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Old 04-18-2014, 10:53 AM
 
5 posts, read 19,350 times
Reputation: 14

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Hi!

I have accepted an academic job at UNI and have to move with my family from Chicago to Cedar Falls. I know that city wise it is a big change!
My concern is that should I think about living in the Cedar Falls area or live close to Cedar Rapids and Iowa City and commute to UNI.

For background:

-We are middle eastern. Therefore, it is important that where has more tolerance respect to a different cultural background.

-My wife is a biomedical engineer, therefore not that much for her in UNI.
Is it better to be in the Cedar Falls area and look for opportunities in the Iowa City and if necessary commute to there, or we should chose the opposite (Live close to Cedar Rapids or Iowa city and commute to UNI)?

-We have two daughters (A second grader and a 1 year old). Chicago, in average is not famous for its schools, but my daughter was lucky to be in one of the top three selected enrollment public schools of Chicago. So one of the big questions is which area in Iowa has a better school program for accommodating accelerated students which are performing above their grade level?

I appreciate any constructive comments.

Thanks!
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Old 04-18-2014, 05:52 PM
 
Location: USA - midwest
5,943 posts, read 5,082,867 times
Reputation: 2606
Quote:
Originally Posted by smatabei View Post
Hi!

I have accepted an academic job at UNI and have to move with my family from Chicago to Cedar Falls. I know that city wise it is a big change!
My concern is that should I think about living in the Cedar Falls area or live close to Cedar Rapids and Iowa City and commute to UNI.

For background:

-We are middle eastern. Therefore, it is important that where has more tolerance respect to a different cultural background.

-My wife is a biomedical engineer, therefore not that much for her in UNI.
Is it better to be in the Cedar Falls area and look for opportunities in the Iowa City and if necessary commute to there, or we should chose the opposite (Live close to Cedar Rapids or Iowa city and commute to UNI)?

-We have two daughters (A second grader and a 1 year old). Chicago, in average is not famous for its schools, but my daughter was lucky to be in one of the top three selected enrollment public schools of Chicago. So one of the big questions is which area in Iowa has a better school program for accommodating accelerated students which are performing above their grade level?

I appreciate any constructive comments.

Thanks!

That's a VERY long commute. Cedar Falls to Cedar Rapids is about 60 miles, one way. Iowa City would be 30 miles farther.
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Old 04-20-2014, 10:53 AM
 
5 posts, read 19,350 times
Reputation: 14
Thanks for your comment!

you are right! It seems that the highways are not easy for winter commutes.
So my question would be more focused on the vicinity of Cedar Valley area:

- Chicago, in average is not famous for its schools, but my daughter was lucky to be in one of the top three selected enrollment public schools of Chicago for gifted students. One of our questions is that which area in Cedar Valley has a better school program for accommodating gifted and accelerated students which are performing above their grade level?

-Which area in Cedar Valley would be a better fit for a highly educated family coming from a different culture.
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Old 04-20-2014, 12:39 PM
 
Location: Oroville, California
3,367 posts, read 5,190,830 times
Reputation: 6378
Black Hawk County has over 130,000 people. Its not like a dinky little town out in the corn fields. Given Iowans a chance - I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at THEIR education levels, knowledge of politics, world events and different cultures. Even in a dinky little town out in the cornfields you'd be treated with respect.
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Old 04-20-2014, 03:34 PM
 
1,213 posts, read 1,149,633 times
Reputation: 1955
I attended Cedar Falls Public Schools. It's probably among the best school systems in the state. They have an excellent talented and gifted program and your exceptional children will be challenged even in elementary school. They will not be held back at all. There are plenty of AP courses to take in high school and your child can even go to UNI and take classes while still in high school. I don't think you'll find better educational opportunities in the Cedar Valley than Cedar Falls Public Schools. I guess it can be argued that some of the elementary schools are better than others, but your kids will get a good education regardless.

While Cedar Falls isn't diverse, it is a very "live and let live" kind of town and accepting community. The fact that you're Middle Eastern will be respected by your neighbors and your kids will fit in fine at school too. There were a couple of kids in my graduating class who were Middle Eastern and they were smart and popular. So I wouldn't worry about Iowans being tolerant of your cultural differences. People here just don't care.

