2021 Leadership Awards: Recognition of Those for Their Exceptional Work

by BLAKE PIESCHKE, CSU Public Relations Intern

Andrew Trenne and Emily Schiltz receive the Big Ideas. Real-worlding Thinking award.

Student, faculty and staff achievements were recognized Sunday, April 11, at the annual Leadership Awards coordinated through Student Activities.

Awards and winners in each category include:

The Big Ideas. Real-World Thinking is presented to an undergraduate student in his or her senior year, a graduate student, or an experienced staff member who actively celebrates the mission of Minnesota State University, Mankato (MSU, Mankato) to promote learning through effective undergraduate and graduate teaching, scholarship, and research to the state, the region and for the global community.

2021 Recipients: Andrew Trenne and Emily Schiltz

Kelsey Kuhlman and Reece Podgarski earned the Outstanding Collegians award for 2021.

Andrew currently serves as the Student Body President and has previously served as Vice-President, student senator, and an active member of Residence Hall Association. Trenne took on the challenge of being the Student Body President during the early stages of the pandemic. Some of his notable accomplishments as President are making student government more accessible to students and he helped to prioritize the onboarding of an immigration attorney – a resource that is particularly beneficial for our international students as they navigate changes in international enrollment policy, visa statuses, and plan for their futures after graduating from MSU, Mankato. He was able to bring resolution to some long-standing budget challenges within student-fee funded areas, all while keeping student fee increases to low levels.

Emily collaboratively with another honors student to investigate how social media use impacts college students’ stress and anxiety levels during her sophomore year. They presented the results of this project at the Upper Midwest Regional Honors Council Conference, and the National Collegiate Honors Council Conference. She continued to use research to help improve the lives of young people by pursuing a Mental Health Literacy project during her junior and senior years. Schiltz chose to explore how well K-12 health education curriculum is preparing young people to identify and address mental health concerns. She took advantage of opportunities to mentor others from the onset of her college career by becoming involved with the Language Partner Program on campus, as a YWCA Girls on the Run coach, and as the Media Relations Coordinator for the honors program. In addition, she served as the President of the Honors Student Body for two years, helping honors students find community and support even through the challenges of COVID-19.

Commitment to Cultural Responsiveness is given to a student who encourages a culture of understanding, belonging, and civility at MSU, Mankato.

2021 Recipients: Maria Rios de Santiago and Sanjaya Balami.

Maria holds the position of Educational Entertainment Chair for the Student Events Team. As the Educational Entertainment Chair, she consistently worked to advance greater understanding of different cultures and backgrounds to the entire student body at MSU, Mankato. During her first few days working with the Student Events Team, she vocalized her desire to create opportunities for students to connect and celebrate the diverse experiences of Mavericks with a focus on civic engagement. Some of the programs she put together are: I’m Visible, Get Out the Vote, Birds Gone Wild with Minnesota Raptor Center education, and reindeer exploration. Despite Covid-19, the success of these events this year kept students engaged and encouraged them to make a difference in the local and global communities. She is also commissioning a piece of art with local American Indian artist Justin Eck, which will feature students from underrepresented backgrounds, and is working with the Graduation Committee to have this piece featured during commencement in spring 2021. This program will help students feel welcome and provide a sense of pride for those graduating. She strives to connect and create understanding between different cultures and the Maverick student body.

Sanjaya is a first-year graduate student and has been passionate about promoting a culture of understanding, belonging, and civility all throughout both his undergraduate and graduate programs. He’s been a member of the Parking Committee, an Off-Campus Senator, a member of the Nepalese Student Community, a member of the Ethnic Studies Student Organization, heavily involved with the Kearney International Center, and President for the International Student Association. One of Sanjaya’s most visible accomplishments from his time as International Student Association President was creating a display of international flags representing all of the countries of our international students, which can be seen on the first floor of the student Union by the HUB. This display is a great reminder to all who pass through the CSU of our diverse student body and is a great visual representation of the vibrancy that international students bring to our campus community.

The Outstanding Recognized Student Organization Advisor Award is given to an advisor of a Recognized Student Organization who has gone above and beyond in working with members of their organization.

