The Importance Of A Student Union

What Does ‘House of Serendipity’ Mean?

by LENNY KOUPAL, CSU Communications Coordinator

How important is a student union to a students’ overall college experience?

At the Centennial Student Union at Minnesota State University, Mankato, validating our campus presence through a random student survey is something we do every couple of years. It provides valuable information and a reality check against what we say we do and what students generally and actually think of us.

And the survey says…our 2018 overall results graphically indicate that we are steadily advancing our overall effectiveness. Students further shared that, in 2018, we are ahead of the curve when compared to six national student unions of comparable size and services, reputable “Carnegie Class” institutions as well as all institutions completing surveys in 2018.

Student opinions show overall progressive growth in effectiveness of Centennial Student Union services and programs.

A comprehensive view of the Centennial Student Union shows satisfaction higher than comparative universities across the country.

We can pat ourselves on the back, but we know there’s no resting on our laurels when it comes to our own expectations and, more importantly, our students’ expectations. As student union administrators, we know that college is more than classrooms and textbooks. So much of learning is accomplished outside the classroom – personally, socially and globally. We know that a strong student union presence plays a pivotal role in student success and growth. We know that a student union is more than brick and mortar. To help students, we know that a student union must be a living, evolving culture. It’s pulse must be the pulse of the campus.

Back in 2010, the CSU set out to define that culture by branding itself the “House of Serendipity.” The moniker seeking a place for unexpected discoveries – pleasant surprises – was taken from the words of the late C. Shaw Smith. Along with being a student union director and the former president of the Association of College Unions International, Smith was an accomplished magician.

That may have accounted for his philosophy that a quality student union should be a surprising, life-changing experience. “I like to call the Union the House of Serendipity,” Smith said. “You go for one thing and you get more than you bargained for. It’s inescapable. It gets into your head and into your heart, and you’re never quite the same again. The right Union will change you.” His words have become the mantra behind the mission and vision of the CSU.

Providing our students with a Serendipity experience started with our tagline “offering pleasant surprises ’round every corner.” That literal application morphed a few years later into a philosophical message that helped express the vision of the CSU. Now “offering pleasant surprises that INVITE, INVOLVE and INSPIRE,” the CSU views those three words as a Maslow-style progression of personal growth.

We seek to create an inviting environment where students can find the creature comforts – food, essential services, corners for studying or sleep and, most importantly, social interaction.

Once achieved, that level of comfortability encourages student to get involved. Coming into the CSU could lead to joining a fraternity or sorority, getting involved in student government, writing for the student newspaper or helping to plan homecoming, concerts or campus activities benefitting all students.

Such personal engagement inspires students to spread their wings as they explore and achieve personal confidence and leadership skills that will shape their careers and adult lives.

Along this journey of personal growth, students are supported by the CSU’s core values that seek to engage students along six prime objectives – Leadership, Integrity, Community, Personal Development, Innovation and Celebration.

So how does this all get back to the original question: How important is a student union to a students’ overall college experience?

Retention is such a key focus for Minnesota State Mankato as it is for universities across the country. At the heart of that discussion is the ability for a university to meet a student’s needs and expectations. As the student-centered heart of campus, the CSU sees the student union’s important role in adding broad-based value to the college experience. Sometimes to the surprise of our students.

Recently, the Washington Post offered a perspective from Jim Troha, a private college president who was also the parent of a prospective college student. The article – entitled VALUE MATTERS IN CHOOSING A COLLEGE. BUT NOT JUST THE PRICE KIND – shared Troha’s view of higher education from a different angle. Too often, college administrators size up value along yardsticks that measure scholarships, job-placement rates, graduate school enrollments and students’ marketable skills.

“What I don’t see, however, are people talking about value — and not the way grocery stores do — but value in terms of ideas, aspirations, the kind of person you want to become, the kind of experiences and environments that will bring out the best in you,” Troha said. “The kind of place where you will be surprised by uncovering your potential.”

By looking past price to value based on the culture of a university campus – in our case, a university student union – Troha said parents and students are better equipped to ask deeper questions.

