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.

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.

Mai Xee with family in Thailand

Mai Xee is a Psychology major at Minnesota State University, Mankato and will be graduating this May. She was born in Thailand; a year later her family arrived in the United States where they stayed with her mother's parents in Oak Grove, Minn. Her father worked very hard for the family to move out on their own. Mai Xee's family is her inspiration to work hard and to give back to others in need. "I am thankful to have such understanding and supportive parents," Mai Xee said.

During Mai Xee's time at Minnesota State Mankato she has formed great friendships through her extracurricular and volunteer experiences. It was when she gathered with six other Minnesota State Mankato students that a journey to give back was formulated. In the fall of 2014, the group decided they were going to raise money to provide school supplies such as pencils, paper and notebooks to elementary students in Laos. They had heard about the school from an uncle of one of the students in the group who was living in Laos. The group decided to raise funds by taking orders for their homemade egg rolls. The $1,000 they raised helped to pay for school supplies and provided some assistance for the group to fly to Laos and deliver the supplies in person.

The group set out for Laos in late November 2014 with a large suitcase full of supplies. Their destination was Zalb ia liab, or Town of Red Dirt, in Laos. At the school, children in kindergarten through fourth grade wore white and blue uniforms and were excited to see their visitors. The principal and assistant principal were thankful for the supplies as they were a "gift from us to them," as Mai Xee put it. During a tour of the school the group observed that there were no electronics and there was only one water station for the entire school. Also staying true to its namesake the ground around the school was red in color and seemed to get everywhere.

For Mai Xee this adventure was about giving back. "To volunteer my time and raise funds to not only purchase supplies for the students in Laos, but also travel there and meet some of the students meant a lot to me. It meant that I will be able to impact not just the kids here in my community, but kids who are on the other side of the world," she said. "My goal is to live and travel with a purpose, to experience another culture, and to see how different people around the world live."

The adventure continued for Mai Xee and the group when they boarded a bus to Thailand for some site-seeing and to explore another culture. It was a 10-hour trip and the bus was packed with passengers, some even sitting on make-shift seats in the aisle. Once in Thailand the group was able to embark on adventures in snorkeling, parasailing, bungee jumping, go-cart racing and visiting many of the temples. The group had traveled with a purpose and out of that, they were able to experience a great adventure.

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

Ryan Strelow Portrait

Ryan Strelow is currently the Centennial Student Union's Technical Coordinator, a role he has had since February 2016. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater Design and Technology from Minnesota State University, Mankato in December 2015. During his coursework, Ryan began designing lighting for dance concerts. It was through the Spring 2015 Dance Concert that Ryan began his path to receiving national recognition for his design.

During the 2015 North-Central Regional Conference in Stevens Point, Wis., Minnesota State Mankato was one of three schools in the region selected by the American College Dance Association to be featured at the National Dance Conference at the Kennedy Center. The production entitled Television (choreographed by Minnesota State Mankato Theater and Dance Faculty Daniel Stark, with lighting design by Ryan) was held this June. Ryan's lighting design, entitled Television: Or (And Now Our National Anthem) received the Kennedy Center award for lighting design.

With all that Ryan accomplished as a student at Minnesota State Mankato, he takes great pride in what is on the horizon for his work with the CSU. As a former student employee for the CSU, he knows first-hand how much work goes into each event; making the transition to supervisor has been challenging but rewarding.

Ryan approached his new supervisory duties by first having great conversations with the individuals who were once his co-workers and peers in the CSU. Treating each other as professionals with respect and leading by example has made the transition smoother for Ryan. He currently supervises 18 undergraduate student employees and also one graduate assistant.

Having a flexible and expansive staff allows the CSU to complete the technology needs for all the various activities and events held on a regular basis. Ryan's team handles all the technology for the events, which includes meeting with the clients prior to the event to make sure they have all their needs met. For major events, such as the Homecoming Concert, planning begins a year in advance and it's all hands in to create an experience for the audience and performers the day of. The planning and execution of events is endless. Each event needs something different than the previous; this keeps Ryan on his toes to help come up with new, inventive ideas and solutions to create a lasting impression at the event.

While Ryan may lead the charge, he cannot do it alone. The talented staff comes from all types of majors at the University. There are students who have tremendous talent in technology and lighting but may be working toward an accounting degree. No matter the students' chosen major, on event nights the focus is on technology. There have been some students who, after working in technology with the CSU, have recognized that they excel and enjoy the work and have changed their major to reflect their passion. Ryan encourages the student employees by telling them to "do what you like." Ryan says, "Just because you have your degree, education doesn't have to end." It is a philosophy that he keeps with him as he determines his next step in education to potentially obtain a master's degree.

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

Tyler Keller

Tyler Keller is a junior at Minnesota State University, Mankato majoring in Math Education.  He was a Freshman Representative for the Student Council and a Community Advisor in McElroy Residence Hall his sophomore year. He's also active in intramural sports, a member of the Honors Program, and a Presidential Scholar.

Tyler grew up in Medford, Minn., with two older brothers and a younger sister. He was active in high school, participating in three sports (football, wrestling and baseball), student council and the National Honor Society. Ever since 10th grade Tyler knew that he wanted to go into Math Education. Working his summers as a lifeguard provided him with plenty of experience working with children, and he has always had a strong interest in mathematics. As Tyler began to explore higher education options he decided to visit Minnesota State Mankato.

During his visit, Tyler enjoyed how close everything was and how it was compact in size but still had a big feel and many activities going on. He also enjoyed the fact that it was far enough from home but yet close enough as well, so that he could still visit when he wanted. He decided to apply for the Presidential Scholarship through Minnesota State Mankato. After receiving confirmation that he had received the Presidential Scholarship on his birthday, Tyler knew that attending Minnesota State Mankato was meant for him.

Receiving the Presidential Scholarship has afforded Tyler many opportunities. He has been matched with a new professional mentor each year and has been able to gain impactful relationships from each of them. Tyler says that these mentors have been the most valuable advantage in receiving the Presidential Scholarship, aside from the financial benefits that come along with a scholarship. The scholarship has afforded him other educational opportunities as well. Tyler has been working with the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) Program this school year at Mankato West High School, where he helps facilitate conversations with groups of five students with their questions about homework. This has been a valuable educational experience for Tyler because it allows him to get practical experience in preparing to become a teacher.

The Presidential Scholarship continues to impact Tyler's life by allowing him the financial freedom to take volunteer opportunities when they are presented. Along with becoming a high school math teacher, Tyler hopes to become a coach. This winter he will have the opportunity to assist the Mankato Area Youth Wrestling Club to gain valuable experience for his future.

Tyler is very thankful he received the Presidential Scholarship and that he has been afforded great opportunities to succeed through connecting with mentors to provide guidance, decreased financial responsibilities, volunteering with local organizations and sharing commonalities with other Presidential Scholars as he continues his education here at Minnesota State Mankato.

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