Note: This story was published in the fall 2013 issue of VISIONS magazine and was written by Kayla Schantz
“Students Helping Students.” That was the motto of the Student Alumni Association when it was created at Iowa State 40 years ago. Today the organization — now the Student Alumni Leadership Council — is one of the largest and most prominent student groups on campus. From Homecoming to Cyclone Alley, SALC oversees some of the most central ISU events as it continues to serve students of the past, present, and future.
In the fall of 1973, the late Don Gustafson (’55 general science), then the ISU Alumni Association director, called together a group of student leaders to establish a program to build a bridge between Iowa State students and alumni. The result was the creation of the Student Alumni Association (SAA), one of only a handful of student-alumni organizations in the country at that time.
According to the 1974 Bomb, SAA’s purpose was to meet “student needs which have not been met by other groups on campus.” One of the goals was to make students more aware of the services provided by the ISU Alumni Association.
In a 1974 report to the American Alumni Council, SAA adviser Kathryn Burnet Andre (L) (’69 sociology) explained that past students had little contact with the ISU Alumni Association and no appreciation for what the organization did on campus. SAA was created to inform students of the Association and involve them in alumni activities.
“Students and alumni are crowning assets of any institution of higher education; bringing the two together in one program is enriching to all concerned,” Andre wrote.
The first SAA consisted of a 15-member executive board and 150 additional students serving on nine committees. Dennis Probst (L) (’75 architecture, ’79 civil engineering, MA ’79 architecture) served as the organization’s first president.
SAA hit the ground running during its first year. The group took control of Parents’ Weekend (now Family Weekend), sold Homecoming mums to raise money for a student emergency loan program, and gave campus tours to prospective students.
As a precedent to today’s largely successful ISU Career Fairs, SAA organized “Summer Jobs Day,” in which more than 700 students talked with employers about summer job openings. Another SAA committee arranged chartered bus service and flights to major U.S. cities for out-of-state students.
The most acclaimed new SAA group was the Student Ambassadors. Thirty students visited 120 schools in Iowa and surrounding states to talk to high school seniors about Iowa State. The Ambassadors also represented the student body at alumni club gatherings and university banquets, even traveling to some events in a private plane with ISU President W. Robert Parks.
After only nine months on campus, SAA was awarded the Certificate of Merit with Honors by the American Alumni Council, creating national attention for the organization. In September 1974, Iowa State hosted the first national Student Alumni Association convention, where delegates from nearly 30 universities and colleges learned how to implement and enhance student-alumni programs on their own campuses.
By its first anniversary, SAA had already made an impact at Iowa State.
“I view the establishment of the Student Alumni Association as one of the most significant steps in the history of the Iowa State University Alumni Association,” Gustafson once said.
Through the years
“Founded by a strong group of student leaders, it is hoped that this spirit of dedication will be continued through future student generations,” reported the Bomb after SAA’s first year of existence. The organization’s founders wouldn’t be disappointed. Over the years, SAA developed student programs and initiated new events, many of which continue today.
Student recruitment was always a key function of the organization. In 1974, SAA’s Cyclone Guides organized special “Cyclone Days” for outstanding high school students and National Merit Scholars to visit campus. In the 1980s, “Cyclone Stay-a-Days” allowed prospective students to sit in on classes, talk to advisers, and experience life at Iowa State.
To raise money for the Alumni Achievement Fund, SAA established a callathon, in which student volunteers called alumni across the country asking for pledges. In its first year, the event raised $42,000. The Senior Class Council launched a similar phone campaign in 1975 called the “Senior Challenge,” asking graduating seniors to pledge a small amount for the class gift.
The 1977 Senior Class Council planned the first-ever commencement breakfast for graduates and their parents outside of the Scheman Building. The council also created various opportunities for seniors each year.
“As a group, we developed and ran specific types of events for graduating seniors,” said Kevin Drury (L) (’83 agricultural business), 1983 Senior Class president. “We used to have bar nights. We had career-related seminars. We organized the senior class reception at The Knoll.”
In 1980, the ISU Alumni Association took over the administration of Homecoming and continued to fund the program until 1990 when it officially became a part of SAA. The group created two new committees – Cy Squad and Homecoming Central – to run the event.
Freshmen arriving at ISU in the fall of 1981 participated in the first SAA-sponsored “Welcome Day” that included orientation and entertainment. The students enjoyed intramural sports, a street dance, and campus tours as they became familiar with the university and their classmates. Now known as “Destination Iowa State,” the event continues today through the Office of Admissions.
“Summer Job Day” was expanded to include post-graduation job opportunities. SAA has also sponsored career-related events such as etiquette seminars, alumni mentoring programs, and job shadowing days.
Julie Larson (L) (MS ’84 education), SAA/SALC adviser from 1984 through 1997, says that the organization has always had an emphasis on careers.
“SALC has been involved in career-related programs from the beginning,” she said. “The programs have evolved from Summer Job Days and Pre-Occupational Day, to Mentoring and currently Career Preview Days.”
