Faculty Faces features Queen Booker

EDITOR’S NOTE: Many of you have your favorite classroom mentor – that professor or instructor who made learning fun, who believed in you and inspired a passion to learn or pursue your dreams. If you have a faculty member you would like to see featured, send an email to csuinfo@mnsu.edu

Continental Traveler Seeks Global Community 

By Patricia Anyango
Graduate Assistant, CSU Communications

 

Queen Booker still needs to see the bottom of the world.

An associate professor of Management within the College of Business who loves to travel, Queen said many would be surprised to know that she has travelled to all the continents except Antarctica. Among her favorite – and most daring – journeys was her travels in Angola during the late 1990s.

“I loved the people and the most courageous thing I ever did was travel there to determine what aid was needed for civilians who were trying to survive the civil war,” she said. The payoff was knowing that what she was doing in Angola had a positive effect.

A native of the Mississippi Delta, Queen has always been passionate about helping communities and making them stronger. She has worked with the Ford Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other nonprofit organizations focusing on economic empowerment of rural communities.

Although her background is in community development, Queen got into academia to serve as a resource and source of encouragement to students.  Helping them see the importance of community and economic development is at the heart of her teaching philosophy.

“Be engaged, think and look outside your classroom and yourself and look at how you can make a difference in your community,” is her advice to students.

Besides the classroom, Queen offers guidance to students involved with African Students’ Organization for Development and Progress (ASODP), Liberia Student Association & African Student Association (ASA). In and outside the classroom, Queen remains actively involved in the advancement of diversity on campus. You may also find her singing some of the R&B classics in Centennial Student Union during daytime karaoke events.


I would like for students to remember me as someone who genuinely cared about their long-term success and well-being. –  Queen Booker


Queen holds a doctorate from the University of Mississippi, an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and a bachelor’s from Harvard University. During her 14 years at Minnesota State Mankato, she has taught subjects like Principles of Management, Ethics, Operations Management and Management Information Systems.


If she had a superpower, what would it be? 12 questions with Queen Booker

  1. What did you do for fun growing up? I was and still am a complete bookworm. I read books. My early favorites were the Child Craft books and World Book encyclopedias followed closely by the Sam and Ann adventure series, especially in the later books where the authors focused on Greek and Roman mythology.
  2. What is your favorite childhood memory? When I was in first grade, I was named homecoming queen of our elementary and middle schools. It was the one and only time I have ever been Queen Queen!
  3. Would you rather watch a movie or read a book? Oh in a heartbeat: Read a book!
  4. Which superpower would you choose? I would chose the power to summon the elements of a storm (lightning; rain; wind; snow) like Thor.
  5. Which fad do you wish would come back, and which do you wish would disappear?  The fad that I wish would disappear is the practice of wearing pants around the hips and the one I wish would come back is men opening the car door for women.
  6. Do you collect anything? I collect post cards and t-shirts. Instead of taking pictures when I travel I purchase post cards and t-shirts to recall my favorite memories of my trips.
  7. What would you do if you weren’t a professor? If I weren’t a professor, I would most likely have been a writer of “love inspired” religious novels.
  8. What does your perfect day include? A perfect day for me is one where it snows and then it stops before I have to drive in it! I love the snow but hate driving in it!
  9. Who is your hero/heroine? I don’t have a specific hero/heroine. But I admire anyone who is willing to stand up for what they truly believe as long as it doesn’t bring harm to others or themselves.
  10. Where in the world would you like to live? I would love to live in the Mississippi delta again. There is just something about being able to get peaches and plums fresh off the tree!
  11. If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to? If I could go back in time, I would go back to 1982 and relive my first year of college. I made many mistakes during that first year including but not limited to eating too many Nutty Bars and Oreo cookies that caused me miss a few classes. Missing those few classes could have ended my academic future but I was lucky enough to have professors who cared enough to address my problem and helped me to continue my education. Being a professor now, I realize how important it was to have caring professors but I also know that it was my responsibility to take care of myself. So I would go back and be a better person during that first year of college.
  12. If you could share a meal with any 3 individuals, living or dead, who would they be?  If I could share a meal with any three individuals, I would choose my mom, my maternal Aunt Mae Bell and my maternal grandmother Gertrude all of whom have passed on. I never had the chance to share a meal with them at the same time although all three had a profound impact on the woman I now am.

