By: Samantha Bayne
When I was deciding on schools, I stumbled upon Drake University as a school that taught politics. As a sophomore in high school from St. Louis, I had only vaguely heard of Iowa itself, much less the caucuses and Drake University. Most of my friends who were interested in politics were shooting for American University, Georgetown, even UC-Berkeley. Something, though, felt right about Drake. As Drake slowly became my number one school, my peers asked, “why Iowa?”
As a Drake student, I get incredibly angry and defensive when asked that same question. Iowa is the home to the First in the Nation caucuses, some of the best education programs in the country, and (in my opinion) the most ways to engage in the community. Iowa is not DC. It doesn’t have the jobs that New York has. It’s not large, and there isn’t always the most to do. But Iowa’s existence fundamentally shapes every general election in recent history. It’s a perfect place for a politics student like me.
So, why Iowa? The connections you get are second to none. Many of the people that we have met through site visits have said that they would not be here, in DC, if they didn’t start in Iowa. Jane Norman from Politico argued that Iowa still matters. Take every opportunity that you get. When Iowa is home to companies that specialize from insurance to agriculture, and is the host state of the caucuses, it’s so easy to meet someone who will be important to your future career.
Why Iowa? You’ll be a real hipster. In the article “Do the Most Hipster Thing Possible: Move to Des Moines,” Matt Vasilogambros describes a city that is youthful, vibrant, and growing. Des Moines is a small town learning how to be a city, and Iowa is a rural state learning how to be the center of activity. We know what you think of us. We know you think we’re just a flyover state. But we’re inexpensive, great for foodies, and the host of a TON of corporations. Next time you make fun of your friend who works at Principal for moving to the cornfields, take a trip to Iowa yourself.
Why Iowa? You’ll learn a lot about issues that affect real people. Age, education, and rural-suburban-urban divides are all apparent in the Hawkeye state. At the morning sessions at The Washington Center, every mention of the 2020 election leads to the faculty director Lilly Goren searching for an Iowan to provide their input. In DC it can be easy to get caught up in the politics of it all. Getting your politics education in Iowa gives you both experience and the ability to talk to actual voters about the issues that affect them.
Why Iowa? It’ll teach you how to be a good human. Nicole Peckumn from the City of DC reminded us that the community here is very different from home. “Iowa nice” exists for a reason; the small-town aesthetic carries with us beyond the occasional “Ope!” when we bump into someone. We know that there’s more to life than what happens in Washington. We know that policies affect real people with real needs that go beyond politics. Anyone who spent any time in Iowa immediately has an instant connection and common understanding that is much stronger than the DC community.
Why Iowa? The experience is off the charts. James Rice, the Legislative director at Senator Grassley’s office, says that Drake University and the state of Iowa helped him realize his passion for politics. It is a good place to care about the state of this country. The caucuses began essentially yesterday, and political leaders from across the country will be flocking to this random state in the Midwest with only about 3 million citizens to its name. There are just so many more chances to get involved than anywhere else in the country, and it is easy to just jump in.
We have all been asked, “why Iowa?” The better question is, “why not Iowa?”