Each semester, the Centennial Student Union recognized eight outstanding students who excel as leaders in the campus community or within the CSU student staff. The BEST Board, the 55-foot display in the CSU Hearth Lounge, is a way of Boasting Exceptional Student Talent. This eight-part series offers a glimpse of each of those student leaders for Fall 2020.

Seth Nilsen of Mendota Heights, Minn., graduates May 2021 with his degree in Health and Physical Education. He is the president of Mental Health Mankato and the Phikeia Educator of Phi Delta Theta. He has recently helped found a nonprofit called CultureChange.


Using your own experience, what advice for personal fulfillment and college enrichment would you offer to fellow students?

SETH: “The best advice that I could offer to fellow students for personal fulfillment and college enrichment would be to be as active on campus as possible. Open your mind to ideas and people that you wouldn’t have previously given the thought or time to.”

We often get asked, “How do I get on the BEST Board?” What do you think helped earn you your BEST Board distinction?

SETH: “For people who ask  “How do I get on the BEST Board?”, I would respond by telling them that they need to first, and foremost, find their passion. You most likely will not get on the BEST Board without having this as their goal. To have a passion for something that runs deep through your soul, will lead to more awards than you will expect. As amazing as awards such as the BEST Board are, it is extremely important to keep yourself humble and not measure your success based on the acknowledgment and praise of others.”

Why did you pick the quote used on the BEST Board? Please provide some background.

SETH: “The quote that I chose to have displayed on the BEST Board was “To be an advocate is to be an ally, a believer and a voice for those who have yet to find their own”. This quote is extremely meaningful to me because for a long time I found I  was unable to be open about my mental health. As I was able to find my voice early in college, I have countless friends that still struggle to be open with not just their mental health, but various aspects of their life.”

What involvement or leadership experience at Minnesota State Mankato best defines you, your interests, or your proudest moment? 

SETH: “My leadership positions at Minnesota State University, Mankato include being the President of Mental Health Mankato and the Phikeia Educator of Phi Delta Theta. These executive roles helped me gain connections and valuable leadership experience that I will carry with me for many years after I graduate college. Through the leadership roles and awards, my proudest moment(s) will continue to be having my mother and sister in my life. I cannot mention being proud of anything without emphasizing how proud I am of being a big brother to my amazing sister.”

Where do you hope to take your college education earned at Minnesota State Mankato (what are your career aspirations)?

SETH: “I am going to graduate in the spring of 2021 with a degree in health and physical education. My first career aspiration is to become a teacher and basketball coach. I hope to become a positive role model for my students. I will strive to promote healthy habits along with motivating my students to become more knowledgeable in all facets of health. Also, I recently helped found a nonprofit called CultureChange. We have an extremely motivated, creative group of individuals that are motivated to change the world by decreasing the stigma around mental health. We are going to do this through initiatives at universities and we are also looking to expand the mandates for mental health to be taught in the K-12 setting.”

What words of wisdom would you share in these unusual times?

SETH: “The only words of wisdom that I would share amongst these unusual times would be to consistently check in on your close family, friends, and loved ones that you don’t see often as you’d like. It could mean the world to get a text or call from you, especially in times like these where our human interaction is limited.”


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