Student perspectives on the Catt Center experience

CATEGORIES: March 2023, Voices

Since 1996, the Legacy of Heroines scholarship program has provided scholarships to students from a number of majors who are interested in the political process, public service and women’s leadership. Since the first scholarships were awarded, the program has provided scholarships to 280 students, including this year’s group of scholars.

Two of our current Legacy of Heroines scholars—Arwa Hassan and Natalia Ríos Martínez—interviewed several past and present scholars to get some student perspectives on the Catt Center experience. Two other past scholars also shared some of their Catt Center memories when they were interviewed for a Voices article last September.

Sharon Haselhoff, a 1998 political science alumna, was a Political Science Alumni Legacy of Heroines Scholar from 1996-1998. Currently regional vice president of Elite Casino Resorts, Haselhoff now funds two Legacy of Heroines scholarships and contributes to the scholarship that helped support her own Iowa State education.

Haselhoff was involved in the center’s monthly programs and was one of four ISU students chosen to participate in the Women in Politics week-long program in St. Louis hosted by Rutgers University. One of her favorite memories was picking up guest speakers, including Mary Louise Smith and Anita Hill, and the conversations she had with each. “The Catt Center and Dianne Bystrom, the former executive director, have had a lasting impression on my life. So many opportunities for me were provided through this program, all of which I’ve been able to translate into my career after Iowa State,” she said.

She urges current and future Legacy of Heroines scholars to become involved in the program, saying, “You can make it as little or as much as you want but those who truly become involved will take lessons away that will last a lifetime. Also, always network! You never know how someone you meet may change your course later on in life for the better.” That advice includes getting to know the donor or donors who support the scholarship, something she wishes she had done more of. “I never truly utilized their expertise to allow them to become a mentor to me. I wish I would have done that.”

Dr. Lauren Hughes was a member of the Legacy of Heroines program from 2000-2022 as a recipient of the Helen Jensen Howe Legacy of Heroines Scholarship for Women in Science. She earned bachelor’s degrees in zoology and Spanish from Iowa State in 2002, a master’s degree in public health from George Washington University in 2007, a doctor of medicine from the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in 2009, and a second master’s degree in health and health care research from the University of Michigan in 2015.

When asked about her favorite memories of the Catt Center, Hughes says that it was not necessarily memories of specific events but the “longitudinal experience” that the Catt Center offered through mentorship from the center’s staff, the program’s peer-to-peer networking and professional development opportunities, and larger Catt Center-sponsored lectures and events that marked her time at Iowa State.

Hughes says that her experiences as a Legacy of Heroines scholar have helped shape her perspective and dedication to public service. She is now the state policy director of the Farley Health Policy Center at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and associate professor of family medicine in the University of Colorado Department of Family Medicine. She recently established a new Legacy of Heroines scholarship.

Rachel Junck is a concurrent undergraduate student in chemical engineering with minors in Spanish and political science and graduate student in the master of business administration program. Junck has been very involved both on and off campus throughout her time at Iowa State, including serving as a member of the Ames City Council since Jan. 2, 2020.

Junck’s involvement with the Catt Center started in the fall of 2019 during her campaign for city council, through the center’s student voter engagement efforts. She has been a Rice-Neville Political Activism Legacy of Heroines scholar since the fall of 2020.

When asked how the Catt Center has impacted her experience at Iowa State, Junck stated, “The Catt Center has opened up a whole range and number of opportunities—being able to have beneficial connections with my colleagues, professors or industry professionals. The legacy luncheons program has probably been one of my favorites—just learning more about career fields or what people took with them from the Legacy of Heroines program after college into their careers and how to continue civic engagement and being political minded after college.”

Julia Litecky is a junior studying journalism & mass communications and political science with a minor in criminal justice. She is on a pre-law track and hopes to help others by being a practicing attorney or a legal writer.

Litecky’s connection with the Catt Center began after a former political science student and intern at the Catt Center encouraged her to get involved with the center. Litecky took that advice and applied for the scholarship program, and she was awarded the Haselhoff Family Legacy of Heroines scholarship for the 2022-2023 academic year.

When asked what one piece of advice she would give a future Legacy of Heroines scholar, Litecky replied, “Attend as many events as possible. There are so many interesting topics and things to learn about. It’s a great way to meet people and network.”

Maggie Luttrell Roby‘s journey with the Catt Center began in 2005 when she was a freshman at Iowa State. As a recipient of the Helen Jensen Howe Legacy of Heroines Scholarship for Women in Science and later the Jane Greimann Legacy of Heroines Scholarship, Roby found her first leadership opportunities with the Catt Center.

One particular experience that Roby says launched her on a “different trajectory” in her learning and thinking and development is when she attended the Democratic presidential debates in Des Moines with then-center director Dianne Bystrom. Roby remembers that it solidified for her the importance of civic duty, and says it is “why I’ve stayed very active in some capacity pretty much my whole post-graduate life.”

Roby earned a bachelor’s degree in history and women’s studies with a certificate in community leadership and public service in 2009 and a master’s degree in educational leadership and policy studies with a certificate in social justice in 2011. She currently works at Cargill, Inc., where she has been involved in many employee-led programs, including BRIDGE, a gender-specific program that focuses on personal and professional development and networking. She believes that the Catt Center gave her a framework for understanding the challenges that women face and provided her with the tools to make a difference.

Kate Tindall, a 2015 Iowa State alumna who majored in journalism & mass communication and political science, currently works as director of marketing and communications for the Iowa State University Alumni Association. She is also pursuing her master in business administration at Iowa State.

Tindall’s involvement with the Catt Center was sparked when her Kappa Alpha Theta sorority sister recommended that she apply for both a Legacy of Heroines scholarship and an internship at the center. She did just that—and was a research intern on the center’s Archives of Women’s Political Communication in 2013-2014 as well as a Jane Greimann Legacy of Heroines Scholar from 2013-2015.

When asked what she wished she had known when she was in the Legacy of Heroines program, Tindall said, “Ask the question you are curious about. Make sure that your question gets answered. Don’t hesitate to bring up that question, if you have it. If I could go back, I would ask even more questions, just be bold about doing that. There is no time like college for some of these opportunities, like being a scholar for the center. And you might not get the chance again, so ask the question.”

The Legacy of Heroines scholarship program is funded by a number of generous donors. Awards are based on academic merit, leadership and specific criteria established by each donor. A list of the scholarships and the criteria for each is available on the Catt Center website.