, and we like to be the ones to provide that here in Iowa City.”

If you are interested in visiting or would like to know more about the Red Poppy, please feel free to browse its Web site or Facebook page. You can find hours of operation and see pictures from the various events that are held there, including the popular “Arabian Nights” and “Unlimited Hookah Night.”

University of Iowa student uses unicycle as main mode of transportation

Filed under: Local Profiles — sherrihealy @ 3:09 pm

By Sherri Healy

While many students lace up their shoes, start their cars, or hop on the University Cambus to get to class, one University of Iowa Student uses a different, unique mode of transportation.

Unlike many other students who ride their bicycles to class, Luther Bangert, 24, rides another member of the cycle family: his unicycle.

Bangert is not only seen riding his unicycle to class, but to work and other daily activities as well. For the last year and a half, unicycling has been his main mode of transportation. In any season from snow and ice in December to sunshine in June, Bangert can be seen traveling around Iowa City with his unicycle.

According to Bangert, he has learned how to maneuver pretty easily on his unicycle in the snow and ice Iowa City has seen the past few months. But some people think otherwise.

“A lady came up to me a couple of weeks ago and said she would call the cops on me if she saw me doing it around here again because she was worried I would fall off and she would hit me,” Bangert said. “I just told her I thought I was as competent as a bicycle rider.”

As a self-taught unicyclist, Bangert has learned how to ride a variety of unicycles. When he first took an interest in the sport, he practiced every day for an hour on a smaller unicycle until he perfected the technique two months later. “You have to dedicate yourself pretty hard to it, but it’s pretty fulfilling when you finally do it,” Bangert said.

Bangert demonstrating how to get on his six-foot tall unicycle.

Now, years later, Bangert has taught himself how to ride more advanced and challenging forms of unicycles. It took him two months to simply learn how to get on his unicycle that is six feet tall.

“The hardest thing to learn was the six-foot tall unicycle. It was like learning how to ride a unicycle all over again,” Bangert explained. “I’ve been practicing how to ride that and balancing a ten foot pole with a bucket on my chin while juggling at the same time.”

Unicycling isn’t the only unique talent Bangert possesses. Along with unicycling, he practices:

Knife throwing is the latest talent he is trying to perfect. “No one really wants to let me throw them at them yet,” Bangert said. “I want to work up to throwing them at my friend while he’s sword swallowing, but he’s not that into it yet.”

Since unicycling is such a unique sport, Bangert receives a mix of reactions from the general public. According to Bangert, intoxicated people regularly give him a hard time about his hobby when he rides his unicycle around at night.

Other people respect Bangert’s talents. “I think it’s really cool. I would never be able to unicycle like Luther does,” co-worker Kelly Manders, 19, said. “It’s different and I appreciate that. It’s something you don’t see everyday; not many people unicycle around Iowa City.”

“People tell me that it makes their day a lot of the time,” Bangert added.

To see Bangert’s unique talents in action, check him out at his performance on March 13th when he opens for his cousin William Whitmore at the Grand Theatre in Keokuk, Iowa.

Kate Callahan – More than a student

Being a college student is stressful as it is. With papers and exams continuously coming our way, what more could we fit into with just 24 hours in a day? Sophomore Kate Callahan takes full advantage of what she can manage. Not only is she trying to keep up with her social life by taking 14 semester hours, she also maintains a part-time job, participates in many extra curricular activities on campus, and also has the time management skills to train for marathons.

When asked how she manages her time with training, Callahan responded, “School always comes first but I like to do my workouts in the mornings so I’m energetic throughout the day cause I usually crash at night anyways. I like to get it done and over with.”

Callahan recently ran the Chicago Marathon in October 2009 and placed a remarkable time of 4:02:41, with a broken foot, just about 20 minutes shy for qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
“Well right now, I’m training for the Madison Marathon, which is on May 30, 2010. It’s not as big as big as the Chicago Marathon but you can still qualify for Boston.”

Callahan, just like any college student, has made many sacrifices but more than a typical college student has to make.“There are times when I do my long runs, I don’t have the time or energy to go out so I kind of feel like my social life is on the rocks when I train for marathons, but these are definitely positive sacrifices.”

University of Iowa Dance Marathon the Marathon

Kate Callahan, 19

Another incentive Callahan gained for running the Chicago Marathon was being able to participate in Dance Marathon at the University of Iowa. She was able to run for “Dance Marathon the Marathon” where University of Iowa students participate in the Chicago Marathon to raise even more money for this successful organization on campus.

Gretchen Glynn, 21, also ran the Chicago Marathon under Dance Marathon the Marathon and was designated a morale captain for this past Dance Marathon. Glynn knows just as well how time-consuming this may be for a college student but “it was all worth it in the end.”

Glynn, like Callahan, plans on running marathons in the near future but doesn’t know if she’ll run another while attending school.