2021 Recipient: Emily Houghton

Dr. Emily Houghton has been the advisor for the Sport Management Association since the Fall semester of 2018. Since she took over as the advisor, she has made a long-lasting impact on the organization and the students involved. Dr. Houghton takes time out of her night and joins SMA each week at their meetings, setting aside additional time to connect with each student beyond their role in the organization. Before every meeting, she makes a point to talk to each member to see how they are doing and if they need help with classes, internships, or anything else related to the sport management major. This year, Dr. Houghton played a major role in getting the group’s website redesigned and keeping it updated each week. In addition, she assisted the executive board with updating re-writing the organization’s constitution, helping to better prepare the organization for years to come.

The Outstanding Recognized Student Organization Award is presented to a Recognized Student Organization that is an active member of the MSU, Mankato community and represents the core values of integrity, diversity, access, responsibility, and excellence.

2021 Reciepient: Student Ambassadors

Student Ambassadors work closely with the Admissions Office to host visits for prospective and admitted students, during which they provide Q&A sessions, lead campus tours, and offer insight into what it means to be a student at MSU, Mankato. Student Ambassadors is an organization of diverse student leaders who are positive and enthusiastic about their experiences at MSU and serve as fantastic representatives of the university. During this past year, they led over 50 campus tours and student panels to provided invaluable support to our university’s recruitment efforts. The group has also engaged in six volunteer events and has had to adapt to new leadership in their executive board and a new advisor. In a time where new student membership recruitment has been particularly challenging, they also managed to increase their membership from 50 to 90 members.

The Recognized Student Organization Exemplary Service Award is presented to a Recognized Student Organization that is involved in community service within the greater Mankato community.

Recipient: Campus Kitchen

The Campus Kitchen was established to address both a food rescue and food insecurity. Weekly, the volunteers at Campus Kitchen ‘harvest’ donations from local restaurants, make it into meals, and deliver those meals to service agencies to distribute to people facing food insecurity. This process is managed weekly by a team of 12 dedicated student leaders, who coordinate everything from helping volunteers sign up for shifts, which begin Sundays at 2 PM and end Fridays at 2 PM, coordinating with agencies to ensure partners have the capacity to accept meals, and picking up and dropping off completed meals. In addition, they maintain the Campus Kitchen Little Fridge (a ‘FREE-gerator) and bread cart, making it easy for students to just stop by and pick-up food if they need it. When the campus went to “orange status” and all in person meetings were cancelled or rescheduled, the student leaders rose to the challenge and managed their shifts entirely by themselves, doing the same amount of work as anywhere between two and eight volunteers. It meant long hours and being alone in the kitchen to do the work, but they recognized the value of the work they were doing and hold empathy for those who receive the food they produce.

The Maverick Spirit Award is awarded to a student who is willing to step-up and who takes risks for the betterment of the MSU, Mankato community.

Recipient: Kathryn Wirtanen

Kathryn has been actively involved with Environmental Sustainability Organization, Colleges Against Cancer, and the Maverick Involvement Team, stepping into leadership roles for all three organizations in her sophomore year and serving as president for all three groups her junior year. During her sophomore year, she was an integral part of the re-imagining of our Leadership U program and helped to shape and launch what is now the Maverick Involvement Team. She inspires her team members to step out of their comfort zone and try new things while holding them to a high standard and not settling for “ordinary.” In the face of the pandemic she did not back down – she used the opportunity to focus on what could be done (versus what couldn’t be done) and looked for ways to make the most of a difficult situation.

The Outstanding Collegian Award is given to a student who is a student leader and who represents the core values of MSU, Mankato- -integrity, diversity, access, responsibility, excellence in their organization, and works toward the benefit of others.

Recipients: Kelsey Kuhlman and Reece Podgorski

Kelsey was hired as a graduate assistant and logistical coordinator with the Kearney Center for International Services, with an original role to help design and implement summer programs for international students coming to the U.S. In March, the on-campus summer program was cancelled due to the COVID pandemic. Rather than planning summer programs, her new role focused on helping international students navigate economic hardships and providing support to help them stay and continue their educations – a particularly important role because many international students not only lost their on-campus employment, but the countries they came from also suffered severe economic recessions and currency inflation. She advised students through the process of applying to the Department of Homeland Security for severe economic hardship designation, which would allow the students opportunity to legally work off campus. She also worked with a team of students to identify items that would be appropriate and necessary care package items to go out to students stuck in Mankato during the summer. She helped dozens of students maintain their legal student status in the United States and provided access to our programs and services that create opportunities for all to pursue their dreams.

