Home » UI student's computer science skills aid Iowa literacy efforts – Iowa Now

UI student's computer science skills aid Iowa literacy efforts – Iowa Now

by Arifa Rana

As a University of Iowa computer science and percussion performance double major, Ben Stone finds joy in creating things—whether it’s a musical performance or a piece of software.
The fourth-year student and Des Moines, Iowa, native has put his programming and leadership skills to good use working at the Iowa Reading Research Center (IRRC), which helps improve literacy skills for thousands of Iowa children each year. As a student employee at the UI since 2020, Stone built an online fluency and writing system to evaluate classroom interventions, implemented a new ticketing and project management system, and led a team of five other student employees.
Stone’s success in the role led to him being named UI’s Student Employee of the Year for 2022. He is being recognized this week along with six other student employees and seven student employee supervisors during National Student Employment Week. More than 8,100 students are employed at Iowa through part-time hourly or work-study programs.
“It’s been a really great experience,” Stone says of his time at the IRRC. “It’s a good feeling to know that what I have done has actually helped someone.”
The IRRC, which is part of the College of Education, impacts thousands of students, educators, student teachers, and families each year. The center works directly with educators across the state to help establish best practices in classrooms through online professional learning and with families seeking additional literacy learning support for their children, particularly those with dyslexia.
Stone’s work has been invaluable in helping further the center’s mission, says IRRC director Deborah Reed, who also is a professor in the College of Education and a member of the Iowa Dyslexia Board. She says Stone has helped streamline evaluations and make the tools accessible for everyone from children to adults.
“Ben has risen to every programming challenge we have given him,” Reed says. “He also possesses uniquely strong interpersonal skills, so we even have entrusted him with training external contractors to use the applications he has created. Overall, Ben has assumed a level of responsibility and performs work on par with professional staff members. This is even more impressive when put in the context of his overall success as a student and musician.”
Stone grew up with a love of music, happily tapping away on a piano or drum kit from an early age. He spent four years in the marching band at Roosevelt High School in Des Moines. The school also is where he also discovered a love for computer science and where he met his now-fiancé and fellow UI student Hanna Kaufman. Kaufman, a human health and physiology major, and Stone plan to marry in July.
Part of what drew Stone to Iowa is its unique blend of science and the arts, which has allowed him to study with famed percussionist and UI professor Dan Moore and participate in two years of marching band while also delving into computer science research and building his skills as a developer. The skills he’s learned are complementary, Stone says.
A typical day for Stone begins at 6:30 a.m. and includes a full day of class, a few hours of work and percussion practice, and ends with reading a book for a half-hour before bed.
“I love to read now, but I remember as a kindergartner it just didn’t click for me,” he says. “That’s why I applied for this position. I was getting a chance to help others who have had the same struggle.”
After graduation, Stone says he will begin a job as a full-time developer with the business and financial services division of UI Facilities Management.
Alyson Holevoet, CAMBUS personnel supervisor (winner, campus services)
After three years as a CAMBUS driver and dispatcher, Alyson Holevoet was promoted to personnel supervisor in 2021, a challenging time for the campus transportation system during the COVID-19 pandemic. She rose to the occasion, helping CAMBUS become more efficient at hiring drivers and ensuring enough student drivers were in place to fill each day’s shifts.
The bus system provides up to 10,000 rides each workday to the campus community — getting students, faculty, and staff where they need to be. About 35% of rides transport faculty and staff to their workplaces including UI Hospitals & Clinics. Widespread staffing shortages across the country also affected CAMBUS, but Holevoet worked to improve the hiring process through an applicant tracker and more inclusive onboarding practices. Through her work across multiple teams at CAMBUS, Holevoet established herself as an approachable and trusted resource for student staff. Her leadership has had a direct impact on maintaining a positive and collaborative work environment, despite the staffing challenges.
“Alyson exhibited exceptional performance and dedication this past year when it would have been much easier to take a back seat,” says CAMBUS manager Brian McClatchey. “She stepped up to take on critical roles at CAMBUS and did so in a manner that helped stabilize and advance the CAMBUS services and operations. She was steadfast in her work and provided needed leadership through her efforts, care, and ever-positive approach.”
