Introducing the 2014-2015 Officer Team

I am pleased to announce this year’s officers of the UNI Freethinkers & Inquirers! I’m honored to work with this group of individuals, fellow students who have put forth their very best to lead in UNIFI. This is a team that I have the greatest respect for, and I trust this group to represent our community and the University of Northern Iowa. Without further ado, our team:

Abbie Shew, Director of Finance

Abbie Shew, Director of FinanceAbbie is a returning UNIFI officer, last year she served as the Director of Public Relations, and she is ecstatic about stepping into her new role as Director of Finance. Abbie is currently a sophomore double major in biology and philosophy with a minor in chemistry. In addition to UNIFI, Abbie is heavily involved with the UNI debate team as a varsity policy debater and team captain. She can’t wait to get to know the new officers and see what they can accomplish this year.

Ryan Lode, Director of Activities

Ryan Lode, Director of ActivitiesRyan is an active member of Tri-Beta Biological Honor Society, Northern Iowa Democrats, and the UNI Fencing Club. Prior to attending UNI, he served as Event Coordinator for SSA at the University of Alabama Birmingham in which he helped organize several debates between marquee speakers-one of which included former president of American Atheists, Ed Buckner. At the conclusion of this semester, he will have completed his third year of his biology major, and will be attending the virology summer research program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln before returning to UNI in the fall.

Laurelin Berkley, Director of Membership

Laurelin Berkley, Director of MembershipLaurelin is finishing up her first year at UNI and loves it here so far. She is a Choral Music Education Major and sings in UNI Singers and has participated in Opera the year. She is currently Director our Outreach for UNISTARR and is a founding member of Bedsider UNI, the UNI chapter of a national campaign to provide resources and information about birth control. She is really looking forward to being Director of Membership for UNIFI!

Natalie Kaufman, Director of Public Relations

Natalie Kaufman, Director of Public RelationsNatalie is a freshman double majoring in Psychology and Philosophy with a Women and Gender Studies minor. She will be serving as the Director of Public Relations and cannot wait to start working to enhance the vision of UNIFI! She is incredibly passionate about the advancement of human rights and equality and outside of UNIFI is involved with Feminist Action League, UNISTARR, Bedsider UNI, and is a senator in Northern Iowa Student Government representing CHAS. She is really looking forward to being a part of the officer team this year!

Margaret Nervig, Alumni Program Coordinator

Margaret Nervig, Alumni Program CoordinatorMargaret is currently finishing her first year in the Public History M.A. program. This past year she has been involved with UNIFI as Director of Membership, as well as One Iowa at UNI, and she looks forward to continuing involvement this next year.

Cassie Beadle, Graphic Design Coordinator

Cassie Beadle, Graphic Design CoordinatorCassie is a freshman Graphic Design major and actively involved in other campus groups along with UNIFI, including the Feminist Action League. You’ve probably already seen her work in posters and graphic design done for Women’s History Month events, cosponsored by the Feminist Action League and UNI’s Women’s and Gender Studies program.

Neill Goltz, Activism Coordinator

Neill Goltz, Activism CoordinatorNeill is wrapping up his third year as a student, double majoring in the Study of World Religions and Anthropology. This year he will be acting as your one and only Activism Coordinator. When he isn’t actively participating in UNIFI, he enjoys reading, writing, cooking, and going camping or hiking. Neill hopes we can make this next year great together and looks forward to hearing any suggestions you might have.

Alex Prinsen, Chief Editor

Alex Prinsen, Chief EditorAlex is a senior double majoring in Modern Language and Computer Science. Over the next year he will channel his passion for words and grammar into the UNIFI blog as Chief Editor. As a long time member, Alex is excited for a chance to give back to the organization. Outside UNIFI, he DJs at KULT, UNI’s student radio station, and writes music for his band.

Pam Creger: a Person of Excellence

UNIFI, as a student organization, does a great deal of events, big and small, throughout the year. Member and officer join together to make events happen, be it volunteering or planning. However, behind the scenes there is much more going on, especially when working with the university bureaucracy. In this one person stands out whose assistance was so vital to the execution of UNIFI events, that we decided to award this person for their invaluable assistance. Pam Creger, in the Student Involvement Center, is this person; she has been of vital importance to many of the behind the scenes planning, and in recognition of that, we have given her a Certificate of Excellence. Thank you Pam for everything you have done for us, and especially me. I could not have done many of the things I needed done without your help.