“They realize potential, networks and the long game (so to speak) are of equal if not greater importance than the immediate details of cost comparisons,” he stated.

At Minnesota State Mankato, the goal is for each of us to visualize “Big ideas. Real-world thinking” in every one our students. The Centennial Student Union works to accept that calling by striving to offer a culture of value that pleasantly surprises students into realizing their full potential. Their big idea may be Serendipity of Self where global thinking is shaped through personal experiences that apply leadership, integrity, community, personal development, innovation and celebration. For the CSU, helping students equip themselves with those shared tools will maintain the student union’s important role in a valued and enduring college education.

8 College Hacks

By ALEJANDRO REYES-VEGA, CSU Public Relations Student Assistant

College Hacks to be Successful

Buzzfeed has great articles that have suggestions and ideas to make life easier. Peggy Wang wrote a great article called “36 Life Hacks Ever College Student Should Know” and I chose the ones the ones that I have personally used and found most useful.

1. Getting through lectures

One major difference between high school classes and college classes is lectures. College has a lot more lectures which can sometimes make it hard to get all the information at once. A great way to understand better the lectures is to record them in any mobile device. They can be played faster if you want to go over the information or slower if you want to take notes.

2. Getting a good GPA

Don’t slack in your first few semesters when classes are easier. Make sure to get as many A’s as possible to balance off your GPA once you have to start taking harder classes.

3. Remembering your Schedule

Avoid having your schedule as a loose piece of paper. Try taking a picture of it and having it as your lock screen for the first few weeks. That way you can always know where and when is your next class by simply looking at your phone.

4. Get familiar with what you can do with a mug and a microwave

Getting hungry and don’t want to go to the cafeteria or it’s too late and everything is closed? You can always make yourself quick snacks with a mug and a microwave. Looks up easy recipes and get a dorm made meal.

5. Reading incentives

Getting through heavy reading classes can sometimes be challenging. Try using some type of snack or candy and reward yourself every time you reach the end of a section or unit.

6. Limiting distractions

Download apps in your computer or phone with timers that prevent you from accessing distracting websites. You can also get familiar with the “Do not Disturb” feature in your phones and computers so you can focus without seeing notifications and being tempted.

7. Sample testing

When studying for a test, try looking up sample tests from the same subject. A great way to get focused tests is by typing “site:edu [subject] exam”.

8. Scent memory

Spray on an unfamiliar scent or try a different or weird gum flavor. Before taking the test spray the same scent, you used to study or the same gum. The distinctive scent or flavor will help you jog your memory.

If you wish to see the full article click here.

Parents’ Corner: Ideal Contact

Keeping the Right Amount of Contact

By ALEJANDRO REYES-VEGA, CSU Public Relations Student Assistant

How can you know if students want to be texted or called every day or maybe just once a week? Everyone is different as one must learn to balance between being overbearing or too distant.

When I started in college my mom would text me every day and at first, I thought it was too much. However, I soon got used to it and learned to appreciate her morning jokes and advice. Sometimes, she wanted to call me and I simply said “no” or “I’m too busy”. She also soon learned that I needed space or I didn’t have time to talk. As parents one must respect students because they need to focus on school, socialize, and learn to be independent and discover themselves.

Don’t be afraid to be straightforward. Ask how often they would like to be called or texted and try to respect their wishes. If you are not able to be together for the holidays then try to send something that reminds them of home so they don’t feel abandoned.

Yet, there are small details that always made my day as a freshman. The phone calls and the texts can sometimes be overbearing specially with dealing with the stress of college and being away from home.

Nevertheless, parents can always send a small care-package with snacks or something that a student in college would appreciate. Does not matter if students can find the snacks they want in any nearby store or if the package is home baked goods, if it comes from home they will treasure the package and they will know that they are being cared for.

Navigating Campus 101

By AFURE ADAH, CSU Public Relations Student Assistant

Being able to navigate campus efficiently is a huge part of college life and is especially important for new students. I have found that I have some issues managing my time so I am always rushing, and if you are like me, work smarter, not harder is your go-to phrase!

