College Spotlight – Iowa State

College Spotlight: Iowa State University

Freshman Year Update

By Nicholas Pieper
March, 2016

Iowa State University
The Campanile
The Campanile

36,001. Not 36,002, not 36,000, but 36,001. That was the total number of students enrolled at Iowa State University this fall semester. While it would have been easy for the university to round and say we have a student population of 36,000, they didn’t. Because while it was just one number over, the students here are not just that — not just a number. The bookstore actually began selling shirts that said “36,001 students chose Iowa State, I’m the 1”. It was likely just an easy way to capitalize a fun coincidence, but I bought one because it has more meaning to me. There is no way for certain to know who that student is, so in a way all of us are “the 1”. And I think that represents Iowa State University because here, I truly do not feel like just a number. With a constantly growing student population the lecture classes are getting bigger and bigger. But even in my lecture classes it feels more personal than you would think a lecture class would. For instance, one of my teachers will ask us for examples and afterwards she will ask our name and write it down on her personal notes along with what we said. And to my surprise, she hasn’t forgotten a name yet and even links their previous responses to current topics. Furthermore, all of the teachers have office hours at least twice a week and are enthusiastic to help students with any needs. In addition most of our lecture classes have weekly recitations where small groups meet with TA’s to ensure everyone is learning the content. I remember actually having fun in a physics recitation last semester; our TA was a pretty personable guy and by the end of the semester we were joking about physics (nerdy, I know) with him. Being in a design major can get pretty intense with lots of late nights or even all nighters. There have actually been several occasions last semester and this semester when I needed advice on a drawing or model and emailed my professors late at night and I have gotten responses from them as late as 11pm. Across all of my classes my professors are great at communication, most respond within an hour.

Iowa State
Enrollment Services Center

One thing that more and more colleges seem to be doing nowadays is offering things called “learning communities” or “living learning communities”. I cannot stress how helpful these are and how much better they have made my freshman year. I am a part of a design living learning community which means most of the people in my house* are in a design major. To break that down further, most of us are first year, pre-professional students (I am pre-architecture) but there are also several older students who are in their program and have all been through this first year called the core (Which I will explain more in depth later) and can all offer advice and help us. On top of this, we get special benefits that aid us in the process of applying to our Intended Major at the end of the year. I feel like this gives us an edge on the other first year design students who are not in a learning community. OK, so what exactly do I mean when I say pre-architecture, Intended Major, or talk about someone already being in their program? Iowa State University, like many large schools that offer design programs, have what is called the Core Year. What this means is that the first year of your college career, should you choose to go into design, will be made up of a couple rigorous studio courses, design history courses, math and physics, English, and some electives. This provides students with projects and works to include in their portfolios, and helps narrow down the selection process as each program can only hold so many students (Architecture is 80 students per year, others are less). At the end of the academic year, all Core Year students assemble a portfolio and select their intended major, and a second choice, third choice, and so on. From there a board of reviewers look through portfolios in addition to grades, essays, etc. determine whether or not you are to be accepted into the program.

Iowa State
Beardshear Hall

When I tell people I am in a design major, more often than not their initial response is something along the lines of “Oh so you like don’t sleep right?” or a more ignorant, “Wow I wish I got to just do arts and crafts all day!” Personally I have discovered that like Iowa State University’s slogan, ‘Choose Your Adventure’, college really is what you make of it. I know some people who do design all day and then go to bed at a decent time. I am not one of those people. While I do get all of my work in design done like many others, I am also involved outside of design in a couple things. I joined a brand new fraternity on campus called Chi Phi and while it is a rewarding experience being a part of the founding class, it takes a lot of time and a ton of commitment. Also, last semester I was a DJ at our school’s alternative radio station. This semester I took a break from the radio station so I could join the Swim Club. Even after just about two months of being on the team, I am already having a blast with it. A common feature to many of the over 850 student clubs and organizations is that they are relatively flexible with attendance since school comes first. In fact, in many cases I have found someone in one of my clubs or in my fraternity who has been able to help me with a difficult class. I mentioned that I am not the typical student to go to bed early every night, and this does not mean that my clubs meet at odd hours of the night. On top of my academics and activities, I have formed several friend groups. From driving to Des Moines at 10pm to late night game nights to going to Buffalo Wild Wings at midnight, it is really hard to have a boring night.

