Iowa Startup Games

A couple weeks ago I spent an entire weekend with ~40 other people to build businesses within a weekend. This is a program put on by JPEC to get ideas flowing and giving students a crash course on how to take your business idea from an idea to perhaps an actually feasible concept. Startup Games was definitely a really interesting experience and I highly recommend that everyone partake—even if you’re not a business or entrepreneurship-related major/minor/certificate.

It started Friday night: we all piled in S401 of Tippie, munched on free food (and jeeze, there was a lot of it over the weekend), and went over the schedule for the weekend. Friday night would start with quick tips on how to pitch and some suggestions on how to make your pitch standout by attaching a story behind it. We then moved onto actually pitching ideas. Everyone was encouraged to pitch but not required. After pitches, we would vote on all the ideas then the top voted 11 ideas would be left for everyone else to form teams around. I pitched an idea that I came up with 10 minutes before pitching started. I did make it to the final filtering but did not gather enough people to make a team (I gained one other person. We could have built around the idea but that would have been a lot more work for two people instead of say, four.). So my one other person and I moved to join another two person team to help with Elastic Language.



Elastic Language is the idea of creating a web based application for critical languages, such Chinese, Korean, Arabic, and Indian languages; because a lot of these languages do not have programs on Duolingo or are badly rated on Rosetta Stone.

Saturday started with a free breakfast (like I said, there’s a lot of free food involved) and socializing with some of the other groups before the day started. Saturday was dedicated to Customer Discovery: going out and seeing if what we perceived as a problem was actually a problem. We conducted online surveys to reach our farther friends and strangers and did in person interviews at the library. After collecting all this information, groups would either a) push on with their ideas or b) pivot and work their idea at a different angle or come up with another idea. We collected a lot of good information and pushed on with our project. Lunch came with free Pancheros burritos and hearing from all the groups on how their ideas were progressing. People announced their pivots, their successes in customer discovery, or the splintering of their groups and having to join new ones. The afternoon was then dedicated to experimentation: making mock ups of what our product would look like and going out to see what people thought. (aka I spent 6 hours planted in a chair, staring at photoshop, and helping build our mockup). Dinner was then served and we talked about the layout of Sunday: finishing up our presentations and finalizing our final pitches. Sunday afternoon would consist of travelling to Kinnick and performing our final pitches for a panel of judges to hopefully win some prize money. After dinner, my group worked late into the night (11PM when they kicked us out of the rooms), pulling our mockup together.

Sunday went by quickly: we put together our powerpoint over breakfast while I put the final touches on our mockup with another group member. After a couple of intstructions, we were all directed to find a way to Kinnick’s press box where lunch would be served and final pitches pitch.

We didn’t win first place. Or second. Or third. We did, however, win judge’s choice for best presentation and our team won $250 dollars (~$75 between the 4 of us). It was a really fun experience overall—full of free food, people I may have never met, and learning to work with a group of strangers and learning to capitalize on each other’s strengths. 10/10 would recommend to everyone.

The Career Fair Isn’t As Intimidating as It Seems

The Career Fair isn’t as intimidating as it seems on paper or the advertisements seen around campus. The Career Fair is held once a semester in the IMU and is where a lot of regional and national companies come and are looking for students to hire. There you can learn about companies and their job or internship opportunities. This past Thursday was my first time attending the fair and it wasn’t that bad.

First, you have to dress appropriately. The suggested dress code is business professional so I wore black dress pants, a green blouse, a black blazer, and black heels. (Pro tip: If you wear heels, stash them in your backpack and change into them once you get there!)

Second, you need to have copies of your resume. A sponsor of the fair offers free printing on site (which is really nice considering that it costs 15 cents to print in color on campus). If you don’t have a spectacular resume or even a resume at all, it’s okay because with a little bit of prior planning you can get help from the Pomerantz career center. The career center has professional and student peer advisers that will look over your resume with formatting and tips to improve it. Optional: a portfolio to hold copies of your resume and any leaflets, business cards, and miscellaneous materials you pick up. A folder will work just fine.