Also, if you are like me, walking through the Minnesota weather elements is not your favorite thing to do. That being said, I am going to give you some insight on how I navigate campus when I’m behind schedule, rushing around and how I navigate through campus completely indoors.

When I lived in the dorms on campus I felt that I had all the time in the world to get ready for class because everything was so close by. Of course, I found that I was wrong. But still I insisted on waiting those couple extra minutes before getting out of bed to go get ready. I can honestly say though, that I was never late for a class! Keep on reading to see how I achieved this.

MAKING CUTS!

If your time management skills are like mine, making cuts is the way to go. As we’ve all learned in math, the FASTEST route from point A to point B is DIAGONAL! Do it! Cut through the grass, no one is going to judge you. If you can lounge on the grass to study, you sure can walk on it too! Cut through buildings. If you are trying to get from the Library to Trafton, don’t walk around Armstrong or Nelson, walk through them. Work smarter, not harder people! This really works, trust me.

Now, in all seriousness, Minnesota weather can be a horrible, confusing mess and sometimes you just don’t want to deal with it. As a freshman in the winter months I remember being outside looking at the buildings and I noticed that many connect. I made it a mission to find these connection points to avoid the cold. I’m going to give you the main highlights of our tunnel system but if you want a full tour you can watch the Serendipitous Moments video linked to this post and be taken on a little tour!

AVOID THE WEATHER WITH INDOOR WALKWAYS!

  • There is a lower level “pedestrian walkway” or tunnel that leads from the Maverick Bullpen, to the Library. This is a great tunnel to use if you are trying to get from the CSU to the res halls – or the other way around – with minimal outdoor contact. Once you get out of the tunnel into the library basement, however, you will have a short trip outside to get to the res halls, but it’s better than nothing, trust me.
  • Morris Hall is the center point for the tunnel system. On its second floor its “crossroads” connect to the CSU, Armstrong Hall, and Highland North through hallways/skyways. These connected buildings then branch off to connect to the other buildings on campus.
  • The main level of Highland North connects to Trafton South, while the hallway on its second floor connects to Highland Center and then to the sports complexes.

These are just some quick highlighted points on the campus walkways, tunnels and skyways but definitely check out the linked video for a full tour! I hope my experiences and these tips will help you navigate campus more efficiently no matter what kind of person you are!

Taylor Zenz—Graduating Senior

by TAYLOR ZENZ, CSU Public Relations Intern

With an assignment of writing a personal reflection of my past 4 years at MSU, I’m sitting here with a blank page and a million things to say, yet I can’t seem to move my fingers across the keyboard.

Maybe it’s because I’m in denial that I’m graduating. Maybe it’s because I’m excited or actually very sad. Maybe it’s all the above.

I’ll start here – my time here at MSU has been everything that I had ever hoped for and much, much more.

From crying because I didn’t want to leave my mom and sister behind when I moved into the dorms to now tearing up writing this article because I don’t want to leave Mankato, it’s been quite the ride. In high school, I was an incredibly shy and quiet girl who didn’t know her place. When I tell people that now, they don’t believe me for a second. I have MSU to thank for turning me into an independent, enthusiastic, social human being who found a passion for leadership.

Of course, learning these things didn’t come easy, however, I got extremely lucky with my journey.

Being involved with MSU was one of the greatest decisions that I’ve made. Whether my time was being dedicated to my studies, Greek Life, Dance Marathon or the CSU, every long-hour day and sleepless night was worth it. With my involvement, I met the most influential people that this campus has to offer. From their teachings, I have become someone who I, myself, have become proud of.

The most important thing that I’ve learned is that growth only comes from being uncomfortable. From making friends, pursuing relationships and taking on leadership roles, stepping out of my comfort zone gave me my most cherished items and people.

Yes, we’re here in college to get a degree, but our time here is so much more than that. It’s about learning what it takes to succeed. It’s about learning how to get back on our feet after being down. It’s about meeting people we connect with. It’s about finding our lifelong friends and people who will be in our weddings. It’s about meeting those who we want to go into business with or spend the rest of our lives with.