– Noah Hurley

UNIFI as a community for faith and worship at UNI

The Panther Caucus, an alumni organization for the University of Northern Iowa, recently published Creating a welcoming community for faith and worship. Until I read that, I had no idea UNIFI was such an organization for faith and worship. It was startlingly easy to rewrite their article to be more inclusive, or even exclude other groups, so I did. This is my response, and does not represent the views of any other individual or organization.

Creating a welcoming environment for reason and achievement at UNI

The University of Northern Iowa is home to more than 240 recognized secular student organizations. The groups offer community and activities for students, faculty, and staff. Some of the groups are oriented around majors and departments, like the Philosophy Students Club and the UNI Physics Club. Others are general, such as the Financial Literacy Club, a campus organization that promotes good habits and understanding personal finances.

There are groups for athletes and artists; groups that are for students interested the celebrating physical achievement and the performing arts.

“We want you to feel welcome. We want you to come and feel like you’re part of this community,” said Aaron Friel, president-elect of the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers, a group open to students wanting to ask questions about and challenge religious ideas.

UNIFI was founded more than seven years ago and has collaborated with a variety of progressive and secular student organizations on campus as well as local churches. One event UNIFI participates in is Darwin Week, which promotes scientific achievement and humanist ideas. Other events have included 24/7 Service Week in which students volunteered in non-profit organizations across the Cedar Valley, an event scheduled to coincide with another group’s 24/7 Prayer Week.

These organizations provide students with the opportunity to connect on a more personal level, offering programs for smaller groups and casual social events, and larger-scale events, such as camping trips, retreats and spring break trips.

Friel says the main goal for UNIFI to create a welcoming environment where students can grow and feel comfortable questioning religious ideas. “I think everyone should be able to find a group, a community for them at UNI.” Friel added. “For me, that means UNIFI, but there are groups here for everyone.”

Some of UNI’s secular organizations include:

