College Success: You Gotta Wanna

College is not the cure-all. Just going to college isn’t the panacea for achieving “the good life.” You gotta wanna. Frequently, success requires coming to grips with your life. For many, it’s all about goal setting – where do I want to be in five years?…15 years?…when it’s time to retire?. Some start figuring it out in high school. Some take longer. Some change their goals. Some find they have to change just to survive.

I was moved by Sunday’s Mankato Free Press lead story by Robb Murray that featured Angie Herz, a Minnesota State Mankato student who has taken her life from prison cell to goals for a master’s degree. The Free Press feature was among a three-part series focusing on homelessness in Mankato.

For many, this is the season for hope, yearning and, yes, even finding angels among us. All three, seemed to have aided Angie onto the “Right Track.” Her frank story shows that the right track can start out looking like a broken road. Thank you, Angie, for your willingness to share an inspirational personal journey shaped by choices and hardship and recovery.
– Lenny Koupal

READ Angie Herz’s Feature Story from the Mankato Free Press

You Just Never Know…

…when an event on campus may someday soon be “kind of a big deal.” Season 4 of NBC’s “Sing Off” is drawing special attention from the Minnesota State Mankato and Gustavus campuses. Among tonight’s Final Four is the regional A cappella group, Home Free, which features alumni from both schools.

Last year, IMPACT and the CSU hosted an evening concert with Home Free. It was an amazing performance to a relatively small crowd. Those of us in attendance have been watching this season with the added enthusiasm of having seen a rising star in ascension.  However tonight and the contest turns out, Home Free has proven they possess a gift for impressing the judges and wowing a nation. We hope Home Free has grabbed that brass ring that will rocket them to the popularity their talent deserves. Best of luck as you enter the Final Four.

And, it just goes to show that you never know when participation in a campus event may result in an “I saw them when” memory.  It’s all part of the potential of making the most of your college experience.

– Lenny Koupal

Watch Home Free as they face off with the Filharmonic.


Driving in MinneSNOWta

You’re afraid to drive on winter roads? Where did you grow up?”


“That’s embarrassing!” (Reality: It’s not; it’s normal).

Whether you’re from Minnesota or moved here from out-of-state, winter driving will always be a challenge.

Many people think, including Minnesotans, that Minnesota drivers are pros behind the wheel at this time of year. However, we could all benefit and improve our driving by brushing up on how to keep ourselves, as well as other drivers, safe on slippery roads.

FACTOID: According to the Minnesota Office of Public Safety, 395 people were killed on Minnesota Roads in 2012, up 7 percent from 2011 (unsafe speeds being a contributing factor).

Here is a list of IMPORTANT tips and safety precautions that drivers should know before driving on snowy roads.

  • In Minnesota, call 511 for road and travel conditions.
  • Clear all snow and ice from windows, hood, headlights, brake lights and directional signals. The last thing you need is to be startled by a chunk of ice flying from your car.
  • Headlights should always be on when driving in snow, sleet, rain or fog.
  • DO NOT USE CRUISE CONTROL when driving on winter road conditions.
  • Drive at safe speeds and provide for plenty of travel time.
  • Beware of black ice – a thin sheet of transparent ice that forms when light rain or drizzle falls on a frozen road surface (visual warning signs include ice on windshield wipers or visible on trees). This makes driving, cycling or walking on affected surfaces extremely dangerous. Be especially cautious of black ice on bridges and overpasses.
  • Four-wheel-drive vehicles may provide better traction in the snow but they don’t stop any better on icy or slippery roads than a two-wheel drive vehicle.
  • Increase the 3-second distance rule to 7, 8, 9 or even 20 seconds… whatever makes you feel safe… to allow distance for reacting to slippery roads, correcting and/or stopping
  • If skidding, keep calm; remove your foot off the gas and steer in the direction you want the front of the vehicle to go (AWAY FROM ONCOMING TRAFFIC).
  • Be sure to have cell phones charged for long trips. If stranded, remain in your car to avoid getting hit by another car. Call for help
  • And most importantly… equip vehicles with a scraper/brush, small shovel, jumper cables, tow chain, and a bag of sand or cat litter for tire traction. Blanket(s), heavy boots, warm clothing and flashlights are also important. Winter driving kits should include high energy foods such as chocolate or energy bars.

