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.

Jamie Waterbury

The University Dining Center completed in January has not only brought new food concepts, but also a large sense of community to the Minnesota State Campus. Jamie Waterbury, operations manager for Dining Services, has seen first-hand how the state-of-the-art space has positively impacted students and the employees who work there.

Waterbury has worked for Minnesota State Mankato since 2012, when he first began as a sous chef in the Centennial Student Union. He enjoyed the fast-moving environment and continued to advance in dining positions. Currently he’s the Operations Manager, which means that he oversees retail, catering and dining — but his main focus is the Dining Center. Waterbury continues to plan and promote the many innovative ideas of the Dining Center.

Food forward thinking has allowed students to see their food being prepared right in front of them. Students are able to ask chefs and staff questions, gaining knowledge about healthy and wholesome food options. Waterbury and the Dining Center staff also take pride in their efforts for energy conservation. Composting is a top priority; more than 95 percent of products used are compostable. The to-go service program for students uses compostable cups, which helps eliminate Styrofoam in landfills. The old Carkoski Dining Hall produced 25 garbage bags a day, but green efforts in the new Center have cut that down to two. The Dining Center also uses daylight harvesting, using the sun as natural lighting for the building to reduce energy.

Waterbury sees the new Dining Center as a welcoming gathering spot. More than 800 places to sit allow for more students, faculty and staff from across campus to congregate and enjoy company. “Students come and study with their friends and I can tell they are having a good time,” Waterbury explains. “They no longer just come in, eat and leave. It is great to see they are using the Dining Center for downtime and a relaxing space. You can see they truly enjoy the building in being in it.” The Dining Center has become experiential for students, allowing them to watch the cooking, interact with the chefs and then converse with friends.

One of the biggest changes Waterbury has seen is within his own employees. Chefs and staff are happier in the new center with brand new equipment as well as being able to hear positive feedback directly from the students they are serving. The staff enjoys the interaction with students. Hearing compliments first hand pushes them to continue to provide exceptional service.

The new Dining Center has become a great asset to Minnesota State Mankato. Parents and students who come through the building on admissions tours and open houses continue to be amazed by the space and all that it provides. Although each day in the Dining Center may have different people, food and activities, it always fosters creativity, learning and community for all of the individuals who walk through the doors.

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

Faical Rayani

Faical Rayani has never been a typical student. From starting his own registered student organization to becoming President of the Minnesota State Student Association (MSSA) he has impacted both people and policies at Minnesota State Mankato. Now as state chair of Students United, he continues to use his leadership and passion to bring positive change to the Minnesota State system.

Before starting his journey at Minnesota State University, Mankato, Rayani was born and raised in Saudi Arabia. He came to Mankato to continue his education in Information Technology and will graduate this May. He was welcomed as an international student and immediately felt a sense of community on campus despite being in a new culture.

Soon after arriving, his first opportunity for involvement opened up in the residential halls, where he became a floor representative for the Residence Hall Association. Later, he would be elected vice president. That position provided his first public speaking opportunities, which helped him gain confidence in his abilities to be a leader and courage to address important student issues.

Rayani also contributed three years as a member of MSSA before being elected president. In one of his proudest positions, Rayani was the face for Minnesota State Mankato students. He tirelessly worked to raise awareness, affected change for issues on campus, and advocated for inclusion, equality and success.

Although he believes he has always been a natural leader, Minnesota State Mankato has taught Rayani its true definition. “Leadership is not telling people what to do and how to do it,” he says. “Leadership is about listening to people, empowering them, figuring out their strengths and giving them the right opportunities. That is what I have learned from student government–you are serving them, they are not serving you.”

Rayani’s involvement in student government has led to his current role of state chair for Students United. Students United is a non-profit, student-led organization serving 65,000 students across the seven Minnesota State Universities. Here, Rayani is able to affect powerful policy change and bring new ideas to Minnesota State Mankato and the rest of the Minnesota State system. In his role, Rayani has been working on a “Carbon Commitment;” the goal is to have every university president sign a promise to become carbon neutral. He’s also working to draft a textbook-affordability master plan that will be presented to each university to alleviate student concerns about the rising costs of textbook. His most successful project has been seeing affirmative consent get passed by the Minnesota State Board of Trustees after three years of work. With this policy change, every public higher education institution in Minnesota will practice affirmative consent. Rayani says, “This is huge, we are setting a precedent for the nation, the country.”