I think the main issue is your wife finding employment in the biomedical engineering field. I have no clue about those kind of job opportunities in Black Hawk County. However, commuting to and from Cedar Rapids and/or Iowa City really isn't a good option.
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Old 04-20-2014, 06:10 PM
 
8 posts, read 15,402 times
Reputation: 27
Cedar Rapids has a sizable Middle Eastern population, for Iowa standards, with both Maronites and Muslims living in the city. Don't expect to find many halal grocery stores or whatnot. The longest standing mosque in North America is located in Cedar Rapids. Cedar Falls or Cedar Rapids would be fine options, though the commute from Cedar Rapids would drive you, or at least it'd drive me nuts after a while, as though it doesn't look all that bad on a map, it really gets boring and downright miserable, and potentially dangerous in the winter. Iowa City would be even worse so you should be sure NOT to move there and commute that long of a distance. Be sure NOT to move to Waterloo as crime is rampant, for Iowa standards, and its in general just a run down place that offers little, especially if you are trying to raise a family.
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Old 04-21-2014, 09:19 AM
 
3,492 posts, read 5,282,714 times
Reputation: 5386
Quote:
Originally Posted by smatabei View Post
Hi!

I have accepted an academic job at UNI and have to move with my family from Chicago to Cedar Falls. I know that city wise it is a big change!
My concern is that should I think about living in the Cedar Falls area or live close to Cedar Rapids and Iowa City and commute to UNI.

For background:

-We are middle eastern. Therefore, it is important that where has more tolerance respect to a different cultural background.

-My wife is a biomedical engineer, therefore not that much for her in UNI.
Is it better to be in the Cedar Falls area and look for opportunities in the Iowa City and if necessary commute to there, or we should chose the opposite (Live close to Cedar Rapids or Iowa city and commute to UNI)?

-We have two daughters (A second grader and a 1 year old). Chicago, in average is not famous for its schools, but my daughter was lucky to be in one of the top three selected enrollment public schools of Chicago. So one of the big questions is which area in Iowa has a better school program for accommodating accelerated students which are performing above their grade level?

I appreciate any constructive comments.

Thanks!
Smatabei,

These comments will be constructive. That does not mean they will be what you want to hear. I am counting on you to be able to handle that.

While I lived in Iowa City, racism was very rampant there. It was one of the reasons I was eager to leave. However, the victims of racism there were usually black people. I was not around enough people of Middle Eastern descent to know if they were treated with the dignity every person deserves. I can not say that Racism will or will not be present against you, I can only state that in some forms racism was very present. It seemed to be a little weaker in Cedar Rapids, but it was definitely still there. If an inter-racial couple was holding hands in a mall, people would stare. Though you may not be in an inter-racial couple, seeing how cities respond to them is a telling sign of the attitudes that are accepted within that city. In short: Be forewarned, people might be ***holes.

Your wife is a biomedical engineer. Out of respect to your wife, you may really want to consider staying in cities where her skill set can be properly employed. I don't know if there are any openings there, but it sounds like you've already searched and haven't seen any. There is a term in Iowa City that I had not heard anywhere else. "Captive Spouse Syndrome" is when a great job offer is present for one person in a relationship, and the couple moves to that area. The spouse however has a great skill set of their own and is highly employable in some parts of the country, but those job opportunities do not exist so they are stuck working vastly below their skill level. They tend to grow very resentful of the city for being small and not having the opportunities that they trained for. I know a great deal about this, as I found out I was one of the many people in Iowa City suffering from it. Your wife is a prime candidate for having this situation. You are talking about moving to an area, especially if you look at Iowa City, where there are not only very limited opportunities in her field, but also where a history of racism, albeit not against your race, has been prevalent. She deserves to work as a biomedical engineer. It's unlikely she'll find that in a small city. She may love you enough to say yes to moving to a small city, but would you really want to accept such a sacrifice? I would suggest focusing your search for opportunities on larger cities, and when one of you gets a job offer, the other intently applies to every opening in that city. When you both have solid offers, you are ready to go. Otherwise, her career is in serious jeopardy if she is not in a metropolis. IE, if you moved to LA and she didn't have a job, she'd still have tons of options. If you move to a small city and she doesn't have a job, she has very very few options.