The Effects of Music on the Brain

  • Music keeps the brain active – even while sleeping
  • Instrumental music is more conducive to concentration
  • Surgeons perform better when listening to music
  • Music can reduce blood pressure and is a defense against anxiety, depression and stress
  • Types of music impact our relationships and willingness to help others.

Even if we listen to music in a passive state and largely as a means to relax or let go, music is anything but. Whether you use it when you exercise or during a power nap, your brain, when in contact with music, is working at full!

Since the 1950s, many studies have focused on identifying the action of music on the brain.

Music and Work

Not everyone has the same needs when it comes to music and work. Some prefer silence despite scientific proof that music helps to focus and improve efficiency and creativity.

In 1994, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported a spectacular difference in performance of stressful operations between surgeons operating with their music of choice versus those that operated in silence.

In general, instrumental music has been shown to be more conducive to concentration than alternative forms. Lyrics and singing may cause distraction even if it is in an unconscious manner. That being said, the type of work being done and the monotony of the task will affect this.

The Mozart effect

Listen to music and your body, in particularly your brain, will say thank you. With slower music, it can improve circulation and dramatically reduce blood pressure.

According to a 2004 study involving rats listening to Mozart, music generates a supply of calcium to the brain that produces dopamine, inhibiting the sympathetic nervous system and reducing blood pressure. This also explains why music acts as a defense against anxiety, depression and stress.

Music makes us better

Beyond the biological benefits of music, it is now proven that it even has impact on our relationship with others.

A 2009 study revealed that if one is subjected to a happy music, the people who surround us will seem happier.

Even more surprising is the experience of psychologists Rona Fried and Leonard Berkowitz of the University of New York: they subjected a group of students to listen to calm music; another to stimulating music; a third group to music producing negative emotions; and lastly one with no music at all. The students were then asked to render a service. Students submitted to the calming music were more likely to help (90%), followed by those in the third group and those who did not listen to music (60%) and in last, the group subjected to more negative music (45%).

Moral of the story: listen, sing, play! It’s good for the body and for the soul.

Taken From Karaoke Version Blog

Alumni Memories Sought; Centennial Student Union Plans 50th Celebration Homecoming Day, Oct. 7


The Centennial Student Union invites students and alumni to join its 50th Anniversary Reunion Celebration on Homecoming Day, Saturday, Oct. 7.

Highlighting CSU reunion festivities during Minnesota State University, Mankato Homecoming Day 2017 activities will be an afternoon reception starting at 3:30 p.m. in the CSU Hearth Lounge. Other days activities will be a morning light breakfast, an invitation to participate in the Homecoming Day parade, and an evening “family friendly” event.

Mark Constantine, director of the Centennial Student Union, said activities celebrating the student union’s 50th anniversary will begin at the start of the Fall 2017 semester and continue through Homecoming 2017.

“We are reaching out to all alumni – and particularly our past CSU student employees – to return to the Centennial Student Union on Homecoming Day to help us celebrate,” Constantine said. “We also are inviting all alumni to share photos and memories shaped in the CSU as a part of a Fall ‘Serendipitous Memories’ art show planned in the CSU Art Gallery.”

“We are reaching out to all alumni – and particularly our past CSU student employees – to return to the Centennial Student Union on Homecoming Day to help us celebrate. We also are inviting all alumni to share photos and memories shaped in the CSU as a part of a Fall ‘Serendipitous Memories’ art show planned in the CSU Art Gallery.” – Mark Constantine

Photos and memories can be shared on the CSU 50th Anniversary website, www.csu.mnsu/50thAnniversary. Shared memories will be displayed in a CSU Art Gallery exhibit from August through the Homecoming celebration.

“Maybe the CSU is where you met your life partner, found a lifelong Greek community or discovered a personal passion,” Constantine said. “We want to share your CSU memories.”

The CSU also is creating a 50th anniversary display that will be used in the CSU throughout the 2017-18 academic year as well as with the University’s planned Sesquicentennial traveling display. The CSU display will include a video timeline featuring CSU directors, key staff members and special guests.

Faculty Focus features GUARIONEX SALIVIA

For Dr. Guarionex Salivia, the family business is teaching.

