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Spotlight Iowa City: Wanderlust and a yen for public service

BY MICHELLE HILLENBRAND | APRIL 27, 2010 7:30 AM

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In her time overseas, University of Iowa Student Government Vice President Erica Hayes has seen everything from glaciers and whales to cacti and beaches. The UI junior has ventured to Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and the Japanese island of Okinawa.

While her experiences have allowed her to discover the fun of snorkeling and the beauty of Japanese castle ruins, they also instilled in her a desire to help others.

Her adventures abroad also inspired Hayes to pursue an international career, most likely involving health care, politics, or public service.

During her freshman year of college, she journeyed to Mexico for a health-studies mission trip through her church.

“We went to a clinic in a small village on the border of Mexico, and every day, we had a mini pharmacy for them,” she said. “I acted as a translator for the two doctors who were from my church — it was unbelievable to be able to do that.”

After her arrival at the UI, the international studies and Spanish major said she found a way to put her desire to help others to work — through student government.

After discovering UISG at the student organizations fair, she said she knew she wanted to get involved.

“I’m more in it for the serving students than political gain,” she said. “It’s a great way to network but also just really be that voice.”

UISG President John Rigby and Hayes have plans to increase the university’s community involvement and volunteer efforts, and they want to create a community-service project that connects UI students and local high-school students.

Former UISG Vice President J.D. Moran, who worked with Hayes when she was speaker of the Senate, said the Marion native is one of the best leaders on campus.

“She is confident, passionate, and approachable and will certainly aid in the success of this university,” he said.

Former UISG President Mike Currie gave his support as well.

“I think over the past couple years, she’s shown a lot of leadership in student government,” he said. “She showed the type of leadership she needs to do a good job.”

To help further develop her skills, Hayes attended LeaderShape, a leadership development program, over winter break, an experience she said was empowering.

“I learned about different personality types and how to work with different styles of leadership,” she said. “It re-energized me and got me excited to do things for the community.”

And while Hayes is unsure of her plans after graduation, she said some options include graduate school, teaching English in Spain, or the Peace Corps.

Friend Alyssa Gillen, who described Hayes as generous and compassionate, said she is not surprised at all that Hayes would choose these life paths.

“That’s really Erica to a ‘T’ — dedicated to making a positive impact on everyone she meets,” she said.


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