Community Engagement & Service-Learning Staff

Mandi McReynolds
Director,Office of Community Engagement and Service-Learning 

Mandi McReynolds has spent her career building service-learning and leadership programs at three different institutions in Iowa. She received her B.A. from Cedarville University in Organizational Communication and her M.S. from Iowa State University with an emphasis in Higher Education, Speech Communication, and Women's Studies. In 2010-2011, she was honored to be named the Iowa Campus Compact Engaged Staff Award Winner for her work at Coe College. Mandi received the 2012 Iowa Student Personnel Association Outstanding Service Award.

In July of 2011, she joined Drake University as the first service-learning coordinator. Mandi's passion is to support Drake's mission to provide an exceptional learning environment that prepares students for meaningful personal lives, professional accomplishments, and responsible global citizenship. She believes a high quality community engagement and service-learning program and meaningful community partnerships can be the driving force to meet the mission of the institution. In her free time, Mandi enjoys traveling with her husband Adam, swimming with her daughter Ava, and training for triathlons.

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Renee Sedlacek
Assistant Director, Community Engagement 

Renee received her B.A. from Central College in Sociology and Psychology and her M.A. from the University of Northern Iowa in Post Secondary Education: Student Affairs. Renee joined the office of Community Engagement and Service-Learning August 2013. Prior to joining the Drake staff Renee served as the Service-Learning Coordinator at Wartburg College and as an Iowa Campus Compact AmeriCorps*VISTA at Central College.

In her current role Renee seeks to intentionally connect with community organizations, agencies and events in order to better link Drake University to the surrounding community. She currently liaisons with the Drake Neighborhood Association, attends various meetings within the non-profit community, advises the Drake AmeriCorps program and Community Advisory Board (CAB). In her free time Renee enjoys taking her dog Rylie to the park, finishing DIY up-cycle projects, and discovering hole in the wall eateries in Des Moines!

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Tara Mattiussi
Global Learning Program Coordinator

Tara is a member of the professional staff in our office. She has degrees in Spanish and Business Administration--management and marketing from Augustana College and her M. Ed from Iowa State in Higher Education--Leadership and Learning Track. She enjoys traveling, spending time with family, learning new things, and meeting new people. She is training to complete her 3rd half marathon and last year she went skydiving for the first time! Tara believes that everyone deserves quality education and housing opportunities and frequently participates in volunteering, community service, and service-learning and strives to make a positive impact on those around her.

As Global Learning Program Coordinator, Tara supports global service-learning opportunities, both on and off campus. She coordinates travel seminars, especially those with service-learning incorporated. She also promotes and organizes global service-learning opportunities and fosters relationships to make more global service-learning opportunities available for students. Her position is funded by the generosity of the Ron and Jane Olson Endowment for Global-Service Learning.

Tara hopes to increase the awareness of global service-learning opportunities both on and off campus. A lot of people do not know what service-learning is, or how something can be a global opportunity if it is based in Des Moines. She wants to change that by helping others realize the value and impact of global service-learning, locally, nationally, and internationally. As a firm supporter of experiential learning for its benefits to students and others, Tara wants to make meaningful opportunities available to every student who is interested in global service-learning. Service-learning, especially with an international or global focus, helps to increase people's worldview while gently pushing them outside of their comfort zone.

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Katherine Grasso
Administrative Assistant in the Office of the Provost 

Katherine is very busy in multiple offices here at Drake. She supports the Associate Provost, Institutional Research and Academic Assessment, and Community Engagement and Service Learning. Katherine schedules meetings, plans events, manages the budget, and handles many other tasks around the office. We would honestly be lost without her in this office!

Katherine graduated from St. Olaf College in 2012 with a B.A. in Philosophy and Math with a concentration in Women's Studies. She began working with Drake in August of 2012. Katherine enjoys working to support Drake's mission of providing an exceptional learning environment for its students and is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in Teaching. In her free time, Katherine enjoys traveling with her husband, watching The Office, and playing Mario Kart with her nephews.