Patience Kannah, facility supervisor, Recreational Services (certificate of distinction)
Hiring, training, supervising, and scheduling more than 40 students to help operate the 334,000-square-foot UI Field House is a daunting task, but one that Patience Kannah has excelled at. Kannah not only leads her student staffers, but has stepped in to work open shifts herself despite having an already full schedule.
The supervisory position is one of several jobs held by the third-year educational studies and human relations major from Chicago, Illinois. Kannah also works as an after-school tutor at the Iowa City Public Library and at the UI Hospitals & Clinics as a safety ambassador helping patients navigate COVID-19 restrictions. “The world needs more people like Patience,” says Mike Valentine, assistant director of facility operations at the Field House. “Patience is most deserving of this award and one of the best student leaders on the University of Iowa campus. She embodies a relentless passion for her work that motivates her to be proactive and take initiative based on the needs of the staff she leads.”
After graduating from Iowa, Kannah plans to attend graduate school and pursue a career in higher education.
Madison Kemerling, research assistant, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (certificate of distinction)
Despite facing profound challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, Madison Kemerling showed  resilience and contributed greatly to scientific research at the Iowa Technology Institute, which is part of the College of Engineering.
She was the lead author of a research paper presented at a conference and one of three contributing authors of a peer-reviewed paper published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. Kemerling also worked on coding and technical writing and trained other students to run the code.
“The pandemic has brought the best and worst out of many people, and I was impressed and inspired by Madison’s dedication and resilience to her work,” says Ananya Sen Gupta, Kemerling’s supervisor and an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. “This student has profoundly exceeded my expectations from an undergraduate student employee.”
Katie Kolthoff,  office worker, liveWell (winner, administrative services)
In her role supporting employee well-being programs provided by the health and productivity units of University Human Resources, Katie Kolthoff has been a student-employee star, her supervisor and co-workers say.
The fourth-year student and health promotion major from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, created high-quality videos (including one introducing campus to UI’s well-being services), health education materials, social media posts, and other wellness content; delivered employee wellness presentations; and excelled at customer service, managing the employee wellness points and wellness store incentive program, and even covering the front reception desk if needed.
Kolthoff also works part-time as a group fitness instructor for UI Recreational Services and at Systems Unlimited, an organization in Iowa City that supports people with disabilities and mental health needs.
“As a budding public health professional and practitioner, Katie exemplifies the student experience UI is striving for,” says Megan Hammes, senior director of UI Wellness.
Lucas Regina, research assistant, Department of Management and Entrepreneurship (certificate of distinction)
As a STEM triple major, second-year student  Lucas Regina leaned on skills from his majors in actuarial science, data science, and mathematics to create innovative and sustainable products for research and programs in the Tippie College of Business’ Department of Management and Entrepreneurship.
Regina transformed how the department communicated the student assessment data used to provide students a way to apply for college without taking standardized tests. He did so by inventing a new system to collect, analyze, and report the data in the department’s STEM Innovator Portfolio.
“He is the best student employee I have ever worked with in my 11 years at Iowa,” says Leslie Flynn, professor of STEM innovation and entrepreneurship and a 2022 winner of a student employee supervisor certificate of distinction. “Lucas is an incredible person, scholar, and colleague. I feel honored to work with him. He inspires me every day to keep inventing, keep learning, and to not let people define you because of your background.” Born in Brazil, Regina grew up in Arlington Heights, Illinois, and says his Brazilian-American heritage was welcomed at Iowa.
Eliza Steere, research assistant, Department of Community and Behavioral Health (certificate of distinction)
Despite the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic, Eliza Steere was a standout contributor to the Department of Community and Behavioral Health’s public health mission.
The Rancho Palos Verdes, California, native worked on the College of Public Health’s efforts to promote HPV vaccination, co-creating an extensive training for dental hygienists, and launching a project to help understand the role ear, nose, and throat doctors can play in increasing HPV vaccination. She also represented the department in regular calls with the American Cancer Society, Iowa Department of Public Health, and other entities.
