Maverick Moments

These stories highlight students, faculty, staff, and/or events from Student Affairs Offices fostering big ideas and real-world thinking on campus and in the community.

This year’s Student Government election was unlike any other in recent Minnesota State University, Mankato history. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, candidates had to tackle unforeseen obstacles, such as campaigning completely online, unlike their predecessors who were able to physically campaign on campus.

Although these unprecedented times called for creative solutions, it didn’t hinder the success of the winning party: Empowering Mavericks. Thanks to dozens of campaign volunteers, the party reached out to thousands of students to ensure that their message was heard through online candidate forums, social media postings and email communication.

Andrew Trenne, a junior Political Science major and History and Business Law minor, was elected as Minnesota State Mankato’s 88th Student Government president.

Trenne, who is originally from Chaska, decided to come to Minnesota State Mankato because he thinks the campus is the best in the state and he enjoys the size of the university—which he says allows him to meet new people while still having small and attentive class sizes.  

Although it’s hard to believe now after his victory, Trenne didn’t think that he’d ever become the president of the student body. He dreamed of it but says that he was shy and had little involvement in high school, so he never expected to be in the position that he is today.

“I always wanted to become president but never thought I would get to this point. My earliest memory of this was when I was a freshman; I went to the new student rally during Welcome Week. I saw the then Student Body President addressing my incoming class, and I remember whispering to my friend, ‘I want to be him,’ but I only considered it a dream and something I didn't think I could reach,” he says.

Despite his humble journey, Trenne’s work has not gone unnoticed. Mark Constantine, director of the Centennial Student Union and Student Activities, has had the pleasure of working with Trenne over the last three years in his positions in the Residence Hall Association, Student Union Board and Student Government. He says that Trenne is not the kind of person who looks for a pat on the back; rather, his involvement comes from his authentic love for the University.

“He [has] worked tirelessly for the students at Minnesota State Mankato. Talk about taking risks and stepping up, Andrew is doing that on a daily basis. Whether he is talking to President Davenport, Vice President Jones or a dean of a college, Andrew is at the forefront of most student movement on this campus,” says Constantine.

No matter how big or small of a decision the University makes, Trenne feels that students should be right there at the table with administration to provide input on issues that affect them daily.

“If we aren't a part of the decision-making process on things like tuition, student fees, University policies and even the COVID-19 conversations, then our issues as students won't be addressed or heard,” he says.

Trenne hopes to leave his legacy at Minnesota State Mankato by helping advance the student body and addressing ever-changing student needs. He hopes that he can make a difference at the University not only academically, but also in student life to create long-term accomplishments that set the University forward in addressing student needs.

Although he never expected to make it this far, Trenne is proud of himself for the accomplishments that he has made during his time as a Maverick and is excited to see what he can do as the 88th Student Government president.

“I truly want to show people that anyone can do it if you just put time into it and really work to grow yourself as a person. Minnesota State University, Mankato is a great place to do that, and I am super proud of our University,” Trenne says.

Over the past two months, many campus activities have been cancelled or altered due to the current conditions of COVID-19. Since many students have been secluded in their off-campus residence or at home, most registered student organizations have been reduced to meeting virtually or postponing all events until the fall.

But one group in particular is thriving: The Maverick Gaming Community.

The Maverick Gaming Community is a student organized hub for gamers to connect and compete in more than 35 online games. The community has a channel on Discord, a communication application, for Maverick gamers to connect across numerous platforms like PC, XBOX, PS4 and Switch. By joining, students are able to find other Maverick gamers to play with or against and stay up to date on gaming opportunities through student organized events and tournaments.

According to Andrew Weinzierl, a member of the community, gaming has grown immensely in popularity over the last few years. “Having Esports on campus is an amazing way to connect students who might normally not be as involved and serves as an opportunity to make connections and friends throughout the college experience,” Weinzierl says. This is especially true during this unprecedented time, when it is harder to stay involved in the campus community and meet other people.

With the ever-growing popularity of gaming, Esports formed as a sporting competition through organized, multiplayer gaming. Jacquie Lamm, another gamer in the community, explains that “Esports is a competitive video game competition that can be played at the high school, college, casual or professional level. Most games are two teams, comprised of five to six team members, competing against each other towards winning a match.”

Despite current conditions, Esports is still seeing great support from Maverick gamers. The MavLoL (League of Legends) and the CSGO (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive) student organizations even held a successful tournament this past month titled MavRivals. Although they would have liked to have hosted it in person, the community was still able to provide quality entertainment through Twitch, a live-streaming platform for gamers, which is exactly what students need right now.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful and unpredictable; playing video games provides a sense of relief for many people, including myself, who want to pause the real world temporarily and immerse themselves in a virtual experience,” Weinzierl says. “Playing games from the comfort of one's home is a safe way to promote social interaction during these unprecedented times.”

The Maverick Gaming Community is proud to give students a sense of community during a time when they need it most. Thanks to current technology, students are able to still find support and some sense of normalcy during this time. As gaming continues to grow and gamers learn new skills, the community is excited to see what’s next.

“We hope to have a good turn out this summer…and are excited to see what comes next for Minnesota State Mankato and Esports this fall,” says Lamm.

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, has brought about a lot of unexpected changes in the last month. With classes being moved online for the rest of the semester, there is a lot of uncertainty facing students and staff. Dealing with uncertain times can be difficult, and one office on campus is tackling those feelings of loneliness, grief, and ambiguity.

The Counseling Center at Minnesota State University, Mankato serves all currently enrolled undergraduate and graduate students. The office offers a large variety of services to students to meet their unique needs at no cost, such as individual counseling, group counseling, seminars, wellness workshops and referrals.

In response to recent events, the office has moved all services online for the remaining semester to meet the ever-changing needs of students. They are now offering appointments and individual counseling sessions, via Zoom, for students who are in Minnesota (out-of-state students will be provided with consultations and referral services).

In addition, they have adapted several of their seminars, workshops, and groups to be provided online. According to Kari Much, Department Chair of the Counseling Center, the office worked closely with IT Solutions to provide students with online access to resources to succeed during this difficult time.

“We have also added many new services to help students cope during this challenging time.  We are offering several drop-in ‘Coping with COVID’ programs that specifically assist students with current challenges such as managing social distancing, coping with anxiety, being an online student and more that are offered multiple times per week for the rest of the semester. We have recorded some ‘on-demand’ presentations that students can access from our website at any time, and we have also developed a web page of self-help resources devoted to dealing with the distress of living through a pandemic,” says Much.

These resources are essential during this unprecedented time. Now, more than ever, students need help from the University to complete a semester that they never imagined in their wildest dreams. With this in mind, the Counseling Center has worked hard to adapt to telemental health services while keeping all services free and readily available for students.

Much reiterates, “All of our services are still free! Our Coping with COVID programs do not require registration; students can simply pick a time and topic that fits for them and drop in” 

Students can learn more by visiting the Counseling Center's website here

We are doing our best to serve our students and want to recognize that we are in this together. Together, we stay Maverick strong.

During college, many students become involved in organizations and extracurricular activities in an attempt to find something that they’re truly passionate about. Reece Podgorski was lucky enough to find not one, but two different passions in his last three years as a student.

Reece Podgorski, a junior Law Enforcement major, is the current Interfraternity Council (IFC) president and an active member of the Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC) on campus. It doesn’t take much to know that these two organizations have provided very different experiences for Podgorski’s college career.

“ I think it’s pretty cool how I can balance two different worlds,” says Podgorski.

Before becoming the IFC president, Podgorski was the vice president of Member Education Development for the council and an active member of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. In that role, Podgorski helped run the campus wide U-Lead conference. For the conference, he partnered with several student organizations, including Student Government, Delta Sigma Pi and the International Student Association, to create programming for upcoming student leaders on campus.

Podgorski also led member development opportunities specifically for Greek Life members. For example, he worked with Student Health Services to provide alcohol training for new members, sober monitor trainings for active members and continuing education to active members on various topics affecting the community.

Based on his positive work in the position, the Director of Greek Life and the previous IFC president encouraged him to run for president, a position that he had never considered. Podgorski took a chance and ran for the position, which he was happy to accept after being elected by his fellow council members.

As president, Podgorski’s role has changed—but he continues to work hard to improve the Greek Life community. He’s in charge of overseeing Greek Week, a homecoming week for Greek alumni to visit campus and participate in boat races, lip sync and other fun themed events. He also oversees members underneath him on the council to delegate tasks and assignments. In the fall, he will oversee the recruitment of new members to the seven active fraternities on campus.