“My mom is a high school teacher, my father was a university professor and most of my uncles have taught at university level,” Salivia said. “My grandfather was a medical doctor and he was also a teacher. I have a brother who is finishing a doctorate who will be a professor, and two of my brothers are elementary schoolteachers. Everyone in my family is a teacher!”

Becoming a university professor was a natural result of growing up around so many academics, but his love for teaching goes deeper than tradition.


“Standing in front of all those people and having them somehow learn something from me; that is really exciting.”
– Guarionex Salivia


“Standing in front of all those people and having them somehow learn something from me; that is really exciting,” Salivia said. “That’s why I love teaching. Even if it’s only 10 percent of the students that get something out of the class. That’s what motivates me.”

Outside of school, Dr. Salivia likes to mountain climb, cross-country ski and catch up on the many Netflix series he has started. He also loves to play soccer.

“I used to play soccer in college so I’ve been trying to stay in shape for when the next opportunity arises,” Salivia said. “I try to connect with the students as much as I can, and in the context of sports, it would be nice to connect with a group of students that play soccer and would be open to involving faculty.”

Dr. Salivia is on the brink of getting his tenure promotion. He is excited to continue expanding his research and teaching spectrum at Minnesota State, Mankato.


Find out what his spirit animal is and why plus more in 10 questions with Guarionex Salivia.

  1. What is your favorite music? I listen to anything from Spanish rock to reggae. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Bob Marley.
  2. Where is your hometown? I’m from San Juan, Puerto Rico.
  3. What is your favorite movie? Star Wars, but only the original trilogy. Not the prequels and not the enhanced versions. I read recently that Disney is going to release the original untampered with trilogy, and I cannot wait until that happens so I can get my hands on it.
  4. What is your spirit animal? The dragon. I was born in 1976, which is the year of the dragon in the Chinese calendar.
  5. What word best describes you? I like to think of myself as a highly collaborative person. I don’t know if that’s how people perceive me, but that’s how I would like to be perceived. I do my best to collaborate.
  6. If you were stranded on an island, what three items would you want? If I can choose anything, then a boat. A knife, a rope and a boat.
  7. Where in the world would you like to live? There is this one town I visited in the northwestern part of Italy where my ancestors from my mother’s side are from called Genoa, Italy. I loved it. It’s a port-town and it’s interesting because the town is built on a hill. It’s beautiful.
  8. Do you speak any second languages? My native language is Spanish, and I also speak Italian.
  9. If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time? Catch up on all my Netflix. I’m watching too much stuff and it’s hard to catch up.
  10. Do you have a hero/heroine? I look up to my father a lot because he was also a university professor. I think of him as a figure to emulate. I rely a lot on my wife, not just for support, but also because we compliment each other. It’s not about heroics, it’s about life experiences.

Trends in College Programming

What’s Trending At Minnesota State?

Programming Director Sees Millennials

As Wanting To Be ‘Part Of The Event’

By Lenny Koupal, Centennial Student Union Communications Coordinator

A recent EDM Concert hosted in the Centennial Student Union by the Student Events Team provided a multimedia production with live streaming as techno-savvy students seek more interactive entertainment.

Part of the continuing effort for keeping higher education relevant is adjusting the university experience to ever-changing trends.

University campuses such as Minnesota State University, Mankato continually seek greater diversity among faculty and staff to meet the expanding cultural demographics of its student body. Other challenges and opportunities involve responding to the needs of distance learners as online classes appeal to students across the state or just across campus.

For Bill Tourville, assistant director of campus programs, his Student Events Team within Student Activities at the Centennial Student Union must balance events between a generation of students that either wants to get an education and get out – or those that want to interact.

“The days of sitting and watching are over,” Tourville said. “Today’s Millennials and Gen-Y’ers want to interact. They want to be part of the event.”

Tourville said 15 years ago, the entire lineup of campus programming would have been performances.


“The traditional performance style is outdated. Students want to be part of something bigger” – Bill Tourville


“That’s not okay anymore. The traditional performance style is outdated. Students want to be part of something bigger,” he said.

Among the most popular traditions coordinated by the Student Events Team is the annual CSU Haunted House. Much of the entire 215,000-square-foot student union turns into Halloween Spook Central as various student organizations put together their idea of scary. Hundreds of students line-up to be engaged and engrossed in the moment.

