2022 UI Corn Monument design focuses on community ties, importance of campus

Co-captains Trevor Thornburgh and Steve Susmarski spearheaded this year’s design with the help of new staff advisor Brandon Barquist.


Lilly Stence

The Corn Monument is seen in front of the Pentacrest on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022. The construction of a Corn Monument for Homecoming week has been an annual tradition at the University of Iowa since 1912.

Archie Wagner, News Reporter

Since 1919, the University of Iowa corn monument has stood tall on the Pentacrest in front of the Old Capitol Building for Homecoming week. This year, the monument is centered around the Iowa City community and its importance to campus.

Graduate students Trevor Thornburgh and Steve Susmarski, co-captains of the corn monument, designed this year’s monument and cited influences from the Park Road Bridge on Dubuque Street, the Iowa City community, and the UI.

Susmarski and Thornburgh came to a consensus on the design over the summer and refined it over the first week of school, Susmarski said.

The idea for this year’s monument started with the Park Road Bridge, which ties the university community to Iowa City.

“In undergrad, I worked as a student ambassador, so the idea was kind of bringing the Iowa City and the university community together,” Thornburgh said. “We are benefiting from each other, and it really creates this really great environment for students and a great place to live.”

Thornburgh then reached out to the NEXUS Artineers to work on a mural demonstrating the connection between the downtown area and campus life.

“We kind of let them run free creatively and had a few changes through time, and then we landed on this,” Thornburgh said. “I think it looks really great. I think it’s a great product.”

Brandon Barquist, the staff advisor for the corn monument, oversaw this year’s construction and took a larger role.

“In previous years, I’ve always helped out with both building our spaces at IIHR, so we’ve got workshop spaces, secondary saws, miter saws — all the drills and everything you need to actually construct this,” Barquist said.

RELATED: University of Iowa homecoming corn monument to be largest in university history

IIHR is a part of  the UI College of Engineering and focuses on hydroscience and engineering.

This year, Barquist assisted with checking structural connections of the monument, meeting with a campus outdoor space committee to ensure the quality of the design, and dedicated Sunday and a few Saturdays to build the monument. Construction of individual parts began in late August, and the final build occurred on Oct. 23.

Barquist drew from his experience with the IIHR lab and incorporated engineering technology such as a computer numerical code gantry router, which allows for precise drilling and cutting in the construction process of the corn monument.

“We were able to help with design upgrades in that regard and added something a little cleaner than previous years,” Barquist said. “We’re able to implement machines which are common in the engineering industry, get some exposure to that sort of thing as well.”

The number of volunteers involved in the construction process fluctuated, Susmarski said.

“Sometimes we would have less than six people, even. Sometimes just working with four, but what I’ve kind of found out is that you don’t necessarily need a ton of people, you just need the right people,” Susmarski said.

Tyler Mroz, a junior at the UI and the president of the UI’s American Society of Civil Engineers, also worked on the project. Mroz said more people volunteered for the final building process.

Mroz worked to promote the monument meetings and get people to attend.

“We really pushed hard to get numbers, and we had a great turnout,” Mroz said. “I think at one point I counted we had 18 people on the Pentacrest looking for work, going back and forth between our IIHR building where we had all of our pieces to transport them to the Pentacrest.”

Thornburgh said his interest in the corn monument stems from his brother’s leadership with the corn monument six years ago, which bore similarities to the Lombardi Trophy.

Susmarski joined UI’s American Society of Civil Engineers in the spring of his freshman year and has been involved with the corn monument since his sophomore year. Susmarski said he wanted to stay involved in ASCE but was already president of the organization, which led him to co-captain this year.

Mroz entered college during the height of COVID-19 when the corn monument was suspended. He said he joined UI’s American Society of Civil Engineers because of the professional development aspects of the organization, only finding out about the corn monument project later.

“I helped out with corn monument last year, and when these two decided they were going to head it up this year, I knew it was going to be a great design, and I wanted to be a part of it,” Mroz said.