RSO Uses Shared Experiences To Build Cultural Unity

Centennial Student Union RSO of the Month: Bridges International

“It always fills me with joy when student refer to us as ‘Bridges family’.” – Kailee Steen, Bridges International president.

The mingling of cultures found at Minnesota State University, Mankato stretches from reserved curiosity to blatant stereotypes. One Registered Student Organization helps level the playing field through shared experiences.

Recognized as the Centennial Student Union’s March RSO of the Month, Bridges International lives up to its name by seeking opportunities for bridging the cultural gap among students of all nationalities, races and religions.

“We have found that sometimes there is a disconnect once international students arrive at the university,” said Kailee Steen, president of Bridges International. “Our organization’s mission is to bridge the gap between international students and American students. We desire to foster connections, engage in conversations, help students practice their English, serve the internationals, and create social and cultural events.”

Among BI’s ongoing programs is Bridges Café, a Tuesday gathering offering cross-cultural dialogue ranging from fun to significant while enjoying tea, coffee, hot chocolate and treats.

“This helps facilitate relationships and increases cultural competency among all who attend,” she said.

Other social activities involve potlucks featuring foods from members’ countries. Events for experiencing American and Midwestern culture include pumpkin carving, trips to Mall of America and winter break trips to Florida and Washington, D.C. As Spring Break 2018 nears, BI members plan for a service project to Texas to assist hurricane relief.

Steen said the goal is unity.

“It always fills me with joy when student refer to us as ‘Bridges family’,” she said.

More about Bridges International:

Facebook Page

What are your goals of your organization and how to you attain them? Our goal is to bridge the gap between international and American students and help internationals feel welcomed. We desire to foster connections, engage in conversations, help students practice their English, and serve the internationals. We attain these goals through the weekly discussions during our Bridges Cafe, meeting one-on-one with students, and creating social and cultural events and trips. These help promote opportunities for students to engage with one another facilitate lasting friendships, and experience the American culture. Through discussion, we also learn from one another.

Why should someone join your organization? People should join our organization to learn about other cultures, grow in their cultural competency, gain friendships and a welcoming family, and have fun!

When did your organization start at Minnesota State University, Mankato? Our organization started in 2012.

How many members do you currently have? We have about 20 members who regularly attend, and about 50 members who we are in contact with regularly.

How often do you meet?  We meet weekly, but we also have other events periodically each month. What leadership positions can someone hold within your chapter? Leadership positions include president, vice president, scheduler, and being a member of the leadership team.

What is the greatest achievement your organization has received? The greatest achievement is when students highly recommend our organization and consider us their “Bridges family.”  How do you join? Anyone can join! One can start by simply attending our weekly Bridges café (meeting). Please share any other information/comment that spotlights your student organization. Our organization continues to grow each year. We started out with a minimal number of people, and we now have about 30 people regularly attending our meetings.

Honors Program Helps Rocket Your Future

The Right Stuff. Back in 1983, this movie about the early days of the space program focused on confident individuals getting ready to be shot into space.

Actually, that’s a good metaphor for the Honors Program at Minnesota State Mankato – students confident they are the Right Stuff push their personal envelope with hopes for rocketing their future.

In the coming two weeks you will have three opportunities to find out about the Honors Program and if its a good fit for you, your college career and your future.

“Students who are looking to take their college experience one step further should consider applying for the Honors Program,” said Ginny Walters, Honors Program assistant director. “Students in the Honors Program engage in meaningful experiences that help them to develop their leadership, research, and global citizenship skills.”

Motivated students selected for the Minnesota State take their college experience further than they thought possible. Along the way, they develop problem solving skills and a growing passion for knowledge.

Think you’re the Right Stuff or you just want to rocket your career. Plan to attend one of the sessions or find out more about the program here.

Choosing a Major is All About Passion

By BRETT MARSHALL, CSU Public Relations Intern

There’s a quote from Confucius that I always let resonate when thinking about my future: Choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life. 