Campus versions of game shows and cosmic bingo, exotic animal day and even organized snowball fights are on the students’ wish list of events.

Tourville said another balancing act is national name recognition versus unique experiences. Students on one hand are most comfortable with “national prepackaged stuff” whether its movies or concerts or lectures.

“Unless it’s a national name, most students are not interested,” he said. “Unless a friend is in a band or it’s a national name, they won’t go.”

On the other hand, students are drawn to unique, interactive experiences. Many of those involve some level of technology whether it’s smart boards in student union meeting rooms or spaces that are flexible, communal gathering places.

For concerts, Tourville said the trend is to direct dollars to production as well as performance. A recent Electronic Dance Music performance in the CSU blended music with a multimedia experience.

“Some schools are spending a third of their concert budget on production – lights, sound, décor – students are wanting that experience,” he said. “It’s not only about the performance but about the experience they had.”

Within those type of interpersonal events is the growing trend in live streaming. At Minnesota State Mankato, Tourville said Facebook live streaming at concerts starts in the morning and continues until they contractual must shut down the site.

“Two of the artists at our EDM concert were Facebook live streaming the entire concert,” he added.

When, where and how live streaming is allowed is now creating issues that need to be addressed.

Tourville adds that social media continues to be a trend that needs constant attention. Even then, organized programs or departments are viewed as outsiders in students’ social media circles. Snapchat is the latest trend in the social media landscape.

“Snapchat is not going away,” Tourville said. “It’s how (students) are connecting with their friends. That is how they are communicating on an interpersonal level.”

While Facebook is a popular communication tool, it doesn’t reach into a student’s inner circle.

“Facebook is your public persona, Snapchat is more private,” he said. “Today’s students seek a place where they can just be personal and we can’t reach them. They can be private on Snapchat.”

Tourville said the trend is to take a different Facebook approach by providing good content that they can use personally.

For student life professionals, these changing trends for the Millennial generation means – perhaps now more than ever – the continuing trend of vigilance, flexibility and creative ideas that keep the college experience fresh and memorable for a diverse, individualized and interactive array of college students.

Maverick Bullpen’s manager: Kyle Bischoff

Maverick Bullpen manager, Kyle Bischoff, has a knack for bowling.

Before transferring to Minnesota State, Mankato, he bowled competitively at Wichita State University.

“I bowled there for 2 years and won one national title my final year, which is one of my biggest accomplishments in my life sportswise,” said Kyle. “I eventually ran out of money and decided to transfer to Minnesota State University, and they have the only competitive program in Minnesota, so it was an easy choice.”

His love and knowledge of the game has helped him to coach the men’s and women’s bowling league at MSU, which is one of his dream jobs. He jumped at the chance when he was informed that Scott Anderson was leaving.


“It is kind of a bowler’s dream job to be a bowling coach at a bowling alley.”
– Kyle Bischoff


“I never thought Scott, the guy before me, would leave because it is kind of a bowler’s dream job to be a bowling coach at a bowling alley,” said Kyle. “He said he thought I should give it a try, and I was like, ‘yeah of course.’”

Working with students and coaching them in the sport has made his dream reality. In the future, Kyle hopes to host a collegiate bowling tournament in Mankato.

 

 

Bullpen – What’s New?

Students playing ping-pong left, Saujanya Kafle and right, Saroj Bhetawal

The old pizza was good. The Maverick Bullpen’s new pizza is the popular perfect treat between study sessions.

“It’s one of the best pizzas I’ve personally tasted,” said Kyle Bischoff, Bullpen manager. “I can say I would personally buy it and I’m proud to serve it. We just introduced a brand new cheesy garlic bread with marinara dipping sauce that’s been a hit too. We are still looking to continue to grow and get new things as we keep expanding.”

In addition to the menu upgrade, there are new things to do on the gaming floor. There is a ping pong table, an extra foosball table and a new video game system.

“We just got a PS4 put in yesterday,” said Kyle. “We have FIFA 2017 which is our number one biggest hit game. I won’t say exactly what I’m going to buy, but I’m aggressively looking to purchase lots of new recreational gaming systems along with more hands on games to add to the Bullpen. That’s my goal. Get as much fun activities in this place as I can.”