In contrast, Podgorski’s ROTC experience has been very different. During his first year at Minnesota State University, Mankato, he was recruited for active duty and spent a semester in training where he experienced a lot of unique opportunities.

“I’ve got a lot of interesting experiences that many people probably can’t say they have had, like active shooter training, dealing with machine guns and handling grenade launchers. It kind of puts you in a different mindset,” says Podgorski.

With two very different organizations playing such a large role in Podgorski’s life, you have to wonder if they overlap or intersect at all.

 “They’re fairly different, but something you can get from both organizations is people skills,” he reports. “If you’re a second lieutenant, you’re probably going to be working with 60 to 70 people… You have to work with sergeants and NCOs [Non Commissioned Officers] to make sure all of the tasks that you need to complete are getting done, so it’s kind of like the delegation that I have to do on the [Interfraternity] council.”

Between IFC and ROTC, Podgorski feels like he’s gained invaluable experiences as a leader, in time management and with communication.  After completing his degree next May, Podgorski hopes to become a second lieutenant in the National Guard and then down the line, he hopes to work for law enforcement in his local community. Between IFC and ROTC, he’s hoping that he has set himself up to succeed in the future.    

“It has made my college experience very interesting and I think it has been a great opportunity for myself,” says Podgorski.

As a first-year student, Taylor Kemper began working at the Career Development Center (CDC) as a work-study student. At the time, her major was undecided, and she had no idea what she wanted to do after she graduated, let alone over the next four years. One day at work, Kemper was tasked with reorganizing the CDC’s library and she was intrigued by the books on different majors that Minnesota State University, Mankato offers. She sat down and began to read through them and something finally clicked: human resource management.

The Career Development Center at Minnesota State Mankato is dedicated to providing high-quality services and resources that assist students, like Kemper, and graduates with career planning and the search for employment. This includes a comprehensive range of services from career counseling and major choice assistance to assistance finding part-time employment and internships and extensive job search support and guidance. Kemper has gone above and beyond with utilizing these campus resources to help her succeed in college and after she finishes her degree.

“Through the resources the CDC has offered me and the different experiences as well, it kind of all just connected at one point. I don’t think that [human resource management] would have popped in my head had I not been doing that work,” she says. Working at the CDC helped Kemper realize how much she enjoys career development and employee relations, which is perfect for the major she selected.

Staff at the CDC also encouraged Kemper to be as active on campus as she could to gain valuable experiences during her time at Minnesota State Mankato. During her second year, Kemper joined the business learning community for second year students to meet other students in the College of Business, build a community, and receive the resources she was looking to succeed.

She was worried about joining the College of Business later than most students. “I didn’t know anyone or know anything really, and it made me feel more comfortable going into it with a group of people,” says Kemper. Additionally, she has taken advantage of many other opportunities, including studying abroad in Europe for a business law class, becoming the president of the Society for Human Resource Management on campus and participating in a competition at Indiana University against other universities in the Midwest—all of which she said were amazing opportunities.

Now, Kemper is a senior who is graduating in May and she is looking toward the future. Her work at the Career Development Center helped her become familiar with Handshake, which is a resource to help students find internships and jobs after graduating. It helped her find the internship she had this past summer.

“One day I was at the CDC working and all of a sudden Handshake suggested a bunch of different jobs for me based on the information the school has for me. When it popped up, it suggested an internship with this company I had never heard of before in my life, Horton, but I clicked on it and applied thinking it was worth a shot,” Kemper says. She not only got the internship, but recently was given a job offer from the company for after graduation. She was astounded that they would offer her the position, because the job previously belonged to the person who was her mentor over the summer—someone who has a master’s degree and many years of experience. Clearly, Horton saw something in Kemper that made her stand out.

Reflecting on the past four years, Kemper is thankful for what the CDC has helped her accomplish. “I gained a lot of experiences and all of it came from the support they offered me there as an employee,” she says.

When asked what advice she has for other students in her position, the biggest thing Kemper could think of was getting involved on campus. “I would say getting as involved as you can whether it’s a club once a week or going on a trip to learn more about something. I think is an invaluable experience…” she says. “You learn a lot more when you’re engaged in something and when you’re a part of something; your interests pique.”