The decades of the ’80s and ’90s saw an expansion of new programs: Founders Day celebrations, campus chili cook-offs, Senior Week, a Student Foundation Committee, Outstanding Academic Advising Award, Etiquette Dinners, Getting Involved Seminars, and Lil’ Sibs Weekends.
The success of SAA during these years is largely attributed to the late Jim Hopson (’69 indust ed), longtime executive director of the ISU Alumni Association. “He was the students’ greatest advocate,” Larson said. “Because of his passion for student leaders and his financial backing, we were able to expand our programs and attend national and district conferences, where we gained friendships and as well as knowledge.”
In 1995, Larson saw a need to connect more students with the Alumni Association than the 100 students involved in SAA. After research and discussion with other institutions, a proposal was submitted to the Board of Directors to start a membership discount program for students. The student membership program made its debut in the fall of 1996. For $15, students were offered a membership that included discounts at local businesses, a T-shirt, calendar, VISIONS magazine, and special members-only events. During the first year, 750 memberships were sold.
The student membership program went through several name changes. In spring 2000, the Alumni Association made the decision to call the membership program SAA and change SAA (the leadership program) to the Student Alumni Leadership Council (SALC). SAA became a program of the SALC as a membership and benefits group.
The most recent major addition to SALC – the men’s and women’s basketball student section “Cyclone Alley” – has become one of the most notable programs at Iowa State. According to Ellen Shertzer, former SALC adviser, a group of ISU students became inspired to launch the program after traveling to a University of Illinois basketball game and observing its student
section, the “Orange Krush.”
“They knew that there were other campuses out there that they’d heard about or seen on TV with incredible bands and students really getting into it,” Shertzer said, adding that SALC members were excited to implement a similar program and enhance the atmosphere at Hilton Coliseum.
For its first season in 2003-04, Cyclone Alley attracted 1,000 members. The student section has grown in its short history and is now well known throughout the Big 12 Conference as an essential part of Hilton Magic. Cyclone Alley is co-sponsored by ISU Athletics.
Fall 2008 marked another milestone for SALC when the group settled into its new space, the Hallenbeck SALC Suite in the ISU Alumni Center, made possible through the generosity of Ron (’71 industrial admin) and Pam (’71 textiles & clothing) Hallenbeck (L). The organization had previously been housed in campus buildings such as Osborn Cottage, the Memorial Union, and Fisher-Nickell Hall.
In its 40-year history, approximately 4,000 students in SAA and SALC have dedicated countless hours to organizing and implementing programs for Iowa State.
“I truly believe that Iowa State is one of a handful of campuses where when you say it’s student-led, it truly is,” Shertzer said. “[The students] approached it almost like a job, the amount of time that they were in the SALC office and what they did for the organization.”
But it’s not all work. Over the years, members of the organization also enjoyed retreats, parties, and celebrations. From road trips to the SAA National Convention to late nights in Osborn Cottage, from pizza parties after callathons to participating in the VEISHEA parade – students in SAA/SALC made memories that have lasted long after leaving Iowa State.
In its 40th year, SALC continues to make an impact on the university through student services and events, and the organization has received countless national awards including the National Outstanding Organization Award in 2008.
Although the organization has included as many as a dozen committees in earlier structures, today’s SALC is made up of just five groups: the Executive Committee, Senior Class Council, Ambassadors, Cyclone Alley Central, and Homecoming Central.
Sixty students serve on the committees, which oversee campus events such as Career Preview Days, the Nearly Naked Mile, and Beat Iowa Week. Homecoming Central organizes all aspects of the fall tradition, including Yell Like Hell, ExCYtement in the Streets, and lawn displays, while the Senior Class Council plans the class gift and manages functions such as Senior Week and Senior Send-Off.
Committee members also work to promote membership in SAA, which is now the largest ISU campus organization with more than 5,000 members each year.
“The collaboration from each committee provides improvements and new ideas every year,” said current SALC president Morgan Foldes, a senior in marketing. “They all bring their own perspective and experience at Iowa State.”
The dedication, organization, and planning required of SALC students help them develop leadership skills that are useful long after they graduate.
Tim Coble (L) (’77 computer science), former senior class president, said he learned important lessons from working on the 1977 class gift, the Pearson and Beardshear Plaza.
“You have to understand the mechanics,” Coble said, “making it functional, making it work, and understanding all of the facets that will fit together.” Coble said his experience with the project helped him later with his involvement in the Ames Main Street Cultural District.
“SALC provides a unique and focused opportunity for leadership development, and it also identifies and trains future leaders for the university and the Association,” said Jeff Johnson (L), president of the ISU Alumni Association. “SALC alumni are among our most valued and respected alumni leaders and institutional supporters.”
Aside from the leadership opportunities, Drury said participating in the organization also gave him the change to meet other “really good students.”
“There are people that I met on SAA that I still consider friends,” Drury said.
Drury and other former SAA/SALC members will have the chance to reunite at the organization’s 40th reunion, which is planned for this year’s Homecoming. The reunion will also serve as a fundraising event for the organization.
“We know that SALC alumni care deeply about the work of this group and its future viability,” Johnson said. “We know they will invest in SALC’s future.”