February Highlights

Students at Dance MarathonUniversity of Iowa students raised $1,058,658 during the 16th annual UI Dance Marathon that was held Feb. 5–6 at the Iowa Memorial Union on the UI campus in Iowa City. More than 700 patients and family members cared for at University of Iowa Children’s Hospital joined more than 1,300 dancers for the 24-hour event. This was the third consecutive year the event raised more than $1 million.


Evidence that horned, man-eating crocodiles once roamed Africa was discovered by Chris Brochu, associate professor of geosciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and colleagues. An article describing this newly discovered crocodile species was published in the Feb. 24 issue of the journal PLoS ONE (Public Library of Science).

The University of Iowa made new philanthropic studies courses available to its undergraduate students, thanks to a gift from alumnus Kevin R. Gruneich. He and his wife, Donna, made their $100,000 gift through the UI Foundation to establish the Philanthropic Studies Fund at the University, which will launch one of the nation’s first undergraduate programs in philanthropy.

The University of Iowa established an Office of Postdoctoral Scholars to provide a professional and administrative home for postdoctoral scholars and fellows on campus. A collaboration of the Graduate College and the Office of the Vice President for Research, the office assists postdoctoral scholars and their mentors with activities such as recruitment, education, mentorship, and networking.

Art Building WestSteven Holl, designer of the award-winning Art Building West, was chosen as the architect to design the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ new Visual Arts Building, which will replace the old Art Building that was flooded in 2008. Steven Holl Architects will be partnering with BNIM Architects, a Des Moines firm; Holl will create the actual design and BNIM will see the building through to completion. BNIM’s lead architect, Rod Kruse, also worked with Holl on Art Building West.

A group of 20 University of Iowa MBA students met with Warren Buffet Feb. 5 at his Omaha headquarters. The visit is part of a Buffett tradition, where he invites management students from across the country to his offices, shows them around Omaha, answers their questions—and even buys them lunch.

Mercedes Bern-Klug

Our People

University of Iowa professor’s work helps students understand that later stages of life should be appreciated, not feared.

Getting old is often framed negatively—as if each birthday is a step closer to the inevitable—but a University of Iowa professor says aging doesn’t have to be so bad.

At the helm of the UI Aging Studies Program, Mercedes Bern-Klug is helping students from a variety of fields appreciate the later stages of life. She believes this knowledge will benefit them in their careers and in their own lives as they themselves age.

“People in their twenties tend to fear getting old, but most older people don’t want to go back,” she says. “Actually, studies have shown that people are typically happier at age 65 than they were at age 25. We need to rethink and value this stage of life, as individuals and as a society.”

Whether students choose jobs in health care, politics, business, or any other field, they’re bound to interact with older adults. The number of Iowans 65 or older is expected to rise from 450,000 in 2008 to more than 663,000 by 2030, and similar trends exist at the national and global levels.

At The University of Iowa, more than 750 students from a variety of majors are taking classes affiliated with the Aging Studies Program. Graduate and undergraduate students can earn a certificate in aging studies. Undergraduates can earn a minor.

“Aging will affect virtually every profession,” says Bern-Klug, assistant professor of social work. “We need students from all fields who respect the wisdom and perspective that can come with age, and who will appreciate and build on the strengths of someone who has lived seven to ten decades.”

One important lesson about aging, Bern-Klug says, is that all older adults shouldn’t be lumped into the same category. People used to think of “old age” as one stage of life, but that blanket category doesn’t work well when considering capacities, interests, or needs of older adults.

She and other gerontologists speak in terms of “third” and “fourth” ages. For example, someone in the 60-to-75-age range may be healthy, peaking professionally, or transitioning out of the workforce and traveling. A person 20 years older could be coping with frailty and loneliness.

“We wouldn’t put 4-year-olds and 44-year-olds in the same group, and it doesn’t make sense to put people 65 to 105 in the same group either,” Bern-Klug says.

To show the breadth and depth of older adults’ lives, she launched Aging 360, a photography competition for UI students. Entries were displayed at Wild Bill’s Coffee Shop in North Hall.
She also aims to equip students with aging skills that will come in handy later in their own lives.

“We encourage students to prepare for an enjoyable older adulthood by developing hobbies, interests, and social networks throughout life,” Bern-Klug says. “Those interests and relationships will help them navigate life’s transitions as they age.”