I’d like to thank my freshman dorm neighbor who ultimately was responsible for breaking open my shell. To my squad who took me in as one of the “bros”, thank you for looking out for me the past 4 years. To my sorority best friends and roommates, thank you for being the best dang comedians, therapists and dancers that Mankato EVER saw. Thank you to my mom and sister for always being of constant support. And of course, thank you to my professors, advisors, mentors and co-workers at the CSU – you’ve all taught me so much. But mostly, I’d like to thank myself for the allowance of being open to different opportunities and endeavors.

I hold very high hopes of the future and I know that I can achieve them because of the valuable time that I’ve spent on this campus. When you’re in my shoes, a week shy of graduation, I know that you all will feel the same way.

Toilets on Campus: Student Favorites

by REED CARR, CSU Public Relations Intern

Minnesota State, Mankato campus is packed with great places to go number two.

While most of us would rather be in the comfort of our homes while dropping the kids off at the pool, we have classes to attend. Luckily, there is a variety of different bathrooms at MSU.

“I spend most of my time in the library, so that’s where the majority of my bathroom time is spent,” said a marketing major. “The library doesn’t have any individual bathrooms, but there are shared rooms on every floor that have plenty of stalls. I usually go up to the third floor because it has the least traffic and it’s hidden pretty well.”

The library may have plenty of reading material, but some people need more seclusion while letting the dogs out.

“CSU 107 is the only way to go if you’ve really got to go,” said an international business major. “I make sure I only use individual bathrooms that have a door that locks when I got to do my business. There are only a few really good ones on campus.”

Individual restrooms are a must if you’re having a true emergency. Unfortunately, even single occupancy lavatories can have their downsides.

“The single person bathrooms in Trafton South are risky because, for some reason, the locks don’t work,” said a mechanical engineering major. “I still use them when I’m in a rush though. I just put my bag in front of the door in case someone tries to walk in. Hopefully they’re fixed soon, or I’m going to change my spot.”

If you haven’t found the best spot in school to take a royal squat, take a long walk around campus when you get the chance. It’s best to have a strategy before duty calls.

5 Things I’ll Miss About MSU

by REED CARR, CSU Public Relations Intern

Memorial Library

There is something mystifying to me about sitting in a library surrounded by mountains stories and philosophies I have no knowledge of. Even more so when it’s pitch black outside, a cup of black coffee in hand, in one of the unoccupied corners of the second floor of the Memorial Library. I spent hours ignoring homework in exchange for hours of being lost between the dusty pages of James Joyce, Ernest Hemmingway, Edgar Allan Poe and countless others. It made studying the next day a rigorous, hurried process, but I feel nighttime in the library is when and where I learned most.

 

The Newsletter

 My final semester at MSU has been my best yet as I’ve worked with some really great people to deliver weekly events and news through the MSU newsletter, inSIDER. I came to MSU as a marketing major and realized my talents laid in writing to the masses, not selling to them. The inSIDER has evolved my writing in a way I didn’t expect and I was able to have a blast with fellow writers and mentors while doing it. If you’re looking for an internship in writing next year, talk to Leonard Koupal in the CSU. He’s the man!

 

The Professors

 Mass media and English department professors at MSU are a large part of the reason I was able to keep a positive attitude with my schooling and my future. While they are the ones that assigned 10-page papers and at times asked class to read an entire book in one day, those hurdles taught the most. They have always been up for a chat about class discussion, travel, food and anything in between.

 

Campus and Changing Seasons

 There’s nothing quite like the beginning of a new school year. As the trees burst into reds and oranges, the MSU campus’ artistic, monumental and memorial decorations give the campus a nostalgic feel. Students sport purple and yellow as Blakeslee Stadium rumbles on the other side of Stadium Rd. Minnesota autumn is second to none, but I suppose the beginning of May isn’t such a bad time of the school year either.

