We Are ISU: Snapshots of Student Life


Introduction       1869-1898       1899-1928       1929-1958       1959-1988       1989-2018       2019



An Age of Activism: Students of Today (2019)

Today’s student body, while still predominantly white, male, and cishet, comprises a wide variety of opinions, experiences, and interests. Political divisions have grown sharper in recent years, and the ISU campus has not been immune to these tensions. However, following national trends, students from multiple organizations have engaged in activism. Some of the most wide-spread student-organized movements in history, including the National School Walkout gun reform demonstrations and the US Youth Climate Strike, have found their way to ISU. Other prominent issues have featured transgender rights, women’s rights, humane treatment of asylum seekers, and debates on the implementation of First Amendment rights, among many others. Like their predecessors, students of today are endeavoring to play a role in shaping ISU culture and the “future history” of our campus.

Exhibit viewers may notice a shift, however, in the way our "spotlight" student of today is documented compared to her historical counterparts. There isa frustrating scarcity of recent student voices in ISU records – partly, of course, because more recent alumni aren’t as likely to have donated their memorabilia yet. But other factors include the discontinuation ofThe Bombyearbook (which had formerly compiled valuable campus context in a centralized location) as well the shift of social life and self-documentation to an online environment. Thus, while SCUA archivists are more closely connected to students of todayin terms of time and proximity, both the nature of student-centered records themselves and our means of collecting them have evolved considerably, and continue to do so. The majority of items featured in the student of today’s profile, for example, were loaned to us by the individual herself, rather than pieced together from existing archival collections. Consequently, we have a clearer first-hand picture of what the ISU student experience looks like from her point of view, but only a hazy suggestion of the ways future scholars may perceive her story as emblematic of overarching trends. Much more pressing to archivists in this moment is the matter of adequately documenting the present, and our student spotlight’s collaboration with SCUA speaks to multiple such initiatives that are ongoing right now.


Student Spotlight: Julissa Garcia (2016-Present)

Portrait of Julissa Garcia


Julissa Garcia is a first-generation college student and the first person in her family to attend either a four-year university or college out-of-state. She hails from a diverse neighborhood in the south suburbs of Chicago, so she initially found the campus of a predominantly white institution like Iowa State something of a culture shock. However, her involvement in Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc. (LTA) -- one of multiple Latinx sororities and fraternities on campus --has provided her with a support system and also gone a long way towards helping her discover her passions. Though introverted, Julissa has become an activist and advocate, both in and out of LTA, for Greek life, marginalized communities on campus, and social justice education. Like several of her incredible LTA sisters (and, we hope, many more organizations in future), she has also given an oral history interview for SCUA's #VoicesInColor project to help fill gaps in the historical record surrounding campus communities of color.




Snapshot of Campus in 2019:

  • President Wendy Wintersteen
  • Population: 34,992 students (19,909 men and 15,083 women)
  • New Campus Buildings: Student Innovation Center (under construction), Advanced Teaching and Research Building (2018), Bessey Hall Addition (2017), Geoffroy Hall (2017)

Sorority Involvement

chapter logo on Lambda Theta Alpha (LTA)

   Courtesy of Julissa Garcia

Lambda Theta Alpha, Zeta Gamma Logo


Lambda Theta Alpha(LTA), founded in 1975 at Kean University in New Jersey, was the first Latina sorority in the United States and remains, to this day, the largest. The Iowa State University Zeta Gamma chapter, however, is still fairly new, and some of its founding members (pictured in a ring around the chapter logo) are still graduate students at ISU.













eight "line sister" women who joined LTA at the same time

   Courtesy of Julissa Garcia

Joining LTA


As with many sororities, students are not permitted to join LTA until they have successfully completed their first full semester of college. Julissa joined in Spring 2017 as a second-semester freshman. She is pictured here with her "line sisters," all of whom joined at the same time.













gifts received when a "sister" is initiated into the LTA sorority by other members of the sorority, many handcrafted

   Courtesy of Julissa Garcia

Crossing Gifts


Many current LTA members remember their pledge period fondly. Several report that active sisters took the time to get to know them and went out of their way make pledges feel welcome and included, and continued to do so throughout the process. Julissa received several Student gifts for her “crossing” (initiation) into the sorority, many of them handcrafted by her sisters.









scan of Iowa State Daily featuring Julissa Garcia's article


LTA Handheld Fan


Because LTA is a national organization, members also receive paraphernalia printed with offical letters, symbols, and logos.














group shot of twenty  LTA members

   Courtesy of Julissa Garcia

LTA Group Photo


Founded on the principle of “Unity, Love, and Respect”, the LTA sisterhood supports Latinas pursuing higher education and emphasizes academic excellence, community building, and political activism. LTA members are currently collaborating with Special Collections and University Archives to document the life of their sorority through a series of oral histories with the #VoicesInColorproject, so they can pass this legacy on to future sisters, Cyclones, and any researchers interested in a more complete look at ISU history.












Campus Involvement

St Jude 2018 Finisher Philantropy Walk/Run Medal

 Courtesy of Julissa Garcia

St. Jude Philanthropy Walk/Run Medal


Julissa's sorority, Lambda Theta Alpha, has been, on the national level, a collegiate partner to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital since 2010 and a partner of the annual St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer since 2014. Julissa earned this medal for participating in the 2018 philanthropy event to help raise funds for the hospital.








