“I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. Coming to Central was the best decision I made for myself.”
– Yana Rouse ’21
Hometown: Glendale, Arizona
Campus Activities: Chemistry Club, Poetry Club, Anime Club, Organization of Latinx-American Students, Black Excellence in Pella, Discus, Shot Put, Student Senate President
Yana Rouse ’21 never pictured herself as a leader.
Admittedly not involved in a lot of extracurricular activities during high school, Rouse took a different approach at Central College. She threw herself into anything and everything.
“Central really pushes you to do things you never thought you could do,” Rouse says.
The biggest “go-for-it” opportunity for Rouse was participating in Student Senate, eventually serving as student body president her final year at Central. It was a groundbreaking opportunity, too. Rouse is the first female minority to serve in the role and the third person of color in Central’s history.
Her leadership also came at a time when racial inequality and social unrest were front and center around the country. In her role, Rouse joined friend Marin Harrington ’21 in leading Central’s Building a Culture of Inclusion.
The initiative received the Presidents’ Student Leadership Award from Iowa Campus Compact. In addition, Rouse and Harrington were honored by Central Student Development with its Annual Theme Award that recognizes a student volunteer or organization that demonstrates outstanding leadership in promoting and implementing the college’s annual theme. The 2020-21 theme is diversity and inclusion.
“Our freshman year, we talked about how the campus could be better,” Rouse says. “We wanted to see different things, so we came together to actually try to do something. We wanted to champion this for a bunch of people and future students.”
Tej Dhawan ’91, now chair of Central’s Board of Trustees, and Ed Ollie Jr. ’93, an African American who was a running back on the Dutch football team and later team chaplain for the University of Miami football squad, also were minority student body presidents.
“I really didn’t think about the fact I was the first person to be doing this,” Rouse says. “I never saw myself as somebody who could do this position or even just be here in higher education and succeeding. But having people telling you, ‘You got this!’ and that you have a lot of special qualities was really good.”
Rouse used her time at Central for self-discovery. She came to Iowa from Arizona not knowing quite what to expect at Central. She planned to compete in track and field, which she did for the Dutch, but wasn’t sure where her four years would lead her.
She had thoughts about being a forensic scientist and then discovered she loved chemistry. Rouse earned a degree in biochemistry and plans a to have career in analytical chemistry in Arizona.
Outside the classroom, Rouse joined clubs and organizations and got involved in anything she thought might be interesting. Central opened a whole new world for her.
“I’m a completely different person … and I’m proud of myself,” she says. “I’ve learned a lot about myself. I feel I’ve gained confidence in myself and my abilities. I feel like I’ve made the most of my experience. Everything I’ve said I wanted to do, I did.
“I feel like I’ve grown a lot — personally and academically — and I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. Coming to Central was the best decision I made for myself.”