Website memorializes students who die during their campus years

Remembering Iowa State students who have died and honoring their accomplishments is the aim of a website the office of student assistance and division of student affairs launched this summer. As of July 1, Cyclones Forever will serve as a memorial to enrolled students at the time of their death. Find the website via student assistance's grief and loss resource page or the division of student affairs homepage.

As often occurs on a large campus, the website project emerged from several concepts that were simmering serendipitously, said Megan Van Heiden, senior assistant director in student assistance, the front line office in responding to a student death. The September 2018 murder of Cyclone student-athlete Celia Barquin Arozamena had a far-reaching and punch-packing effect on the broader Ames community. Van Heiden was participating in the student affairs division's leadership institute last year at the same time a team from the 2018-19 Emerging Leaders Academy was looking for a meaningful, helpful capstone project. The two merged their efforts to develop the website.

"We knew we needed a place for people to go for support in navigating their grief," Van Heiden said. "Losing a student is impactful on a campus community."

How it works

When an Iowa State student dies, Van Heiden said staff in her office will post the student's name, college, major and attendance dates on the Cyclones Forever website. As part of their contact with a deceased student's family, staff will invite them to add a photo, memories or other information -- such as a link to a published obituary -- to the website. Families aren't required to do anything with the request, she noted. When they do, the student's name on Cyclones Forever becomes a link to additional information; the flower graphic can be replaced with a photograph. Van Heiden said only family members will be allowed to add information to a student site.

Resources for faculty, staff

The Cyclones Forever website includes resource pages for students and for families grieving a loss. It also links to a resource page for faculty and staff on the senior vice president and provost's website. That page addresses topics such as the university's notification process when a student dies, student absences from class and campus resources for students and employees. It even includes suggestions and tips for talking to a classroom of students about a student tragedy.

Van Heiden invites faculty and staff to contact the office of student assistance for additional assistance in supporting students who are grieving.

"While we never feel quite comfortable talking about death, especially the death of a young person, we'd like to help staff and faculty feel more comfortable navigating a difficult topic," she said.