  • Actuarial Science Club
  • Alpha Delta Pi
  • Alpha Phi
  • Alpha Phi Omega
  • Alpha Psi Omega Theta Alpha Phi Chapter
  • Alpha Upsilon Alpha
  • Alpha Xi Delta
  • American Choral Directors Association
  • American Marketing Association
  • American Sign Language Club
  • Art for El Salvador
  • Association of Criminology Students
  • Association of Technology Management & Applied Engineering UNI Chapter
  • Autism Advocates
  • Baseball Sport Club
  • Bedsider UNI
  • Bender Hall Senate
  • Best Buddies
  • Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society
  • Black Male Leaders Union
  • Black Student Union
  • Camp Adventure Child & Youth Services
  • Campbell Hall Senate
  • Campus Activities Board
  • Cedar River Productions
  • Cedar Valley Linux Users Group
  • Cedar Valley Support A Student
  • Chi Sigma Iota
  • Chinese Students and Scholars Association
  • College Republicans
  • College of Business Administration Presidents Council
  • Colleges Against Cancer
  • Common Sense Action
  • Communication Student Association
  • Computer Club
  • Connecting Alumni To Students
  • Corey and Eric for UNI
  • Dancer Hall Senate
  • Daniel Webster Law Society
  • Digital Collective
  • Drug-Free Panthers
  • Economics Club
  • English Club
  • Ethnic Student Promoters
  • Explorers of Religion
  • Film Appreciation Club
  • Financial Management Association
  • Gamer Brigade
  • Gamma Phi Beta
  • George Walker Society of Music
  • Golden Key International Honour Society
  • Graduate Student Social Network
  • Greek Week Committee
  • Green Project UNI – The Panther Plot
  • Hagemann Hall Senate
  • Hispanic Latino Student Union
  • History Club
  • Honors Student Advisory Board
  • Humans vs. Zombies The UNI Chapter
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers UNI Chapter
  • Interfraternity Council
  • International Cultural Exchange
  • International Dance Theatre
  • International Student Association
  • International Student Promoters
  • Iowa High School Model United Nations
  • KULT Radio
  • Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society
  • Kappa Kappa Psi- Eta Pi Chapter
  • Kappa Sigma Fraternity
  • Kevin and Paul Students for Students
  • Korean Language and Culture Club
  • Lawther Hall Senate
  • Legacy PR
  • Management Information Systems Association
  • Middle Eastern Dance Club
  • Multicultural Teaching Alliance
  • National Residence Hall Honorary-UNI Chapter
  • National Society of Collegiate Scholars
  • National Student Speech Language Hearing Association University of Northern Iowa Chapter
  • Noehren Hall Senate
  • Nonprofit Leadership Alliance
  • Nontraditional Student Organization
  • Northern Iowa Anime Association
  • Northern Iowa Democrats
  • Northern Iowa Family Service Organization
  • Northern Iowa Potters and Sculpters
  • Northern Iowa Student Government
  • Northern Iowa Wishmakers
  • Northern Iowan
  • Omicron Delta Kappa-UNI Circle
  • One Iowa at UNI
  • Orchesis Dance Company
  • Order of Omega
  • Panhellenic Council
  • Panther Leadership Service Club
  • Panther Pacers Running Sport Club
  • Panther. Magazine
  • Panthers For Anesa
  • Panthers for Andrew Miller
  • Phi Alpha Theta Honor Society (Pi-Lambda Chapter)
  • Phi Beta Lambda
  • Phi Beta Sigma
  • Phi Eta Sigma
  • Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Beta Nu Chapter
  • Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity
  • Phi Upsilon Omicron
  • Philosophy Club
  • Physical Education Club
  • Physical Education Club
  • Pi Kappa Alpha
  • Pi Sigma Epsilon
  • Political Science Society
  • Pre-Dental Club
  • Pre-Medical Club
  • Pre-Optometry Club
  • Pre-Physician Assistant Club
  • Pre-Veterinary Club
  • Project Marrow
  • Public Policy Club
  • Public Relations Student Society of America
  • Relay For Life Committee
  • Residence Hall Association
  • Rho Epsilon
  • Rider Hall Senate
  • Saudi Students Club
  • Service and Leadership Council
  • Shull Hall Senate
  • Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity
  • Sigma Alpha Iota
  • Sigma Delta Pi
  • Sigma Gamma Epsilon
  • Sigma Iota
  • Sigma Phi Epsilon
  • Sigma Tau Delta
  • Society for Human Resource Management
  • Society of Manufacturing Engineers
  • Society of Professional Journalists
  • Student Admissions Ambassadors
  • Student Affairs Pre-Professional Association
  • Student Affliates of the American Chemical Society
  • Student Association of Middle Level Educators
  • Student Athlete Advisory Committee
  • Student Health Advisory Committee
  • Student Interior Designers Of Northern Iowa
  • Student Leadership Advisory Panel
  • Student Nature Society
  • Student Reading Association
  • Student Social Work Association
  • Students Today Leaders Forever-Pay It Forward Tour
  • Students for International Peace and Security Studies
  • TESOL/Linguistics Club
  • Tau Beta Sigma
  • Teaching Educators About Mathematics
  • Technology and Engineering Education Collegiate Association
  • Textiles & Apparel Association
  • The UNI Financial Literacy Club
  • The UNI Halo Covenant
  • The University of Northern Iowa Council of Teachers of English
  • The University of Northern Iowa Masters of Social Work Student Association
  • The University of Northern Iowa Supporters of the United States Army
  • To Write Love On Her Arms UNI
  • Turkish Students Association
  • UNI 4 Kids
  • UNI Accounting Club
  • UNI Advocates for Alzheimers
  • UNI African Union
  • UNI Archery Sports Club
  • UNI Badminton Club
  • UNI Ballroom/Swing
  • UNI Blackhawk Ever Enthusiastic Rooters
  • UNI Business Prelaw Club
  • UNI Capoeira Sports Club
  • UNI Chess Club
  • UNI Circle K Club
  • UNI Climate Movement
  • UNI Collegiate 4-H Club
  • UNI Construction Management Club
  • UNI Dance Marathon
  • UNI Disc Golf Club
  • UNI English Club
  • UNI Entrepreneurs
  • UNI Feminist Action League
  • UNI Fencing Club
  • UNI Forensics Speech and Debate Teams
  • UNI Habitat for Humanity
  • UNI Hardwoods
  • UNI Harry Potter Club
  • UNI Health Science Club
  • UNI Hockey Club
  • UNI Mandarin Chinese Club
  • UNI Mens Ultimate Frisbee Sport Club
  • UNI Mens Volleyball Sport Club
  • UNI Model United Nations Competition Team
  • UNI National Wild Turkey Federation
  • UNI Panthers Allied with Local Schools
  • UNI Percussive Arts Society
  • UNI Physics Club
  • UNI Pre-Chiropractic Club
  • UNI Pre-Occupational Therapy Club
  • UNI Pre-Pharmacy Club
  • UNI Printmaking Society
  • UNI Proud
  • UNI Quidditch Club
  • UNI Right to Life
  • UNI SAVE (Students Against a Violent Environment
  • UNI Salsa Club
  • UNI Ski & Snowboard Sports Club
  • UNI Sociology Club
  • UNI Solar Panthers Club
  • UNI Student Theatre Association
  • UNI Supply Chain Management Association
  • UNI Tae Kwon-Do Club
  • UNI Tennis Sport Club
  • UNI Trap and Skeet
  • UNI USITT United States Institute of Theatre Technology Student Chapter
  • UNI Varsity Mens Glee Club
  • UNI Veterans Association
  • UNI Women in Physics Club
  • UNI Womens Soccer Sport Club
  • UNI Womens Ultimate Frisbee Sport Club
  • UNIBusiness Global Associates
  • University of Northern Iowa Anthropological Association
  • University of Northern Iowa Cycling Sport Club
  • University of Northern Iowa Freethinkers and Inquirers
  • University of Northern Iowa Geography Club
  • University of Northern Iowa Grafx Club
  • University of Northern Iowa Longboarding Association
  • University of Northern Iowa March of Dimes
  • University of Northern Iowa Pre-Physical Therapy Club
  • University of Northern Iowa Psychology Club
  • University of Northern Iowa Student Athletic Training Organization
  • University of Northern Iowa Student Cable Programming Service (UNI Sketch)
  • University of Northern Iowa Student Early Childhood Association
  • University of Northern Iowa Students Today Alumni Tomorrow
  • University of Northern Iowa Students Together for the Advancement of Reproductive Rights
  • University of Northern Iowa Tourism Assocation
  • University of Northern Iowa Triathlon Team Sport Club
  • Vocal AmmUNItion