If video games aren’t your thing, you can grab one of their 30+ board games from the front desk.

The Bullpen also hosts a variety of different events throughout the semester, including concerts.

“The Mocktail parties are ongoing,” said Kyle. “They actually bring a band and it’s free for anyone. Free billiards and free drinks for students. They can play billiards and listen to live music in the background. That happens every semester usually once a month.”

The Bullpen is the perfect place to have a snack and drink between classes. Or, if you closed down the library the night before, the TV room in the back is a great place to catch some z’s.

All information regarding the Bullpen hours, food, prices and events can be found at csu.mnsu.edu/MaverickBullpen/.

 

 

 

Faculty Focus features TONYA BUTLER

Music Industry Professor Gains Perspective From Clint Eastwood ‘Spaghetti Western’

Tonya was the cover feature in the River Valley Magazine in September 2016. View the magazine and article here.

By REED CARR
CSU Public Relations Intern

Tonya Butler, professor of music industry studies, is a big fan of Clint Eastwood movies. “For a Few Dollars More” she finds a lesson in self-determination.

A scene in the spaghetti western has a reverend gunslinger on a train bound for Sante Fe – but he plans to get off in Tucumcari. When he’s told the train won’t stop there, he looks at the man and says, “This train will stop in Tucumcari,” and pulls the emergency cord.

“There’s just something about that scene that gets me,” Tonya said. “The way I feel is somebody is always telling you about what’s not gonna happen or what can happen. Well I say this train is stopping there. That’s how I feel about my whole life. Don’t tell me what this train is doing. I’ll tell the train where to go.”

Tonya’s “optimistic, outgoing, and out of sight” personality is revered by her students and faculty members. It’s even helped her win a spot on the television game show, “Let’s Make a Deal.”

“It was so much fun,” Tonya said. “Wayne [Brady] was cool. He was laid back, but he was there to work. I got to meet him and give him a hug on stage. I won a living room furniture suite, wireless stereo, iPod Touch, and a $500 gift certificate to iTunes.”

Her comfortability in front of large groups has given her more than just furniture and electronics. She recently won the Toastmasters Humorous Speech Contest for the entire state of Minnesota.

“Toastmasters has humorous speech and international speech each year,” Tonya said. “You give a speech at club level and win it, then you go to the area level which is a bunch of clubs, then you do it at the division level which is a bunch of areas, then at the district level which is a bunch of divisions. I’m supposed to enter the international speech competition this Thursday which goes all around the world.”

Tonya was used to the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, where she worked as an entertainment lawyer. The Midwest lifestyle has been a big change.


“Living here in Minnesota and being at MSU has really taught me to take things in stride a little bit more.” – Tonya Butler


“I’m a lot more patient than I used to be,” she said. “I think it has something to do with the climate and the students here. Everyone is laid back and it kinda makes you laid back. Living here in Minnesota and being at MSU has really taught me to take things in stride a little bit more.”

Contributing to student’s education and making a positive impact is what motivates her. She wants to lead a life that gives back to people. With three years under her belt at Minnesota State Mankato, she’s helped spread big ideas and transfer her knowledge of the music industry to students who need it.