Rayani’s numerous successes on campus and across the state can be attributed to his passion for the Minnesota State Mankato community. In Mankato, Rayani has always felt that he belonged and that his opinion mattered. He found the encouragement to grow, develop and thrive. He believes that to be successful you have to love the people and the organization you represent.

“Here at Minnesota State Mankato, people want to be here,” he says. “They grind every day. They are making a difference and contributing to this country’s wealth of information and talented workforce development.” Rayani’s legacy continues as his powerful influence to impact change spreads across the University, the state and the nation.

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

Bretta Gonzales

Bretta Gonzales was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. She took a chance coming to Minnesota State University, Mankato four years ago when she began her undergraduate studies in Exercise Science here. Having a passion for fitness, Gonzales chose to continue her education in Minnesota State Mankato’s Exercise Physiology program. Now as a first-year Graduate Assistant in Campus Recreation, she continues to help others on campus and in the community find passion in health and wellness.

As a Graduate Assistant in the Fitness and Wellness area of Campus Recreation, Gonzales works with members of the University and Mankato communities in a variety of ways. She works on fitness assessments for her clients, teaches fitness group classes and helps to organize and promote large community fitness events.

Recently, she has seen an increase of both students and staff on campus using her services and Campus Recreation facilities. Gonzales believes this is due to a recent $109,000 investment in weight room equipment in the Otto Recreation Center.

The recent weight room upgrades include user-friendly equipment that provides pictures of the areas the exercise is targeting. The new machines are helping educate users at all stages of their fitness journey and encourage a healthy lifestyle. Gonzales has been able to work with a larger variety of students and staff who are coming because of the new investment. She says, ”The whole space in Otto feels completely new. It is drawing new students in every day. It is encouraging new users to try things and get a taste for equipment they like, and they start to build a day-to-day mindset of wellness.“

With the increase of new areas to the center, Gonzales has the opportunity to strengthen her skills in her graduate assistant role. She is able to work on her communication skills with students from a larger variety of cultural backgrounds.

”I have always appreciated how diverse our campus is with students from all over the world,“ she says. ”It has been such a great experience working with diverse cultures that are here for the same reason—to be healthier individuals. The new equipment is bringing our campus community closer and to a common purpose of investment in our physical and mental health.“

The new equipment is also helping Gonzales get the one-on-one exposure to clients that she believes will help her toward her future goals in worksite wellness. With over 1,000 entries to the Otto Recreation Center each day, the continuation of both regular and new users of the facilities and new equipment is beneficial for all. Graduate assistants and staff continue to help individuals find the balance of convenience and efficiency with health and fitness.

Gonzales says, ”Health is every day. We want our students, staff, and community to create a healthy mindset. Part of that starts here and with this new equipment. It is a win-win situation when students feel comfortable and excited to use our machines, and I can help them be more successful with their progress using them“.

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

David Jones

Our shared love of Minnesota State University, Mankato pulls us closer. It is a University with a special impact on everyone who studies here, works with the students here and invests in the future of this institution. I should know. I walk the walk every day as I work to help students achieve their goals and dreams. As the Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, I wish to share a little bit more about what Student Affairs and the University are doing to live like Mavericks!

This Student Affairs Highlight is our 30th highlight spotlighting the incredible work our students and staff are doing to improve themselves and our campus. If you wish to revisit any of these highlights, you can find them here:

Over the past several years, we have shared the personal stories of student leaders, student volunteers, alumni, staff members and donors who have chosen to provide financial support for our students and programs. From our first story addressing student hunger through Campus Kitchen to our most recent one about the former Editor-In-Chief of our student newspaper, The Reporter, we have been sharing stories about the incredible things happening at Minnesota State Mankato.

In my role, I frequently have the pleasure to meet with current students, alumni and champions of our work here at the University. Without fail, each has a specific story, person or event that helped them to become the Maverick they are. These Maverick Moments are the backbone of our learning and define who we become. As we begin 2019, we will share more of these Maverick Moments with you and invite you to share yours with us. To that end, it only seems fair that I share the first one.