Hate mail is awesome

Today I opened my first hate letter from an anonymous person. The letter was received by the Math Department office. This is peculiar because I have never used Wright Hall as a mailing address. All they knew about me is that I am an atheist and a math student at UNI, thanks to the article pictured to the right. Indeed, I offer thanks to the Courier and UNIFI otherwise I might not have had this opportunity. All emphasis such as underlining, capitalization, and paragraph separation, are the author’s (to the best of my ability). Enjoy:

Mr. Moeller,

With sadness, I read this Stupid article. Capital ‘S’? Yes, the world’s problem? We are too far from GOD, BUT GOD has NOT moved. WE have. Man wants to do as man wants to ‘do,’ to hell with God, His 10,& Bible.

Where has it gotten us? Faith IS virtue: one we must -cultivate- always in line with God’s plan for us. (Why U.N.I. let this CRAP in? sad.)

To start with – - – a baby is a miracle. You nor I could create something so-o-o perfect and precious.

PROOF that God wants the world to go on & on & on & on & on _________

UNTIL “HE” returns to end it all & take us all to Heaven to be with “HIM” forever.

God knew “having” & raising a baby would NOT be easy, so “HE” created sex as a “treat” for married people to enjoy as COMPLETE LOVE! p.s. satan’s been busy ever since Eden tempting man to stray FROM God’s plan for us.

Mysterious? yes, but FAITH IN GOD must keep us going on the right path to get our eternal reward – Heaven. (should be “great“! There’ll be no lawyers there!! W’loo phone book has 40 pages of lawyers. What does that tell you? Clever killers even get “high-powered LIARS” from Des Moines. sad, sick mess.

Don’t get me started on our corrupt justice system! 702.2 Mil.$$ of our Ia taxes last year. (UP16.7 Mil$) our laws protect the killers, not innocent Taxpayers. God also tells us in Genesis 9:5-6 and Leviticus 24:21 IF YOU KILL one of mine, you must pay with your life NOW. (should be all done in 6 MOS.)

Jesse, get involved in something worthwhile. (in line with God’s plan for us) Here’s one: Capital punishment for ALL killers. (regardless of age)

You know what? HOW FAR “OFF BASE” ARE WE ? ? ? ? ?

