Photos in Ireland, and Across Iowa Mark BVU Experience for Graduate

A trip to Ireland and the exploration of all 99 counties in Iowa fueled Lena Gripp's passion for digital media and has inspired her to share the experiences BVU has to offer with others.

Working in Ireland and working in every county in Iowa serve as highlights for the Buena Vista University academic career of Lena Gripp, a member of the BVU Class of 2020.

“I wasn’t sure about my major until I went with a group and Dr. Andrea Frantz (BVU Professor of Digital Media) to Ireland at the end of my sophomore year,” says Gripp, a native of Lehigh. “During that trip, I realized I should be a digital media major. I became one and everything fell into place.”

Gripp worked with fellow Beavers in chronicling the lives of residents of the village of Sneem, Ireland, a project the village has invited BVU students to conduct for the “Sneem Parish News” every other year.

Gripp’s senior capstone project at BVU might be considered an offshoot of her Ireland experience. From November 2019 to March 2020, Gripp visited and photographed one community of less than 1,000 residents in each of Iowa’s 99 counties. She presents the images and accompanying text in “Iowa’s 99,” which can be found at

“It was neat seeing places I’d never seen before,” she says. “As I would shoot photos, I’d be asking myself questions about whether these communities were failing or prospering,” she says. “My favorite part of the project was in Northeast Iowa, where my mom is from (Maynard). Many of the small towns seem to have a charm, maybe because the land rolls a bit differently.”

Gripp enjoyed her work at BVU and savors memories of traditions like the BVU Christmas Dinner and making plans for BVU Homecoming as part of the Student Activities Board (SAB).

Later this summer, Gripp returns to campus to begin work as BVU’s new AmeriCorps Community Engagement Coordinator. She’s eager to keep connecting students to members of the Storm Lake community and beyond, a benefit she realized during her time as a student.

“As a student at BVU, I learned how important it is to have a collective group in an office like Student Success,” she says. “It’s essential to have people who work to form a bridge between the school and our community. I’ve worked with the leaders in Student Success and the Geisinger Student Leadership Center. I had a good experience with them. I’ll try to do more of the same for future students.”