Latin American alumni thankful for their time at ISU 25 years ago

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Latin American alumni and former instructors reunited on campus.

A special alumni group returned to Iowa State last week after attending school here a quarter of a century ago. Six people originally from Latin America came back to ISU, where they were surprised by the campus growth (and all the coffee shops), hugged old friends and explained how the university changed them for the better.

They were part of the Central American Program for Undergraduate Scholars (CAMPUS), which was a Fulbright program sponsored by the United States Information Agency, said Jane Edwards, former adviser in the Office of International Students and Scholars.

"Most studied in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and some in the [then] College of Agriculture," Edwards said. They were on campus from January 1989 to May 1991. ISU was one of five U.S. universities selected to host students that year, she added.

In all, 12 students arrived in 1989 from Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Many first studied English in the Intensive English Orientation Program (IEOP) en route to their undergraduate degrees.

"They learned to love Iowa State," Edwards said. "They have a real affection for the university." Edwards, Dennis Peterson and Steve Coon coordinated the CAMPUS program at ISU.

Last Friday the six returning alumni (professional and personal obligations kept others from attending) reminisced in the Memorial Union. Many wore cardinal-and-gold-colored buttons that read "Iowa State Graduate." Several teachers from IEOP were there to hear their stories.

"For 25 years, this university has been very important to me," said Estuardo Galdamez Zapeta, a college teacher, radio station owner and host of radio and TV programs in Guatemala. "I was lucky to be here to learn the culture, language and receive an education."

Rossany Auceda Flores returned to her native Honduras after leaving ISU, and for the past decade she has lived in the Des Moines area working for the Iowa Department of Public health.

"Coming to Iowa was wonderful," she said. Flores thought her English was pretty good when she arrived in Iowa, but "they talked to so fast." Flores’ English improved and she met the man in Ames she would later marry.

The alumni have gone on to a variety of successful careers in Latin America and the United States. Those who returned to ISU thanked their IEOP and other advisers for all they did for them 25 years ago.

"They give tremendous credit to Iowa State," Roger Bertelsen, an LAS academic adviser and a former IEOP associate director, said. "They believe ISU launched them to the many great achievements they’ve had in their lives."

Looking back, Galdamez said his stay in Iowa also opened his eyes to the world. "We don’t know how much we don’t know until we get away from our countries."

– Steve Jones