We, (in U.S.A. Thanks to satanic supreme court- we have capital punishment for the tiny, innocent, UNborn miracles of GOD

instead of: FOR ALL KILLERS. (We are even stupid enough to pay for a lawyer to LIE for ‘em too yet. Did they need a lawyer to plan & execute the murder… some very clever.)

Then, they lie too yet, but what is a LIE for an offence to a killer in cold blood?

Jail for life? Supidity AGAIN. Jails are overflowing. They love all FREE. It sure beats work. NOT? IF a 21-yr. old kills one- lives to 65,

65-21 = 44 years at $33,000 amounts to 1.32 Million TAX dollars. Yikes.

“TOUGH LOVE WORKS,” but it must be used. This babying and coddling & excuses really got us in trouble. Ia Sales tax NOW 7 cents. I remember when it was 2 cents. We are simply taxed to death, To pay for all the UNneeded nonsense. Homosexuality is NOT of God. Read God’s word. Leviticus 20:13 (spiritual) death!

pretty strong words. Eh? IF 2 friends want to room & share expense… O.K. BUT, it is NOT marriage, SORRY.

Very few “Christiansare Christian enough to work & teach FOR GOD’s WAYS. Iowa has one great Christian. Bob Vander Platts. BUT, a real leader needs followers, not WIMPS. Thank God he got 3 Iowa supreme court justices OUT. all 7 should be gone.

supreme court? small “s” & small “c”? yes, only important persons places & things EARN a capital letter. Get in line with God people. Let’s count our blessings.

-A Tax Payer

This, for me, is a reminder of how much we really need tax dollars to fund the “UNneeded nonsense” that is a liberal arts education. This eloquent retort doesn’t cover a single topic raised in the Courier article. Instead, I suspect it is an aimless shot in the dark that was meant to soothe their own uninformed frustration. Socrates sure did have it right. It is no wonder these people are always so furious. Ignorance is not bliss.


P.S. – The author was not kind enough to leave their mailing address. If the author happens to see this, feel free to contact me at As always, I would love to have a conversation.

My Vision: Your UNIFI

UNIFI-Retro When I came to the University of Northern Iowa, it was for the community in UNIFI. It was here that I was welcome with this group that dared to speak out and challenge the status quo. At the same time, at brunches, dinners, forums, and countless other events, its members challenged each other to forge better arguments and eschew assumptions.

I enrolled that spring in 2011 after coming to many events and being asked to apply to be an officer. This was, admittedly, a bewildering proposition. I didn’t know anything about student organizing. I had spent five years out of high school working at a movie theatre, and later consulting, doing IT and software development. To me, the people that put on events were on another level. They had to be experts, or something, because I could barely find the CME, much less fill it with people for Darwin Week. Being an officer didn’t seem like something I would be any good at.

At least two past UNIFI Presidents might have described me as a freeloader. Not derisively, but at least thanks to their majors in economics, I was by all accounts a free rider. I didn’t contribute much except my fair share of words. I hope that wasn’t what led them to ask me to apply, but it influenced my decision. I wanted to help, if I could.

I became an officer, and even succeeded in enrolling, which is a story for another time. As an officer, I learned that much of it was hard work of a different sort. A great deal of the skill involved working around the rough edges of bureaucracy at UNI. As Director of Finance in my first year, I had to know the difference between contingency fund and the Pepsi fund. People kept referring to a “Panther fund”, and I think that was a ruse, but I digress.

Every officer either had learned, or would learn how to get things done at UNI. I didn’t do Kate Heetland justice when I described her as hard working, but it was not just her and the officers. There have been a number of members too that put on amazing events. Being that they didn’t have a title with “Director” in its name, they took on minor projects. Just to name two examples, Joe Enabnit was Darwin Week Chair in 2012, and Kayla Merrill ran a small event called Out Week in 2011 and 2012. Let me give credit where credit is due: both of them deserve in every respect to be at least equals in title to officers those years.

After three years of being involved in UNIFI, two as an officer, I was offered the position of President for my fourth year at UNI. I see this as an opportunity to experiment and try something new, and the first part of this experiment begins with organization. Kate Heetland and I have wide latitude to reorganize UNIFI, add and remove positions, and so on. She and I have agreed to try something new, and I’m going to stake my reputation on a gamble inspired by the startup community.