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Courtney Howell
AmeriCorps VISTA with Iowa Campus Compact 

Courtney graduated from Drake University in 2013 with a degree in Politics and Sociology. She is originally from Kearney, Missouri but developed a fondness for Des Moines and decided to stick around after graduation. She loves the atmosphere of the city and the people who call Des Moines home. In her free time, Courtney volunteers with the Des Moines Public Library Foundation and reads with a 5th grade student every week with Everybody Wins! Iowa. She truly believes in helping others and is always up for a discussion about social justice, poverty, and inequality. As the VISTA program is just a one-year term, Courtney will be embarking on a new journey next year. She is currently deciding between higher education and non-profit work.

As a VISTA, Courtney is focusing on capacity building in the Community Engagement and Service-Learning area of the Provost's Office. She is working to increase program sustainability to ensure programs can continue far into the future. Being a VISTA has given Courtney the opportunity to work with two great organizations. She spends 20 hours each week at Dress for Success Des Moines and 20 hours each week at Drake. She is building capacity within Dress for Success Des Moines and strengthening the relationship between the two organizations. This position has given her the unique opportunity to experience working with professional staff at Drake and also work in the non-profit sector at Dress for Success Des Moines.

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Ann Den Hartog
Service-Learning Ambassador 

Ann is a Senior Biology major and Business minor here at Drake University. She hails from Omaha, Nebraska but used to live in Colombia, South America. Ann is incredibly grateful for living in a bi-cultural family as she was introduced to traveling and gained an appreciation for the culture, food, and language of others at a young age. She is passionate about healthcare and meeting the holistic needs of individuals--physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. She is very involved on campus as a PMAC, National Residence Hall Honorary, Adam's Academy Leadership Institute Graduate, and a member of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. She is also a Bilingual Community Health Aide with Proteus Incorporated. After graduation she plans to spend a year serving internationally at a medical clinic with a missions' organization before going to Optometry school.

In the Community Engagement and Service-Learning program, Ann heads two different programs. In the fall she is busy with Alternative Fall Break (AFB) and is a participant and founder of Students Together Empowering People (STEP) in the spring.

 A photo of Madi

Madison Johansen
Service-Learning Ambassador 

Madi is a senior, studying Environmental Policy at Drake University. She is passionate about environmental issues, particularly world food systems and food deserts. Madi enjoys playing the cello in the Drake Symphony Orchestra and sharing information about sustainability with Drake students as co-president of the Drake Environmental Action League. She also serves on the State Farm Youth Advisory Board, a national youth service-learning board focused on youth empowerment and bettering K-12 education opportunities for all students. She firmly believes service-learning should be an integral part of everyone’s education, no matter his or her age. She hopes to go on to graduate school to study Urban Planning after her last year at Drake.

Madi is co-coordinator of Sprout, the Des Moines Youth Learning Garden. Sprout is a new Service-Learning community garden co-owned by the Boys and Girls Club of Central Iowa and Drake. Sprout was created to be a safe environment for K-Graduate educational opportunities, particularly experiential environmental learning. Madi believes the garden is the perfect space to have conversations about the synthesis of urban and natural. It is sometimes hard to see nature in dense urban spaces, but Sprout helps break that mindset. She hopes that the kids will see nature in the garden, and that the community will take joy in the garden as well. Additionally, Sprout shows youth how to grow food in a small space. The Drake neighborhood is in a food desert, and Sprout is helping to mitigate that. With these two strengths Madi believes Sprout can set an example for Drake and the surrounding community, emotionally and academically. In future, Madi would love to see the garden expand its reach with a greenhouse, arbor and rain garden.

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Lauren Oliver
Community Engagement & Service-Learning Marketing and Graphic Design Manager 

Lauren is a senior BFA Graphic Design and Printmaking major at Drake. She enjoys working both in the graphic design department of Anderson Gallery and Community Engagement and Service-Learning. Lauren is passionate about the impact art and design can have on the community and tries to foster that in other students as president of Drake’s chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA). Her studio work heavily focuses on human rights issues throughout the world. She creates work that will spark conversation, leading others to better understand their own feelings about human rights issues.

