Despite switching majors early in her University of Iowa experience, Liv Plowman has no regrets. She is now looking forward to her first job as an elementary art teacher in rural Iowa.
Sara Epstein Moninger
courtesy of Liv Plowman

One of the most valuable lessons Liv Plowman has learned as a University of Iowa student is to be open to new things. Doing that has led the 2023 fall graduate to a job teaching art to school kids—a career she didn’t foresee when she first arrived on campus.

Plowman, who is earning degrees in art and in art education, is from Clarinda, Iowa, where she worked as a certified nursing assistant during high school. It was a job she loved, and she originally planned to pursue a nursing degree at Iowa. Then fate stepped in.

Liv Plowman

Hometown: Clarinda, Iowa

Degree: BA in art, BA in art education

What’s next: Teaching art to pre-K–4 students in Shenandoah, Iowa

“Early in the pandemic when my classes were online, I remember thinking, ‘Am I really doing what I want to do?’ I wished I had taken some art classes,” she says. “I never got better grades than when I switched majors. That showed me that you should do what you love.”

As Plowman thinks back on her time at Iowa, she recalls what has made her Hawkeye experience so special.

Who was your most important mentor on campus?

Dr. Allison Rowe helped cement my passion for art education. She’s like the mom of the art education department. She taught almost every single art education class I was in and helped me throughout my degree program. She’s always been so supportive. When I switched to art education, she made sure that I stayed on track and didn’t have to be in school longer than I had to.

I always thought I wanted to teach high school and help older kids find their artistic passions, but then I had a student teaching placement with little kids and I absolutely loved it. I just signed a contract to teach prekindergarten through fourth grade in a rural community in southwest Iowa, and I’m really excited about it. I remember Dr. Rowe telling me, “You might end up being with ‘the littles’ and really liking it,” and she was right.

colorful shoes that were part of an art project

During her student teaching experience in Atlantic, Iowa, UI senior Liv Plowman asked her art students to design her commencement outfit: Those in pre-K through third grade designed the shoes, while the fourth through 12th graders took on the dress.

colorful dress and shoes that were part of an art project

What do you like most about teaching young students?

I love how excited they are all the time—they have genuine excitement and passion for everything they do. They don’t hesitate to try new things. They just go with the flow and do what I ask them to do. They’re really into everything, and I find that awesome because we seem to grow out of that as we get older. We learn what we like and what we dislike, and we tend to lose that imaginative spirit. Seeing that excitement in kids helps me develop my own artistic journey.

What will you miss the most about being in Iowa City?

I’ve been away from Iowa City student teaching, and I already miss everything about it! I made so many friends there, and I even miss the tiny apartment I had. I also am going to miss the footbridge by the IMU. I loved to sit under it and study. In fact, there was a picture in the newspaper of me sitting under it as a freshman. I’ve sat there my whole college career—and there’s more than just one spot like that. There is so much green space on campus where you can chill out and just enjoy what’s going on around you.

What do you think sets Iowa apart?

The University of Iowa is in the Big Ten, so you get that big college experience. But you also walk by people you know every day. It’s an interesting, fun little community where you really get to know people. Sometimes I’ll see people on Facebook or LinkedIn under “People you may know,” and even though I don’t really know them—I might remember their face from a class or a walk—they are people I would be comfortable going up to and saying hi or asking for help. Transitioning from a very small town to Iowa City was a big change, but I think Iowa City has a small-town feel.

Art education at Iowa

Join a creative community and become a teaching-artist. Our program prepares you for an education career in elementary schools, middle schools, secondary schools, and community settings. We emphasize cross-discipline and inclusive curriculum practices. Community engagement is central to our work.

What advice would you give to future Hawkeyes?

Don’t hesitate to try something new or to go to a show or an event that looks interesting. There are flyers everywhere—go find out what’s up. As a freshman, I joined the Quidditch Club. I had always loved Harry Potter as a kid and didn’t know it was an actual sport. It was a lot of fun and a good way to stay active. I also got involved in a skateboarding club and had a job as a driver for Amazon. Trying new things is what helps you grow.

Also, when things get hard, keep going. Everybody probably says that, but if you don’t give up, then at some point you’re going to look back, like I am now, and think, “Wow, those hard days were some of the days that made me who I am.”