My Maverick Moment involves trees. As a University leader, I have the opportunity to work on projects and planning, especially with students. Oftentimes the work we are doing today will not immediately assist current students; rather, it will serve as a support for future students. This is often summed up in our conversations as our ”planting trees under whose shade future students will benefit.“ Forethought in leadership among this current generation of students is awe-inspiring. Many of our students are striving to be the first in their family to graduate with a four-year degree. When working with these students, we recognize that their success has the potential of changing their family tree for generations. It is this final tree that drives my wife and I to support Minnesota State Mankato.

Some of you may know that I am married to a Maverick. My wife, Jennifer, is a 1992 graduate and a long-time educator. She is also the first in her family to earn a four-year degree. We both believe in the transformational power of earning a degree, especially from Minnesota State Mankato. That’s why we choose to give to the University, specifically to Student Affairs. Our gifts will contribute to the formation of a new Student Affairs scholarship for sophomore students active in a student organization. We will be awarding this new scholarship for Fall 2019.

I want to invite you to be a part of the fun of supporting students, in whatever way makes most sense for you. I would love to discuss our thoughts behind this student success initiative, and to hear more about the ideas you have as well.

As we celebrate this holiday season, I wish to thank you for your support, time, energy and love of our University. Best wishes to you and your family. May our paths cross in 2019.

Yours in Maverick Spirit,

David P. Jones, Ph.D.

Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management

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

After receiving his associates degree from Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Gabe Hewitt had his sights set on attending a four-year institution where he could continue his passion for journalism. He instantly became drawn to the Minnesota State University, Mankato campus for its diverse organization opportunities and close community-like environment. At Minnesota State, Hewitt would pursue Mass Media and go on to become Editor in Chief of the campus newspaper and President of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Minnesota State’s campus newspaper ‘The Reporter’ has been a part of the University since 1926. The completely student-run newspaper has provided a unique look into the history of the University and Mankato community, while continuing to give students a voice on campus where they can inform, celebrate, and share their experiences. News, events and reviews allow students, staff, alumni and the community to keep connected to Minnesota State. The digitization of the paper has made The Reporter accessible to Minnesotans all across the State.

Gabe Hewitt was proud and grateful when he was chosen for the opportunity to become Editor in Chief for a paper that had such a rich history. This position included managing the editors and writers to generate content, look over all stories and make design adjustments, accurately represent the diverse culture of the University in the material, and speak before the student senate to advocate for the newspaper. Hewitt was also one of the first Mass Media majors to be chosen for the position and from that background was able to hold writers to a high standard of quality, professionalism, and reputable stories and sources.

Hewitt’s hope is that a first-year student walking around campus would pick up the latest issue and be able to read stories that represent their culture, issues, ideas, and connect them with various events around campus. “The Reporter is a platform for involvement and a place to give students a voice, who may not feel that they normally have one on perspectives and opinions about things happening on campus”, says Hewitt. His goal is that The Reporter continues to encompass community values and allow students, staff, and alumni to create connections and resources with one another to foster success.

During his time at Minnesota State Hewitt was also elected chapter president of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ). Here he organized and created workshops on journalism topics and invited speakers from all over the state to talk about what is happening in the media. Hewitt’s passion for SPJ led him to the idea of connecting individuals from both organizations to share and connect about media and journalism together, even attending media tours of the Star Tribune and NPR news.

Although Hewitt finished his position as Editor in Chief in May after graduating, he hopes that he has planted the seeds to keep the campus paper more accessible to the campus community, especially in a digital moving world. After bolstering the social media pages and starting the framework for a podcast series, Hewitt believes that more individuals will be able to read, share, and listen to the content in ways never imagined 90 years ago at the start. Though the paper is already in a digital format, Hewitt still sees the value in picking up a paper copy and reading it over coffee or with a group of friends.

A campus paper that is open platform and completely student-run are becoming rare, but Hewitt believes that his opportunity as Editor in Chief at Minnesota State University has prepared him for future success. Hewitt says, “Minnesota State has given me the tools to thrive in a changing industry. Media is a type of profession where to be successful you need a portfolio of projects and works, something that speaks to your strengths and interests. Minnesota State University and these groups have helped me build this portfolio to take with me after graduation and future employees will appreciate the opportunities I have been able to take and be a part of.”

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