Starting this year, there will be a new set of officer positions in addition to the directors. These positions will be coordinators. Kayla would have been, for example, “Out Week Coordinator”. They are in charge of specific events, and definitely not necessarily the big ones. I don’t expect every coordinator to put as much work into their events as she did into Out Week.

There are some things that Kayla and Joe had in common. Their work was a labor of love. They had ideas, and the drive to try them out. And importantly, they were enabled by a competent team of officers. The officers cut through bureaucracy, did paperwork and legwork, and offered ideas of their own. The papier-mâché result seemed to work well enough that I want to try it in earnest and scale it out.

The coordinators will own their event idea and see it to fruition. Kate and I will work with them to refine their ideas, to set goals, and to involve directors. That isn’t to say the directors won’t be involved in their own events, but it’s hard for directors to juggle doing weekly events when deadlines for Darwin Week loom large. The coordinators fill a gap in UNIFI between the very large events, like Darwin Week, and the very small ones, like knowing how to request beverages or put up an event.

If my vision pays off, we’ll have many new and different events over the next year. Some of them will not do so well. If we think an event has failed, that’s okay, it’s probably in good company, and the onus is on me to figure out how to fix it. If the coordinators succeed, well, I can imagine that to many freshmen, they will be the face of UNIFI. It is my earnest hope that the coordinators will make it hard for me to convince new students that I’m the President of the student group, and that those people not running the show are the directors that glued it together.

How can you apply to be a coordinator? If you’ve already applied to be an officer, you’re set. If you haven’t yet, you can start by going to the officer application, where you’ll find a new position to apply for. You will still be required to submit résumé items and a writing sample – I want to see how well you can write and what you excel at. If while reading the application you think you might be interested in a director position, check the box and put some time into a work sample before your interview. Finally, just to be clear: coordinators are officers. If you have any questions, email me.

If you have an idea, or if you think you can come up with one before an interview, apply now to be an officer. If you have skills that merit a sample of your ability, put them down and bring a sample with you to your interview. This your UNIFI.

Apply now to be a UNIFI Officer


Here are some positions I can imagine:

  • Progressive Picnic Coordinator
  • Faith Forum Coordinator
  • Panel Coordinator
  • On-Campus Dinner Coordinator
  • Know Your Arguments Coordinator
  • Blog Coordinator
  • Alumni Coordinator

My Thoughts On Cosmos

Cosmos is more than just an informative science documentary, it is the spark of human imagination condensed into an hour long broadcast. I cannot speak for others, but Cosmos never fails to stir a deep feeling of emotion within me. It is both a validation of what I will do as a future scientist, but also a tapestry of how humanity has come so far and learned so much about the world. Science itself is often seen as an emotionless tool, often because of how important impartiality is, however, Cosmos brings out the wonder in science, giving the concepts of astronomy and biology a medium that allows them to thrive in our hearts.

At the end of the first cosmos episode, Dr. Tyson talked on how he had met Carl Sagan and how Carl Sagan an inspiration and an awesome guy in general. This reminded me of the late Dr. Chauncy, former Physics dept. head of UNI. He was a mentor to me, an inspiration, and was the reason for my enrolling at UNI. Whenever I watch Cosmos, I am reminded of a great man who tragically passed away, but left behind a legacy that I will always carry with me. Even if you are not going for a field in science, I implore you to find the wonder in science, for our imagination (and fixed physical constants) are the limit.

 -Noah Hurley

2014-2015 UNIFI Officer Applications

Over the last academic year, the UNIFI officer team brought to campus events such as Darwin Week, the Flying Spaghetti Monster Dinner, Blasphemy Rights Day, and Progressive Picnic. In addition to these large events, UNIFI officers have coordinated the details for planning, finances, advertising, and more for each, while organizing weekly brunches and events like game night and film viewings. Officers also direct the philosophical direction of the group, and work together to execute these ideas.

For the upcoming year, there are four officer positions open in addition to President and Vice President. They are the following:

  • Director of Finance: This officer manages UNIFI’s finances, merchandise, and is responsible for coming up with effective ideas for fundraising. A strong math or finance background is not needed to be successful in this position; all responsibilities can be learned. 
  • Director of Activities: This officer oversees event planning and promotion, and is responsible for thinking of new event ideas.
  • Director of Public Relations: This officer runs the UNIFI blog and social media outlets (including Facebook and Twitter) and acts as a liaison to other groups. 
  • Director of Membership: This officer plans and implements our recruitment and retention efforts, and finds new ways to recruit members. 