 You may not want to fly with Tonya Butler. Find out why in her 15-question quiz

  1. Favorite type of music? Earth Wind and Fire, Cameo, and Commodores
  2. Do you play any instruments? No, I’m the only faculty member in the department that that doesn’t play an instrument.
  3. What is it you like about music? I just love the way it makes you feel. There are very few things that can make you feel good when you’re feeling bad and music is one of them.
  4. Where is your hometown? Watts, California
  5. What did you do for fun growing up? Fun for me was singing in talent shows even though I wasn’t a great singer and reading and learning even outside of school. I was one of those kind of kids. I was a little nerdy.
  6. Would you rather watch a movie or read a book?    I would rather watch a movie. I like to see someone else’s interpretation. “The Good the Bad and the Ugly.” That is my movie.
  7. Which superpower would you choose?    I would not want to read minds or see the future. I know that. Super speed so I can run fast and do stuff fast.
  8. Which fad do you wish would come back, and which do you wish would disappear? I wish skinny jeans would go away. I wish bell bottoms would come back and platform shoes. I’d like flared leg jeans. I miss those.
  9. Do you collect anything? Yes, I collect black angels. So, whether they’re ceramic or wooden or little statues, dolls, paintings; anything black angel.
  10. Are you in any clubs or organization? I’m a member of The Recording Academy. I’m the chair of business and industry for the College of Music Society. I’m a member NABFEM, which is the National Association of Black Female Executives of Music and Entertainment.
  11. What would you do if you weren’t a professor? If I wasn’t a professor, I would be a motivational speaker. I like to share stories.
  12. What does your perfect day include? My perfect day would be waking up when I want to, speaking or teaching for an hour or two, going to the mall, shopping or watching a movie, and then just spending time with family. Nothing special. I don’t have to be on a yacht or on a beach. I’ve done all that.
  13. Who is your hero/heroine? I have a friend; her name is Rhea. She has bone marrow cancer. She is like the bravest, most spiritual, person I’ve ever known. She’s my hero.
  14. Where in the world would you like to live? I’d probably want to live somewhere back in California, in southern California somewhere because I’d be closest to my family.
  15. What is the most courageous thing you’ve ever done? Jumping down the slide on a plane that had to emergency land. You don’t want to fly with me. I’ve had it happen three times.

Faculty Focus features KRIS ROSACKER

Professor is ready to travel and get to know students on a personal level

By HALEY SEVERSON
CSU Public Relations Intern

Besides her classroom, College of Business Professor Kris Rosacker is ready to travel halfway around the globe to know students on a personal level.

“My biggest regret as a college student was I didn’t do a trip,” said Kris, a tax professor at Minnesota State Mankato. She’s made up for lost time by traveling with students to Europe and, most recently, on a January study tour to New York City. “I know some of the students didn’t necessarily have a best friend with and so I tried to reach out to those students in particular.” That willingness to engage is part of a teaching philosophy that values students by making time to know them – not just by name, but also by their interests and hobbies.

According to Kris, a perfect teaching day involves talking to her students, whether it’s in the classroom, during a meeting or even by email.

“I wasn’t involved as a student and so I try to connect with students and make sure everyone has someone to talk to,” she said.

That special trait is continually self-examined. Every year she reflects on her approach to teaching and sets goals to be better than the year before.

“I don’t compare myself to other people,” Kris said. “I compare myself to where I was a year ago.”

While such goal setting motivates her, she uses her own life to help demonstrate how unplanned things shape the greatest life experiences. Case in point – her spontaneous trip to India and the Taj Mahal: “It literally glowed in the sun. It took my breath away.”

On a simpler note, life outside the classroom includes walks with her husband and their two Biewer Terriers, Mocha and Cocoa, and spending quality time with her three children.

For someone who believes everyone should be comfortable being themselves, Kris added that “me time” may be spent listening to her favorite singers, Lady Gaga and Adele. “I like them because this is who they are, take me or leave me.”


‘Education is not something that happens to you, it is something that you do for yourself.’ – Kris Rosacker


For Kris, helping students find that balance of individuality and interaction makes being an educator – and education itself – special. “Education is not something that happens to you, it is something that you do for yourself.”


Learn what Kris’s biggest fear is and more!

  1. Who is your hero? My husband of 27 years is my hero. Bob is intelligent, compassionate, genuine, a great friend to many and a wonderful father to our three adult children.
  1. If you could live anywhere, where would it be? I was born and raised near Hastings, MN. After graduating from Minnesota State Mankato, I lived throughout the Midwest (OH, SD, NE, and WI) for 25 years before returning to MN. There is no place like home which is MN for me.
  1. What is your biggest fear? Failure.
  1. What is your teaching philosophy? The primary purpose of a university education is to prepare students to think on their own rather than to merely memorize and restate. Often this idea is simply stated as encouraging a life-long learning mentality. Furthermore, I take considerable efforts to learn the name and some personal background information (e.g., hometown, activities they enjoy, career goals) about each of my students. This serves to encourage a more personal relationship.
  1. What would you sing at Karaoke night? No, my voice is not intended for singing.
  1. If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to? I live in the present and plan for the future. If I traveled back in time I would miss out on what is going on today.
  1. How would your friends describe you? Nice.
  1. What are your hobbies? Walking has have been my primary hobby throughout life. In my opinion, the best way to learn about a new location (city, park, etc.) is to spend the day walking around without a real plan or destination in mind.
  1. If you could share a meal with any 3 individuals, living or dead, who would they be? My three children David (26), Tyler (23) and Sarah (20) as they are adults and live out of town. My husband and I cherish each moment we share with them.
  1. What is your favorite childhood memory? Holiday meals with my eight siblings, parents and grandparents—I am the sixth of nine children.
  1. What’s your favorite movie? “Mean Girls”, I have watched the movie many times with my daughter.
  1. Which of the five senses would you say is your strongest? I’m old, none of them are very strong anymore.
  1. What was your first job? My first full-time position was as an Enterprise System’s Instructor with the University of South Dakota.