“It was so fun and rewarding but there was so much time I had to give with all the morale meetings, training, school, and work. Running buddies and the morale captains helped me stay motivated throughout all this, too. I’ve always wanted to run the New York City Marathon, so I’m sure I can find people to train with me around Iowa City when I have the time but for now, I think I’m done with marathons for the next couple years.”

Running around Iowa City

Callahan has always been physically active her whole life so she likes to keep her well-being her priority. She prefers running outside with those who are also into physical activity because “Iowa City is not only filled with hills and stairs on the Pentacrest, but the city is beautiful and [she] can also site see while training at the same time.”

Lydia Givens, 20, is currently enrolled in Jogging II here at the University of Iowa. She, as well, likes to maintain her physical activity whether it’s running in class or around Iowa City.

“I like working out but with work and school, I feel like I have no time to get the work out time I want. I figured since I had enough room to add a semester hour into my schedule, might as well get a physical activity course in there to make up for lost time.”

Winter training for Mad-Town

Since the Madison Marathon is only a couple months away, Callahan has been training during Iowa City’s brutal winters. When Callahan was asked what she does when snow takes over the streets, she replied, “I hate relying on the treadmill because I feel like it doesn’t have the same effect but if I have to, I usually go [to the gym] between classes, like during my breaks or before or after class. It’s just easier to go to the gym when I’m on campus rather than wasting time going back home and coming right back.”

More marathons, please.

Unlike Glynn, Callahan plans on running more marathons in the near future. Regardless of the positive and negative sacrifices she has to make, she knows it’s for her own benefit, which encourages her to keep on running.

“When I broke my foot in the Chicago Marathon, I couldn’t work out for weeks and I could feel my attitude was changing in a negative way. I didn’t know what to do with my time off because I always do workouts or something in my free time. Now that I’m in college, I feel like I need to do something to keep myself healthy – so this is the route I’ve been taking for years and I plan on keeping it this way.”

Joe Tornado Blows University of Iowa Students Away with His Omelets

Filed under: Local Profiles — tylerackerson @ 2:45 pm

Nathan Cox flips an omelet in the Burge Market Place.

It’s a cold winter morning in Iowa City, but inside the Burge Market Place, Nathan Cox is hard at work behind a hot stove. He’s dressed in the standard Market Place uniform of a white shirt, black pin-striped pants and duck-billed hat with Burge Market Place printed across the front.  On the side of the hat is a pin in the shape of the Minnesota Vikings’ logo, his favorite football team.

On the stove, there are already two omelets cooking.  He picks up the remaining empty frying pan, adds some egg mixture and asks the next student in line “What’ll it be?”

“Green peppers, bacon and mushrooms, please,” she says.  “Comin’ right up!” he responds, tossing the ingredients into the pan and placing it on the stove.  He immediately picks up the farthest frying pan and flicks his wrist, sending the omelet flipping into the air while he striking up a conversation with someone in line.  All the students in line glue their eyes to the airborne omelet and watch as it falls neatly back into the pan.  Cox puts the omelet on the plate and slides it to its new owner, wishing them a good day with a smile.

It’s this combination of tricks, conversation and cooking that have earned him popularity with students.  On this particular day, there were 13 students waiting in line for an omelet, with more coming to replace the ones that left.  One student in line, Stan Waisath, said he’s been a fan of Cox’s cooking ever since Cox used to cook stir fry.

“I don’t always want an omelet,” said Waisath, a 20-year-old junior majoring in engineering at the UI. “But when I do, I always try to get one by Joe Tornado.”

His popularity extends beyond the Burge Market Place.  On Facebook, he’s been crowned the “Burge MVP Omelet Maker” and has a fan page with over 300 fans, with more joining every day.  On the page, students share their appreciation for Cox, or Joe Tornado as he’s known to most students.

When asked how he felt about the page, Cox said he felt it was weird, but funny too.

“It’s kind of weird because of the spotlight, but it’s kind of cool too,” he said. “People come in and say ‘Hey you got a fan page blah blah blah’ and I act like I don’t know about it so I go ‘Oh, do I?’”

As for the origins of his alias Joe Tornado, the name came about when he first started working at the Market Place six years ago.  He wanted a way to keep his personal life and professional life separate, so he came up with the name.

“I used to go downtown a lot and I didn’t need people knowing my real name,” he said. “And they make you wear a nametag, and nobody likes to wear a nametag, so I told them to print me up one that said Joe Tornado not thinking they would, and I got one.”

Cox ended up in Iowa City after a childhood spent moving around the country.  He lived in Wisconsin, Colorado, Florida, Tennessee, and Iowa.  He eventually settled in Iowa City at the age of 17 after his mom said she was moving to Oregon and he decided he was done with traveling.

