The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

UI USG President Mitch Winterlin educating the next generation

Senior Mitch Winterlin, shares his story of coming to campus during 2020 and his involvement through multiple student organizations like student government that have helped him grow out of his shell during his time on campus.
John Charlson
Mitch Winterlin poses for a portrait at the Iowa Memorial Union on Wednesday, April 24, 2024.

After four years of advocacy and supporting first-generation students, University of Iowa Undergraduate Student Government President Mitch Winterlin is taking his skills to K-12 classrooms following his graduation this spring.

Winterlin led the UI’s student body and government but also was a first-generation peer mentor, was a resident assistant, and started a new organization in partnership with a fellow student to bring therapy dogs to the university during his time on campus.

He started college in the fall of 2020 with a double major in psychology and social studies education, hoping to become a teacher one day. He plans to walk across the graduation stage this May and finish out his studies going abroad to Copenhagen, Denmark, this fall and starting his student teaching in the spring.

Even though Winterlin started school in the abnormal through the COVID-19 pandemic, he is grateful for the friendships he formed in his first year that helped him along the way.

“I like to call them my floor family, like 10 of us got really close and we’d spend every day and night together,” Winterlin said. “We are all so different and these people changed my life.”

In his second year at UI, Winterlin became a peer mentor for UI’s First-Gen Hawks, which provides resources for first-generation students. Winterlin said this was important because he is also a first-generation student. Before coming to college, he said he did not know what weight that title carried.

“It didn’t really mean anything to me. But I have found such a community. So as a first-gen student, it’s been a big thing at Iowa,” Winterlin said. “I’ve felt really connected through the first-gen program and have been glad to give back, glad to have been a peer mentor for two years.”

Winterlin also took opportunities to improve campus in the classroom through the UI’s presidential leadership class with his friend and vice president of Undergraduate Student Government Carly O’Brien.

For this class, Winterlin said they were doing a semester-long project on mental health and advocacy. For this project, they wanted to focus on bringing therapy dogs to the UI campus, which later became the student organization Paws At Iowa. That’s where Winterlin said he met one of his best friends.

“Carly O’Brien, who is my vice president, she was just some random girl who was in my group project,” Winterlin said. “Never did I expect that she would want to join the student government, then want to run with me.”

He said that memory interconnects his passionate group of friends, and his work to pass the legislation for the therapy dogs.

One of his friends, Drew Jauron, a UI fourth-year student who also took the presidential leadership class, shared his heartfelt feelings about his friendship and time with Winterlin.

“He was immediately welcoming to me and our classmates,” Jauron said. “We quickly developed a friendship and ended up in the same group for the class.”

Jauron shared how empathic Winterlin is, and how he acted as a leader without being appointed or demanding the role. Jauron said Winterlin’s leadership and involvement are something he has imitated and will continue to do so.

“I’d count how many people he knew on my fingers, and he’d shrug it off. I realized that he did this by initiating a cycle of goodwill, being present, asking people questions to get to know them, listening, and reaching back,” Jauron said. “He knew that those interactions were worth his full attention.”

Winterlin said his love for the student government at the UI allowed him to truly grow out of his comfort zone as well as meet incredible people along the way.

“I really liked the student council in high school so coming into college, I knew student government was in my sights. It’s my favorite student org because people care, and I think seeing the advocacy work that I’ve been able to grow with and understand is so amazing and fundamental to the skills I have today.” Winterlin said.

RELATED: Winterlin, O’Brien elected next USG president, Vice President

Winterlin said he feels fortunate and privileged to have the friends and the opportunities he’s had, especially the stressful ones that have shown him perseverance and reflection.

“What I have learned is that it’s not that deep, because there are moments where you deserve to take time for yourself,” Winterlin said. “There are times where there isn’t anything you can do, but you can sit and reflect and know that you are surrounded by people who can help, and that’s how a community thrives.”

Since coming to college, Winterlin said he has felt more secure in his identity, his skills, and the experiences he’s had.

“I grew and I learned more about myself and how to feel like myself. In high school, I came out and at first, that was really difficult because I did not understand it at first. Junior year I officially came out to my parents and even though my dad wasn’t accepting, I really felt a confidence in myself I hadn’t before.” Winterlin said.

Winterlin said he feels like he’s become a better person over the last four years at the UI.

“It’s really thanks to the community here and the people that have surrounded me on my journey,” Winterlin said.

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