Third, take a deep breath and help yourself to some cookies and ice water at the hospitality center. Remind yourself that you’ve got this.

Lastly, try to talk to all your target companies. Once you’ve completed that, start talking to some companies that you may not have previously considered. All the companies there are more than willing to talk to you about their business and meet you.

As for my own experience, I did not mind the nerves too much. I wandered around and spoke to a handful of companies and Iowa Law. Unfortunately, if you’re not a business or business-related major there is not much in terms of options at the job fair. I used it as an avenue to practice talking to potential employers and handing out my resume. If you happen to be in the same pool, I still highly recommend that you attend and gain an experience from it.

I Pitched A Business Idea @ IdeaStorm

For my Entrepreneurial Finance course, the second Entrepreneurship class I have taken so far, everyone was required to pitch a business idea and then group projects would form around these ideas and run for a portion/most of the semester. Through these groups we would determine feasibility, develop business plans, and present a final presentation. It’s still the beginning of the semester so we just did pitches last week and my idea was ranked high enough that a group was actually formed from it! In the case that I make a million dollars in the future, I won’t tell you my idea just yet.

My idea had grown enough on me that I was willing to sign up to pitch at IdeaStorm. IdeaStorm is a roughly 2 hour event in which students are pitching their business ideas -under 60 seconds- to a panel of judges. There are monetary prizes. I was revved and ready to go.

Unfortunately, my nerves got the best of me once it was my turn.

I’ve never been an atrocious public speaker. I did bits of theatre in high school and a relative calm tends to settle over me before I present. Not today. Today I blundered all over my pitch and psyched myself out. Naturally, I want to beat myself up about it. And I did a little in the moments following my pitch. However, I plan on taking this as a learning experience and using this experience to better my pitch next time. I look forward to it.

Also First Apartment!

While my junior year at Iowa has certainly brought a handful of life adjustments, one of the biggest adjustments has to be moving into my first apartment with two of my friends.

I absolutely love it.

Living in Burge was fun-I spent two years there and wouldn’t trade them for the world-but having my own space is so exciting and freeing. I love my roommates, and one of them was my roommate from last year, but it is so nice to not have to share a room anymore. I get to spread all my stuff out if I want and keep my room as tidy or as messy as I want. It’s an odd sense of freedom.

I think one of the best parts is getting to decide what I want to eat. I don’t have to bend my eating preferences around whatever the dining hall is serving. I don’t have to eat country fried steak and gravy twice a month.  (I no longer get to bask in the greatness that is dining hall chicken strip night but that is beside the point). I get to decide.

Apartment life if pretty glamorous. Its one caveat is that I don’t get to spend a lot of time in it. Between 18 semester hours, working at Burge Front Desk, interning at Loebsack for Congress, my extracurricular commitments, and doing my continuously mounting stack of homework, I often do not spend a significant chunk of the day at home. It’s not a bad time though, I really enjoy being this busy.

With that I leave you with some fun pictures of my bedroom. It’s a little sparse on the wall decorations but I’m happy. *Not pictured are my dual closets, my nightstand, and my comfy chair!


Working Towards

Part of the point of going to college is that we are preparing ourselves for life after college. Our educational plans after our undergrad years. My plan is to go to law school. Where? I currently have no idea and I’m keeping my options open. What do I hope to specialize in? I’m thinking along the lines of civil rights, litigation (criminal), or international law. But in this respect, I am also keeping some options open. With my blog this year, I hope to keep you guys updated on the process I’m going through.

