BEST Board ’24: Atlas James Seeks to Connect and Create Understanding by Getting Involved

Since the first day working within Student Activities, Atlas James has vocalized their desire to create a greater connection between students from diverse backgrounds and the entire student body.

“They strive to connect and create understanding between different cultures and the Maverick student body through innovative programs, while advancing the leadership experiences of fellow leaders and classmates,” Atlas’s BEST Board nominator stated.

Whether it was creating educational events with the Women’s Center, the LGBT Center or Veterans, Atlas sought to show commonality and opportunities to connect among students from all backgrounds, genders and sexual orientations.

With the Women’s Center, they coordinated a paint-by-numbers kit featuring influential women in history. The program helped student reflection on their own leadership. Working with the LGBT community on the yearly Drag Show, they set up a Drag 101 academy to train students on the essentials of a drag performance. Participating students were invited to join the professional performers for the Drag Show’s finale.

Coming from an underprivileged and military-based family, Atlas has a special place in their heart for veterans.

“They recognized often much of the intentional programming and speakers in veterans’ circles focus on the downsides of service: mental health, ptsd, etc.,” the nominator said. “They wanted to highlight the positive aspects of serving in the military and hosted a Military comedy night with a comedian who served and opportunities for the audience to share funny stories from their time in the service. This event helped to support veterans while advance their community at MNSU. One unintentional side affect was connecting many veterans in the community to current students. Many generations were present and lasting bonds were formed.”

Name: Atlas James
Hometown: Science Hill, KY
Major: Mass Communications Major, Anthropology Minor
Campus Involvement: Student Events Team, Vice President, Orientation Peer Assistant, Alternative Spring Break Organizer (ASB)
Graduation Date: Fall 2026

Reflecting on your time in leadership roles or as a student employee in the student union, how do you believe these experiences have contributed to your college experience?

ATLAS: “Working with different departments, RSOs, and groups has led me to being very well immersed in college, and this has positively influenced my college experience. I know who I can ask for help with just about anything- and the help is easy to find and receive. I have made lifelong connections.”

How have those experiences contributed to your personal growth and development as an individual?

ATLAS: “The confidence I have in my abilities has grown tremendously through the leadership advising I have received. This elevated me to continue to push into new spaces, and while I did so I was supported and cheered on the entire time.”

Provide one or more detailed examples where your campus involvement/work experience made you a better leader.

ATLAS: “Working in my position as a student organizer for Alternative Spring Break, I was able to fully immerse myself into a situation different from my own. This trip is a volunteer-based trip, in which we aid communities in need with food, housing, and other struggles. My empathy grew as a person and my understanding of the world around me grows to be more impassive.”

How do you see yourself carrying the lessons and skills you gained from your leadership and/or student union work experience into your future endeavors or career path?

ATLAS: “The confidence, the empathy, the creativity, and all skills I have grown and fostered here at MNSU will continue with me into my job field. I have been able to gain opportunities for my personal career while developing in leadership roles, such as being published in MNSU publications. Working with the Student Events Team, I was able to get hands-on with parts of my field such as social media and PR.”

What advice would you give to fellow students in helping them make the most of their college experience?

ATLAS: “Get involved! Everyone says it and it is so important! Once you are connected, you will have a strong support system that will be with you during your journey and make it the most fulfilling experience you can get here at MNSU.”

Throughout your college experience at Minnesota State Mankato, what has provided the greatest personal growth, memories, satisfaction and/or personal pride.

ATLAS: “My experiences with Student Activities as a department has brought me many instances of pride and growth, not to mention memories I will carry with me. I came into college during a program called ‘Launch’ and met many of the department staff through it. They were here in the beginning and have been a support system to encourage me to be my best my entire journey.”

Share a special “lifelong” memory of college you will take with you when you leave Minnesota State Mankato.

ATLAS: “My first event with the Student Events Team- Open Mic Poet Night. I brought in my favorite poet, Neil Hilborn. This event was not only development for me as an event programmer and leader, but also as a writer. It will be with me forever.”

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