by: BRETT MARSHALL, CSU Public Relations Assistant
The BEST Board is a staple feature of the Centennial Student Union, highlighting some of Minnesota State’s top student leaders. But who exactly are these students and why did they get chosen? I had the opportunity to learn about the board in conversations with CSU Communication Coordinator, Lenny Koupal, and a few of this semester’s featured leaders.
What is the BEST Board?
The “BEST” in “BEST Board” stands for: Boasting Exceptional Student Talent and it hangs above the Hearth Lounge in the CSU highlighting eight student-leaders each semester, each of whom were hand-picked by CSU and MSU staff.
“It’s meant to exemplify those students that show exceptional leadership capabilities and growth, not only within the CSU, but also within student life leadership across campus,” Koupal said.
The BEST Board is meant to serve a dual-purpose as recognition for high-achieving students as well as an inspiration for what students have the capability to do during their time outside the classroom at MSU.
“We want to spotlight those students that have made the most of their college career, ones that can serve as an inspiration to others.”
How do students get on the BEST Board?
Students are nominated to be on the BEST Board by staff from all over campus, including areas like student affairs, Student Events Team, CSU administration, Fraternity and Sorority Life, Student Government, Resident Life, Campus Recreation, international student life, diversity groups and others.
Nominations are taken every March and October and that begins the selection process. A committee consisting of a four-member panel including Koupal; Mark Constantine, director of the CSU and Student Activities; James Ball, associate director of CSU Operations, and Greg Wilkins, associate director for Student Activities, review the nominations and then pick eight students to be featured for the upcoming semester.
The committee looks for students who have shown continued growth since coming to MSU. This growth could be things like starting off as a student-worker and progressing to graduate assistant or a student holding a small position in an organization and working their way up to become president.
Koupal said they also try to find different kinds of leaders, citing Amanda Johnson as an example saying she is a “quiet leader who worked her way up from CSU operations staff to graduate advisor.” He also mentioned Austin Hassebroek, a former CSU student graphic designer, as someone who he thought was a great example of a BEST Board student because of all the pride, effort and passion Hassebroek always put into his work.
“It’s about students that are successful and help other students be successful,” Koupal said. “They show leadership qualities and Maverick spirit.”
What does the BEST Board mean to the students on it; a personal reflection
Getting on the CSU BEST Board carries a high level of recognition and it’s not taken lightly by the students who get to see their face on the 55-foot long display. Take it from me as someone who’s had the honor of being featured on it.
It served as an affirmation that my hard work and dedication to leadership and growing the organizations I was a part of was worth it. It also served as a motivator for me to continue working hard and trying to make the people and organizations around me even better.
In addition, I’ve been able to witness first-hand how being a leader impacts others. In my fraternity, new members are assigned mentors, or “Pledge Fathers,” to help them through the fraternity and through college. My Pledge Father, Carl Vagle, was on the BEST Board in Fall of 2015. I looked up to him a lot as an inspiration and found myself on the BEST Board in Fall of 2017 as a result of his mentorship and leadership qualities.
Now in the Spring of 2019, two of my Pledge Sons (members of my fraternity who picked me as a Pledge Father) are now on the BEST Board, Graham Waitt and Wallace Pope. It’s incredible to see the impact one person can have on organization and how that can translate into many years of success for that organization.
But don’t just take my word for it. It’s had a far-reaching impact on so many students who have been on it — both past and present.
“For me it really helps me understand who I’ve become as a student leader since coming to MSU as a shy freshman,” Lydia Jagodzinski, speakers chair for the Student Events Team, said. “I always saw older students up there and never thought I’d see myself there someday too. It’s so unreal to me.”
Pope said the BEST Board was reassurance of representing the organizations he was a part of, “Being among some of the most distinguished leaders on campus is a great testament to the hard work and effort that has been put into being not only a great representative of this University but also a great representative of the RSO’s and groups I am apart of.”
Waitt thinks the BEST Board is one of the ultimate forms of representation for non-traditional students like himself.
“As someone who is not only a non-traditional student, but also a member of the LGBT* community as well as in organizations like Fraternity and Sorority Life, being up there shows different intersections that people are able to see and connect with,” he said.
In addition to Jagodzinski, Pope and Waitt, the other students featured on the Spring 2019 BEST Board are Amanda Johnson, Emily Christensen, Ana Leyva, Supreme Shrestha and Valerie Stocking. Mini displays of past BEST Boards can be found on the back wall of the Flexible Programming Space in the lower level of the CSU.
The BEST Board’s Impact Beyond MSU
The BEST Board’s impact and legacy have begun to spread beyond MSU as well.
“It’s one thing that’s really started to spread outside MSU,” Koupal said. “Other schools have seen what it’s done asked us about it. It’s kind of infectious to see the ability to recognize students in the way that we are.”
Koupal hopes the BEST Board and its legacy continue to inspire students to be more involved, to reach higher and achieve more and that its far-reaching impact continues to create leaders and a better campus for the years to come.