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.

Stephanie Trejo

Stephanie Trejo, recipient of the Steve & Judy Legenhausen Distinguished Scholarship Award.

For most high school seniors, the decision to further their education is the first of many big decisions. The importance of a campus’ size, the institution’s location, the major course offerings and the cost of attendance become common conversation topics. This was not any different for incoming first-year student, Stephanie Trejo.

Stephanie, a senior at Butterfield Secondary, had many big decisions to make regarding where she wanted to pursue her bachelor’s degree. Growing up within 45 minutes of Minnesota State University, Mankato, Stephanie always knew it was a great school. It wasn’t until her junior year, when her high school counselor took their class on three college visits, including Minnesota State Mankato, that Stephanie knew it was the place for her. “After the visit, I knew that I could picture myself pursuing my degree there,” she says. “I’ve always wanted to attend a school like MSU that has diversity and academic challenges.”

Stephanie also appreciated the sense of community on campus. After growing up in a town of around 600 people, Minnesota State Mankato’s size felt like the perfect transition for Stephanie.

With the decision of where to go made, Stephanie now has other important decisions to consider. She’s still figuring out what she will major in. At the moment, she’s focused on either Communication Disorders or Social Work—but she is glad that she’ll have the opportunity to explore many options at Minnesota State Mankato.

She’s also glad that she’ll be able to continue pursuing extracurricular activities. Throughout her high school career, she has been extremely involved in many activities. Since ninth grade, she has played the bass clarinet in the Senior High Band and recently participated in the Section 6 Honor Band. She has also participated in one-act plays and served as her class president since 10th grade. Stephanie has been involved in many community service events as well, such as elementary reading nights, preschool screening, community nights. She has also served as a translator as parent/teacher conferences or new student orientation, which influenced her decision to minor in Spanish.

One of the final decision-making steps in determining where Stephanie will go to college was the financing of her education. In January of this year, Stephanie applied for the Presidential Scholarship—a stressful process, because the application includes two personal essays. Stephanie wanted both essays to accurately represent herself so that she would be considered a candidate for the scholarship.

In February, Stephanie was invited to campus to interview for the Presidential Scholarship. After the deadline dates passed and she hadn’t heard anything about the scholarship, she assumed that she had not received one. Although she was disappointed, she was extremely grateful that she had been considered as a candidate.

But in March, Stephanie received a call from the Admissions Office informing her that she would be the first recipient of the new Steve & Judy Legenhausen Distinguished Scholarship Award. Specifically designated for a first generation student, the scholarship will cover all tuition and fees for four years. It is one of the University’s most prestigious scholarships. “I am very grateful,” Stephanie says. “I still can’t even express how grateful I am.”

Receiving this new scholarship made all the difference in Stephanie’s decision to attend Minnesota State Mankato. Now she is just excited to come to campus next fall and start her first year at Minnesota State Mankato.

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.

Students talking in hallway

Many programs at Minnesota State University, Mankato require students to complete an internship, which allows them to gain practical, hands-on experience before entering the workforce. Many internship sites are right on campus. The Counseling Center, housed in the Centennial Student Union, is a highly sought-after site from professional programs in Mankato as well as the Twin Cities metro area.

Since 1992, when the Counseling Center took on a doctoral candidate from the metro area as an intern, demand for the Center’s services has continued to grow. As the number of staff members has grown since the Counseling Center first opened, the opportunities for interns in the Counseling Center Training Program have also increased. Currently, the Center accepts between six and eight interns from programs such as counseling, psychology and social work each year.

One of the interns during the 2014-2015 academic year sought out an internship in the Counseling Center because this person had heard that the Center offers great supervision and that the supervisors are invested in the supervisees’ professional development.

Not only do the students benefit from the internship opportunity, but the supervisors enjoy participating in the training program as well. Since the field is constantly changing, the training program requires the clinical staff to stay current on new practices and trends within the field. “We very much enjoy supervising and watching our trainees grow,” one supervisor said. “Also, the trainees add enthusiasm and a great energy level to our center.”

When reflecting on the past year, one of the interns shared how enjoyable and educational the experience had been: “I got to work with different supervisory styles and learn from their strengths. I also received a lot of encouragement and had the space to ask questions. Finally, the camaraderie was a significant factor in making the Counseling Center such a comfortable environment. It helped me become more comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

As a supervisor, it is rewarding to help someone learn how to be a therapist. “Having the privilege to be a part of a trainee’s growth over the course of the year is a humbling and inspiring experience,” a supervisor said.

Big ideas and real-world thinking on campus and in the community.

Student studying in the CSU

Have you been to the Centennial Student Union (CSU)? Sure you have, but it’s not just a place you go to grab a bite to eat on campus. “The Union is more than a structure. It is the lifeblood of the University—a place where students, staff, faculty and the public are educated, have fun, create and learn more about differing cultures,” said Centennial Student Union and Student Activities Director Mark Constantine.

Approaching two years with Minnesota State University, Mankato, Mark calls upon his many years of experience in residential life, career services, student activities, community engagement, and student union, just to name a few, to lead the CSU in a collective vision for the future. Mark says, “Although I’m the “leader”, my style is very collaborative.” The vision for the CSU comes from a collaborative group of staff, student employees and the Student Union Board. The CSU is a student fee funded program and student feedback and input is crucial to the success and future of the Union. Never resting on its laurels, the CSU is consistently looking for a variety of opportunities for students at the University to become involved. “Our vision must include new programs and services, while keeping the Union fresh, modern, exciting and relevant. We INVITE, INVOLVE and INSPIRE on a daily basis!” Mark said.

The CSU is for all and many campus groups organize events through the Union. The Union provides them with services such as room scheduling, set-up, tech services, catering and more to allow the campus groups to conduct a successful event. Between the Student Events Team (formally IMPACT), Greek Life, registered RSO’s, community engagement, leadership programs, non-traditional student resources, MSSA, and more, “we are the heart and soul of student life for the campus.”

The Union also has a great place to relax, play billiards, bowl, play games or just lounge watching TV called the Bullpen. Lead by CSU Communications team leader Lenny Koupal, there are several low-key events held throughout the semester. These low-key events are often referred to by CSU staff as “serendipitous moments.” New experiences may be encountered right around the next corner of the building.

“Our goal is to provide on-going opportunities for students to grow, so they help make the University an exciting, vibrant place – while also preparing them for life after college!”

Big ideas and real-world thinking on campus and in the community.

Ashley Gooler

When Ashley Gooler entered Minnesota State University, Mankato she wasn’t clear on the direction she wanted to take her education. Switching her major three or four times, she finally landed in Construction Management. It was after taking her first class with Dr. Leah Roue that Ashley knew this was the major for her.

The Construction Management program requires students to complete a 600-hour internship. The internship requires some work on the employer’s part because there are several requirements from the program. Ashley attended multiple career fairs on campus to learn about potential opportunities and sought assistance from the Career Development Center QuickStop to review her resume before she began sending it out for internships. The Career Development Center and the Construction Management advisors provide a lot of assistance to help students find internships and jobs, which is unlike other universities Ashley has heard about.

After applying to several commercial construction companies, Ashley learned of an opportunity with McGough Construction out of St. Paul through a family member. The interview process can be lengthy because the employer invests a great deal of training in the interns. This was true for Ashley as well. “I had two interviews before being accepted,” she said. Her first interview was with the Vice President of Project Management and the second was with a Construction Executive, in which she now reports to. “My first interview was different in that John had me ask questions rather than asking me questions. My second interview was very laid back. She asked me questions about why I picked construction and I asked her about her experiences as a female in construction,” Ashley said of her interview process.

Ashley began her internship with McGough Construction and quickly discovered that while the classes she took were valuable in preparing her for the processes and procedures of a construction site, being there offered so much more insight and learning opportunities.

“I didn’t want to be sitting behind a desk all day. I wanted to be onsite and in the field learning,” Ashley said. “Being onsite was by far the most valuable part of my internship. I got to see how things were constructed and how long things actually take.” Ashley asked many questions, but wishes she would have asked more. “It really is the time to do it, before you are expected to just know,” she said.

As her internship came to a close, Ashley was offered a position with McGough Construction. She has been employed full-time since December 2014 and graduated in May 2015. As luck would have it McGough Construction brought her back to Mankato and to the University campus as the Project Engineer for the new Dining Hall being constructed.

Ashley oversees the schedule and budget management of the construction and coordinates various subcontractors. “It’s been great to see a project from beginning to the end,” Ashley said. Its been a challenging experience, but she is excited to be in the field learning and asking questions so she can better understand the various moving parts of the construction site. “Right now everyone is working hard to stay on schedule to get the building enclosed before winter, so construction can continue.”

The Dining Hall is expected to be completed in November 2016 and open in January 2017.

Big ideas and real-world thinking on campus and in the community.

Wendy Schuh, director of Student Health Services

Student Health Services is a valuable resource on the Minnesota State University, Mankato campus—but the department’s work to keep students healthy and in class learning could not be completed without the utilization of external funds such as grants. Wendy Schuh, director of Student Health Services, has been instrumental in seeking out grants totaling more than a million dollars to fund Student Health Services initiatives so that student fees can remain low while students receive the best care and information possible.

For Wendy, this began when she was project coordinator for a $755,000 National Institute of Health (NIH) grant awarded to Minnesota State Mankato during the three-year period from 2006-2009. The grant allowed the university to reach out to students about alcohol use through social norms marketing using positive statistics. Wendy also wrote and received a NCAA CHOICES grant in combination with the Athletic Department for $30,000 over three years (2009-2011). This grant, like the NIH grant, focused on social norms marketing. Information was given during sporting events about what sports fans are doing well in terms of alcohol consumption. Both grants aided in providing the University’s student population information about alcohol consumption in a positive manner.

Wendy took on the Interim Director for Student Health Services role in 2010 and became the permanent Director in 2011. She has continued to seek out grants that will help the students here at Minnesota State Mankato. In 2012, the University received a Statewide Health Improvement Project (SHIP) grant from Blue Earth County for $16,000 to assist in developing and implementing a Tobacco-Free Policy on campus. Also, an $11,000 grant from the American Lung Association helped pay for a part-time Tobacco Health Educator and supplies/signage during the 2015-2016 academic year. Thanks in part to those grants, tobacco use has decreased by 64 percent among students in the past 10 years (2004-2014).

Most recently, the Minnesota Department of Human Services awarded the University a five-year (2015-2019) grant aimed at preventing underage drinking among persons 18-20 and marijuana use among persons 18-25 totaling approximately $600,000. This initiative focuses on building a campus and community coalition, administering a needs assessment and identifying meaningful and changeable variables to prevent underage drinking and marijuana use.

Student Health Services is also able to provide assistance to students in need of health insurance. Through a more than decade-long partnership with UnitedHealthCare Insurance, Minnesota State Mankato receives $20,000-25,000 annually for .30 FTE of a full-time Insurance Coordinator/Advocate along with some additional supplies. This is of particular importance to international students, as the Insurance Coordinator helps them navigate the policy; Student Health Services provides most of their primary care while they are attending Minnesota State Mankato.

While Student Health Services has been able to secure funding for many of its outreach programs there will be one major hurdle to overcome in the next 10 years: a place to call home. The department faces a potential move from its present location as the new dining hall is built and its current space in Carkoski Commons is slated to be demolished within the next decade

Student Health Services serves a third of the student population—4,500 unique individuals annually, which includes more than 12,000 total visits. It has been a valuable resource for our campus since 1938 and will continue to be for years to come. The pursuit of external funds is needed now more than ever as it looks to the future

Big ideas and real-world thinking on campus and in the community.