UNI Dance Marathon raises more than $100,000

Emily Hanson

As a senior leisure, youth and human services major, Emily Hanson will soon be in the "life satisfaction business," enriching people's lives through things like tourism, human services and community recreation. However, Hanson's not waiting until graduation to start making a difference in the lives of others.

Hanson may be best known for her work with UNI Dance Marathon, a group that raises funds for the Children's Miracle Network in order to help kids with life-threatening illnesses. While Dance Marathon has existed across the nation since 1991, it's a relatively new group at UNI. With her co-director Brenna Bush and Northern Iowa Student Government (NISG) liaison Dakotah Reed, Hanson built the organization from the ground up, culminating in the first-ever UNI Dance Marathon in 2012. She developed a comprehensive five-year strategic plan for the group and managed alumni relations within the organization.

Last year, the UNI Dance Marathon raised $56,473.01 for the University of Iowa Children's Hospital, which broke the national record of most money raised by a first-year dance marathon.

"I can honestly say that Dance Marathon has changed my life," says Hanson. "Seeing the excitement on the miracle kiddos' faces and the student's reactions to us quadrupling our goal was the most rewarding experience I've had in life thus far. I think the work we were able to accomplish speaks volumes of the types of students we have at UNI."

Hanson has dedicated a lot of time and effort to the UNI Dance Marathon, but this is just one of the many organizations of which she is a member.

She is also heavily involved in the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance (NLA), which is a student organization that focuses on community service and developing nonprofit skills.

One of her favorite aspects of the group is a 500-hour service project done each year. The service project allows students in the organization to work together, while gaining hands-on experience at a local nonprofit. This year the group is helping the Alzheimer's Association plan the QUASH event, a campus-wide scavenger hunt which supports Alzheimer's research.

"Through these experiences, I've learned and grown as a leader," says Hanson. "Now, I have confidence in my abilities and myself. It has also strengthened my desire to work at a nonprofit organization upon graduation. To be honest, if I hadn't had these experiences, I'm not sure I would be as ready and excited to start my professional career. I'm thankful everyday for the wonderful opportunities I've had at UNI."

Hanson's goal is to be the leader of a youth-serving nonprofit organization someday, which is something her experiences at UNI are sure to help her with.

"While I'm very sad to be graduating and leaving UNI, I'm excited for what is to come," says Hanson. "UNI played a huge role in developing me as a person, and I plan on using everything I've learned to truly make a difference."