– Kassie Hanson

Choices With Life Altering Consequences

What if you came to college with high hopes – to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, nurse, marketing professional, sports management professional…whatever – and your dreams and life were changed forever because of one crazy night of partying.

Unfortunately, one needs to look no further than the personal tragedy reported this week in Duluth to see this scenario unfolding. An underaged university student tweets that she had 10 shots of tequila only to later spend nine hours reportedly passed out on her neighbor’s porch in 17 below temperatures. Doctors are working as hypothermia threatens the loss of one or more of her hands and feet. Thoughts and prayers remain with her and her family this holiday season.

Certainly, there will be a lot of fallout from this latest incident. The questions are sure to include: Who provided the reported 10 shots of tequila to a 19-year-old? Why didn’t the person driving her home either walk her to the door or make sure she was safely inside before driving off? Why didn’t the individual consider the consequences?

The last question has existed since the human race realized that drinking fermented grains frequently leads to bad choices. Likewise through the ages, many of us with matured sense of reason reflect on our own youth with “What was I thinking?…How did I survive that?” Youthful reason seems to have a misplaced sense of invulnerability. Yet, even matured sense of reason doesn’t stop us from doing stupid things like getting behind the wheel of a car after overlooking that “drink with moderation” small print on the bottle being tipped.

Still, students sadly top the statistical list of bad alcohol-related experiences. As much as we wish it wasn’t true and work to prevent it, such episodes have occurred and have the potential for occurring at this university. No university is immune. All we can do is keep driving home the warnings and keep saying, “See, see what can happen” when another alcohol-related tragedy strikes a college campus. For those who want to believe that youth is bulletproof, such warnings and admonishments often go unheeded – sometimes even ridiculed – until tragedy strikes close to home.

So here is another opportunity for viewing the statistics before becoming one. Please, let’s all take these to heart:

According to

  • The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that 80 percent of college student drink – 50 percent said they engaged in binge drinking in the past two weeks.
  • Binge drinking is defined as four drinks in two hours for a woman and five drinks in two hours for a man; both result in a .08 blood-alcohol-content (BAC) level. (QUESTION: Why do people with statistically most of their lives in front of them and the most to live for, feel the need to rush the effects of alcohol?).
  • About one half of all fatal car crashes among 18- to 24-year-olds are alcohol related, many of which are college students.
  • An estimated 1,825 students die yearly of unintended alcohol-related accidents, including motor vehicle accidents.
  • Another 599,000 will be seriously injured.
  • More than 150,000 students suffer drinking-related health problems.
  • 1.2 to 1.5 percent of students attempt suicide on account of drinking or drug use.
  • 54 percent of binge drinkers have experienced significant memory loss at least once in the last year.
  • 400,000 students report engaging in unprotected sex while under the influence.
  • Of those, 100,000 report being too intoxicated to remember giving consent.
  • 696,000 students are assaulted by another student who’s been drinking.
  • 97,000 students are the victims of alcohol related sexual assault or rape.
  • According to the Cal poly San Luis Obispo Health & Counseling Services, roughly 90 percent of all reported rapes and sexual assaults occurred when alcohol had been used by either the attacker or the victim.

– Lenny Koupal

How The Giving Tree Changed My Perspective

When I was a child, Christmas was a time to receive. I would spend endless hours counting and shaking every present underneath the Christmas tree, excitedly waiting to unwrap them. I was the kid who stood in line for hours just to make sure Santa Claus knew exactly what I wanted. The list went on and on. I would even get upset with my parents when my sister had more presents than I had underneath the tree.
The older I grew, the more I realized Christmas was not about receiving but about giving. Every year,there are a handful of families who can’t afford to exchange gifts on Christmas. While kids like me were busy worrying about how many gifts we had under the tree, these children had not a single gift. The giving concept hit home for me when my mom decided to take a card with a name off of the Giving Tree at our church. On the back of the card it read,  “I would like a winter jacket for Christmas, please.” I glanced up at my mom as she read it to me and fell into sorrow.  I stood there and thought to myself, “I would never have to ask for a coat. My parents would get me a coat if I needed one.” I realized how fortunate I was when so many families struggle through the holiday season. That was the day  Christmas truly turned into Christmas for me…now giving is all I want to do. The feeling of giving is better than opening any gift; It can’t be topped. It’s the star at the top of my tree.  
– Kassie Hanson