BY MADDIE TOPLIFF
Drake University Assistant Professor of Journalism Jennifer Konfrst’s passion for education extends far beyond her classes in Meredith Hall. In addition to teaching at Drake, Konfrst is a member of the PTA and a debate team parent/volunteer at her children’s high school here in Des Moines. “Investing in education and safe local schools” is also the first priority listed on her campaign website.
The mixing of red and blue creates purple, which is also heavily featured on Konfrst’s website, signifying both her sheer love of the color and bipartisanship: red for the Republican party and blue for the Democratic party.
It is election year for Konfrst and all of the other candidates hoping to be elected into the Iowa House of Representatives in November. Konfrst is no stranger to the Iowa legislature. When she was a child, Konfrst would travel with her reporter father to the Capitol building every spring break as he would report on the inner happenings of the legislative process.
Education, along with job benefits, healthcare and the environment, make up her platform of issues and were decided on the grounds of what she wants to address if elected. For instance, her health care vision includes addressing access to mental healthcare, which is, according to her, currently at a dismal level in the state of Iowa.
“When I knock on doors, when I talk to students, I see first-hand the lack of access,” Konfrst said. “I want to make sure that we are prioritizing care over sort of just housing people who have mental illness … in other words, giving them an opportunity to get better or be treated rather than sending them to prison.”
Her decision to run for Iowa House hasn’t come as a shock to Layne Burdette, a first-year advisee of Konfrst’s.
“Konfrst is the kind of teacher who will go above and beyond to help her students and to help them make connections,” Burdette said. “When I heard she was running for the Iowa House of Representatives, I was super excited, but it also did not surprise me.”
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have surfaced as primary campaign tools especially since the 2016 election, which lends Konfrst a basis of knowledge advantage given her public relations expertise. She has used both sites this campaign cycle in order to talk to voters and conduct small-scale fundraising. The hashtag #TeamKonfrst is featured on her website in order to promote the usage of the platforms. Although she prefers in-person interaction, she believes social media has become necessary, especially in the general scheme of the field.
Konfrst is a woman of many hats, and even though she demonstrates an ardent natural drive, she gets some of her energy from her favorite drink: Diet Dr. Pepper. The soda is her preferred choice of caffeine intake, passing on both coffee and tea.
“I drink (Diet Dr. Pepper) all the time. In fact, I went to a Texas Rangers game once – I was in Texas for something – and they had Diet Dr. Pepper on the fountain, and I was like ‘Oh my god!’” she said through a laugh.
In contrast to the Texas-based soft drink, Konfrst is incredibly familiar with Iowa, having lived in the state almost her entire life.
“I took my first steps in Fort Dodge … (Iowa) is home,” Konfrst said.
After graduating from Johnston High School, Konfrst moved a whopping 20 minutes away in order to attend Drake and even stuck around to obtain her master’s degree. Some of her favorite Drake memories include getting engaged to her husband in the basement of Goodwin-Kirk Residence Hall and the age-old tradition of Hubbelling, a winter sledding event that features old dining hall trays.
For the past five years, Konfrst has been an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, returning after 12 years at Iowa Public Television.
“I loved my work at Iowa Public Television, and I said I would never leave unless I got the chance to teach at Drake,” Konfrst said. “It’s really a dream job.”