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Past Student Luncheons & Receptions


April 7, 2016

Businessman and philanthropist Bill Knapp joined nine Drake University undergraduate students at a reception at the Harkin Institute to discuss his career in real estate and what has helped to make him successful.  Knapp touched on growing up on a farm and serving in World War II, but his focus was on sharing with the students how he secured his current success.  Throughout the reception, he stressed the importance of doing what you like and what you have a talent for, something that the students were able to take to heart.  Knapp explained how he had never even thought of real estate, but it was something he realized he was good at and he enjoyed.  Many times, Mr. Knapp spoke of his love for the Des Moines area and for giving back to the community.  He noted that it always feels better to give money away for a good cause than to make it.  The students were encouraged to be successful by doing what they love to do, and they were inspired to see it as a real possibility by hearing firsthand Knapp’s story.

March 23, 2016

Mike Draper, creator of RAYGUN, a quirky yet wildly successful T-shirt business that has proven essential in revitalizing downtown Des Moines, met with eight students from Drake University to discuss how he came to be such a successful entrepreneur.  He entertained the students with his witty remarks about his time in school and how he realized that he enjoyed creative work despite the fact that it might not pay well.  The students learned the importance of dedication, dependability, and discipline as Draper stressed that he had no experience with retail, screen printing, or art; he simply found something he enjoyed and his capacity for work skyrocketed.  He stressed that there’s a lot of talent in this world, but what’s most important is that you prove to be dependable in what you do.  Also, he advocated that the students should sweat the little things in life rather than the big things because the little details are typically ones that you have the power to change whereas the big ones are out of your control.  Through humor and invaluable common sense about his business experience, Draper encouraged the students to find work that they enjoy and an environment for that work in which they can thrive.

March 8, 2016

Dr. Richard Deming, oncologist and founder of Above and Beyond Cancer, visited with some current Drake University students during a luncheon at the Harkin Institute and discussed how he came to create his organization. The students listened to Dr. Deming’s thoughts on his ministry of healing, which entails an understanding of the difference between knowledge and wisdom, mindfulness, and compassion.  When talking about his work with Above and Beyond Cancer, he compared battling cancer to climbing a mountain, that it’s one step at a time.  Survivors go on these adventures not in spite of their cancer but because of the confidence they gained from it, and through these spiritual experiences, they are able to grow in courage, strength, and resilience.  The Drake students were able to hear firsthand how focusing positive energy on helping others can make a widespread impact.

February 11, 2016

After a long day on the floor of the Iowa Senate, Senator Pam Jochum stopped by the Harkin Institute to engage in a discussion with 10 students. The presiding president of the Iowa State Senate, Senator Jochum took time to discuss the privatization of Medicaid in Iowa with a diverse group of engaged students. Questions also addressed Senator Jochum’s unique perspective on public programs as a whole, as well as education reform. Before wrapping up the hour-long conversation, she stated that the more young millennials she meets, the more she is convinced the nation will be left in the hands of true leaders that will move the nation forward.

January 25, 2016

While in Des Moines for a business engagement, Tom Brokaw made it a point to stop at the Harkin Institute to meet with 15 Drake Undergraduate Students. As one of the international media’s leading figureheads, Brokaw discussed not only his record as a voice for “The Greatest Generation”, but his humble beginnings in Yankton, South Dakota. In addition, he expounded upon the interaction between politics and journalism, actively promoting discussion between students. Brokaw also discussed the importance of public service, and how civic duty is imperative in an increasingly globalized world. He talked specifically about his wife’s charitable work in Africa and his own interactions with global philanthropy. Brokaw also had an exceptional admiration and hope for the millennial generation, believing that they would be the ones to match this international responsibility; “We need for your generation (the millennials) to kick start a new public service ethos”.

October 15, 2015

Congressman Young (R-IA 03) recently shared insights and wisdom from his journey to our nation’s capital with ten Drake students over lunch at the Harkin Institute.  The Congressman spent some time talking about politics and current events; but focused primarily on how to pursue a career in politics.  Young wanted the students to know that when he graduated from Drake with a degree in English he was unsure of what he wanted to do.  He decided to follow his passion for politics to Washington DC.  He stressed the importance of working hard, staying humble, and being open to every opportunity that presents itself.  Congressman Young also answered questions about his time as a staffer and his Congressional campaign in Iowa.  Young stressed to the students the importance of compromise and listening to those with whom one disagrees.  He shared with the students his promise to meet with any person or group in his district because he is “a representative of Iowa” and he has to “know the concerns of his constituents, in order to best represent them.”  He also urged the students to “work hard & be nice [because] that is the Iowa way.”  In response to the final question of the luncheon, Congressman Young discussed his continued love for the English language, urging the students to read more books and even offered a few suggestions of his favorites. 