Reece has been incredibly active with Fraternity and Sorority Life, the Minnesota National Guard, MSU’s ROTC program, and the Campus Kitchen, where he serves as a shift leader. Additionally, Reece consistently demonstrates excellence in his academic pursuits, regularly achieving Dean’s List-worthy grades. In the FSL Community, Reece has served as an officer for both his fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi, and for the Interfraternity Council. For IFC, he first served as VP of Member Education and Development, one of the most involved positions on the council. As VP of Member Education and Development, he worked closely on planning the IFC New Member Workshop, the Emerging Leaders Program, FSL Graduation, the “Pie for Pi” academic recognition program, and the university-wide U-Lead Conference. After serving as VP, he went on to serve as the President of the Interfraternity Council. Two months into his term as IFC President, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a need to make significant changes to the fraternity community’s operations. During his term, Reece was confronted with some ethical issues that were challenging, but which he handled well. His nominator writes, “In addition to his accomplishments and involvement, Reece is, simply put, a good person. He acts with integrity. He gains trust. He “plays well with others.” He’s empathetic. He uses humor well and conducts himself in ways appropriate to the situations he finds himself in. Reece is a humble person who would likely acknowledge most of these things to be true, but who would not consider all of this to make him deserving of an award. In fact, he’d probably blush at the thought of it… I get to work with a lot of students, and some of them I consider to be among the best and brightest MSU hast to offer. Reece is one of those, and he is certainly deserving of this recognition.”

The Rising Star Award is presented to a student who is new to MSU, Mankato (either a new entering or first year transfer student) who shows active involvement in an organized campus activity.

Recipient: Aaron Pacheco

Aaron is a new transfer re-entry student and currently is involved with the Undergraduate Research Center’s Apprenticeship program and Launch Minnesota, a statewide collaborative effort to support the growth of small start-up businesses. Aaron will be using his Geographic Information Science skills to conduct asset mapping and network analysis to help determine hotspots for small business growth. He was recently accepted to the Stanford Summer Undergraduate Research in Geoscience and Engineering (SURGE) Fellowship, where he will develop his understanding of the observational methods used for retrieving atmospheric variables, statistical tools used for identifying and characterizing the dynamics and thermodynamics of atmosphere as well as assist in the calibration and validation of satellite data. His goal is to use his interdisciplinary and professional background in the field of geography both as a researcher and professor.

The Scott Hagebak Centennial Student Union Wall of Fame Award is presented to students and staff members who actively celebrate the mission and vision of the Centennial Student Union by helping create a vibrant community and gathering place.

Recipients: Arnavee Maltare and Ryan Strelow

Arnavee has been involved in many facets of campus life over the past several years. Beyond her studies in the Management Information Systems program, she has been a board member of the Student Events Team, the Student Association of India, and Student Government, where she currently serves as Student Body Vice President. Additionally, she has worked as a student employee in the CSU Administration Office. She is an international student, and has worked closely with that community, but has also been a friend to all Mavericks. She has helped to welcome new students, advocated on behalf of them, and been part of the programmatic efforts in the Centennial Student Union. She is one of the friendliest people you will find around the CSU and truly embraces the House of Serendipity.

Ryan has been providing technical support to guest and staff of the Centennial Student Union. In recent years, he has taken the lead in providing exemplary audio and video service in the CSU and beyond as the CSU Tech Coordinator. He has a unique role where his work influences almost everything that goes on in the Centennial Student Union, however he makes the magic happen behind-the-scenes. Before the pandemic, he helped make the CSU one of the state’s premier sites for meetings, conferences and gatherings. He was pivotal in renovation of the CSU Ballroom’s 17 digital projects to laser technology making the ballroom the largest single environment Sony Laser installation in the U.S. That is just one of many advances that include sound and lighting that enhance everything from Student Events Team concerts to Serendipity Music Series. In the past year, Ryan had to fit the CSU to accommodate a virtual world created by a pandemic. He led the way in researching and then equipping the CSU with state-of-the-art portable Zoom stations that brought the virtual world to a close facsimile of real-time, real-life experience.

