Madesh Samanu and the importance of community involvement


Photo by Katherine Kealey/Iowa State Daily

Madesh Samanu, a senior majoring in biology, is an avid believer in the importance of being involved with local communities.

Jack Mcclellan

The Ames and Iowa State Communities offer tons of opportunities for people to get involved; for Madesh Samanu, a senior majoring in biology, getting involved in community organizations helped to shape his future.

Since first coming to the U.S. in 2018, Samanu has developed close ties with many facets of the Ames and Iowa State communities. During his time at Iowa State, Samanu has served as an academic chair for his residence hall, on Student Government, as a residential advisor and on the Ames Human Relations Committee, to name a few.

“I’ve always believed in the fact that the college students should do something outside the college,” Samanu said. “The education we get, I feel like we need to use it for all the different purposes, including the city, the people, the community. I like to be a part of the community.”

Community involvement is about giving and taking. Samanu embodies this by donating his time to countless causes around Ames. From talking his residents through challenging situations to volunteering at Food at First, Samanu consistently has a positive impact on his surroundings.

“It just like, be involved in what you like, and what you can really bring to the table, you know?” Samanu said. “Even if it’s like an hour or two-hour thing, I mean, you still meet people, you’re still (in the long term) giving back to the community.”

According to Samanu, his most memorable moment in Ames was painting the inclusive crosswalk by Ames Public Library as a part of the Human Relations Commission for the City of Ames.

“So we get reports from ICRC, Iowa Civil Rights Commission,” Samanu said. “So we look into the reports and say like, ‘Oh, these are some of the areas that discrimination happened’ like in terms of housing, disability, and we provide comments to the council to make recommendations and stuff.”

On top of investigating how discrimination happens, the Human Relations Commission runs programs, like the crosswalk painting, across the City of Ames to promote aspects of diversity, equity and inclusion.

For Samanu, the task was especially exciting considering the controversy around the crosswalk’s original creation. In 2019, when the City of Ames first painted the crosswalk, the Federal Highway Commission requested that the project be stopped because the inclusively painted crosswalk did not comply with federal regulations.

After some deliberation, the Ames City Council opted to disregard the federal request.

Two years later, the City of Ames Human relations committee was repainting the crosswalk, reaffirming the city’s inclusive intent. Samanu couldn’t have been happier to participate in the touch-up task in fall 2021.

“In Iowa, like in the Ames community, it’s one thing that brought everyone together; it included all the people, so that’s the one thing I really liked the most,” Samanu said. “I also get to work with different nonprofits, like with the City Council and with our commission.”

Many international students come to Iowa State with little understanding of American culture or values. For Samanu, investing in his community helped him learn about American culture and be more successful.

“I think this college and the city gave me a lot, I came with like no knowledge of how things work, but even though I’m the guy that came from a different country, I think the college and city gave me a lot of things,” Samanu said. “Not just a degree but the community aspect or like, teaching me the skills that are required for my future, so I’m thankful for that.”

In his early days at Iowa State, Samanu lived in the Wallace Wilson community. Samanu’s experiences with his early RA’s and community members inspired him to take a greater part of his community, later becoming an RA himself.

“And I really want to be involved with my residents because I don’t want to be the RA who like, do my work and say goodbye,” Samanu said. “​​I really want to know my residents, really want to guide them.”

Samanu is not just in it for the free room and board; he is going out of his way to interact and work with his residents regularly. Samanu encourages his residents to follow their passions regardless of how they align with typical academic ideals.

“I think that’s, I think that job also helped me to figure out my career path into Student Affairs,” Samanu said. “That job really helped me to understand like, oh, I think I really like helping my students out or being their mentor, like guiding them in the right way. So I want to do this, like my full-time job.”

Samanu’s community involvement is not a one-way street but rather a reciprocal relationship in which Samanu receives support from the community and, in turn, helps to support other community members.

“So when COVID happened, I lost my job,” Samanu said. “There was nothing here. I’m like, everyone’s leaving. Basically, there are only like two people on my floor, and we don’t even talk.” 

Without any close family members or support systems in Ames, Samanu was left in a very difficult position. Thankfully, Iowa State offers certain support scholarships and programs to help students who find themselves in such a tight spot.

“All the restaurant dining, everything was closed, and my parents were not going to send me money, right? So really hard situation like there were times where I struggled for food,” Samanu said. “I’m like, ‘I don’t think I can make it through,’ but my college helped me financially; they gave me gift cards to purchase some food.”

Samanu expressed his gratitude for the Cyclone Support Scholarship he received during his trying times. Without such strong support from the Iowa State and Ames community, Samanu may not have made it through the pandemic.

Samanu will graduate this year and continue his education at Clemson University in South Carolina. He will be earning his master’s degree in Student Affairs. Samanu’s commencement ceremony will be held at Hilton Coliseum at 9:30 a.m. May 14.