Destination Iowa State returns to in-person events for new students


Students participated in events across campus for Destination Iowa State 2020. 

Molly Blanco

Incoming freshmen and transfer students explored the university during Destination Iowa State (DIS) August 19 through 21 around the ISU campus.

This year, the event returned to an in-person setting after a modified online version of DIS was held for new students last fall. 

“Last year with COVID, DIS took place but looked much different, and I don’t think very many people participated,” said DIS Team Leader Morgan Johnston, a junior majoring in supply chain management and marketing.

DIS Team Leaders are Iowa State students who help facilitate the event by guiding incoming freshmen as they transition to the university. 

Durga Sritharan, a junior in biology, was also one of the DIS Team Leaders this year. 

Sritharan said the effects of the pandemic continued to be felt during DIS, but it did not impede the success of the event.

“COVID definitely made an impact in terms of having to adjust the number of sessions on the schedule, but other than logistical things, the DIS Team Leaders and Cyclone Aides continued to make it a great experience for first-year students,” Sritharan said. 

Grace Hoak, a junior in supply chain management and international business, also served as a DIS Team Leader this year. She said that masking was encouraged but not required at the events.

“They gave out masks and made sure to let everyone know that if you’re uncomfortable or you’re unvaccinated, you are welcome to wear a mask,” Hoak said. 

Sarah Merrill, director of New Student Programs, said that healthy behaviors and COVID-19 resources were discussed during DIS. 

“We encouraged safe behavior and made students aware of wellness resources, including campus COVID-19 vaccination clinics,” Merrill said. 

One challenge of DIS this year was that some Team Leaders did not experience the event for themselves as freshmen due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Many upper-division students, including the student leaders, were not able to attend a similar program last year,” Merrill said. “They didn’t have a visualization of what the event was all about.  So, it was up to…this year’s planning committee to create enthusiasm and spirit for this time-honored tradition.”

Sritharan said some sophomore Team Leaders chose to get involved with DIS this year after missing out on the event as freshmen. 

“I did hear that current second-year students were interested in taking advantage of the opportunity this year because of the changes made last year having to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Sritharan said. 

Sritharan felt that DIS mostly returned to normal this year and offered incoming students many of the same experiences and resources as usual. 

Familiar programs like the Center of ExCYtment picnic and Late Night at the Memorial Union returned to the DIS lineup this year, while several programs like Cyclone Skills, Recreation Nation and Clone Quest were “reinvented,” according to Merrill. 

“As always, there were some students who dropped out of the DIS experience as the days went on, but it was nice to personally get to connect with the smaller group of students that would continue to show up to each session,” Sritharan said. 

Hoak agreed that participation in DIS activities waned throughout the weekend. 

“Friday was pretty fun because I had a lot of people participate in it. Saturday was a lot harder to get girls to show up to events and activities,” Hoak said. 

Overall, Merrill said the event this year was a “huge success,” with more than 4,000 students participating.

“I think freshmen… were excited to see ISU in its full glory and experience a normal DIS,” Johnston said.