 

The Diversity

 Growing up in Kilkenny—a town of 108 people—and moving to Mankato opened my eyes in so many ways. I met people who have helped me grow academically, spiritually and culturally. I’ve met friends that made class not only knowledgeable but fun. I’ll miss walking through the halls seeing all the friendly faces. No matter what I do after graduation, I’ll always be proud to have been a MSU Maverick.

What You’re Thinking and How to Reverse It

By BRETT MARSHALL, CSU Public Relations Intern

The snow is melting. The temperatures have finally crawled into the 60s and all you want to do is go outside and enjoy the weather and get on with your summer. But alas, you stare down at your planner and see the list of 20 things you have to complete before Finals Week comes to a close. And as you stare down at the list, you probably start thinking one or more of the following five things:

  1. Sleeping all of your problems away. Your problems and stress can’t hurt or affect you if you’re sleeping, right? Everything will be just fine once you wake up.
  2. It’s okay to let it all out. Finals are one of those times when life comes at you really fast and it can be overwhelming. Sometimes the best thing to do is to let the waterworks operate at full capacity.
  3. Switching majors. If you’re not going to sleep or cry, you may consider switching majors. You look over notecards and at final projects and study guides and start thinking to yourself, “Do I really want to do this the rest of my life?”
  4. Sometimes you think you just need a change of scenery; this college town just isn’t doing it. The professors stink, you haven’t found the perfect best friend and you’re just not happy and feel like you need a fresh start.
  5. Dropping out. There are two types of college students in the world – those who have thought about dropping out because of stress…and liars. It’s a normal feeling. Everything piles up and it just feels like you’ll never get it done and the only remaining solution is to quit and give up.

Here’s the thing though, it’s all going to be okay. Finals are stressful and have the tendency to be overwhelming and chances are you probably will think about some of those things above.. and that’s okay, just don’t let it consume you. Instead, use some of these tips to help you push through and get to the summer with a smile on your face!

  1. Take breaks. Don’t over exhaust yourself with endless hours of studying. Hop on YouTube and watch a funny cat video. Grab some friends and take a walk outside. Blast some music. Take a power nap. Eat a snack. Just give your mind a break and decompress a little bit for 20-30 minutes and get back at it. Studies have shown that taking breaks actually helps you do better, so don’t hesitate to take one.
  2. Form a study group. Whether it’s with your roommates or classmates, find some people to bounce ideas off of and help you study. It keeps the mood light and makes studying a little more fun. One of the best ways to solidify that you know something is being able to teach someone else. Explain to your roommate something they know nothing about and see if they understand. Have your classmate run some flashcards by you, so you can nail those definitions.
  3. Visit a tutor. Campuses always offer lots of tutors to help you with whatever you might be struggling with. Asking for help doesn’t make you look bad or like you’re dumb. It shows you’re serious about your education and that you want to learn. Visit a tutor so you can get the knowledge and resources you need to get a good grade on your final exam.
  4. Talk to your professor. Professors are there to help you learn. If you get stuck or start to freak out about your tests, stop into their office hours and ask for some help or about what specific material you should look over. Chances are they will be able to help you and you’ll be more prepared when test day rolls around.
  5. Don’t be afraid of a bad score. Everyone has had a bad test at some point in their life. Don’t let it define you. You can always retake a class. That one test will not be a difference maker in the rest of your life. Just take a deep breath, realize it’s going to be okay and work hard to do better the next time around.

So to summarize, it’s okay to feel a little stressed about finals and like you want to quit school and give up, but just remember to relax, take breaks and use your resources. You’ll get through them and be on your way the next chapter of your life — you  got this!

LGBT Center Anniversary

HELPING STUDENT FIND THEIR VOICE FOR 40 YEARS

by TAYLOR ZENZ, CSU Public Relations Intern

This year is all about traditions and anniversaries. Alongside the University’s 150th and the Centennial Student Unions 50th celebrations, the LGBT Center hosted their 40thanniversary this past week.

Back when it was still Mankato State, the University became the second school in the nation to have a campus-based LGBT Center. In 1977, the “Alternative Lifestyle Center” was found with only a few student volunteers and a graduate assistant as part of their staff.

