How Adriana Petersen learned to STRETCH herself in leadership roles on campus

The Iowa Challenge defines "stretch" as follows: "At Iowa, you will find a diversity of people, ideas, opportunities, and experiences. That diversity is one of the benefits of being an Iowa student. Step away from the familiar, try new ideas, experience new cultures, and learn from people different from yourself."

Adriana Petersen has been a part of the UI community since she was a kid growing up in North Liberty. With both of her parents working at the UI, she would come to the Latino Native American Cultural Center (LNACC) for meals, to study, and just to spend time with her family.

“When I was young, the LNACC was home. My parents used to bring food to events that would happen there, and would take me along with them,” she says. She has been a part of the Native American Student Association (NASA) since she was young.

Now, Adriana is in her third year here studying communications, and is involved with things all over campus. She is president of NASA, the Native American constituency senator for UISG, and works at LNACC and the college of public health.

Adriana says her leadership positions have helped her stretch out of the shy person that she was before coming to college. She also stretches to educate the community about issues that face the Native American community on a predominately white campus.

Solutions to these problems start at home, so Adriana is working with NASA and UISG to advocate for what her community needs. She has worked in UISG to pass an initiative to change the titles of members from “Chief” to “Director.” She has also worked to raise funding and awareness for indigenous people’s day in the fall. Currently, she is working hard to prepare for Powwow, a celebration of Native American dance, food, and culture that will take place on April 20.

Her favorite part of NASA, and something people may not know about it, she says, is the complexity of identities of people involved in the organization. There are many latinx people involved with the organization, along with other non-Native American people who joined to help advocate for their causes.

“My time here has taught me that you have to advocate for what you need,” she says. “I have had to stretch to advocate for the cultural centers while keeping my composure, and stretch to stay positive in light of hardships.”

Adriana says all of her responsibilities and activities have had a huge impact on her college experience, and have forced her to learn how to prioritize things. She says she loves getting to meet other student leaders, like those from UISG, Dance Marathon, Fraternity and Sorority Life, and more. Adriana says she has spent a lot of time over the past few years learning to stretch herself and advocate and enjoys reaping the rewards of her hard work. One of her favorite memories from her time at Iowa was at 2017 indigenous people’s day on the Pentacrest, when she gave a speech to a crowd of people.

“It felt so good to stand up there in front of all those people,” she says. “I was also very flattered by everyone who wanted to talk to me afterwards. It’s nice knowing that people want to know more about what we do.”

About the series: the Iowa Challenge is a mission statement for UI students that involves 5 main goals: excel, stretch, engage, choose, and serve. These 5 things are what the UI expects from students, and what students should strive to do for themselves. This series profiles 5 students who exemplify what it means to take part in the Iowa Challenge.