FACULTY FOCUS featues Ellen Mrja

EDITOR’S NOTE: Many of you have your favorite classroom mentor – that professor or instructor who made learning fun, who believed in you, who inspired a passion to learn or pursue your dreams. In this issue, the inSIDER introduces Faculty Focus, a new bi-weekly feature spotlighting the human side of Minnesota State Mankato faculty members. Throughout the Spring Semester, we will bring you stories of instructors whose personal interests and ability to connect help make big ideas and real-world thinking a reality. If you have a faculty member you would like to see featured, send an email to csuinfo@mnsu.edu

‘Stay on Your Feet’ Against the Bull May Be a Life Lesson from Mass Media Professor’

By REED CARR
CSU Public Relations Intern

Ellen Mrja, mass media professor at Minnesota State Mankato, once fought a baby bull and won.

While in Mexico, Ellen and her sister saw a demonstration by one of the country’s top bullfighters. When he asked the crowd for volunteers, Ellen stepped into the ring.

“I took one side of the cape and he took the other,” Ellen said. “He told me, ‘Just relax, you’ll be fine.’ He made the bull pass a couple of times and all I could think was, ‘Ellen, stay on your feet. If you can stay on your feet, you’ve got half a chance of living.’ Sure enough, that bull went right through the cape.”

Maybe it’s her spontaneity and willingness to get involved that leaves a lasting impression among Ellen’s students. She loves coffee, she jams to The Beatles and, yes, she believes pineapple belongs on pizza.

And while her perfect day away from work includes reading a good book on her couch with her two Chihuahuas, Jade and Jazzy, she loves her time in front of a class.

“I’ve always known this is what I want to do. I’ve always known it. There are many days that I drive home saying, ‘I can’t believe I’m going to get paid for doing what I did today.’ It is so much fun.”


‘I hope my students remember me as passionate about their futures.’ – Ellen Mrja


She’s motivated by the energy that is exchanged between her and her students. During her 35 years with the University, Ellen has taught the ins and outs of subjects like media law and public relations, but she has also learned from her students.

“More than anything, my students have taught me that each one of them has a story to tell. I like to take the time to get to know them before we get to subjects in class. I hope my students remember me as passionate about their futures.”

She’d love to live in France where her daughter lives, or even in Italy where the streets are covered in statues from the Renaissance Period. For now, Minnesota State Mankato is fortunate enough to have her in the classroom teaching students about media and showing them how to stay on their feet.


If she wasn’t a teacher, what would Ellen Mrja be doing? 15 Questions With Ellen Mrja

  1. Favorite color? Red
  2. Favorite type of music? Old school
  3. Do you play any instruments? No
  4. Hometown? Hibbing, MN
  5. Did you play sports in high school? No, but I played softball and tennis outside of school.
  6. Would you rather read a book or watch a movie? Read a book.
  7. What is your spirit animal? The bear, because I’m protective of children and small creatures
  8. What word or words best describe you? Passionate, funny
  9. What three things would you need if you were stranded on an island? Coffee, book and I suppose I should take my husband too, huh?
  10. Which superpower do you wish you had? Invisibility
  11. Do you know any second languages? I’m very bad at French. I learned enough Spanish to pass graduate school exams, but I doubt I could read Spanish anymore.
  12. If you could bring one fictional character to life, who or what would you choose? Atticus Finch from “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
  13. Personal hero/heroine? My mother. She is the kindest woman I’ve ever known.
  14. If you hadn’t become a professor, what do you think you’d be doing? I really think I’d be a reporter In Washington D.C. covering the White House.
  15. What makes you happy? My life makes me happy.