When Ini Augustine started SocialWise Media Group out of her home, she found that she finally had time to realize one of her life goals – earn a college degree. But, she needed a university that would work for her. “I needed the freedom to schedule my school work around my work schedule, which varies from week to week,” she said.
Augustine learned about Upper Iowa University’s Online program from a mentor, Tom Smartwood of the Buchanan Center at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. “I investigated several schools, but Upper Iowa kept coming up very positively in reviews,” Augustine said. “Even if I am out of town on client business, I can still submit school work and participate.” She is majoring in management information systems and expects to graduate in 2015.
Augustine’s entrepreneurial spirit was ignited at a young age. She started her first business, Provision Staffing Group, in St. Paul, Minn., at the age of 23, but returned to her roots in the Des Moines area where she developed SocialWise Media Group. “I was writing and producing commercials for a local TV station at the time. When I sat down with business owners to discuss their commercials, I always asked for their social media pages and websites,” she said. “It was shocking how many business owners would say that they didn’t have one, or that their current one was so bad they didn’t want customers to go to it.
“It was like, (screech of tires) ‘Whoa! You cannot go on TV without your website and social media profile. People won’t think you are a serious business without one.’ Clients then asked me to help them set up and manage their social media accounts, and so SocialWise Media Group was born.”
Augustine has been recognized internationally for her efforts to educate business owners through the quagmire of social media. She was quoted in an article, ‘Mastering the Digital Marketing Basics,’ in The Guardian, England’s popular national newspaper in March. Closer to home, Augustine was just recently named the ‘Aspiring Woman Business Owner of the Year’ by the Central Iowa chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners.
In addition to Augustine, SocialWise Media Group employs three others, all of whom are virtually located. “We are big technology users, so we have the freedom to work from home most of the time,” she said.
Together, the four help companies manage their online marketing and website development. Using platforms like Pinterest, Facebook, blogging and Twitter, etc., SocialWise helps businesses generate more sales and stronger customer relationships. It also specializes in social media management and training, as well as public relations and reputation management.
Augustine has set goals for SocialWise, which will ensure its future in the ‘Silicon Prairie’ of Iowa. “I want to focus on making social media accessible to everyone – old, young, urban or rural. Social media is the only tool I know of that can change a company’s fate literally overnight. Ninety-two of the Fortune 100 companies are using social media to hire, and so really everyone needs to have this skill. That is why I am offering anyone who wants one, a free online social media class, whether it’s for business or personal use. It is crucial that everyone know how to use social media as a professional.”
To schedule a class or find out more about Augustine and SocialWise Media Group, visit www.getsocialwise.com.
For nearly two years, Kate (Mortensen) Zimmerman ’07 held the title of Iowa’s youngest director when she was hired as executive director of the Ringgold County Conservation Board. She may have lost that crown two months ago when a younger conservation director was hired elsewhere in the state, but she is one of only six female directors in Iowa, and the recent recipient of the very prestigious Bohumil Shimek Environmental Educator Award for outstanding efforts by an environmental educator.
Zimmerman was raised on a small Hereford cattle farm south of Guthrie Center, Iowa, where she developed a strong work ethic thanks to her parents and grandparents. “I always loved working outdoors on the farm, and my grandparents, Fred and Neva Compton, took me for nature hikes all the time. They were always supportive of my dream to work in conservation and did everything they could to encourage me,” she said.
Her desire to work in conservation one day led to many exciting opportunities for Zimmerman. She participated in 4-H and FFA, and began her career at Springbrook State Park directly out of high school for two summers. The summer of 2006, Zimmerman acquired an internship with Carl Kurtz, a man renowned for his efforts in prairie restoration, something that she too now holds close to her heart. The following summer, Zimmerman interned at Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, and also worked with Fayette County Conservation at the Gilbertson Nature Center as a naturalist/zookeeper, and assisted at the UIU Maize Maze which is located across the road from the nature center.
Zimmerman graduated from Upper Iowa University’s residential campus in Fayette, Iowa, with degree in conservation management and minor in biology in just three years. “I accomplished that thanks to awesome science professors Dr. Scott Figdore, Dr. Kata McCarville, Dr. Rick Klann and math instructor Dr. Maureen Busta,” she said.
“When I graduated from Upper Iowa, everyone I talked to in this career field told me the most important thing you can do is ‘get your foot in the door,’” she continued. “That was the best advice I have ever received. After graduating, I went after the illusive fulltime job with hard determination.”
Zimmerman got her start as a naturalist with Bremer County Conservation located in Tripoli, Iowa. There she learned from another naturalist how to engage in environmental education. After a little over two years, Zimmerman wanted more of a leadership role in her career, but did not want to lose the field work aspect and environmental education that she had grown to love.
“I began applying for jobs, but knew it would be hard to find the right fit,” she said. “I received an interview for several positions and none of them were quite what I was looking for. Then came the Ringgold County Conservation Board Executive Director position. It was the best interview of my life, and two hours after the interview they called and offered the position to me before I was even halfway home! It has been a learning experience, but I always work best under pressure!”
As the executive director, Zimmerman is in charge of the clerical aspects of the position, as well as maintaining the parks, trails and wildlife areas, managing seasonal staff and environmental education programming.
“My favorite part of the job is that I get to do a little of everything. It is a lot of hard work and can get a little overwhelming at times, but we have a great community that supports us, and that makes it worthwhile. We also have a wonderful network of conservation employees across the state who are always more than willing to lend a hand,” she said.
When Zimmerman started in 2010, there wasn’t an environmental education program in Ringgold County. In her first year, she presented 71 programs with 852 participants. Since then, the program has increased. In fiscal year 2011-12, Zimmerman presented 114 programs with 2,543 participants.
Zimmerman is married UIU alumnus Mike Zimmerman ’05.
Her advice to prospective students interested in conservation: “Don’t limit yourself in high school and college. I worked in many different sectors of the field during this time and gained a well-rounded work experience background, which helped me land that first full-time job. Try fisheries, wildlife, habitat management, park enforcement and environmental education, along with so many more, to find out what it is that you like and don’t like. This will help you know what you really want when applying for jobs in the future.”
Terry Hernandez was recently awarded the 2013 Connie Wimer Spirit award presented by the Central Iowa chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners for authoring the report, “SHE MATTERS: Status of Women and Girls in Iowa” on the disparities and challenges faced by women and girls.
As its executive director for the past 12 years, Terry (Henderson) Hernandez has led Chrysalis, the leading community foundation in central Iowa dedicated to building stronger futures for women and girls. Long a champion for women and girls’ issues, Hernandez was hired to expand the public foundation’s reach in the Greater Des Moines area. Her extraordinary efforts in impacting the lives of more than 5,000 girls through the Chrysalis After-School program and establishing the Women’s Alliance and Central Iowa Funders Forum, led to her 2012 induction into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame.
Hernandez attended classes at Upper Iowa University’s Des Moines Center, when they were held at Valley High School. She is a West Union native, but moved to Des Moines with her family as a young girl.
With a degree in marketing, Hernandez worked in youth development at YMCA of Greater Des Moines where she became acquainted with Senator Elaine Szymoniak, who along with Barbara Barrett and Chrysalis founder, Louise Rosenfield Noun, had started the Chrysalis Foundation in 1989. At the time, the foundation’s main goal was to fund projects that directly impacted the lives of girls and women. Chrysalis took applications and awarded money based on the scope of the projects.
While working at YMCA, Hernandez noticed the disparity in programs available to girls. “I saw adolescent girls just standing around watching the boys play basketball,” she said. “I thought, ‘You know, you need something for yourself.’” She wrote an application for funding to the Chrysalis Foundation, but it was denied. The YMCA’s history of working mainly with boys’ programs worked against Hernandez in the eyes of Chrysalis.
She remained persistent in her efforts to find out why the program went unfunded by contacting Szymoniak. A working relationship blossomed. Later, the pair worked together on youth issues and pregnancy prevention when Hernandez was employed at Iowa Lutheran Hospital Foundation. When Chrysalis decided to expand its impact on the lives of women and girls in the Des Moines area, it tapped Hernandez as the woman to lead the charge.
Prior to her being named the founding executive director, Chrysalis met once a quarter and gave money away. The foundation was funded by Noun, and is now an endowment from her estate. Noun took her life at age 94 in 2002.
When Hernandez was hired to direct the foundation, Noun told her to “Start something that will really make a difference.”
To get started, Hernandez conducted a conference with middle school teachers and counselors in the area. She outlined an idea for an after-school program for adolescent girls to engage them, empower them and provide them with a place to go after school with a safe and nurturing environment. When she concluded her presentation, she asked the crowd if this type of program was needed. Their response was a resounding, “Yes!”
Since starting in 1998, the program has expanded to 30 schools and now includes elementary schools in Warren, Polk and Dallas counties in Iowa. “We decided to take Chrysalis After-School into the elementaries, because sometimes, by sixth-grade there was a lot more going on than we expected. Girls are developing so much faster,” said Hernandez.
Now that Chrysalis After-School and the foundation as a whole are securely funded through Noun’s estate, Hernandez is no longer the only employee. This is a relief to Hernandez who has really seen the foundation grow from the ground up. “I used to be in charge of finding funding not only for Chrysalis, but for my job, too. I also spread the message of the foundation through various speaking engagements and emptied the wastebaskets,” she smiled.
Chrysalis employees hold training sessions for the after-school program to ensure that workshop leaders know how to interact with girls who have been traumatized, can assist girls in developing leadership skills and help girls develop civility.
The idea that a girl can become an aerospace engineer, carpenter, physician or corporate CEO was a notion that never existed a few years ago. Chrysalis After-School works hard to change this perspective. Annual evaluations have proven that participation in the program increases a girl’s intent to finish high school, ability to resist peer pressure, capacity to care for herself and others, willingness to take responsibility for her actions and understanding that working hard today will make her life successful in the future, according to the Chrysalis annual report.
Hernandez has had the opportunity to witness the success of Chrysalis and its direct impact on the lives of the girls in the After-School program. One young woman went from skipping school as a fifth-grader to being accepted at Harvard. Three young women were selected to attend the highly-competitive and internationally-known Eleanor Roosevelt Leadership Center program. Chrysalis keeps track of how the program impacts individual girls by monitoring attendance records, as well as collecting anecdotal evidence from the girls themselves.
In addition to overseeing Chrysalis After-School, Hernandez keeps various civic groups and constituents apprised of the status of women and girls in the state of Iowa. “Women more often live in poverty, and are homeless,” she said. “People don’t understand what the conditions are for women and girls in Iowa. They think that everything is just fine. They think that women’s lives are great.”
According to the 2012 SHE MATTERS: Status of Women and Girls in Iowa, over 80 percent of Iowa women ages 16 to 64 are in the labor force, yet they work for approximately 79 percent of men’s income for similar positions. Nearly 14 percent of Iowa’s women live in poverty, and the numbers increase with an aging population.
Hernandez hopes to instill in women and girls, that the media is not a true picture of how they are or should be. “We can’t change the world, but what we need to do is teach girls and women that (the media) is not the way,” she said. “You are smarter than that. (You need to) make better choices. We need to build their self-confidence and resilience, and build relationships with adults they can trust to give guidance.”