The Outstanding Campus Volunteer Award is presented to a student who is involved in community service at MSU, Mankato. The student demonstrates civic responsibility through service and inspires hope in those they serve and others around them. Along with spending time serving others, this student shows respect and compassion for members of the MSU, Mankato campus community.

Recipient: Kara Svercl

Kara is credited with bringing the signature program Swipe out Hunger to MSU, Mankato. To bring the program to MSU, Mankato, she worked with Student Government/Basic Needs Committee, Residence Life, Sodexo/University Dining Services, the Swipe Out Hunger organization, the Community Engagement Office, and others on our campus who strive to address food insecurity among our students. Since it began in September, over 350 students have benefitted from the program, which not only provides additional meals to students, but also ensures students have additional resources to address food insecurity. Currently, she is working to expand the program and set up a system that will allow students to donate “swipes” as a way to sustain the program for years to come. In addition to swipe out hunger, Kara also volunteers as a shift leader with the campus kitchen and serves as speaker of the Student Government.

Over the past 58 years, the Davy family has taken great pride in students, volunteers and alumni in Minnesota State University, Mankato. Joan Davy graduated in 1967 and her husband Mark graduated in 1968. Mankato has been a family tradition for the Davy’s ever since. At this time, the family has seen three generations attend MSU, Mankato. They truly enjoyed their years here in Mankato and wanted to pay it forward by endowing an annual scholarship that would encourage students to serve the Mankato community for several years to come. The Richard E. Murray Volunteerism Endowment was created to support the same mission that the Davy family supports. These scholarships combine to form the Community Engagement Scholarship section of today’s program.

Community Engagement Scholarships are given to students who provide outstanding volunteer services to the greater Mankato community. Scholarship recipients are selected by a committee composed of members from both the campus and community.

Recipients: Zahara Osman, Barbara Owiny, AylaJean Root and Kaylee Jensen

Zahara serves as a shift leader for the Campus Kitchen at MSU, Mankato, ‘harvesting’ food donations every Thursday night for the past two years. During the summers, she also ensures that the Campus Kitchen Little Fridge and Campus Kitchen Bread Cart are stocked so that college students facing food insecurity have a source of nutrition to turn to when needed. Zahara recognizes many leadership lessons she has gained through her service at the Campus Kitchen. She says, “Any small acts of kindness that I have been given has impacted my life in a significant way. I can never forget all the strangers who have showered me with respect and kindness, and I have been volunteering for the Campus Kitchen to pay that same respect forward.”

Barbara manages the Friendship Family Program for the Kearney International Office. Although she contributes some hours to maintain her cultural contribution scholarship, Barbara volunteers above and beyond that requirement to ensure that our international students are connected to the greater Mankato community. She promotes the program to the community and coordinates the annual potluck for the participants and community. She noted, “the Friendship Family Program has led to long term friendships that have promoted the appreciation of diversity.”

AylaJean made it her mission to help foster kids find their forever families by working with the Reel Hope Project. She makes films to dispel stereotypes about individual foster youth, and shows those films to churches and community groups, helping to make the all-important connections between foster youth and their new family. Having a reel doubles a teenager’s chance of being matched with an adoptive family. Her motivation is to encourage foster kids to ‘not let the stigma define you’. While she was still a student at Central Lakes College, she volunteered with MSU, Mankato’s MLK Day of Service in her role at Miss Teen Northern Lakes United States 2019.

Kaylee is a regular volunteer for ECHO, but also coordinates recruitment among friends she knows are interested in helping. She signs up for shifts with new volunteers so that ECHO staff do not have to spend time training. When not involved with ECHO, she also crochets items for various agencies. Most recently she made headbands, scarfs, hats and baby blankets for Birthright. She also helped with Kiwanis Holiday Lights and at the Children’s Museum.

2021 Leadership Award Recipients

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *