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.

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.

Tyeesha Wesley

Tyeesha “Tye” Wesley came to Minnesota State University, Mankato from Valdosta College in Georgia in July 2014 to be a Hall Director in the Julia A. Sears Residence Community. With one year under her belt, she is excited for this school year and her latest accomplishment of becoming an American College Personnel Association (ACPA) Ambassador. ACPA Ambassadors connect their institution to the ACPA and to other institutions by building a community with a focus on knowledge sharing and innovative ideas.

Tye received her master’s degree in Higher Educational Leadership with an emphasis in Student Affairs at Valdosta College. While there she worked in residential life, student activities and the access office, gaining valuable experience that she has now brought to Minnesota State Mankato. As a second-year Hall Director for the Julia A. Sears South Residence Community, Tye believes in transformational leadership and challenges her staff to think outside the box as they create an environment that is supportive for each student in the residence hall.

The greatest joy for Tye is when a student is willing to talk through an issue or a question they may have. Creating an atmosphere where open dialogue is valued allows for education outside of the classroom and excitement—not only for the student but also for Tye. She has had the opportunity to show students there is more to campus life than they may know. There are opportunities that extend beyond the classroom and opportunities to become leaders, whether formal or informal. “As a Hall Director, I get to shoulder tap people and say, ‘Hey, you would make a great floor president or community advisor, let’s get you involved!’ Some students just need someone to tell them that and I get to do it starting day one,” Tye says.

Tye’s hope for students is that they leave at the end of the year knowing that the hard work they put in matters. That hope was confirmed last year, when she worked with a student who was not doing well, academically or personally, within the first few months of school because of choices that student was making. Through multiple one-on-one interactions with the student, first initiated by Tye and then by the student, together they were able to make a plan on how the student was going to get back on track. They focused on realistic goals and better coping skills, and the turnaround was amazing. “The student went on to be one of my strongest floor presidents in my building and was able to finish the academic year as a Maverick, which did not seem possible around Homecoming that fall,” she says.

Tye continues to encourage students to become more involved in the campus community. She urges them to create a community they want to be a part of. The choices that are made and the community they create will more than likely impact the way they will operate going forward, Tye commented. “I hope when they walk out of the building (residence hall) they can say at least one time they positively impacted someone in the community and how they can take that lesson and use it in their classes, career, and life.”

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

Ellyn Gibbs wall climbing

"Confidence has a big part in everything. Aim high and challenge yourself," Ellyn Gibbs, a Minnesota State University, Mankato junior majoring in Mass Media said. Arriving at Minnesota State Mankato from her home town of Stanchfield, Minn., a small community north of the Twin Cities, Ellyn’s curious spirit is what has begun to lead her down an exciting new path of adventure, learning and self-discovery.

During her Mass Media coursework, Ellyn discovered blogging. It was different than the writing she was doing for the campus newspaper, The Reporter. It was a way to create a personal, yet professional, portfolio of her work. It was also a way to discover an exciting new passion and a potential career.

Ellyn would be the first to tell you that she is no expert, but has a strong willingness to try so that she can gain knowledge on any subject matter. That includes taking a climbing class through the Human Performance department on campus, which is where Ellyn really began to discover her true calling, outdoor journalism.

Ellyn started Introduction to Rock Climbing with low standards of herself. She said she was never a strong athlete but enjoyed trying new things and there was no harm in that. “First day folks always have the jitters, ‘what if I am not good?’, ‘what if I fall?’, said Ellyn’s instructor, Sam Steiger. “Ellyn broke through the jitters and has connected with many people at the rock wall. She has formed a small community herself… a group that likes to laugh, likes to play, likes to challenge each other and strives to live through adventure.” Ellyn started blogging about her experiences and discoveries as she immersed herself in rock climbing. “Ellyn would focus on a climb, drop all of the stress of school and life, and just pursue the moment,” Steiger said of his observations of Ellyn in class.

“Sam challenged me because he saw that I could do it. He was very supportive,” Ellyn said. As Ellyn’s confidence grew she found herself pursuing other outdoor adventures. She guided friends on a four-hour canoe trip on the Blue Earth River. Steiger said that she did her homework by accessing maps of the river and talking to locals about tips she could use on the river. “Ellyn finds challenge in her outdoor pursuits, the challenge reveals success and solitude, and that cycles her into pursuit of more challenge,” he said.

Through conversations with Steiger, Ellyn was able to talk about her passion areas and determine that minoring in Recreation, Parks and Leisure Services would assist her in her dream of becoming an outdoor adventure guide journalist. She is currently pursuing internship opportunities on the East Coast, particularly in New Hampshire, for summer. Her hope is to “inspire more people to put down their phones and go outside.”

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