“I went to six grade schools, two high schools and back and forth between Denver, Col. and Iowa City probably half my life,” he said. “When she moved to Oregon, I said ‘Screw that, I’m staying, I’m sick of moving around.’”

Cox never attended college.  He said that cooking wasn’t what he had originally wanted to do, but he took the job when it presented itself.  He started out as a temp worker cooking, cleaning and doing dishes.  He did this for a few years before moving up to the Chef’s Table where he is today.  He said he enjoys his job because it’s fast-paced and he gets to interact with students.

“It’s fast-paced, I get in and I get out,” Cox said. “And I like to put a smile on people’s face, so it works for me.”

Hines Finds Fulfillment in Journalism

Filed under: Local Profiles — andrewaltenbern @ 2:34 pm

Holly Hines in The Daily Iowan Newsroom.

Iowa City, Iowa- “It was the first time I had traveled on a plane, driven a rental car, drove in the mountains alone.  I was staying in a stranger’s house, and I can’t put into words how much I loved that experience.”  This was the world Holly Hines enthusiastically dove into after taking a job assignment at the Daily Iowan. But this assignment wasn’t like any other story you may have read in the paper.  Holly was writing an investigative story on internet addiction, and she won an eleventh place finish in the prestigious Hearst Awards for excellence in reporting and writing for college journalists.

Holly explains the experience.

Holly Hines is a senior at the University of Iowa, but her major in journalism is something she just picked up last semester.  Initially, Hines was going to school as an English and Art major, but last spring she applied for the Daily Iowan because she needed a job. “I was looking for a writing job, and a friend of mine suggested I get a job at the DI to learn how writing jobs work,” said Hines.  Initially Holly was not as confident as she is today because the writing style was so different from the poetry, short stories, and other prose she wrote as an English major.  However, once she got into the swing of reporting and doing interviews she fell in love with it.  “I continued doing the DI during the fall and winter semester, and I liked it more,” she said.

Holly’s enthusiasm, passion, and motivation to excel in journalism would pay off when she was assigned to handle the story that would win her a Hearst Award.  The story began as an idea being offered by the editors Holly worked closely with in the newsroom.  She found the story interesting because like the story’s subject, Ben Alexander, Hines took interest in internet addiction because she had a friend who played the popular online video game, “World of Warcraft.” But unlike her friend, Alexander’s gaming had become unhealthy.

Hines was fascinated by the subject.  “I’ve always had an interest in mental health stories.  I had done a few over the summer.”  Through the next months Hines would work alongside Daily Iowan Chief editor Kelsey Beltramea, and University of Iowa journalism professor Steve Berry in crafting her story.  “The best thing,” says Beltremea, “was she just joined in the Fall, and it was her first story of any significant length.”  These intimate meetings between Hines, Beltramea, and Professor Berry focused on the painstaking work of crafting the story so it could be the best possible.  “I gave her a few reporting and interviewing tips and made some writing suggestions after she wrote an opening and outline and then again after she wrote a draft. But her editors, primarily Kelsey, I believe, did the heavy lifting on the editing,” said Berry.

  • Favorite Movie: K-Pax
  • Favorite Food: Pancheros
  • Favorite Book: “The Yiddish Policemen Union” by Michael Chibon
  • Favorite Music: A toss up between The BeatlesThe Dixie Chicks, and Paul Simon

The day Hines’ article was published it received a great deal of attention from people all across the internet.  The article was linked to news aggregator sites such as www.fark.com for people to read and discuss on the site’s forums.  The traffic on the Daily Iowan website jumped that day as well.  “Top stories tend to get three to seven thousand hits a day, but Holly’s had at least 11,000 hits that day,” said Beltremea.

Many “World of Warcraft” fans responded somewhat defensively to the article the day it was published, claiming they didn’t have an addiction problem. “We tried our best to make it come across as a story and not an attack,” said Hines.

As for the future, Holly still has another year at the University of Iowa to finish up the classes necessary to complete the journalism program, and she plans to get an internship at the Cedar Rapids Gazette.  “Afterwards I’m not sure, we’ll see if any opportunity springs from The Gazette.  If I have the opportunity to stay with The Gazette I will,” she said.

Journalism has been a great outlet for Holly to utilize her enthusiasm and drive to produce a very thorough story.  “Holly, I believe, has a bright future in journalism,” said Berry.

Making a difference, 8,000 miles away

Filed under: Local Profiles — jdoetkott @ 2:33 pm

In Uganda, a bloody civil war has raged for nearly 24 years. To maintain troop numbers, rebel leader Joseph Kony has kidnapped children as young as 5-years-old, training them to fight in his army. The children are forced to endure terrible living conditions, suffer physical and sometimes sexual abuse, and become soldiers for a cause they cannot possibly understand, all while witnessing the gruesome atrocities of war.

