All over the map
“I don’t think of (Cedar Rapids, Mount Vernon and Monticello) as three different communities. They are just like three different neighborhoods to me.”
Monica Lyons, 29, Monticello
Coordinator of the Berry Center for Economics, Business, and Public Policy @ Cornell College
Monica Lyons could be the poster woman for living, working and playing in the Corridor.
Not just because she lives in Monticello, works in Mount Vernon, and plays – oh, and volunteers – in Cedar Rapids, either. Sure, she’s as good at the half-hour commute as any big city dweller, but Monica Lyons is also making an impact – and a pretty positive one at that – in each of those Corridor communities.
But if you ask Monica, “community” is not the right approach.
“I don’t think of them as three different communities. They are just like three different neighborhoods to me,” she says.
And she’s certainly made herself right at home in those neighborhoods since coming to the Corridor from Keokuk 10 years ago as a freshman at Cornell.
After graduation in 2002, Monica worked with the Iowa Democratic Party and for Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, – who she considers a personal political hero – before being hired on by Cornell, first in the alumni office to help strengthen relationships with young alumni and then in her current position.
As coordinator at the Berry Center, she runs a variety of programs to help expose the college to economics, business and public policy through bringing in speakers, working with faculty to develop new courses, arranging for off campus opportunities, and advising students (just a couple hundred) on internships and workshops.
“It’s like figuring out an academic game plan for students to help prepare them for a career or graduate school,” she says.
When she’s not busy with other Cornell activities – outside of work, she advises four different groups on campus and is involved with Cornell’s Relay for Life - and making an impact on students, she’s using her spare time to make an impact in other areas of her “neighborhoods.”
Volunteer efforts take Monica to her Cedar Rapids “neighborhood” most often. For the last five years she has served on the board for the Grant Wood Chapter of the American Red Cross. She also happens to be the 2009 president of Access Iowa and will serve as co-chair of the soon-to-be-launched AI/Next Generation merger.
Monica figures she has an average of three to four meetings a week in Cedar Rapids. Last week, for example, it was a Red Cross meeting on Tuesday, Access Iowa events on Wednesday and Thursday and Leadership for Five Seasons (she’s in the 2009 class) on Friday.
And next week doesn’t slow down either. It gets busier actually. (See below for all the upcoming events filling her calendar. You can join her!)
But Monica wouldn’t have it any other way and thinks she and other young professionals in the Corridor are lucky.
“In other areas, the access to these opportunities isn’t as easily identifiable,” Monica says. “Here, you can make meaningful connections and your work makes a positive impact on the community.”
DID YOU KNOW: Monica is really excited about May Day (she and her husband Kristofer exchange May Day gifts) but her favorite holiday is Sweetest Day. (Mark your calendar for October 17th!)
WHAT SHE CAN DO FOR YOU: She’s involved in planning a whole slew of great events for young professionals. Check out the Red Cross Big B*A*S*H on Friday, May 1, GOT on Boards on Tuesday, May 5, and the Leadership for Five Seasons Dinner on Friday, May 8.