Midwestern pride bursts onto campus with a ‘Pop’

Yale students are often tuned in to traditional East Coast sports rivalries such as the Yankees-Red Sox baseball series this week, but far fewer are planning to watch the football game between Big Ten rivals Wisconsin and Purdue this weekend. This may change if a group of Yale students succeeds in making the culture and sports of America’s Midwest more accessible to the Yale community with a new club, Pop: Midwestern Pride.

The club’s founders said they hope Pop will foster a sense of community among the more than 550 Yalies who hail from the central region of the country. Pop will initially serve a primarily social function, but organizers hope it will eventually build more lasting bridges between the Midwest and Yale with the help of the Office of Admissions, University Career Services and alumni residing in the Midwest.

Karl Gunderson ’05, who hails from Durand, Wis. and is one of the founders of the club, said the idea for Pop, which kicked off with an organizational meeting Wednesday night in Davenport College, had been several years in the making. Gunderson said Meredith Whipple ’03 thought up the idea for Pop but never had the opportunity to act.

“Many [Yale students] coming from the Midwest have roommates from New York who have connections to local culture,” Gunderson said. “Most people know about the differences between the East Coast and the West Coast but forget about the whole country in between.”

Lauren Witte ’05 of Stover, Mo., another organizer of the club, said substantive differences exist between the culture and attitudes of people in the Midwest and those who live closer to Yale.

“Midwestern people are just more friendly than people on the East Coast,” Witte said. “In terms of athletics, there’s a huge difference; sports aren’t the same. Every game [in the Midwest] is a sold-out game; it’s not once a year like Harvard-Yale.”

The name “Pop” traces its roots to the word used by many Midwesterners in reference to soda. The word “pop” is often stereotypically connected with people from the Midwest. Gunderson said not everybody in the Midwest says “pop,” but it serves as an example of the many colloquial and cultural characteristics that distinguish the Midwest.

Erin Birdsong ’05 of Hudson, Iowa, said she would probably attend some Pop events. Birdsong said the club could be an ideal venue for Midwesterners to form a community at Yale.

“A group where people can get together to discuss common interests would be great,” Birdsong said. “I would love to talk about home [sports] teams [and] meet people I could see [at home] over vacation.”

Prior to the club’s first meeting, Witte said the meeting would focus on organizing the group, evaluating the level of student interest and planning future activities. Witte said her goal was for 150 students to attend the first meeting.

Some of the inspiration for Pop comes from the Yale Texas Club, which was founded by Temy Mancusi-Ungaro ’02 but has become defunct since Mancusi-Ungaro’s graduation. Phillip Hetrick ’04, a former member of the Texas Club, warned founders of Pop to spread responsibility to ensure a commitment to the durability of the organization.

“Don’t make one person hold all the responsibility,” Hetrick said. “Form a council to spread it out.”

Whatever the fate of Pop, there are some aspects of the Midwest it will never be able to bring to Yale, Birdsong said.

“I miss pickup trucks,” she said.

Members of the new club Pop: Midwestern Pride, including Holly Thomas '05 (left) and Karl Gunderson '05 (middle), meet Wednesday to celebrate all things Midwestern.
Khanh Nguyen
Members of the new club Pop: Midwestern Pride, including Holly Thomas '05 (left) and Karl Gunderson '05 (middle), meet Wednesday to celebrate all things Midwestern.

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