Intersections Flyer and group shot

 Courtesy of Julissa Garcia

Intersections of Identity Event


Conceived through a collaboration between LTA founding members at ISU and the ISU Black Student Alliance, this annual spoken word event opens a platform for students to express issues of identity through poetry, song, and spoken word performances. This year, the Asian Student Union joined the event, as well.








scan of Iowa State Daily featuring Julissa Garcia's article


Writing for the Iowa State Daily


Julissa has been writing for the Iowa State Daily, the ISU student newspaper, since May of 2017. Her contributions range from news and opinion articles to a poem submitted for “Voices”, the ISD’s Diversity section.










portrait of Julissa Garcia at her summer job

 Courtesy of Julissa Garcia

Office of Sorority and Fraternity Engagement


Over the summer, Julissa worked in the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Engagement as an Office Assistant and then as the VP of Community Outreach. She enjoyed her work so much and had such an impact on existing programs that the office created her current position of Student Coordinator to keep her on longer.


















Student Activism




Organized in September 2015, a year before Julissa's class arrived on campus, an unrecognized ISU organization known as Latinos United for a Change (LUCHA) coalesced with Students Against Bigotry (SAB) in response to an onslaught of sociopolitical issues, including the 2015-2016 University of Missouri (Mizzou) protests, presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign, local defacing of the ISU George Washington Carver statue, and many others. The alliance maintains a blog on its own wix.com website and is active on social media to the present day. Pictured, however, is an archived version of its Twitter feed the way this looked in 2015.








Trump Rally and Response


Political tensions surrounding the 2016 U.S. Presidential election began to infiltratecampus as early as September 2015, when members of the Students Against Bigotry (SAB) group gathered to protest a pro-Trump rally that was being held outside Jack Trice Stadium, and a rally attendee from Des Moines, who was not an ISU student, ripped a student protester's sign in half. Student activism protesting the Trump candidacy, and then presidency, continued throughout 2016, culminating in a #NotMyPresident march that gathered in Beardshear to confront ISU President Leath in person regarding campus policies and practices they found objectionable.







Hoodies and Hijabs Solidarity March


On February 9, 2017, ISU students and faculty gathered on campus to protest both President Trump's newly-instated travel ban on Muslim-majority countries and his proposed wall across the U.S.-Mexican border. Attendees drew attention to the ways these policies directly impacted members of the ISU community, many of whom are exchange students and international scholars.








Black and white gun reform flyer dated Friday, April 20th [2018]

   Courtesy of Julissa Garcia

Gun Reform Walkout


At 10:00a.m., April 20th, 2018, student survivors of a high school shooting in Parkland, Florida led a nation-wide protest against gun violence, called the National Student Walkout, which they had organized over social media. Following hard on the heels of the March for Our Lives demonstrations from March 24th, it saw millions of students as young as middle school leave their morning classrooms to demand reform in gun control laws. A number of ISU student groups joined these ranks with a corresponding local event, which Julissa, among other student activists, helped orchestrate.















Group of 11 student lined up in front of ISU library spelling out "We Are The Ones We've Been Waiting For Vote Them Out"

   Courtesy of Julissa Garcia

Photo of Organized Demonstration 


A prominent theme of the 2018 student gun reform demonstrations involved boosting younger voter statistics, as these voices are persistently underrepresented at the polls. Voter registration volunteers, League of Women Voters, and other groups frequented many of the protests, encouraging voting-age college students and high school seniors to register. The rhetoric of organizers echoed this sense of voter accountability, and several posters named politicians who had accepted NRA funding. 






image of Julissa Garcia protesting with poster "Black Lives Matter"

   Courtesy of Julissa Garcia

Photo of Julissa Protesting at the Student Walkout


In addition to demanding legal reform and encouraging civic engagement, the national protests called for inclusion of under represented voices in the gun debate, reasoning that, while gun violence disproportionately impacts communities of color, the voices of white student protesters invariably get broadcast more widely. The ISU walkout explicitly enfolded themes of Black Lives Matter into their event from its conception.


















screenshot of ISU College Democrats tweet condemning President Trump's proposal to elimination of federal recognition of transgender and nonbinary gender identities.

Transgender Rights, Women's Rights, and More

The student walkout is hardly the only protest to have occupied ISU's free speech zone during Julissa's time on campus, either. Other activism has arisen locally in response to numerous issues, including but not limited to climate change, debates over the definition and implementation of free speech rights, radical right-wing campus visitors, threats to legal rights and medical care for transgender individuals, and threats to women's safety in the wake of multiple high-profile, gender-based murders in the state of Iowa, including that of ISU undergraduate Celia Barquín Arozamena in Ames.













Looking to the Future: Collecting Initiatives in SCUA



Web Archiving


As part of an initiative to configure SCUA’s webcrawling system to record social media interactions, ISU archivists have begun capturing online activity surrounding protests and other campus events. Examples pictured include the ISU National Student Walkout twitter account as it appeared immediately after the protest and the hashtag #BelieveWomenISU from the October 2018 Solidarity March for Womxn. Social media is an important facet of contemporary student life, and our ability to capture even portions of it will go a long way towards filling archival gaps in this arena.



















Julissa and her LTA sisters have participated in other SCUA initiatives aimed at addressing archival gaps, as well. A number have given oral history interviews for the #VoicesInColor project, initiated Fall 2018. Their stories will speak to future sorority sisters and provide researchers with a window into the Latinx experience at ISU in the 2010s.





And we hope to record more stories. If you or your student organization are interested in preserving “snapshots” of your student experience for the historical record, let us know! If you are a current or former student, your voice matters, and your story belongs in the archives.