The Sky's The Limit

Being involved in campus activities can provide students myriad benefits during their college careers. By joining a student organization on campus, students are able to build relationships, improve their leadership abilities, work on their interpersonal skills, expand their interests and feel a part of their university’s community. At Minnesota State University, Mankato, there are over 250 registered student organizations (RSOs) that students can join.

While these organizations can provide numerous benefits, it can also be challenging for students to balance being a member of these groups or running them with everything else that is going on in their busy lives.

In Fall 2019, a group of students along with Emi Menk, assistant director of Student Activities, decided there was a need to form a group that could help these students find the optimal opportunities through their organizations. Additionally, it could be a resource for students on how to run an organization, which many are doing for the first time.

As a result, the Maverick Involvement Team (MIT) was born. According to Kathryn Wirtanen, MIT’s Program Operations Coordinator, “the main goal of the Maverick Involvement Team is to enhance the leadership skills of students, but also to connect them with peer-to-peer advising with RSO officers, and to provide workshops and leadership development.”

Wirtanen, a junior Environmental Science major from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, has been actively involved in student organizations since becoming a Maverick. Wirtanen came to Minnesota State University, Mankato with hopes of finding volunteer opportunities, so she joined a couple of organizations her first year as a member. Then, she engaged with officers to inquire about leadership positions.

Wirtanen joined multiple organization’s leadership boards and worked her way into becoming the president of Colleges Against Cancer, the president of the Environmental Sustainability Organization and the Program Operations Coordinator of the Maverick Involvement Team

Wirtanen has gained a lot from her experiences in student organizations. “Being involved in even one student organization can really increase a lot of opportunities for [students], whether it be a social group or major group, whatever type of group there is, there is something to pick from. Just joining one group can open so many opportunities for you,” she says.

With such a wide range of student organizations at Minnesota State Mankato, there truly is something for everyone. Whether it be in Fraternity and Sorority Life, Student Government, religious groups, sport clubs, language clubs, honors societies, political groups, art clubs or groups that meet based on hobbies, there are so many opportunities to get involved.

According to Wirtanen, being in a student organization can enhance “the college experience” and help students grow personally and professionally, which helps students succeed not only at Minnesota State Mankato, but in their careers after they graduate. That is exactly what the Maverick Involvement Team is hoping to accomplish.

The team provides numerous resources to do this including peer advising for RSO officers and student leaders, Leadership U workshops each week, RSO officer training, involvement fairs, RSO socials, teambuilding workshops, a student leadership conference, student leadership awards and they will also be co-sponsoring the U-Lead Conference with other organizations on campus.

Wirtanen holds dear every value of the Maverick Involvement Team, but she especially loves the idea of empowering individuals and organizations and helping students connect.

“I really like the idea of having RSOs connecting with each other to collaborate on different events, fundraising efforts or campaigns. Whatever they choose to do, the sky’s the limit. If you have the interest and the numbers, you can really grow the passion that you have. By supporting students and the initiatives they want to take, we can see those groups go farther,” she says.

Although the group is still pretty new and COVID-19 has forced it to get even more creative with student opportunities, the group is still so excited for what’s to come.

“Establishing a new group and new program can be challenging, and while that challenge has been amplified by the pandemic, the students involved with MIT have really stepped up and taken initiative to figure out how they can make the most of the situation…They’ve also really supported and uplifted each other throughout the process – as an advisor it has been an absolute joy to see how they have embarked on this process, how they’ve brought their vision to life, and the connections that have resulted from the program,” Menk says.