That choice starts at college – or before college. Yet, some of us enter and move through college without a decided major. It’s one of the most important decisions you’ve made to date. That decision doesn’t come easy.

It’s scary to make a big life decision like choosing a major. There’s a good chance that choice is something that’s going to shape the next 40 or so years of your life, so, yeah, no pressure. Don’t fret though. If you’re one those people having a tough time making or maybe doubting your decision, I’m here to give you some tips and links.

  • Find and Visit This Office. The Office of New Students and Family Programs on the main level of Preska offers counseling and services to help the undecided student. Start with the handy Advising Worksheet, follow the steps for Exploring a Major and set up a counseling session.
  • Use your resources. The Career Development Center located on the second floor of Wigley Administration has tons of stuff and experienced staff willing to help you narrow down and make choices. Here is a great CDC site to help you focus on your major
  • Turn to the Undergraduate Bulletin. The Undergraduate Bulletin is another great tool. It lists out every major minor at the University. Page through it and circle things that look interesting and cross out the things that look terrible. After that, write down your results and start to make some pros and cons lists and explore career opportunities within each of the majors.
  • Visit This Link.  This CDC site has endless resources on careers, majors, jobs and everything in between.
  • Find your passion. This is my best piece of advice. Take 10 minutes to write down everything you love doing. Reading, writing, singing, math, science, sports, grammar, chemistry or whatever else it may. Find the thing that’s your favorite and see if you can find a major that correlates with that passion. Don’t let salary deter you either.

If you do all that, I guarantee you’ll find some clarity. There’s no need to rush your decision either. Take your general education classes and more time to think about it if you need to.  And if you make a decision and find out down the road that it was terrible one, don’t hesitate to try something new. Take the steps now so you’ll “never have to work a day in your life.”

Guests Can Work Out and Swim For Five Bucks

by TAYLOR ZENZ, CSU Public Relations Intern

Abe Lincoln can now get your non-student visitor in the door.

Otto Recreation Center is now offering Day Guest Passes for visitors who want to use MSU’s gym facilities. For just $5 a day, this new policy allows students to sponsor non-MSU public (18+) at the Rec Center.

This is a perfect opportunity for those of you who have visiting friends and family who want to get active with you during their time on campus – because, as you know, it’s currently a little too cold to get exercise outside.

Day Guest Passes give access to Otto Recreation Center, to the Highland Pool during open swim times, and the Myers Field House during open recreation times. The only exclusion is the Myers Field House climbing wall and outdoor climbing pinnacle.

Guests must show a photo ID when entering and won’t be allowed to enter the Rec Center without their MSU sponsor. To purchase a guest pass and for more information, visit

I’ll see you on the running track (with your out-of-town friends)!




22 Free Fitness Opportunities. Does It Get Any Better?

by REED CARR, CSU Public Relations Intern

Mavericks are lining up for group fitness, yoga and meditation classes—no charge.

There are 22 classes scheduled through Campus Rec every Monday through Friday. Classes are typically in Pennington Hall 102 and Highland North 225, but don’t be surprised if they happen outside and even in water. Carly Hopper, program coordinator, leads the classes at Minnesota State Mankato with the help of graduate students and interns.

“Classes range from yoga, meditation, core conditioning, Zumba, high intensity interval training, Thai dance, cardio-based classes, hip-hop, circuit training, strength training, and stretching classes,” Hopper said.

Leave the fees of other gyms behind and get your workout in just down the hall. All you need to is a clean pair of shoes!

“There is no registration for any class on our group fitness schedule. Our budget to offer group fitness classes is funded by student allocation fees, so there is no additional charge to students for these classes,” she said. “They simply have to show up with a positive attitude, participate, and most importantly, have fun.”

‘There is no additional charge to students for these classes. They simply have to show up with a positive attitude, participate, and most importantly, have fun.’ – Carly Hopper

Everyone has tried working out on their own. It’s easy to lose motivation when you don’t have someone to help push you along and feel the burn, Hopper said.

