Nathen Spitz volunteers for the kids of Dance Marathon as Hospital Chair

Nathen Spitz is a junior studying psychology on the pre-medicine track, and serves as Hospital Co-Chair for Dance Marathon. Dance Marathon is a UI student organization dedicated to raising money for and supporting pediatric cancer patients and their families. The Iowa Challenge asks students to serve: contribute to the community and lead by example.

How do you Serve at Iowa?

I serve at Iowa as a Hospital Chair for Dance Marathon 24. As a Hospital Chair, I have one of the most unique and amazing opportunities not only at Iowa, but in the world, to get to go up onto the Dance Marathon funded 11th floor of the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital every single week to get to hang out, play video games, color paint, read, and more with the children and their families that are battling pediatric cancer. Volunteering with kids with cancer every week elicits almost every emotion on the spectrum. It will move you to tears when you watch a 3 year old-child throwing up from their chemo as their hair is falling out, or when a child you have played with for weeks passes away. But it will also make you smile more than you ever thought you could when you get to celebrate at an end of chemo party when a child beats this life-threatening disease, from the little moments when a child cracks a joke while they are feeling terrible, or when they give you a hug or smile back and they or their parents tell you that they appreciate what you do. 

Most of all, the experience is humbling. It is humbling to get to walk alongside these families, even if it is just for a couple of hours every week, and to be there through the highs and the lows. It is humbling to listen to their stories and to see their and their family’s strength as these kids and their families have endured so much and yet persist. And it is humbling to be a college kid who gives up their time in between classes or work, worried about trivial things like upcoming tests or quizzes when these children are literally fighting for their life every day. 

How has this improved your experience at Iowa? 

I could write pages on how Serving through Dance Marathon has improved my experience at Iowa. It has created a small home and family on this large campus--it is sometimes hard to walk across campus or the IMU without running into someone that I have met through Dance Marathon. It has made me a more compassionate and empathetic and understanding person getting to hang out and play with tens of kids and their families who are battling for their lives. It has made me a better student, reminding me of what is important in life and to persevere through hardships like the kids must every day. Lastly, Dance Marathon gives me purpose as a student here. Not only am I here to get a degree, but I am here to make the most of my time and my life here in Iowa City, and serving through Dance Marathon has helped me find that purpose—to give to others who need it most. 

What advice would you give to new students on how to serve at Iowa? 

One piece of advice that I would give to new students at the University of Iowa who are looking to serve others is to do a little research first. There are so many different ways to serve in Iowa City and our campus community, and I would recommend that they research and look for an organization that they are passionate about and will look forward to serving week in and week out. When you are passionate and care about what you are doing, I promise that not only will the people you are serving get more out of your time, but you will too as well as you become more invested. 

I would also recommend that when you begin serving others, and as you are doing it, to make sure that you are taking time to reflect on it as well. College students can get busy, and volunteering can sometimes feel like “just another thing to do” in an already busy day or week, but even if it is just taking 5 minutes to journal or sit down and think about the impact that you are having on others, or how it is changing you, it will help keep you refreshed and motivated! 

What impact do you hope DM has on students or the campus? 

Dance Marathon at Iowa is such a special organization and movement, because it inspires thousands of college students to do what they can, year round, to help thousands pediatric oncology patients and their families as they have already, currently are, or will battle pediatric cancer. Most of all, I hope that Dance Marathon is the start of a life full of service and philanthropy. Albeit Dance Marathon is an amazing (and my favorite) charitable and non-profit organization, and not to take away from the life-changing work that it does, but many students will not stay in Iowa City for the rest of their life. Students both in Dance Marathon and not will move across the world, and I hope that they are reminded of their times in Dance Marathon, and I hope that they are reminded of the mission of Dance Marathon, to help those who need it, in every way. Whether it is continuing after college to give up your time to serve meals at a homeless shelter, or donating monies to local food pantries, or youth shelters or whichever special organization your heart is pulled to help, I hope that Dance Marathon continues to inspire you for the rest of your life to give. 

Where do you want to end up after college or what is your dream job? 

The ultimate goal is to open up my own practice as a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist in the beautiful state of California!

About the series

The Iowa Challenge encourages students to get the most out of their college experience. We encourage all students to Excel, Stretch, Choose, Engage, and Serve during their time here at Iowa. Learn more about the Iowa Challenge here

The Division of Student Life is creating profiles of students who have shown their work in relation to the Iowa Challenge in some way. If you know a student we should feature, contact