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Minnesota State University, Mankato

Minnesota State University, Mankato
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Lero Odola

College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

From 1991 to 1996, Lero Odola was a local government representative in Greater Upper Nile region of Sudan. Ethnic conflict forced him to seek political asylum in the United States, where he and his family have lived since 2000. Odola lived in Boston for several years before moving to Mankato, where he’s now pursuing a bachelor’s degree in ethnic studies as a recipient of the Timothy Price Ethnic Studies Scholarship.

From there, he'll seek a master's degree and teach for a while. Then it's on to the world. An important goal for him is to return to Sudan and work for peace. Despite his experiences in a nation torn apart by violent conflict, he believes he can be part of non-violent solutions. Having benefited from the United Nations when he sought political asylum, he plans on working with the UN to help resolve the crises in Sudan. He believes he might serve as an effective liaison in an area of political complexity and ethnic hostility – all of which prevent much-needed development, education and infrastructure, he says.

When he reads history, he finds proof that conflicts can be settled. “I have hope that I might work hard to change something in my people’s life, not only in the Sudanese community or Southern Sudan. I want to be an advocate for peace and prosperity for less fortunate people around the world through the United Nations.”

Mymique Baxter

College of Education

When she was a child raised in California and then in Minnesota, Mymique Baxter's mother made sure that helping others became a matter of routine. "My mom was a Vista volunteer," says Baxter, a scholarship recipient from Bank Midwest of New Ulm. "She took me to things and said, 'We're volunteering, we're helping out. People need us.'

"So it was always ingrained in me: If you have some extra time, do something for somebody else. Even if it's just shoveling the lady's walk next door. Or cutting somebody's grass because you've got your mower on." Baxter plans on a career of passing that ethic along to others.

She works in the Community Engagement Office at Minnesota State Mankato, where she's also pursuing her doctorate in Educational Administration. She eventually wants an administrative position that connects high school students with volunteer opportunities and connects college students with ways to give back to their host communities. Where specifically that goal will take her is all part of the adventure: "I'm still evolving. I just know I want to be involved with service learning."

Michael Robinson

College of Business

Mike Robinson, a double major in finance and investing, was on his way toward a business degree at Minnesota State University, Mankato when his future became clear: He was going to prosecute white-collar criminals. It was at a seminar about business ethics at Minnesota State Mankato that Robinson, a scholarship-winning Maverick football player, was struck with the effects that high-finance crimes have on individuals, families and communities.

He was appalled by the inequality of penalties handed down to rich and poor. As he saw it, too many crooked financiers and the like rob millions only to get a slap on the wrist while low-income lawbreakers get years in prison.

But Robinson isn’t abandoning business – he’s incorporating it into his law future. After he graduates from Minnesota State Mankato in 2012, he plans to simultaneously pursue an MBA as well as a law degree.

Recipient of two Minnesota State Mankato athletic scholarships – for football and track – and the Mary Ella Jerome Family Foundation Scholarship through the College of Business, Robinson hopes to devote his professional life to being an obstacle to corruption.
“A lot of the white collar crime happens in the finance and accounting department,” he says. “The MBA will definitely be beneficial.

Xe Yang

College of Science, Engineering and Technology

Xe Yang is a two-time recipient of the Leas and Ruth Schwickert Scholarship, which is designated for construction management students at Minnesota State University. The Schwickerts' generosity has provided Xe with an opportunity to fill what she describes as a calling to help people and the environment through construction. Specifically, green construction.

After graduating with a construction management degree, her goal is to become an accredited professional in sustainable construction practices. As just one of a handful of women students in Construction Management, Yang believes it's nonetheless her destiny to be in construction – and it was at Minnesota State Mankato that she became aware of the increasingly green opportunities in construction.

A St. Paul native who was always fascinated by building, Yang sees construction as her calling. It's her vehicle to serve people and to do it responsibly. "I feel this is the right path for me," she says. "I feel like I'll be doing something I'll love in the future. I'm trying to find my little niche here, and working for the government and being green will bring my best abilities to the table to help whoever I can."

April Larson

College of Arts and Humanities

When she began attending Minnesota State Mankato in 2006, April Larson had planned on being a chemist. As it turned out, her path led to a different kind of laboratory in which words and messages are studied for their effects on the greater good.

April’s double major in communication studies and political science is a combination of passion and fascination – something scholarship donors in both areas noticed. Within the communication studies program April was awarded the Wolff Family Speech Communication Scholarship and the Larry Schnoor Forensics Scholarship. From the political science department she was awarded the Truman and Reta Wood Scholarship. As a high school student in Mankato, April enjoyed four years on the speech team and she’s now in her fourth year on the forensics team at Minnesota State Mankato.

She’s competed in all available categories and is most interested in communication analysis – examining what makes for successful persuasive messages, particularly in politics. Her goal is to work in an academic setting, teach communications and quite possibly serving as a consultant to media outlets when it’s time to measure the messages of political talk.

Not that she'd run for office, she says: "If I was involved in the political realm, I'd be more behind-the-scenes."

Erica Madery

College of Allied Health and Nursing

When Erica Madery was younger, her friends frequently called her "mom."

It was the extra bit of caring and compassion she showed growing up in the Rochester, Minn. area that made it clear she was destined to be a caregiver. "Since I was really little everybody told me you'd make a good doctor or a nurse," she says. "As I got older, I realized nursing would fit."

Today Erica is a three-time Meredith Scholarship recipient studying nursing at Minnesota State Mankato. She has ambitions of eventually working in labor and delivery but sees herself first serving in medical surgical units.

She will eventually pursue here master's degree as a nurse practitioner and wants to make her way back to the Rochester area, home to the Mayo Clinic and family.

Helping people beyond their physical needs is part of why she chose nursing, she says. "Being sick and in the hospital is not a fun experience," she says. "Even when it's at their worst point in time – their hardest point – as a nurse, I hope to be that person who can make a different in people's lives."

Lero Odola
Mymique Baxter
Michael Robinson
Michael Robinson
April Larson
Erica Madery