October 6, 2015

The Harkin Institute invited Iowa’s Secretary of State Paul Pate to have lunch with ten Drake undergraduate students and discuss his life in public service.  Secretary Pate shared stories and advice from his career as a businessman, a state senator, the mayor of Cedar Rapids and Iowa’s Secretary of State.  The Secretary engaged the students on a number of issues affecting Iowa, but focused his remarks on voter turnout.  Secretary Pate was driven to attain his current position because of frustration over low voter turnout in local elections.  The students discussed this issue and offered ideas for Pate’s “battle plan” to increase voter registration.  Secretary Pate left the students with a charge to “get some skin in the game” and engage in the political process: “don’t just stand around and wait for your turn, great leaders build a coalition of support around their vision and get it done.”

April 30, 2015

Roxanne Conlin was invited by the Harkin Institute to sit down with ten Drake undergraduate students about her life experiences. Conlin spoke to the students about the importance of civil rights and how she, “always helps those that have had something bad happen to them.” The Drake students enjoyed hearing her inspiring stories and had the incredible opportunity to ask Mrs. Conlin some questions of their own. The students inquired about her favorite cases over the many years she has been in practice, how she managed to succeed in a male dominated field, and her political activities outside of the courtroom. Conlin ended the reception by recounting the story of how she came to name the Griffin Building, named after Edna Griffin who was a victim of discrimination. She left with some advice to the students that, “Now is the time to get involved if you want to make this world a better place, don’t wait around for someone else to do it.”

April 2, 2015

Ten Drake undergraduate and graduate students had a chance to sit down with Senator Charles Grassley to discuss his legislative work and ask him questions regarding his career. Senator Grassley told the students about the struggles he faced first entering office and how he overcame those challenges throughout his career. Students asked the Senator an assortment of questions concerning current legislative issues, running for office, the upcoming presidential election and his personal experiences in Washington D.C. When asked what is the best advice to give someone running for office, the Senator told students to be successful in life before running for office. He emphasized how difficult it was for him to start his political career at a young age. He encouraged students to be active in a political party and network before beginning their own campaign. Senator Grassley left students with what he felt was the most important piece of advice: “put family first, then politics.” The Senator thanked his supportive wife, Barbara, for her continuous support and hard work raising their family throughout the years.

March 26, 2015

Colonel Bob King was invited by the Harkin Institute to sit down with ten Drake students. Colonel King told students about his experiences in the National Guard, discussed how to handle transitioning between jobs, and how to balance leadership roles. One of the key points that Colonel King focused on throughout the hour is the importance of having a mentor in life. He emphasized the advice they can give and their experiences that you can learn from. Students asked the Colonel a variety of questions ranging from how to gain respect in leadership roles to how to handle new situations. Colonel King told the students to have perseverance and the want to succeed in life. He ended the luncheon with an important lesson, “be trustworthy and confident in order to achieve excellence.”

March 3, 2015

The Harkin Institute hosted Amalie Nash along with nine Drake undergraduate and master students.  Nash spoke to the students about solution based journalism, how engagement with community members elevates publications, and how a clever and dynamic cover letters is the way to land a job interview.  Students asked Ms. Nash about maintaining objective while reporting, “rookie” reporting mistakes, and the art of interviewing. 

February 26, 2015

Ten Drake University undergraduate and law school students welcomed Republican Strategist, David Oman, to the Harkin Institute.   Oman an veteran Iowa campaign insider, media executive, and former Chief of Staff to Governor Ray and Governor Branstad, shared his thoughts on how media and communication skills translate into a career in politics.  He also shared  his most recent experience as US Senator Joni Ernst’s finance director and spoke about how the infamous “squeal” ad was produced.  Students learned 3 keys to success, traits of a great campaign staffer, and how individuals can be nonpartisan in journalism after a successful political career.

February 3, 2015

Ruth Harkin was welcomed by 10 Drake University undergraduate, law, and masters program students.  Harkin an international business woman, political operative, and former county prosecutor, shared insightful details on how she excelled in life after graduating from a small state college in Minnesota.  Students learned the difference from a "Midwest resume" to an "East Coast resume", what students can do with a law degree other than practice law, and when it is a time to move onto another career.