In our office Lauren works both in house and with community partners to develop creative solutions for marketing, communication, and education. She manages the social media, website updates, promotional, and educational items needed for each program. Lauren is enjoying being able to have a hand in all projects being taken on by the office. She will be graduating this year and hopes to remain in the Des Moines area as a graphic designer. 

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Shayla Pham
Service-Learning Ambassador 

Shayla is a sophomore majoring in Business Management with a Human Resources concentration. Born in Vietnam, Shayla came to the United States at the age of one and grew up in Des Moines. She enjoys volunteering to give back to the community. Shayla is an active volunteer at the Animal Rescue League, Mercy Hospital’s Physical and Medicine Rehabilitation Unit, and St. Peter’s Vietnamese Catholic Church. In her free time, Shayla enjoys eating, sleeping, and playing with her chubby dog, Lucky.

Shayla is running our Iowa College AmeriCorps Program (ICAP). ICAP is an entity of AmeriCorps, supported by the Iowa Campus Compact. It was developed to increase the level of volunteerism among college students in Iowa to enhance academic experience. This is a new program at Drake, focusing on the Homework Coaching Program at the Evelyn K. Davis Center. Drake student volunteers serve as homework coaches and mentor high school students in the Des Moines area. In the next year Shayla looks forward to overseeing and improving the ICAP program. She believes in this program as a way for Drake students to improve the lives of others and in the process, enrich their own lives.

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Kelcy Smith
Service-Learning Ambassador 

Kelcy is a junior at Drake University studying Biology and Psychology with a concentration in Behavioral Analysis of Developmental Disabilities. This past summer she was an Orientation Leader and stays busy on campus as director of scholarship for Delta Gamma. Kelcy plays on the Women's Club Volleyball team, and is a member of the Biological Honor Society. She enjoys intramurals, crafting, traveling and hanging out with her friends. Kelcy plans on going to graduate school for genetic counseling but social justice and service will always be a passion of hers. She plans to continue working to better the community wherever she is.

Kelcy is a school coordinator with Everybody Wins! Iowa. She works with first year seminar students who serve as reading mentors at a local public school, King Elementary School. During the Spring Semester she also collaborates on a service project over Drake Relays called the DU Blue Book Bash. Both of Kelcy’s programs focus on making literature more accessible to local children.

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Emily Wilkins
Service-Learning Ambassador 

Emily is a senior at Drake University studying Environmental Science and Environmental Policy. She is from the Twin Cities, Minnesota and enjoys spending time outdoors hiking and mountain climbing. On campus, Emily is co-president of the Drake Environmental Action League (DEAL) and serves as fundraising chair for Habitat for Humanity. After graduation Emily plans to attend graduate school to study forest management. She hopes to be a steward for public lands to protect and preserve our national parks and forests for future generations to enjoy as much as she has.

Emily is one of the student coordinators for Sprout: The Des Moines Urban Youth Learning Garden. Sprout was implemented this spring thanks to the generous donations of time, skills, and funds from many sources both within Drake and from the community. The garden fulfills a need in the community to increase environmental education and grow fresh produce for local children, of whom 97% qualify for free or reduced lunches at school. Emily is passionate about Sprout because she feels there is a disconnect between where our food comes from, how it is grown, and how it arrives at our table. She wants to educate people on where food comes from, and how the long distance their food travels harms the environment. She also wants the community to put more of a focus on the quality of their food. Knowing how food is grown and treated is very important. Emily is excited to use the garden as a space to not only teach people about these issues, but to give them the knowledge and tools to do something that will make a difference in the world.

Now that the garden is up and running, Emily is excited to get more people involved. She wants the garden to become a community partnership between Drake, Boys and Girls Club, and the surrounding area. This is only possible if Drake students get involved with the projects in the space. Emily is working with Drake students and members of DEAL to get them more involved with the garden. She is enjoying teaching students and community members how to produce their own food.