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.

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.”


“A good paper can add much to the interest of our college life and can be of use in helping along worthy college enterprises.” -C.H. Cooper. March 23, 1926. Number 1, Volume 1 of the student newspaper formerly known as Among Ourselves.

Madison Diemert, senior English major and Anthropology minor, is the current Editor-in-Chief of The Reporter, Minnesota State University, Mankato’s student-run newspaper.

Diemert came to college knowing that she was interested in writing, but she didn’t know what direction she should go. One day, she saw an ad in The Reporter for a staff writer position and took the opportunity to get involved with the newspaper. Since then, Diemert has gained invaluable experience in editing, business and journalism. “I don’t know what I’d be doing right now without The Reporter, I definitely would not be as good of a writer and would not have half the skills that I have today,” she says.

Since 1926, Minnesota State University, Mankato has supported a student-led newspaper, completely dictated by students’ wants and needs. This newspaper has continuously reported on campus related news, people, sports, arts and entertainment. Currently, the newspaper even has sections for horoscopes and comics. Two of its most popular sections are known as “The Pulse,” in which a reporter asks a different weekly question to random students and then spotlights their answers, and “Ask Jenna,” an interactive blog to get readers involved by asking questions.

“You can’t just write about events that are happening on campus because students can hear about that from other students or just go,” Diemert says. “But, if you can put something in like Ask Jenna that is something fresh and new every week that they can’t see anywhere else and that they won’t know the answer to unless they pick up the paper, you’re directly interacting with them and giving them something of value. I think that really increases the pickup rate.” Often times when students are featured, they’ll pick up a copy and encourage their friends and colleagues to as well.

In the last 93 years, the paper has seen many changes, including its name, content and platforms where news is shared. While many aspects of the paper have changed over the years, one thing remains the same: the need for a reliable news source on campus.

Being in the era of misinformation, it begs the age-old question: Why is the news important? Mansoor Ahmad, web editor, copy editor and staff photographer, says that “we need to know what’s happening. Sure, newspapers are a thing of the past, but it’s the concept of having something to rely on to get your news from. News isn’t just news as in politics, but it’s also what’s happening in construction or sports. It’s what professors are getting hired or fired. It’s what the drama is. At the end of the day, it’s just to let people know what’s happening around them, because one way or another it does affect them.”

It's no secret that the way people receive their news has changed. Many people get their daily news from social media now. To keep up with changing times. The Reporter now provides news on different social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter; they even have a podcast. “You have to advance with the age, like with the invention of mobile phones and social media. We’re not just relying on the newspaper now to put out news, it’s also social media channels,” says Ahmad.

Although these platforms are important, the staff at The Reporter still finds a lot of value in the physical paper. The pick-up rates are actually up compared to 2017 rates. Last fall, the pick-up rate was 64 percent and, in the spring, the rate increased to 67 percent—proving that people do indeed still read the physical copy.

“I can’t see us as a campus without a campus newspaper. Even if it’s not something that people read or rely on as much on anymore, it’s still this integral part of the university,” Diemert says. “A student-run newspaper gives you so much hands-on experience, that you can’t find in the classroom. I just really can’t see us as a campus without a campus newspaper.”

The experiences that Diemert and Ahmad have received while working for the paper have been invaluable. Ahmad says that he’s been given many opportunities with the newspaper. “I’ve not taken a single mass media class, so everything I’m learning is on the job,” he says. “That’s the best part, because by the time I graduate I’ll have unofficially like two majors: Information Technology and Mass Media, because I’m working so much [on The Reporter].”

 The Reporter works closely with The Free Press, a daily newspaper in Mankato, to provide students with workshops to improve their skills and networking opportunities. The Reporter has positions for staff writers, photographers, advertisement representatives and graphic designers, so there is something for everyone.

Since graduating, former students who have worked on The Reporter have gone on to work for Microsoft, Social Butterfly, USA Today, Golf Digest, the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Minnesota Vikings. Ahmad was even invited to take photos with an alumnus that are now featured on the NBA website—an opportunity he may not have received without the continuous support of the current and former staff for The Reporter.


 “The definition of food insecurity, simply stated, is not knowing where your next meal is coming from. Either you don’t have food for your next meal or money for your next meal,” shared Karen Anderson, assistant director for Community Engagement at Minnesota State University, Mankato. According to Anderson, students don’t always have access to fresh fruits and vegetables and that affects their academics.

“Helping our students have access to food matches the gut-brain connection,” she says. “If you are unable to think because your stomach is growling so much, then you’re not going to be an effective student. So, we want to make sure that those things match up.”

Food insecurity is a common dilemma in the Mankato area. Research by the Minnesota State Mankato Sociology Department indicated as many as 40 percent of university students experience food insecurity. To address this, Campus Cupboard, which is located in the lower level of Crossroads Church, at the intersection of Dillon and Maywood, is dedicated to helping students with food insecurity in the area. Campus Cupboard is open every Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for students to stop by during the school year and every Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. over the University’s breaks.

When students visit the church, they present a student ID and then they can pack a bag of groceries and personal care items that they need to help them through the week. These items include but are not limited to canned fruits, vegetables and protein, soups, dried pasta and beans, jars of peanut butter and pasta sauces, sugar, spices, condiments, toilet paper, tissues, soap and other hygiene products to help recipients with basic needs for the week. Additionally, students can stop by any time that the church is open and receive rescued food from local restaurants to help them make it to their next meal.

Recently, the Student Government of Minnesota State Mankato proposed the idea to host a food drive competition with Winona State University the week leading up to the Harvest Bowl football game between the two schools. Between Sept. 23 and Sept. 28, students and faculty banded together to fight against food insecurity in our community while fostering some friendly competition for a good cause. In total, Minnesota State Mankato raised 2,200 items and $900 in donations for Campus Cupboard; Winona State University also raised 435 items to give back to their community.

These generous donations will go to students in need to continue the fight against food insecurity in the community. If you are experiencing food insecurity, you are not alone. Anderson encourages everyone to reach out for help when they need it.

“It’s not charity. It’s more like paying it forward,” she says. “Others will help you now. After things look up for you, maybe you can volunteer some time or drop off some food for those who need it.”

Between the work of Campus Cupboard, Karen Anderson, and the Student Government, the community continues to fight against food insecurity together through community effort, but there is always a need for continuous support. To support Campus Cupboard, click here

Campus Kitchen Volunteers

Since 2005, students at Minnesota State University, Mankato have guided Campus Kitchen, a hunger relief project. The Campus Kitchen Project is a national initiative aiming to empower students to take action in their communities while also developing leadership skills. Volunteers eager to support this cause, are lead and trained by our own student staff here on campus. Throughout the academic year, students serve over 1500 hours of service.

So, how does Campus Kitchen work? Starting in August, once students have returned to campus, volunteers help prep the kitchen to get ready for the upcoming year. Once the kitchen is up to code, the student staff launches a weekly, three-day service progression.

On Fridays, volunteers will head out into the community collecting individual and company donations. Student volunteers will stop at restaurants such as Caribou, Chipotle, Long John Silvers, Red Lobster, and Olive Garden to collect excess food. Over the weekend, all the donations are stored in the Kitchen’s freezers. On Mondays, volunteers meet to prepare and assemble the donations into separate meals. Then meals are delivered to ECHO Food Shelf, Partners of Affordable Housing, or individual clients on Tuesdays. Through this process, about 150 meals are delivered each week.

The Campus Kitchen Project logo

Over the years, this program has helped make a significant difference on campus and in the greater Mankato community. Campus Kitchen provides an opportunity for students to connect and build relationships with other students and community members outside of the classroom. Dillon Petrowitz, a senior Urban and Regional Studies major and Community Engagement Leadership Team member, stated, “I thrive on meeting a wide range of volunteers from different countries and having them support Student Driven Hunger Relief efforts".

This project would not be successful without the donations and collaboration of community members and local restaurants. From picking up donations to helping farmers pick fresh produce during harvest, Campus Kitchen volunteers are rescuing nearly 6,000 pounds of food donations every year.

Petrowitz also says, “I enjoy my work in Campus Kitchen because I know I am making a huge impact on the community. The most rewarding part of this work is having validation from clients, community members and the general public for our contributions to making this a better place to live.” Over the life-span of Campus Kitchen, student volunteers have come together to help serve over 80,000 meals to the community.

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