To start we can talk about today. I’m the Chair of Public Relations for Phi Alpha Delta, the pre-law fraternity, on campus. Essentially, I manage all of our social media accounts (check us out @uiowa_pad!). Tonight we had our first meeting of the year and heard from Dean Byrd from Iowa Law. He talked about the law school admissions process and handed out information on Iowa Law. Now you have to understand the format of P.A.D. (in case you ever want to join). In the Fall we hear from various law school admissions counselors from all across the nation and then in the Spring we hear from practicing lawyers and current law school students. I have really enjoyed P.A.D. In my past year of membership, due to it having brought me a leadership opportunity, it connected me to like minded individuals, and has given and continues to give me resources and support I think will be beneficial in what is sure to be a crazy year.

One piece of advice that Dean Byrd gave us that I’d like to share with you all is the concept of the three J’s: Start preparing in January of your Junior year for the June LSAT. It provides you with enough time to prepare for the exam and navigate through your other school obligations.

With that, I hope everyone has a great year, and I can’t wait to share with you all everything that happens to me this year.

The Internship Search: Resources & Success

Much like my student employment search over a year ago, the internship search has certainly been a trip. To start off, the University of Iowa has a number of resources to aid students in a job or internship search. There’s the Pomerantz Career Center and the Job & Internship Fair. The career center will help you with anything from resumes, cover letters, and letters of introduction to interview prep and practice. Not to mention, they are a great resource if you do not know where to start. The Career Center also puts on the Job & Internship Fair which pulls over a 150+ employers and all of the graduate schools from the University of Iowa.

Due to my own blunders, I have not been able to attend the Job and Internship Fair during my semesters here. It is held once a semester, always on a Wednesday, and usually from 11AM-4PM.

And I always have class.

The fair is one of the more traditional ways of finding an internship. Being a political science major and being subscribed to student organization emails, the UDemocrats presented an interesting opportunity: Congressman Dave Loebsack’s Iowa City office was still searching for another intern. It had a minimal time requirement (~10 hours), unpaid, and purely made to gain experience.

While the unpaid part may sound disappointing, it’s the experience part that is key. There are thousands of stories of college graduates who have never held a job and are struggling to find work because employers want experience. The internship sounded more than okay to me: it hit my interest in politics, my desire to gain experience working within a political office, and it was something I could put on my resume if given the job. So I applied. All I had to do was send in my resume and wait.

Luckily, I received a reply from their staff within a day. They wanted an interview and offered up some potential dates and times.

I dressed in my best business casual and went out to meet a member of their staff for the interview. It was rather open ended. They wanted to know why I wanted the internship, what my relevant experience was (thankfully, I had volunteered to canvass neighborhoods for the Hillary Clinton campaign prior to to the caucus), and any details about myself or experiences that would make me a beneficial intern. Between my experiences of canvassing and my involvement with No Labels, I had plenty to talk about and use to sell myself. And I did it successfully. By the end of the interview, I was offered the position as an intern. Now, within my first week, I’ve done a little bit of work for them and I’m excited to see where this experience takes me.

The Not So Definite Rankings of Academic Breaks

Academic Break–noun/adjective– the glorious two word label for “school is not in session”

Before I start, there are a lot of hurdles in your way before getting to an academic break. And there are four big ones during the school year: Thanksgiving Break, Winter Break, Spring Break, and Summer Break.

Getting to an academic break is by no means an easy task. We’ll start with thanksgiving break: a solid second place after winter break in terms of 1) greatness and 2) relaxation. Thanksgiving break is like the teaser trailer to a highly anticipated movie (read: winter break). It promises the chance to go home, get stuffed with great food, see some of your hometown friends, and spend time with your family. I call it a teaser because once break is done, you’ll be filled with motivation to see it again. However, the road from August to November is a hard fought one. By the time that Thanksgiving break comes along, you’ll have gone through at least two rounds of  midterms, probably have written a paper or two, and might have suffered through your first college breakdown (I’m sorry to say that it may not be your last (but I promise you’ll make it through)). All of this makes Thanksgiving so much more rewarding.

