UNI Grads’ Bond Knows No Borders in the Wake of Disaster

Wendy and ErinWendy Fedler ‘06 and Erin (Wheat) Smith ‘06 first met as graduate students in the Postsecondary Education: Student Affairs program at UNI. More than a decade later, the pair are now separated by more than 2,300 miles, but the bond formed during those two years of grad school has never been broken.

In fact, in the aftermath of disaster, it might be stronger than ever.

Fedler is a student success specialist and advising coordinator in the Center for Student Success at the University of the Virgin Islands. When back-to-back Category 5 hurricanes named Irma and Maria struck the U.S. Virgin Islands last September, she witnessed the devastation as her campus was damaged and students lost their homes or possessions.

Then, Smith, now coordinator of student activities and advisor to the Student Activities Council (SAC) at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC), reached out.

She wanted to know how she could help.

DMACC’s SAC organized a school supply drive, “Students Helping Students,” that collected an assortment of items, including notebooks, binders, highlighters, pens, pencils and 3 University of the Virgin Islands students with a DMACC shirtstaplers. When the items were delivered to St. Croix, Fedler found that Smith and the students had included DMACC t-shirts, cards and a banner that read, “SAC [heart emoji] UVI.”

“My heart is happy to know that a friendship that formed more than 13 years ago during our time in the UNI graduate program could lead to this day,” Fedler said. “The efforts of Erin and the DMACC students not only impacted countless UVI students, but also connected college students across the span of an ocean. I am so grateful for their efforts.”