After the Bubble bursts

Nicole Capozziello

About a year ago, Emily Saltzman and I found ourselves at Christmas Mountain resort in Wisconsin’s seediest tourist trap, the Wisconsin Dells. As Saltzman and I ate Pocahontas-shaped cookies, played Bingo, and unsuccessfully attempted to garner a $100 Wal-Mart gift certificate, neither of us had a care in the world. We didn’t stop to think where she would be in a year, yet if we had, I definitely don’t think either of us would have landed on Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Yet that is exactly where she is, working in the thriving metropolis half an hour north of Iowa City, formerly home to both the Wright brothers and Elijah Wood.
Not unlike those former Cedar Rapids residents, Saltzman is biding her time as an employee at Coe College, on the verge of breakout success. Since August, Saltzman has been an employee of the AmeriCorps Vista Campus Compact program whose goal is to break down barriers between campus and the community. She receives housing and meals on campus as in addition to a monthly stipend to live on. Her apartment, located on the first floor of one of the dorms, came complete with a spiral staircase and four doors, a facet that never fails mesmerize dorm residents she often hears bellowing “where does this door go to?” throughout the night.
During the daylight hours, Saltzman is in charge of implementing the recently reformatted volunteering program at Coe, requiring students to complete 20 hours of community service by the end of their first year. Saltzman sets students up with volunteering opportunities in the community (according to their interests) and also helps students find internships with non-profit organizations, paid through work-study.
Through well-rounded campus involvement, Saltzman forged positive bonds with faculty and staff from all different parts of Lawrence, giving her a strong base for further work. “My program didn’t accept professor references at all,” said Emily, who made connections by heading Student Welfare Committee and other organizations. Saltzman believes Lawrence gave her a nice base for her current position.
Outside of her 9-to-4 work day and sporadic meetings in the evening, Saltzman is rediscovering hobbies. She’s been working out, reading a lot, grocery shopping, and cooking. “I’ve successfully watched almost all of the independent movies on Netflix,” added Emily, who misses the array of cultural and artistic outlets at Lawrence.
She misses a lot of things about Lawrence, including feeling like a part of the community, the people, and, oddly enough, Downer. However, she admitted, “After awhile, you realize that your life at Lawrence ended and it ended in the right place.”
Saltzman also said that, like purgatory, it is an awkward stage to be in. Students and staff alike are confused by her age and living on campus makes it impossible to separate her personal and professional life. As Saltzman can’t hang out with students, her friend circle has shifted from college students to co-workers who are usually at least 15 years her senior. “I’ve had to perfect talking about everyday, normal conversation topics like the weather, tuna fish, and mainstream movies.”
Next fall, she is hoping to obtain a position with a non-profit organization in D.C., Chicago, or the Twin Cities.
In the meantime, she will be leading an alternative spring break trip to New York, in which she and a small group of students will volunteer in Prospect Park, an animal shelter, and at the LGBTQ Center for Anti-Violence.