For a more detailed description of each of the above positions, and for general officer expectations, click here.

The officer application process goes as follows:

  • Fill out the attached application form. These will be due Wednesday, March 26th by 5:00 PM. We will put together an interview schedule, and inform each applicant, by e-mail, on the date, time, and place of the interview. The interviews will include both the prepared questions and some impromptu questions. 
  • Consider the prepared questions. We expect detailed and well-thought out responses. 
  • Come to your interview!
  • The new officer team will be announced on Monday, April 7th. 

The prepared questions are listed below. Remember, these are to be prepared in addition to the completion of the application form.

  • Give us an idea that will improve UNIFI; it could be finance, membership, activities, public relations, or something else. It can either be a new idea or something borrowed from another group – as long as it’s new to UNIFI. Please provide specific details – we want a plan.
  • What role does UNIFI play on campus and in the community, and how do you see this changing over the next few years? Your response may include whether or not UNIFI is adequately filling this role and what you would change.
  • Secular groups throughout the country (UNIFI included) have seen lower participation rates from racial and ethnic minorities. Do you think this is a problem, and if so, what can groups like UNIFI do to improve the race and ethnicity gap?

The application form is linked here.

If you have any questions about any of the above, please contact either Aaron Friel at or Kate Heetland at Additionally, we encourage you to speak with former UNIFI leadership, listed at the bottom of the attached application form.

We look forward to your responses, and good luck!

Your President-elect and Vice President,
Aaron Friel and Kate Heetland

Announcing the 2014-2015 UNIFI Vice President

When this year’s UNIFI President, Stef McGraw, asked me to be the next UNIFI President, I realized the enormity of the shoes I would have to fill. It won’t be easy to live up to her example. Her titles are too numerous to list, but I will try. She has been Director of Outreach for the UNI Freethinkers & Inquirers, Vice President, and President. As a Vice President of One Iowa, she worked hard during a campaign year to keep dogma out of politics. A long-time student government senator, she now serves as the Northern Iowa Student Government’s Speaker of the Senate. In her role in NISG, she has sought to serve the students; in UNIFI, an amazing community of freethinking individuals. As Speaker for NISG, she was a consistent voice of reason in our student government. And as President of UNIFI, she maintained it as a beacon of reason for this university. Thank you, Stef, for all your work. I hope that in a year’s time, I will have lived up to your example.

As I spent the last year outside of UNIFI, I sought to follow her example. I involved myself in earnest in student involvement outside of UNIFI. I pushed for changes in university policy to cut rules that penalized political organizations. I worked with the LGBT* center; and around that, formed a Progressive Coalition from seven student orgs. And when Stef asked me about the Presidency, I knew from her example that the choice for Vice President was clear. I am pleased to re-introduce the 2014-2015 UNIFI Vice President, Kate Heetland.

Kate HeetlandKate joined the officer team as Director of Outreach in 2012. Even before then, she stood out as an involved member of the community, always ready to volunteer for an event. When she joined the officer team, she brought with her an unparalleled work ethic. That year she had a grueling schedule, and large time commitments to her work in the College of Music. Despite this, at officer meetings she put most of us to shame – her to-do list was always complete, and she volunteered herself for more.

It is not only her work ethic that will balance out our next year. When confronted with ambiguous tasks with no clear next step, she was no less dedicated. When Kate took on the problem of the gender gap in UNIFI, there was no obvious way forward, yet she invested herself totally in it. I admire her resolve try any idea proposed to tackle it. Stef, then UNIFI Vice President, and Kate demonstrated principled and dynamic leadership. Kate’s hard work as Director of Outreach informed their strategy and ensured progress. It was not just that she reached out to so many students, but that she took on their ideas and owned them in implementing new events. It was with verve that she took on the task, and with an open mind that she implemented each new idea. Her persistence, her will to take on new challenges and invest herself in their success makes her an obvious choice for Vice President.

As Vice President over the past year, she worked over the summer to ensure the success of fall term events. Even as she studied abroad, that work came to fruition with numerous new and involved members. Upon returning, she was undeterred by the record cold to put in countless hours for Darwin Week. And always, I’ve admired her ethos in her work bettering UNIFI in service and activism.

