AMES, Iowa--Nate Johansen loves a crowd—a big-event crowd—and all the expectation, emotion and energy that fill the air when thousands of people converge in one place.
He’s been looking forward to April 16 -22 for nearly a year, a year that’s been spent planning the logistics and events of Iowa State University’s much loved showcase of excellence—VEISHEA .
Johansen co-chairs VEISHEA, along with fellow senior Christina Dvorak, and exudes an air of excitement as he talks about some of the week’s offerings--VEISHEA Village, 130 tents on central campus, Taste of VEISHEA and 20,000 pieces of birthday cake to celebrate the kickoff of Iowa State’s sesquicentennial.
He said he remembers attending VEISHEA as a youngster each year with his parents, LuAnn and Mark Johansen of Hampton. “Back then, I didn’t realize how big an event it was — I knew it was big, I just didn’t know how big.”
Preparing for thousands of people over six days might seem like a nightmare to some, but it is “immensely enjoyable” to Johansen. Despite his youth, he brings years of experience to the task. Now a senior who will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in ag business, he started working with big crowds in high school.
At age 15, Johansen volunteered to work at the Iowa State Fair through the Iowa State University Extension 4-H Youth Development program. A nine-year 4-H’er with a background in livestock production, he signed up to assist with 4-H livestock shows. “That’s thousands of animals and thousands of people, some of them very happy and some very upset. I really enjoyed working to make the events run smoothly and to keep participants and their parents happy. Pleasing people is what it’s all about.”
He found a way to add to his State Fair experience during his junior and senior year of high school, by serving on the Iowa 4-H Youth Council. A group of 40 young people, the council plans, promotes and puts on the Iowa 4-H Youth Conference each year in June. The event brings nearly 1,000 high school youth to the Iowa State campus.
Johansen said his 4-H leadership experience has been invaluable as VEISHEA co-chair. “Many of the kids I met in volunteer roles in high school are leaders here on campus,” he said. “I already had their cell phone numbers in my database.”
Volunteering is a part of 4-H and “when you get the volunteering bug in your system, you want to continue,” he said. “I signed up for just about everything my freshman year on campus.”
He was in the President’s Leadership Class, ISU Ambassadors, Collegiate 4-H, Ag Council and VEISHEA. By his sophomore year, he began to hone in on his goals and served on GSB (student government) and also helped form LINC, the committee that restored VEISHEA and gave it an emphasis on community service. His junior year, he focused his campus volunteer efforts almost entirely on VEISHEA, serving as co-chair of the entertainment committee.
He even managed to find a summer internship during 2006 that allowed him to work a large event. While at Monsanto in South Dakota, one of Johansen’s duties was to plan a field day. After graduation, he will become a sales trainee with Monsanto in Cleveland, Miss. He said he’s looking forward to meeting new people and experiencing southern culture.
But during VEISHEA, he’ll be deep in Cyclone culture coordinating hundreds of fellow students who work behind the scenes to make this “the biggest and the best” yet. “Do plan to attend and be sure to be here for the parade on Saturday,” he said.
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