Luther College students address volunteer staff retention at The Humane Society of Northeast Iowa

October 12, 2022

Luther College students Aidan Brook 23 and Allison Hasenmiller 23 are working with The Humane Society of Northeast Iowa (HSNEI) to identify factors and solutions related to the retention and recruitment of volunteer staff.

Brook, a management major, and Hasenmiller, a social work major, are utilizing their unique knowledge and skills to assist HSNEI as part of Luther’s 2022 Social Impact Research Fellowship (SIRF).  

Aidan Brook

“I was primarily interested in this project because I wanted to work with a volunteer reliant non-profit organization working to solve real-world problems,” said Brook. “The Humane Society of Northeast Iowas mission to help and care for abused and neglected animals was very compelling and became the reason I would devote myself to this project.”

The problem

Brook and Hasenmiller have been working with Ries Magnuson, executive director of HSNEI, to identify their needs to further their mission responsibly considering their lack of volunteers and funding.

“Volunteers are so important in achieving the quality of care and enrichment the animals in our care need,” said Magnuson. “Our staff members take care of the basic needs like feeding and cleaning but don’t have enough time to give essential socializing time to the hundreds of animals that are with us each year. It is so important to offer adequate social and mental stimulation to each individual so that their emotional and mental well-being is maintained in addition to their physical well-being. We are not able to do that without our dedicated volunteers who come to brush cats, play fetch with dogs and sit with animals offering the one-on-one attention each animal needs.”

Allison Hasenmiller

According to Hasenmiller, during the eight-week period of their research, they concluded that the organization’s operational needs exceeded its current human capacity. “It was clear that staff was overwhelmed so we needed to find a solution to that.”

A solution

“Allison and Aidan made the whole process very accessible. We had weekly collaborative conversations to identify areas for improvement or need and then they did the leg work and brought back viable, proven suggestions and resources to discuss the next week. It was exciting to see the project develop from ideas into solutions in just eight weeks,” said Magnuson. 

The group came up with more ideas than could be executed in their timeframe so they focused on the low-hanging fruit–reinvigorating Luther’s work study program with HSNEI and create internship opportunities that mutually benefit Luther and the humane society. 

“Through a work-study program with Luther College, we figured that we could create some relief in terms of workload for staff as Luther students would get onboarded. In addition, an internship program created with similar intentions would be a great help,” said Hasenmiller.

About the Social Impact Research Fellowship 

The SIRF was established in 2018 by faculty advisors Britt Rhodes, Brittany Cord and Alexandra White. The SIRF program pairs one social work student and one management/accounting student to partner with a community-based organization to help address a problem or fill a need through an eight-week summer project. The SIRF program provides an opportunity for Luther students to actively learn through direct community engagement and use their skills to provide resources and support to help further their community partner organization’s mission.


As a management major, this was a valuable learning experience because I got to work on real-life problems. It allowed me to hone my critical thinking skills and ability to assess the practicality of how I approached problem-solving.

Aidan Brook

About Luther College

Luther College is home to about 1,800 undergraduates who explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities, and society. Our academic programs, experiential approach to learning, and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully, and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at