“Eliza brings a ‘can-do-attitude’ to any project she works on for my research team,” says her supervisor Natoshia Askelson, an associate professor in the College Of Public Health. “Our team leadership is continually impressed with her growth and dedication.”
Steere graduated with a bachelor’s degree in public health with highest distinction in December 2021. She is now a first-year UI graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in public health. 
Supervisor of the Year 2021-2022
Pam Krogmeier, administrative service specialist, Office of the Dean of Students, Division of Student Life
Supervisor Certificates of Distinction
2021-2022 Student Nominees
·       Macy Anderson, Student-Athlete Academic Services, Department of Athletics
·       Viviane Banion, Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center
·       Amanda Barrett, UI Honors Program
·       Grace Basler, College of Education
·       Allison Baty, Tippie College of Business
·       Camryn Benge, Department of Preventative and Community Dentistry
·       Nicholas Biancuzzo, Department of Economics, Finance, and Marketing
·       Quintin Blad, Department of Chemistry
·       Solange Bolger, Academic Support and Retention
·       Cecilia (Ceci) Cornejo, College of Law
·       Hannah Ceralde, UI Community Clinics
·       Sylvia Clubb, Facilities Management
·       Arianna Contreras, Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
·       Anna Correa, Community and Behavioral Health
·       Grace Culbertson, dean’s office strategic communication, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS)
·       Megan Dao, Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science
·       Jisy DeLeon, Recreational Services
·       Karter Donahue, Academic Support and Retention
·       Thomas Duong, Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics
·       Ryan Edwall, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
·       Stephanie Evett, Community and Behavioral Health
·       Caden Fedeler, Information Technology Services
·       Gretchen Fisher, University Housing and Dining
·       Mara Frieden, Division of Student Life
·       Caleb Frost, College of Engineering
·       Kayla Garza, Academic Advising Center
·       Zachary Graham, Iowa Veteran Education, Transition, and Support, Office of the Registrar
·       TJ Grimes, Student Wellness
·       Lydia Guo, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology
·       Conrad Hellman, student life communications, Campus Recreation and Wellness Center
·       Samantha Heuthorst, Stanley Museum of Art
·       Noreasa Higgins, student life communications, Division of Student Life
·       Temyia Holcomb, Academic Advising Center
·       Alyson Holevoet, Parking and Transportation
·       Makayla Houser, Education Technology Center
·       Maggy Hovden, Division of Interdisciplinary Programs
·       Ryann Hubbart, Division of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
·       Mara Jendro, Iowa Neuroscience Institute
·       Alexandria Julius, Department of Chemistry
·       Patience Kannah, Recreational Services
·       Madison Kemerling, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
·       Zoe Koerselman, UI Health Care Marketing and Communications
·       Katie Kolthoff, UI liveWell
·       Eleanor Kues, Recreational Services
·       Nathan Lindsey, Department of Anesthesia
·       McKrina Lopez, Multicultural and International Student Support and Engagement
·       Emma Mangarelli, Orientation Services
·       Katie McCarver, UI Health Care Marketing and Communications
·       Nikole Molina, Tippie College of Business undergraduate program office
·       Hadley Mosby, Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science
·       Lisa N. Lee, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
·       Faith Nelson, Recreational Services
·       Sydney Nguyen, Multicultural and International Student Support and Engagement
·       Aivy Nguyen, Obstetrics and Gynecology, UI Hospitals & Clinics
·       Veda Pick, Information Technology Services
·       Katie Polaschek, School of Music
·       Sarah Porter, Office of the Provost
·       Lucas Regina, Department of Management and Entrepreneurship
·       Taylor Rolles, Student Disability Services
·       Connor Steele, Parking and Transportation
·       Eliza Steere, Department of Community and Behavioral Health
·       Ben Stone, Iowa Reading Research Center
·       Victoria Tiemeier, dean’s office, CLAS
·       Elena Volfson, Recreational Services
·       Marie Wakeman, Graduate College
·       Mikey Waller, Department of English
·       Mikey Waller, Division of Interdisciplinary Programs

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