Keely Kemp

And nearly 8,000 miles away, in Iowa City, one student is fighting to make a difference in the lives of those children.

A cause for change

“That’s not a childhood,” Keely Kemp said. “Every child deserves the right to laugh and play…They shouldn’t have to grow up the way that they’ve had to grow up.”

Kemp, a UI sophomore, said she is dedicated to the cause and is doing her part as president of the UI Chapter of Invisible Children.

Invisible Children is an international organization that looks to aid the children of Uganda and bring peace to the war-torn country. The organization has several projects including the rebuilding of schools, a teacher exchange program, and a scholarship program. They also tour the country giving screenings of documentaries about the war in Uganda.

Kemp said she became interested in the group in high school, after a screening of the first Invisible Children documentary left her in tears. So when she arrived at the UI last year and discovered there was already an Invisible Children group on campus, she said she knew she had to get involved.

Bringing the fight to campus

Now the young journalism student said her group works to bring the national screenings to the UI campus and get the word out about the situation in Uganda.

“We are trying to get the students who go to school here more involved, we’re trying to get them to care about what’s going on,” Kemp said.

But it hasn’t been easy going, Kemp said. While she has garnered a lot of student support through a group on Facebook, actual attendance at their meetings is low, and she has difficulty getting funding from the university. Kemp said these factors make it hard to create the change she had hoped for.

“My lack of membership is really preventing me from doing what is necessary,” Kemp said, but added that she maintains a positive outlook. “I’m not going to lose hope yet, because people are still showing up and word is still spreading about it.”

Katie Mietla, who became vice-president of the UI Chapter of Invisible Children at the end of the fall semester, praised Kemp’s leadership skills and hard work.

“She puts forth a lot of effort in anything she tries to do for the group,” Mietla said. “She’s passionate about the cause.”

She also said Kemp’s eagerness to work on such a serious issue has not gone unnoticed.

“She’s so alive and enthusiastic about it,” Mietla said. “People can sense her dedication.”

Kemp is president of the UI Chapter of Invisible Children

Dedicated from the start

Kemp said she has always enjoyed activism and has an intense interest in politics, an interest which she credits to her father who was very outspoken and politically active in the 1960’s.

But growing up in a conservative suburb of St. Louis, Kemp said she often felt like she was “swimming upstream.” She called herself the “completely outspoken, opinionated liberal” in her conservative high school and said she wanted to “change the world single-handedly.”

She said she now realizes that while she may not be able to change the world on her own, she can at least do her part. And while her ambitions may have changed slightly, her principles have not.

“It’s important for us to stick together because we’re all human, and we’re all equal,” Kemp said. “If I don’t give a voice to those who don’t have a voice, then mine is pretty much worthless.”

More than just a cause

But activism isn’t the only thing that drives this young student. Kemp said she is a big sports fan who loves to play basketball and watch hockey with her family. The oldest of four children, she said her best friend is her younger brother Keaton, who has a mild form autism. Kemp said they do everything together, including going to movies, playing video games, and annoying their sister McKinley.

Her other brother, Colin, suffers from Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, which causes profound mental retardation. When he was very young, doctors were uncertain about how long he would live. Now sixteen and having defied all expectations, Kemp recalled the frail state in which her brother lived, and spoke with love and awe at how far he has come. But at that early age, Kemp said her brother helped teach her the true value of life, an understanding she realizes not everyone shares.

But Kemp, who understands all too well that you can’t take life for granted, said she will continue to work for progress and the rights of children no matter what the obstacles.

“All of our work will eventually bring peace to the children, and I think that’s what keeps me going,” Kemp said.

– John Doetkott

February 4, 2010

Nate Marner Profile

Filed under: Local Profiles — Tags: , — Kent Nessa @ 1:44 pm

Marner working at Tech. Connections

Nate Marner is joining AmeriCorps this year.

Marner, a University of Iowa Junior, is a poli-sci major and has lived in Iowa City his whole life.

Marner became interested in AmeriCorps a year ago and felt that it was his duty to give something back to his country.

An interesting online conversation  about AmeriCrop can be found here.

Marner wants to work for the United States government; specifically the EPA.

While a full-time student, Marner also works part-time at the University Bookstore’s Tech. Connections department. He has been working at Tech. Connections for almost two years. He enjoys the job, because it deals with computers and other electronics; a few items he is personally interested in.

During his free time, Marner enjoys playing video games and watching television online. He also will research any topic out of sheer boredom on Wikipedia.

*Note: I selected the links for the reason that they are the best sites that can give a great look at what AmeriCorps is about and what AmeriCorps alumni have done in the program over the years. The AmeriCorps website itself is a government-run website for the program and the blog was recommended by the actual AmeriCorps Web site itself. The online conversation link is the discussion forum for the Portland, Maine chapter.

By Kent Nessa

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