Moving on to Spring Break. Spring break is like the cousin you’re on the fence about. They can be cool sometimes but other times you might want to hole up in your room when you see them. I’ll place them as third on the list. Spring break is the time for a vacation or kicking it back at home for a week. It doesn’t usually involve a food -induced coma like Thanksgiving but it can still be alright. Like Thanksgiving, it usually involves a round or two of midterms before the collective sigh that is Spring Break.

On to Winter Break! Winter Break is by far one of my favorites and my number 1. Winter Break means you 1) survived the gruesome, pitiful hole that is Finals Week and 2) you completed a semester! 1 more for your student record on the Iowa Student Information System. Getting to winter break is hard: you have the weight of the entire semester riding on your shoulders as you gallop into the last three weeks of the semester after Thanksgiving. I tend to lose a bit of my determination and will to study after Thanksgiving but you CANNOT-I repeat-CANNOT lose motivation. You’ve made it this far and you’re so close to the holy grail. Churn out those last assignments, make it to the last few class sessions, and make sure you study hard. Try your best to end the semester on a good note and make Winter Break that much more rewarding.

And finally, Summer Break. It could be argued that Summer Break should not be ranked last because you don’t have to do school work for three whole months. But hear me out. After spending nine months in Iowa City and living your life here, it’s a little hard to go back to your hometown and be a little less void of academic responsibilities. With every day and night making friends and memories in the residence halls, classes, and clubs, you fall in love with Iowa City and the University of Iowa a little more every day. I promise that during those three months, you’ll be wishing it was August to do it all over again.

No Labels: Another opportunity


I’ve previously talked about No Labels, an organization that I head here on campus. I’m talking about it again because in the past 48 hours I participated in a really cool opportunity. They offered to their college leaders: the chance to go to Manchester, New Hampshire for a one of a kind event.

First quick recap: No Labels, is a non-partisan organization that wants bipartisanship between the two major parties. We also want support for a National Strategic Agenda, which encompasses four goals: Create 25 million jobs over the next 10 years; Secure Social Security & Medicare for another 75 years; Balance the federal budget by 2030; Make America energy secure by 2024. Goals everyone can agree on, right? No Labels seeks to achieve this by first awarding a No Labels Seal of Approval to whatever politicians vow to start work on the National Strategic Agenda within the first 30 days of being in office. The Seal of Approval also lets voters know, which politicians are onboard and ready to tackle America’s problems and the gridlock.

Jeff Danielson and I, post flight from Boston at Chicago's O'Hare
Jeff Danielson and I, post flight from Boston at Chicago’s O’Hare

Now onto my opportunity: The No Labels Problem Solver Convention.The national organization flew myself and about fifty other college leaders out to Manchester, New Hampshire to teach us about being college leaders, spreading the word, and making an impact on campus. But that was only the first day. The second day we were there to witness first hand 8 candidates of both parties for the 2016 presidential race take the stage to speak to us about HOW they would tackle America’s problems and the continuous gridlock in Washington D.C. We got free t-shirts and plenty of available swag and got to experience perhaps a once in a college lifetime event. We listened, cheered, and questioned Jim Webb, Martin O’Malley, Chris Christie, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, George Pataki, Lindsey Graham, and John Kasich with the residents of New Hampshire and neighboring states throughout the day. There were also panelists, senators, and governors from all over the U.S. (Side note: Have you ever had the chance to meet Jeff Danielson? He’s in the Iowa Senate and is responsible for the Cedar Falls/Waterloo area. If you ever do meet him, he is the nicest guy!)

I learned a lot from the trip:

  1. No Labels is one of the coolest organizations I’ve been a part of
  2. I can’t wait to do more work on campus to get our local chapter out of our toddler stage and spreading the word about bipartisanship and being a #ProblemSolver

    Dean Norris & I, the night before the #ProblemSolver Convention
    Dean Norris & I, the night before the #ProblemSolver Convention
  3. It is very possible to ride four airplanes in about 45 hours in three different states and only sleep on one of those planes
  4. The networking opportunities that are available with more local politicians and even higher up are limitless
  5. Keep an eye out at any slightly major political event because there might be a few celebrities lurking (Like maybe a certain DEA agent from Breaking Bad?)
  6. Passion, commitment, and hard work can bring about anything you set your mind to. No Labels is a grassroots organization that started only five years ago and they’re staging big events with even bigger names, have their own caucus (Problem Solver Caucus), and currently have a bill on the floor in Congress  about the National Strategic Agenda.


