“I began realizing that sometimes all you need to be a leader people can trust, is to just be present” -Maria Rios

Each semester since Spring 2015, the Centennial Student Union honors eight students selected for campus student leadership and CSU student staff excellence. Nominated by staff members from Student Affairs, the Kearney International Center, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion selected students are recognized on the BEST Board, a 55-foot display in the CSU Hearth Lounge created for Boasting Exceptional StudentTalent.

Maria Rios believes that campus involvement has helped her experience the value of teamwork and dedication. Without campus involvement, Maria imagines her life would be solely academics and work which would have limited her horizons. She created the #IMVisible project, a project that helps all Maverick express their uniqueness through a social media campaign. She was amazing during the COVID-19 pandemic finding new ways to engage the student body in person or remotely.

In Maria’s Own Words

How has campus involvement and/or campus employment enhanced YOUR COLLEGE EXPERIENCE?

Campus involvement enhanced my college experience in a way that allowed me to grow connected to the people that keep the Maverick spirit running. Through organizations like the Student Events Team, I learned all the ins and outs of organizing events that draw in a huge portion of the MNSU population. Without this type of involvement, I would’ve never gotten the chance to firsthand experience the value of teamwork and dedicated work. In other realms, being a part of Latinx affairs not only allowed me to stay connected to my culture but also allowed me to remain in contact with important Latinx leaders across the nation through virtual conferences and other forms of engagement.

How has campus involvement and/or campus employment enhanced YOUR FUTURE?

There are specific types of skills that you gain only through hands-on work and experience and not from your average college classroom. Within these skills are things like: knowing how to craft professional & formal emails catered towards different groups of people, learning how to use social media as a marketing advantage, and even knowing how to help set up a concert stage. Accountability, creativity, hard work ethic, trust, and teamwork are all equally important foundations to most of these skills; skills that are not only helpful during involvement but skills that will follow and apply to any job there is to be named.

How has campus involvement/campus employment enhanced YOUR LIFE?

My answer to this one is simple. Without campus involvement, my college experience would have solely been academics and work. This would have limited my horizons to a great extent. Involvement allowed me to make friends, network, define personal skills, and discover passions within myself that I never would have thought to explore.

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

I think that an example of an experience that made me become a better leader would have to have been my position run with the Latinx Student Union (LSU). 2021 was an odd year for the LSU given that we had just made a comeback from COVID times and the fact that we had a brand new director. During that year I ran for the public relations position for the organization and I ended up receiving it. After navigating our new system and attending/hosting many meetings and staying late nights past office hours to clean up things like decorations for the Latinx night event committee, I began realizing that sometimes all you need to be a leader people can trust, is to just be present. I realized that people make an awfully big deal about titles sometimes but titles do not define leaders. Actions, presence, and character make a leader. Knowing this, my LSU teammates and I often just showed up and built rapport with our community members and to our surprise, that was just enough to make our organization thrive.

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

I would encourage every student in search of making the most out of their college experience to just take the first step. That is all it takes, that scary, hard, first step. It takes talking to one person, going to one meeting, sending out one email inquiring about something you’re curious about, or even sending a direct message to someone in order to establish your presence. Worst-case scenario, you hate whatever it is that you inquired about and if you hate it, the great thing about college is that there are a million opportunities to expand your horizons, just take that first step and commit or repeat as much as desired.

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

My favorite memory of personal maverick pride would have to be an honest tie between creating the blueprint for the 2021 Homecoming logo and seeing the entire MSU community rock those homecoming t-shirts and then commissioning an artist to create a diversity painting based on my vision followed by having it hung up in the CSU for everyone to see.

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