Memorial Union
Memorial Union

Like I said though, there have been a handful of late nights (I mean really late) and all nighters at design. But if you are interested in design, don’t let that scare you away from it. Although pulling an all nighter is full of hard work, there is a lot of play that happens too. Since the design building is open 24/7 to design majors, I am never alone in studio. After a while we all get a little slap happy and sore from sitting and working for hours on end so we like to take breaks to keep our spirits up. I won’t go into too much detail about any of our late night endeavors but I will mention that the chairs in the studio are all on wheels and there is a huge open space in the center of all the studio spaces. Some of the things we have done include; chair races, chair hockey, atrium volleyball, 3AM trips to Perkins, 3AM races across central campus, getting onto the roof of the building, hide and seek, and much more. So while it is a demanding program, there really is never a dull moment to be had.

I have found that the best way to get the most out of college is to just go for it. Don’t question whether or not you should email your professor late at night, or worry that a professor will think you are wasting their office hours with dumb questions. By the same notion, you can’t expect all the fun experiences and friend groups to just be created for you. Take the initiative and text a group of people and get everyone together or suggest that your study group take a break to go explore the campus at night. College is what you make of it, you just have to trust yourself and go for it.

*Dorms are broken up into houses, typically each floor is a different house or in my case since my dorm is one of the largest in the country, segments of each floor.

About the Photos

The Campanile This was a photo I took with my parents during parents weekend. The sign marks one end of our Central Campus quad, which is one of the reasons I chose this picture. Central Campus at Iowa State is massive and beautiful year round. Totaling about 20 Acres, it is one of the reasons our campus is almost always ranked among the top 25 campuses. In the background of the picture, part of one of our other symbolic items can be seen. The Campanile. It is basically a big bell tower, and again it is a part of a tradition. This one is more appropriate for the internet; it is said that you become a true Cyclone when you kiss someone under the Campanile as the clock tolls midnight. In addition, from 11:50AM-12:10PM everyday, one of the music professors climbs up the narrow spiral staircase to the control room and “serenades” the campus with songs students have requested throughout the week. It is a truly special experience. And a side note: I didn’t try to make that face but I was staring directly into the sun.

Enrollment Services Center I chose to include that picture because 1) that is where the adventure really starts, maybe not physically but that is where the emails come from, the files are kept, everything before the adventure starts and 2) it is pretty much the only New England Style architecture building on the campus and it is one of my favorite buildings for this reason.

Beardshear Hall This is one of the most historic and symbolic buildings on our campus and is even a part of a tradition which probably isn’t the best to share on the blog (if interested it is called the Curtiss-Beardshear run). Again, the architecture is one of the reasons I love this building. It is surrounded by a lot of newer construction buildings so it sticks out, but instead of taking a backseat, it almost takes the lead even over the majority of newer buildings.

Memorial Union, another famous building on campus. It contains the bookstore, a food court, bowling alley, arcade, family and visitor center, multicultural center, Panda express (my favorite part), and even a Hotel! There are also grand ballrooms and convention and meeting spaces. I discover new parts of this building every time I go. For instance, when I caucused this winter my precinct was on the fourth floor. I didn’t even know there was a fourth floor (aside from the hotel). I have made so many memories in this building it would be hard not to include it!!

Contact Info

I would be happy to answer any questions I can about the school, or college in general!

Nicholas Pieper
Sophomore; Pre-Architecture; Iowa State University
Re-founding Father, Campus and Public Relations Chair;
Chi Phi Fraternity, Alpha-Pi Chapter
Member; ISU Swim Club
C: (651)-955-9665