How To: Time Management

Pinterest and social media are full of funny little infographics on how college is a triangle and you can only pick two out of social life, good grades, and sleep.

And it’s true.

Kind of.

Now for starters, I am no way an expert in Time Management. It is a skill that I have learned and am still finding my way around as each new semester has its new challenges.

I can however give you some tips on how to manage your time and be on the path for being a successful student at Iowa.

  1. Get an agenda/planner/notebook

    Monthly Calendar View
    Monthly Calendar View

You can choose whatever method you like in order to keep track of dates, deadlines, and appointments. There are also other popular methods like google calendar (which you can sync to your smart phone).

  1. You’re going to use your agenda to write down all club meetings, exam dates, work schedules, and whatever else is going to take up your time.
  2. Follow your agenda and prep accordingly.

On a day to day basis, I like to write in my agenda about what I need to do to be prepared for classes, work, and club meeting for the next day. On the weekends, I put a sticky note in my agenda and write down all the things I want to accomplish in order to be prepared for the following week.

  1. Reap the rewards!

Last week, I was so on top of things due to this method that I had all of my homework done for the week by Tuesday night and was able to relax Wednesday. This also allowed for having the time to care for myself but also have the time to do any assignments that were assigned during the week and due soon after.


A New Semester

Hello everyone!

After a very study-heavy spring semester and a summer full of working, it’s time for the Fall 2015 semester! The first week, otherwise known as syllabus week, has already passed and it was nothing but easy. Syllabus week is supposed to be easy and bring about the introduction to your new classes and some of your classmates but the joke was on me. By Friday morning, after my last class for the week, I had assignments in at least every class ranging from reading to full blown ICON discussions and short essays due for next week. Needless to say, it will be the last time I let my roommate choose a class that will satisfy GEN-EDs that we’re both missing. I’ll pick next time if given the chance.

Besides classes, this new semester has brought me a bundle of new opportunities. I started off sophomore year by volunteering to do Move In Crew on the East Side dorms (minus Mayflower) with my roommate and some other friends. With Move in Crew, we got to move into the dorms a few days earlier with the promise that we’d assist with moving in freshmen over a three-day span. We got to select our preferred five shifts throughout the three days and would spend the whole time attached to a bucket bin or bellhop cart and assisting new students find their rooms, get situated, and start their new chapters at Iowa. It was a fun experience as we experienced, rain, sunshine, and a bit of a numbing cold throughout our three day commitment. I met a lot of new students and having a volunteer help them gave students and their parents the chance to get answers from current students. It was a fun opportunity and if you ever get the chance to do move in crew, it won’t hurt to give it a try.

Another opportunity that has come my way is continuing to be President of No Labels, a new-ish student organization on campus. We started last spring and are hoping to continue to grow this semester and the rest of the school year. No Labels is a non-partisan political organization that seeks to have politicians want to be “problem-solvers”. Pretty much, we ask/lobby politicians to become problem-solvers, and once in office start going towards legislation to support a National Strategic agenda. The National Strategic Agenda is a set of goals that would better America as a whole. By becoming a problem-solver, politicians are agreeing to focus more on goals that will better and further America then just the goals of their political party. Additionally, we’re mostly about working together, despite your political beliefs. Catch us on campus with our super cool “Party Responsibly” stickers!

And lastly, the latest opportunity, is working at the Burge front desk. I applied over the summer and was given the chance to work at the front desk this school year. Feel free to visit me (: