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Meet GV Students

Grand View students have a wide range of backgrounds and interests. Each year, GV hosts students from 30 states and 10 countries. Here are glimpses into the interests and plans of just a few. You can see next to their names what their interests are, then click the arrow to learn more about each of them!

Bryce Adger - Track, Phi Beta Lambda, RA

Being a student-athlete can be challenging but it';s do-able according to track athlete and business major Bryce.

"Everyone at Grand View wants you to succeed, which helps make being a student-athlete manageable," Bryce explains. "Not only does it look good on my resume, but it helps keep me focused, physically and mentally healthy, and has brought me some success as well."

Bryce was recruited from his home state of Texas as a GV football player and later transitioned over to the track team. As a track athlete, he is a decathlete and has been a conference champion in four events, anchor for the All-American 4x4 team, and placed fourth at Nationals.

"I didn't think I would go to college, but then I was recruited," Bryce said. "I visited campus in the middle of a snow storm, and I signed that day. Everything about Grand View was right for me. And I wanted to get away from home, be independent and discover who I was."

As an athlete, Bryce takes advantage of the exclusive athlete weight room and trains at GV's stadium. The Viking strength and conditioning room features ten Power Lift stations; more than 9,000 lbs of plates, dumb bells, and bars. Athletes also have access to Sisam Arena and the Charles S. Johnson Wellness Center fieldhouse and indoor track, as well as outdoor fields.

Bryce is an RA and puts his business skills to use sponsoring and promoting campus and residential events. He also helped co-found a student organization and is part of the business club, Phi Beta Lambda. "I've always been the type to just jump right in," Bryce said. "Being involved on campus and having my teammates and roommates there for support and encouragement has been great. There really isn't any room for homesickness with everything going on around campus and in my classes."

Mayra Alarcon - Tutoring, Diversity Alliance

Because of Grand View's 40 plus clubs and organizations, Mayra had a plethora of experiences waiting for her when she transferred to Grand View. Starting out in a large university, she quickly decided she wanted a more personal college education that was closer to home. Once on the GV campus, she quickly learned how easy it is to get involved. She also realized that her campus organization experiences would not only benefit her as a student but also build her resume.

"My extra-curricular activities help me stand out and provide me with opportunities to meet people with similar interests. I've started to develop a networking system as a student, which will help me when I'm looking for jobs," Mayra said. "Being involved gives me something to look forward to in my busy week, and I've benefited a lot by improving my leadership and communication skills, while developing many friendships.

Mayra enjoys helping others and gaining leadership experience. She is a tutor and a multicultural ambassador.

"I have received notes from those I've tutored thanking me for my patience and positive attitude. It is refreshing to know I'm making a small but powerful impact on someone's education."

As a multicultural ambassador with the Diversity Alliance club, Mayra has sharpened her leadership, oral and written communication skills. She has assisted with student recruitment and diversity initiatives, which have provided her with useful knowledge and experience for a lifetime. Diversity Alliance promotes and values the diversity inherent within the Grand View campus. The group organizes campus-wide events, including the annual Multicultural Fair, awareness projects, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration. She credits her team involvement with helping to overcome her fear of public speaking and to venture out and try new experiences.

Rachel Dachenbach - Music, honors, leadership

Rachel walked onto the Grand View campus for a visit and knew immediately this was the place for her.

"I heard about Grand View from the time I was very little. We went to a Lutheran church and our pastor was a GV grad," Rachel said. "I didn't like the idea of a big school; I wanted smaller classes and the opportunity to be involved in many things, and when I came for a visit it felt like my home away from home."

Rachel received a music scholarship and got involved with choir and band. She enjoys the constant interaction the band and choir have on campus, performing at campus events such as homecoming, honors convocation and commencement. She also assists with music scholarship auditions and creates connections with new students, much like she did during her own audition day.

"To put a face with a name and know at least one person when you are new to campus makes starting this part of your life a little less daunting," Rachel said. "I like that I can do that for others."

As a choir member, Rachel enjoyed the opportunity to go on the annual spring music tour, which travels internationally every four years. She has traveled to the west coast, toured throughout the Midwest, and overseas to Denmark and Germany.

"It was one of the coolest experiences I've had," Rachel said. "Not only did we go to these places and perform, but we were ambassadors for our school, our state and our country. We stayed with host families, which was very unique and something I will never forget."

As a Philip Hougen Scholar, Rachel is involved with campus ministries and proud of the club’s outreach to the campus.  They minister to all students, and the campus pastor is a presence for everyone, from athletes to fine arts students to science majors…everyone.

Grand View offers two honors programs, one of which is LOGOS.  LOGOS is an invitation-only honors program designed to refine your critical thinking, examine your beliefs and test your values.  

"LOGOS is the best experience that I’ve had at GV,” Rachel said.  “In fact, as a class, we were kind of sad on the last day.  It’s a lot of work but the results are so rewarding."

There is no test, just a book that students read and then dive into a conversation about the content and the questions it brings forward.  Rachel formed strong bonds with her LOGOS peers and felt comfortable putting her ideas and opinions out for discussion.

Rachel also represents Grand View as a Presidential Ambassador.  This invitation-only program is available to selected incoming freshmen to help them develop leadership skills through meetings and personal interactions with GV President Kent Henning and the Board of Trustees.  Presidential Ambassadors are involved in various activities and seminars on and off campus, and network with Des Moines community leaders.

Jordan Henkenius - Health and wellness, leadership

Jordan knew she wanted to help people in some way.  She always had a game plan and knew the direction she wanted to go.  After being accepted to Grand View, she researched and received the Grand View Director’s Award – a four-year renewable scholarship based on academic achievements.

“GV has a wide range of scholarships available and when I was looking at other schools, they didn’t have as many scholarship opportunities,” Jordan said.  “I did fine on the ACT but it was nice to find a scholarship that wasn’t based solely on my ACT score.”

Starting out as a nursing major, Jordan enjoyed her classes and felt academically challenged but began to feel like something was missing.  She was three years into the nursing program when she started to question her path.

“I’m a really stubborn person, and the GV nursing program is great, but I started to realize that maybe nursing wasn’t for me.  I got nervous about changing majors,” Jordan said.

Jordan did some soul-searching and dived deeper into the health and wellness area.  She spoke with wellness faculty, her advisor, the campus wellness director, and even job shadowed in different areas of the wellness field.

“I found my passion in health and wellness and preventative care, working one-on-one with people to help them make healthier choices,” Jordan said. “I finally went to my advisor and changed my major.  It will only take me one extra semester to complete my health promotion degree.”

Internships are a major part of the Grand View experience.  Being in the heart of Des Moines, Grand View has many connections in the metro area for internship and job shadowing experiences.  After changing her major, Jordan needed more field experience for her resume and internship requirements. With Grand View’s metro location, Jordan found an internship with the American Heart Association, which opened her eyes to even more possibilities.  She helped organize the Heart Ball, organizing volunteers and assisting with the planning of wellness events.  Jordan took a part-time position with Physiotherapy Associates – which will transition to full-time after graduation.  She is instructing exercise classes at several locations and will oversee a new weight loss program for clients needing knee and hip replacements.

“I’m really glad I took the plunge and switched my major to follow my passion,” Jordan said.  “Grand View made it effortless and helped me make sure this was the right decision for me before moving forward with it.”

Jordan was also very involved on campus.  She was the Viking Volunteers president for three years.  As a freshman, she knew she wanted to participate in service opportunities, and at that time, the club was just beginning to grow.  She jumped right into a leadership position and began to market the club on campus. During her sophomore year she took the club president role and started to build the group, making it larger and more involved.  Viking Volunteers participated in many service projects including Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, The Giving Tree, Meals from the Heartland, Luther Park, and more in the Des Moines area.

Jess Hunold - Leadership, nursing

Jess grew up in Donnellson, a small Iowa town.  She wanted a college that felt like family, where she would have opportunities for individual attention from her professors and smaller classes where she felt comfortable participating.  But she also wanted to be near or in a larger city with many events and opportunities available outside of class.

“I went on a campus tour, met some professors and got to see what campus was really like,” Jess said. “Everyone was welcoming, and I could definitely feel the small campus family environment my guide told me about.”

Jess visited Grand View a second time during Nursing Action Day.  She learned more about the nursing program and actually experimented with different nursing tools in the on-site Center for Learning, and visited with current nursing students.

“After that action day visit there was no doubt about it – Grand View was right for me,” Jess said.  “And transitioning from my small-town life to life in a metro city was actually pretty easy!  Des Moines has so much to offer, and Grand View is like its own little community where I actually felt like I was living in a small town in the middle of a big city.  I also looked forward to living on my own, and living at GV is one of the best decisions I’ve made.”

From her first year on campus, Jess immersed herself in student activities.  She’s been involved with Viking Volunteers, Stand Up To Cancer, Team GV, View Crew and Student Leadership Team, as well as the Nursing Student Association.  At first she joined these organizations to meet people, but she soon found herself getting so much more out of them.

“Being involved has provided me the chance to attend retreats, build peer relationships, and find out more about myself,” Jess said.  “It’s given me opportunities to try new things and discover things I never knew I enjoyed…but that’s what college is all about.”

Jess was offered an eight-week internship in oncology at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in New York.  Her balanced involvement with campus organizations and academics demonstrated her commitment to education and proved that she was willing to step outside her comfort zone.

“I spent four weeks in the Intermediate Care Unit and another four weeks on the Hematology Oncology floor,” Jess explained.  “I was able to strengthen my hands-on skills, as well as have more patient and co-worker interaction.  I feel I am more than ready to begin my career as an oncology nurse.”

Chad Lowman - Wrestling

For Chad, Des Moines is home.  As a wrestler, he attended an NCAA Division I school for two years and then transferred to Grand View.  It was the best decision he’s made.

“The wrestling coach contacted me and set up a visit.  Once I got here, it felt like a good fit,” Chad said. “Everyone was friendly and positive.  And when I started classes, I realized that everyone wants you to succeed in everything you do.  My professors are very supportive and even attend my wrestling events to cheer me on.”

Returning to Des Moines was an easy transition, and transferring to GV was simple.  Grand View accepts up to 66 semester hours of transfer credit from junior and community colleges.  The combination of Chad’s scholarship and his financial aid package made the cost comparable to that of a large state school.  

“My athletic scholarship was an added bonus that helped get me to Grand View; however, knowing what I know now, I would have come here regardless of a scholarship,” Chad said.

Chad had watched the campus grow and change.  Nothing is stagnant, and he’s proud to say he’s been part of that growth and Grand View’s athletic success.  Chad was the 2013 National Wrestling Champion (157 pounds), took third in the 2012 Nationals, was named the 2013 and 2012 NAIA All-American, was a 2013 NAIA Scholar-Athlete, named to the 2013 and 2012 NWCA/NAIA Academic Team, and was the 2013 National Qualifying Tournament Champion.

“I have a huge support system made up of my professors, family, coaches, teammates and even athletes from other teams,” Chad explained.  “We want each other to succeed, so we support not just our own team but all GV teams.  When I came to Grand View, things turned around for me.  I learned to balance being an athlete with my academic responsibilities – which always come first.  When you go to class and make the  right choices, that transfers over into your athletic life, and you can give it your all.  You can’t skip class and then expect to do well in practice.  When you do well in class, then you will do well on the mat or the court or the field, and in your life outside Grand View.”

Aly Merschman - Dance, radio, leadership

Aly is all about involvement and making the most of her time at Grand View.  She started out with a major in broadcast, discovered a passion for radio, and eventually developed an interest in political science.  

From day one, Aly was involved with the dance team, which she had the opportunity to captain, gaining valuable teamwork, management and cooperation skills.  She learned right off the bat that high school athletics and college athletics are completely different.

“When you’re recruited, you have the chance to receive athletic scholarships, which is really nice because you don’t have a lot of extra time outside of class, studying, practice and workouts for a part-time job,” Aly said.  “However, as a student-athlete, you learn time management, and you get to take advantage of several perks student-athletes get – like the strength and conditioning coach, moving onto campus early, and competing at state, regional and national levels.”

Aly also participates in many campus organizations such as Team GV where she gives campus tours to new and prospective students and provides them with a real-life student perspective.  As a GV United member, she works with the alumni relations staff to help keep alumni connected to GV.  She also runs the GV radio station.  She organizes student shows and hosts her own show each week.  As a work-study – which is a paid position on campus – she helps broadcast students edit video.

Even though Aly lived just east of Des Moines, she wanted to live on campus, and she’s glad she did.  She made strong connections with her roommates and got in on the excitement that happens after class gets out.

“I definitely recommend living on campus – that’s where all the exciting and really fun stuff happens!” Aly said.  “I made so many friends.  That probably wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t live on campus.  And I was able to participate in fun events for residential students.”

Along with her campus involvement, Aly was excited to experience the real-world.  A representative from Clear Channel offered her an internship position, which she eagerly accepted.  For an entire summer, she assisted with KISS 107 programming and tracked radio logs, while also getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse at what a career in radio really looked like.  

“Having that big-name company on my resume will have a big impact and look good to potential employers,” Aly said.  “I’m glad I had that experience, and my professors with their Des Moines connections helped me get it.”

Todd Nielsen - Study abroad, graphic design

With Grand View's Danish heritage and Todd’s Danish family roots, a study abroad experience to Denmark was the ideal fit.

“I have deep Danish history – my mother’s grandparents and my dad’s great-great-grandparents all emigrated to America from Denmark,” Todd said.  “I always wanted to visit the country.  My sister traveled there when she was 17, and my mom visited when she was 17 also.”

Grand View offers short-term faculty-sponsored study trips and summer programs, as well as semester or yearlong study experiences. Through Grand View’s partnership with the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS), Todd spent two terms abroad.  He discovered that school in Copenhagen is similar to GV except he commuted by train daily, and some of his classes traveled to different countries as part of their study.

“The Danish grading system is a bit more difficult.  I noticed few students received high grades,” Todd explained.  “But the experiences I had were incredible.”

While in Denmark, Todd lived with a host family.  His “family” took him in as one of their own and immersed him in Danish life.  Todd remarks that the best part of his whole overseas experience was living with his host family and truly becoming part of their family.

“I’ve grown as a person and view the world completely differently,” Todd said.  “It’s one of the best things a college student will ever do.  The experiences you get far outweigh the cost, and the people you meet are some of the most incredible people you will ever know.  It’s the best decision I’ve made.”

Todd’s interest in graphic design and the encouragement from his high school art teacher led him to Grand View and our graphic design program.  He searched for a college where he could play baseball and get the education he needed for his future career.  Grand View’s state-of-the-art facilities in the Rasmussen Center for Community Advancement Professions – which include two Mac labs, painting and drawing studios, a critique room, a special projects room and a exhibition gallery – have made his academic experience enjoyable, challenging, and most importantly, applicable to his intended career.  

“Grand View is perfect for me; I’ve learned so much and had so many opportunities,” Todd said.

Ake Phetdavieng - Math, photography, video

With a desire to truly understand mathematics, Ake welcomed Grand View’s small classes and one-on-one relationships with our faculty.  He didn’t feel like a number.  In fact, he developed close relationships with his instructors and soon realized he could go directly to them with questions rather than through a graduate assistant – GV doesn’t have those!

“I like that my classes average about 15 students,” Ake said.  “And I’ve really gotten to know my professors on a personal level.  They not only know my name, but they know me – who I am and what my interests are.”

Being an older fulltime day student, Ake has different interests and viewpoints than some of his classmates.  However, he has found ways to get involved and make connections through the Math Club, of which he was the Social Chair, and the Math Modeling Contest – a national contest where students have two days to solve a problem using the skills and knowledge they have gained throughout their college careers.

“As a student, you get frustrated when you start to wonder why or how this will apply to your life after college,” Ake said.  “But at GV you actually feel comfortable asking the why questions.  The professors always have an answer…whether it’s from their own experience as instructors or their lives outside the classroom, or from professionals in the field you’re studying – there is a reason.  That’s one of the best things about learning – asking questions and discovering that there is a reason we are doing these things.”

In addition to mathematics, Ake also found his niche with photography and video.  He’s been developing his photo skills for several years, starting with his family’s old Minolta camera.  For him, photos and video melded into one another, and he started to dip his toes into digital video.

“In high school, rather than saving up for a nice car to drive, I saved for nice camera equipment.  So while most of my classmates had nice cars, I drove an old van and had a really nice camera,” Ake laughs.

That tradeoff has come in very handy.  Not only has Ake continued to fine-tune his photo and video skills, he’s also landed several paid freelance opportunities.