Now, the landmark LGBT Center has an independent office, a full-time coordinator, Jessica Flatequal, and hundreds of students who visit the Center each week.

One student, Graham Waitt, is especially thankful for the LGBT Center this year. As a nontraditional student who felt lost in school, he joined the LGBT Center and never looked back.

“I would not be who I am today without the people that I met simply by hanging out in the Center,” Graham mentions, “I think the biggest impact was that it helped me find my own voice that I didn’t realize I had. It helped me become a strong advocate and ally for the community that I now call home.”

Like many other students, Graham didn’t find the comfort of the LGBT Center right away. As a freshman on campus, he didn’t feel comfortable enough to go into the Center or to volunteer. When returning to Minnesota State Mankato after taking time off, he knew that he didn’t want to let a second chance pass him by. After meeting a close friend in Residential Life who ultimately invited Waitt to join her in the Center, he found himself visiting frequently and making friends.

“It was one of the best decisions that I ever made in college,” Graham said.

Joining the LGBT Center provides endless opportunities for students. For Graham, it’s given him the opportunity to get out in the community and give back. He’s been able to attend several LGBT conferences around the Midwest and was given chances to be a speaker at peer panels to educate the community on LGBT-specific issues. He also has had the privilege to help with campus Drag Shows and Mankato Pride.

Graham is not only an advocate for the LGBT Center and community, but an advocate for finding your true self.

“That’s what we all want in the end, right?” he stated.

To learn more about the LGBT Center on campus, visit https://www.mnsu.edu/lgbtc.

 

 

“See Us” Draws Attention to the Underrepresented

By BRETT MARSHALL, CSU Public Relations Intern

Students and female athletes made a powerful statement April 16 when they began their “See Us” campaign at Minnesota State Mankato.

“The campaign’s purpose is to spread awareness of the underrepresentation, sexualization and judgements made toward female athletes based on their appearances rather than talented abilities,” said Callie Rohlik, the head of MSU’s campaign.

Rohlik and her group of fellow honors program members, Olivia Thomas, Samuel Oluwadoromi and Mellary Jayathunge, got the idea from Courtney Place, a student-athlete from Augustana University in Sioux Falls, S. D., who started the campaign at her school a few months ago.

“’See Us’ had been getting an increasing recognition from female athletes and supporters throughout southwestern Minnesota and I wanted to aid in her expansion by bringing it to MSU,” Rohlik said. “An MSU softball athlete had served as a rep for her movement and I knew fellow female athletes at Minnesota State would love to join the movement as well.

Rohlik, her group and athletes set up a table in the Centennial Student Union with a bright pink display board with the “See Us” logo surrounding an opening where athletes could pose for a picture, which was then sent to social media with the #SEEUS hashtag.

The campaign focus comes from various injustices female athletes face compared to male athletes. A study done by Cheryl Cooky and Nicole Lavoi that analyzed women’s sports after Title IX found that the media coverage for female athletics was only two percent of all news coverage in 2009.

“That particular statistic was appalling to my group members and myself,” Rohlik said. “We believe there’s no reason female athletics shouldn’t be broadcasted just as often as male sporting events.”

Rohlik expressed that injustice for female athletes doesn’t end with broadcast inequality.

“Another issue lies within the perspectives and comments viewed and made by many throughout the world. These statements regard sexualizing females based on their uniforms or judging their incredible talents through negative statements like, ‘Well she’s really good, but that’s because she’s basically a man. Did you see those quads?’” she said. “These judgmental comments are why we joined Courtney’s movement and what we are trying to place an end to.”

Rohlik says students can show support for the movement by following “See Us” on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and by being active fans at female athletic events.

“Support those that are underrepresented and respect their amazing athletic talents just as one would a male athlete.”

Rohlik, Thomas, Oluwadoromi and Jayathunge are all members of MSU’s Honors Program and were inspired to become activists for “See Us” after going through the “Social Change in the 21st Century” seminar, which is apart of the Honors Program. More information for “See Us” can be found by visiting the movement’s social media pages “See Us Movement.”