“Group fitness classes not only offer participants a set time to exercise, but also provides an opportunity for friends to be active together and meet new people who also want to be physically active,” she said. “People generally enjoy being active with friends like they may have done in high school or in an organized sport, but they may not have that same opportunity now, so group fitness classes can provide some of that structure to encourage anyone to exercise.”

Grab a group of friends, some clean shoes and a positive attitude, and get fit! All class formats, times offered and locations can be found at the following website:

Students Invited To Seek ‘Status of Women’ Grants

Funding Helps Projects About Women and Gender

by Taylor Zenz, CSU Public Relations Intern

The President’s Commission on the Status of Women is once again offering research and professional grants to students, faculty and staff of Minnesota State University, Mankato.

University President Richard Davenport created the commission to support individuals who wish to improve the status of women on campus and beyond.

With that, there are stipends available to conduct research and/or attend professional development opportunities concerning the status of women and gender-related issues.

Liz Steinborn-Gourley, Student Success coordinator and conduct officer, says that “students working on research and creative projects particularly aimed at learning more about women and gender should consider the grant to fund their project”. She mentions that some conferences that have been funded in the past include Women in Aviation and the Mankato YWCA women’s Leadership Conference.

Whether you need funding for a creative art installation or a research project aimed at learning more about women and gender, we encourage you to apply!

The spring deadline for applications is Tuesday, Feb. 20 at 4 p.m. All activities using funds must occur before June 1, 2018. Commission is not able to fund equipment requests or incentives.

For more information and to submit your electronic proposal,  visit or contact Liz Steinborn-Gourley (

RSO Challenge Seeks Trivia Masters

by Taylor Zenz, CSU Public Relations Intern

Round up your RSO (Recognized Student Organizations) members for free food and a chance to win $200 in the Pop Culture Trivia Challenge.

“The Pop Culture Trivia Challenge is an event provided by Student Activities for RSOs. This is an opportunity for RSOs to interact with each other and also to win some money for their group,” said Jessica Lee, graduate advisor for Student Activities: RSOs & Leadership. “We understand that it can be difficult for some groups to raise funds for activities and group events, so we wanted to provide space where they can do this.”

Regardless of your proficiency in pop culture, it will be a great opportunity to bond with other organizations as well as your own.

“This event is a way to explicitly set a date so that those who want to meet other RSOs have the chance and place to do so,” Lee said.

The challenge is on Monday, Feb. 19 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Flexible Programming Space next to Erbert’s and Gerbert’s. Interested RSOs should register in OrgSync by Feb. 9 using this link:

Culinary Love Proved Valuable To Hunger College Student

by Reed Carr, CSU Public Relations Intern

Growing up, I had 10 television channels. Cartoons weren’t my thing and my mother’s soap operas were too corny. So, in the off chance that I was watching t.v. instead of running around in the yard with a stick (imaginary sword), it was either Food Network, or Travel Channel.

I’d watch Anthony Bourdain travel the world, exploring places and eating things I had no idea could exist. Blood pudding in Ireland, foie gras in France, chicken pho in Vietnam; you can imagine the affect that had on a child from Kilkenny, Minnesota­—population 108.

Coming from a humble background, I wasn’t able to get my hands on top shelf ingredients, but I made the most of what was in our cupboards. I created countless variations of the grilled cheese, pasta with red sauce, hand rolled pizzas, and my specialty, chicken and cheese empanadas.

I became better and better at compiling the ingredients I had at my disposal, and even cooking for my friends every once in a while.

Now that I’m in my last year of college, I’ve been looking back at how my love for creating my own meals has been a huge benefit—financially and spiritually. There’s something rewarding about coming home to a crockpot of savory beef stew that eight hours earlier was a bunch of raw, singular ingredients.

If there is one thing I would pass on to underclassmen, it would be this: When you take a meal break from studying, don’t go the quick route, or at least don’t do it every day. Use the internet to teach you how and what to cook. Google recipes. YouTube instructions. Instagram the finished product.