Finally, if you find it harder to get these job offers in large cities, you aren't alone. It can be harder to find these offers in those large cities. There is less competition for the job in Cedar Falls because most people that are qualified for the job (like you), have ties to their children (whom might be grown and living near them), or have a spouse that is concerned about what the job market would do to their career. It's a choice for you and your wife to make together. I encourage you to share this post with her and have an informed and lengthy discussion about her career goals and make sure come to a decision together.
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Old 04-21-2014, 09:53 AM
 
18 posts, read 58,983 times
Reputation: 52
Smatabei,

Lurtsman brings up some valid points, some of which I agree with and some that I do not. For example, I would also be a bit cautious about job opportunities for your spouse, simply because in general there are likely to be fewer open positions in a smaller population area, especially because it sounds like your wife is quite specialized. However, that does not mean that your spouse will be unable to find a job. I simply have no idea what type of jobs may be available for someone with her skills.

With that said, there are a couple of points that I do very much agree on. First, I have had a completely different racial tolerance experience. My wife and I are a biracial couple and we have never felt more welcome than in Iowa City. Yesterday, my wife and I walked together around the pedestrian mall in Iowa City along with literally dozens of other biracial couples. I find the notion that people will stare if they see a biracial couple absolutely and utterly ridiculous. My wife and I almost always walk hand in hand and have not once experienced any of what Lurtsman describes. Now, I am not saying that everything is perfect. Everywhere you go, there are bound to be bad apples, and I also believe that African Americans unfortunately may face more issues than other races (something that is true on a national level, not just Iowa). With that said, I am not familiar with Cedar Falls, so the environment may be different.

Second, Lurtsman seems to forget that he lived in Iowa during the worse economic downturn in recent memory (I suppose the early 80s may have been worse in Iowa). There were very few places anywhere in the country where it was easy to find employment, especially for a recent college graduate. But the economy has improved, and the Iowa (and USA) of 2014 is not the same Iowa (or USA) of 5 years ago.
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Old 04-21-2014, 10:30 AM
 
Location: Des Moines Metro
5,105 posts, read 6,797,567 times
Reputation: 9688
Just tossing this into the conversation: Madison, WI is a haven for bioengineering firms, plus there are institutions in higher ed. I understand about having to go "wherever" if one is a university professor, but there is also the notion of avoiding "Academic Siberia" if one is trying to build a career in teaching/research.

I'm not running down UNI, but obviously, they aren't going to have the resources of a larger institution.

One other thing to consider: could she telecommute to her job? Could you teach online? (If you are teaching).

All that said, if you and she haven't had time to spend a few days together shopping and "playing resident" (as opposed to playing tourist) in Cedar Falls, I highly encourage you to do that, even if "it's not really in the budget." That activity will quickly answer the question of whether you'll be comfortable there or not.

None of us can really answer that for you, just give our best opinions.
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Old 04-22-2014, 07:33 AM
 
3,492 posts, read 5,282,714 times
Reputation: 5386
Jthomas is of course right. My recollections of Iowa's economy are based on a major recession. Clearly, it is better now. At the same time, it highlights that during down periods in the economy smaller cities (not just IC) may be very prone to exclude "outsiders" and hire based on nepotism.

I really wish I had experienced the racial inclusion that Jthomas experiences. It astonishes me that first hand he has had a much better experience in that regard. It could be a slight difference in location, North Liberty vs downtown IC, or a change in political climate. Most of my test experience watching for racism used the mall in Coralville as the center for activity. I could easily sit down and "people watch" while eating lunch or dinner.

So, two different perspectives two different people. Both highly accomplished, and I'd say with mutual respect. Hopefully having the opportunity to evaluate both perspectives will help.

BTW Jthomas, I'm really glad that the city is still being good to you and your wife. As much as I like to be "right", I'd gladly be wrong about racism in Iowa. There is no joy in being right about things that cause other people to suffer. I wonder if the difference is as simple as a few miles. That Pedestrian mall is much less likely to be visited by people from the trailer parks than the Coralville mall. Since racism is inversely correlated with education and achievement, it could be the case that the people who find the pedestrian mall appealing are a different section of society. I certainly wouldn't say everyone there was a racist, but to me a couple bad apples spoils the bunch. If those bad applies don't visit the nicer places...?

PS. Meemur is also spot on in regards to other possibilities. UNI as Academic Siberia is a fair assessment. I met someone who had his Master's from UNI, and he was an idiot. So on top of the college being relatively unknown to anyone outside Iowa, it has extremely low standards for entry. I'll grant some of my classmates in my Master's program are idiots as well, but my very small sample size from UNI left a great deal to be desired.
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