I look forward to working with Kate over the next year. Her example will inspire me to work harder, even if just to keep up, and I will rely on her advice and discipline. Finally, I am eager to see the submitted applications for next year’s officer team. The ideas I will read and hear from this year’s applicants will include those of members she personally had a hand in recruiting. It’s only fitting that she’ll be posting the officer applications tomorrow. I can’t wait.

Announcing the 2014-2015 UNIFI President

Aaron Friel

I’m excited to announce the new president of the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers: Aaron Friel. Effective April 15, Friel (as he prefers to be called) will be joined by the new officer team that will be charged with leading the organization for the 2014-2015 school year. Announcements about the vice presidency and the upcoming officer interviews will be posted this week, but before that, I would like to take the time to explain why I selected Friel for the presidency.

Anyone who knows Friel knows that he exudes passion and intellectual curiosity on a variety of issues, including skepticism, science, rationalism, and secular humanism. He’s also known for engaging in intellectual discussions about these and other important subjects on a near daily basis. In addition, Friel is deeply committed to the secular movement. As a veteran two year UNIFI officer and regular secular conference-goer, he’s very familiar with the workings of both UNIFI and the movement as a whole.

Friel Speaking at CFI

Friel gave a talk at the 2013 CFI Leadership Conference on how campus secular groups can use technology for better internal organization and to more effectively spread their message.

However, this is just the start of why he will make a fantastic president. Friel is also an enthusiastic innovator, keen on exploring new ideas both of his own and of others, and dedicated to spending lots of time and energy on seeing those ideas through. Prior to this past Darwin Week, Friel had spent weeks connecting the dots between various disjointed entities on campus in order to make free, yet high quality live streaming possible.

Finally, Friel is deeply committed to building coalitions on campus. While serving as Director of Public Relations for the Northern Iowa Democrats this past year, he took initiative and brought to fruition an idea that had been floating around UNIFI the past several years: a formal Progressive Coalition. Under his leadership, the Coalition now meets on a weekly basis to share ideas between groups and to plan co-sponsored events on campus.

Congratulations, Friel, and good luck this next year. I know UNIFI will continue to be an important and innovative organization under your leadership.

Top Five: Religion v. Education

Vashti McCollum

For Women’s History Month UNIFI is hosting two showings of the film “The Lord is Not on Trial Here Today”. This film tells the story of Vashti McCollum, an atheist woman who fought against religion in schools way back in the 1940s. So today’s top five list highlights five Supreme Court decisions that have helped cement the separation of church and state (at least in public education).

1. McCollum v. Board of Education (1948)

This case was one of the earliest to challenge religion’s place in schools. In Champaign, Illinois schools were practicing “released time”, a program which allowed students to stay in school for religious instruction or to leave school for that period of time. Vashti McCollum challenged this policy, saying that it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court ruled in McCollum’s favor 8-1.

2. Engel v. Vitale (1962)

This is considered by many scholars to be the most influential school prayer case to come before the Supreme Court thus far. In 1951 New York adopted a government-prepared prayer to be recited at public schools. Several families in a town outside of New York City decided to challenge this prayer, claiming that it violated their religious liberty as well as the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. In a 6 to 1 vote the Supreme Court declared the New York prayer to be unconstitutional.

3. Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971)

This case dealt with public funding for parochial schools, a policy that was deemed unconstitutional in an 8-0 vote. Lemon v. Kurtzman is the origination of the “Lemon Test” which has been used in many other religion in school cases. For more information on this case, check out Lauren’s blog post.

4. Wallace v. Jaffree (1985)

The Wallace decision concerned an Alabama law which required each school day to start with a moment of silent meditation or voluntary prayer. The Court ruled 6-3 against the moment of silence because it was not secular in purpose, an application of the Lemon Test. Because the silent moment was stated as being intended as a time for prayer, it was considered an endorsement of religion and therefore was unconstitutional.

5. Lee v. Weisman (1992)

This case concerned religious prayer at a graduation ceremony in Rhode Island. In a vote of 5-4, the Court majority ruled that because graduations are school-sponsored events at which attendance is expected, official prayer would violate the Establishment Clause. The Court decided similarly in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe (2000) which concerned religious prayer over the announcement system at football games.