You’ll save money, feel healthier and build a connection with food and the process of creating that you may not have had before.

P.S. “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” is on Netflix. Every season.

‘Dats,’ ‘Hollerday’ and ‘Hatherer’ Among Avila’s Observations

Dr. Edward Avila: 20 questions

What is your spirit animal? It’s got to be the bat. I can’t see for sh%$, I like to eat, I love being in a community, and I don’t move around well in the winter.

What word describes you best? Learning and unfolding.

What three items would you want if you were stranded on an island? A city, my family, and a university in which to work.

Do you know any other languages other than English? Spanish, which is a lifelong learning project.

Favorite band or type of music? Bebop, Hip Hop, Baroque, and Indie Rock.

Dogs or cats? Dats. [I try to avoid false dilemmas.]

Do you play any instruments? Bass (and sometimes piano).

What is your favorite episode of Star Wars? The Empire Strikes Back.

Favorite holiday? Dia de los Muertos and May Day. You did say hollerday, right?

Who is your favorite member of The Beatles? John (George is a close second)

What would be your first move after winning the Minnesota lottery? Funding music and art programs in Mankato and surrounding communities.

Do you consider yourself more of a hunter or a gatherer? A gunter or hatherer, depending on the season and alignment of the planets.

What song would you sing in your audition for American Idol? John Cage’s 4’33’’

What is your preferred method for listening to music (vinyl, CD, digital, etc.)? Vinyl.

What’s your favorite course to teach? ENG 318: Transnational Latina/o Narratives: Migration, Space, and Identity.

Do you believe in Bigfoot? Only if s/he believes in me.

If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not, living or dead, real or fictional, with whom would it be? My two young daughters. I miss that perception of the world.

Which fictional character would you bring to life if any? What?!? They’re not real?!?

What is your favorite drink? Espresso in all its various and splendid forms.

What trend do you wish would come back? Which do you wish would be gone forever? Certainly not ’80s attire; been there and done that and hope I never have to experience that again (unless, perhaps, it’s a rebooted version of ’80s “goth,” but certainly not the mullet). I’d like to see public libraries opened the entire weekend, and not just for a few hours. I’d also like to see the San Diego Padres return to their classic brown unis. Lastly, I’d like to see older generations STOP talking trash about younger generations—go Millennials and Gen Z! I’m also appreciating the rise in resistance movements; much needed, timely, and inspirational.

Avila Views ‘Compose!’ As The Active Verb of Creativity

by Reed Carr, CSU Public Relations Intern

Dr. Edward Avila, MSU professor of literature

Developing creativity, no matter the field, is at the forefront of Dr. Edward Avila’s focus.

“Compose! It doesn’t matter if it’s a song, an orchestral piece, a poem or collection of poems, a short film, a painting, a collection of photographs, even fashion or interior designs or works. The point is to produce some form of original work.”

While he currently teaches literature at MSU, Dr. Avila has a long past with music as well. He briefly played football in high school, but found a greater interest in music and literature.

“I started playing the trombone during 4th grade and then learned the euphonium, trumpet, and tuba, and contrabass in middle and high school,” Avila said. “As an adult, I took lessons on the piano but have limited my playing to the electric and acoustic bass, given my current job and raising a family.”

After graduating high school in Chula Vista, Calif., Dr. Avila took those talents to Los Angeles to develop his musical artistry.

“You want to talk about experiential learning? Try moving to the ‘big city’ and learning in real time how to work your craft and make ends meet,” he said. “Invaluable education, to say the least.”

Dr. Avila brings his creative propensity to the classroom to not only help students harbor creativity in themselves but to expand their perspective of the world around them.

“Fostering critical thought and creativity is key,” Avila explained. “That said, I also think that one of my biggest successes is fostering creativity as a key component or aspect of intellectual production. The two, creativity and intellectualism, are inextricable.”

Innovation is important no matter the field, but English students are especially lucky to have him in their classrooms.