Making a Mark on History: COVID-19 Community History Project

The theme to this year’s Honors Beacon focused on “making a mark on history” and we are continuing that theme with this last blog post of the year. We are focusing on the University Archives’ COVID-19 Community History Project currently going at Minnesota State University, Mankato which involves student workers and university archivists who are working to curate the new library collection. Working closely with the project are two former Honors Program directors, Dr. Anne Dahlman and Dr. Chris Corley.

It goes without saying that it is important to learn about and reflect on history, but it is just as important to document the history we live in, especially during an unprecedented global pandemic like the one we currently face.

With this in mind, the University Archives has started the COVID-19 Community History Project. As the name suggests, it is a project where submissions are open to all students, staff, and faculty who wish to contribute. The pieces can range from photos to art projects to personal reflections to interviews with people.

“We would like to capture a broad example of students, staff, faculty, and what’s going on,” Acting University Archivist Heidi Southworth stated. “We’d like to capture that and make the available in the University Archives for future historians and researchers who want to write about what happened and what was going on with social history.”

Capturing history is something that the Archives has done since the start of the university in 1868. The Archives contain records on what was happening at that time, while also containing records on what was happening when the university was going through the 1918-20 Spanish Flu.

COVID-19 has often been compared to the Spanish flu, in terms of it being a global pandemic that has forced worldwide shutdowns. While creating the “Spanish Flu” section of the university’s 150th anniversary book, last year, the Archives found records from the time of the Spanish flu that show how universities shut down statewide, much like what has been done in response to COVID-19.

“The only reason you can know much about what happened is because we have the records of the normal school,” University Archivist Daardi Mixon said. “It’s important that we take this opportunity to do that today so that with our next anniversary book, there will be a section on this and how the university responded.”

Taking time to document history as it happens is important when dealing with the emotional aspects of it. Much like the nature of the world and how it is ever-changing and evolving, people’s emotions are doing so too, which change their perspectives.

“As time goes on, people’s memories can become changed or impacted by it so in the moment we’re looking to capture the raw emotions and experiences as it’s happening,”  University Archives Technician Adam Smith said. “We can also document how those people are thinking about in the future how they think about the past and how those experiences have changed over time.”

Change has also come to the Archives in the way they’re conducting their work. They have introduced new tools to the process that were in the works already, such as utilizing Zoom to conduct and record interviews, as well as usocial media capture and automatic audio transcription capabilities for other purposes.

Student workers are getting the chance to use these tools to not only fulfill their employment but also gather materials and interview people, as a part of their role within the project. Students get trained in a way allows them to learn new concepts while they’re employed.

“As part of their training, a lot of those student workers in this project are being asked to go through a list of oral history resources that Heidi [Southworth] put together for students to learn how to conduct an oral history and what an oral history means,” Smith said, “so there is an opportunity for students to learn about historical resources.”

The project is also also a part of a new library collection being curated which meant that getting student workers involved in the internal processes was tested at the library before it fully started.

“We tested this with our own library student workers before we subjected anyone else to it, in order to work out the kinks,” Interim Dean of the Library Chris Corley said. “A lot of the library student workers are writing journals about their experiences and emotions, so what we’re going to have is a lot of first hand accounts from students in how they experienced this.”

Corley is not only Interim Dean of the Library, but is also a former Honors Program director. Corley credited his experiences with Honors to having a greater understanding of the broader purpose and importance that the project serves in telling individuals’ stories.

“One of the things Honors taught me was to pay more attention to how singular events that have happened in history affect people in different ways,” Corley said, “so while all of us are experiencing the COVID pandemic, we’re all experiencing it in different ways because of our race, ethnicity, gender, and social status.”

A group facing the COVID-19 pandemic different from many other students is international students. International students not only make up a sizeable portion of student workers at the university, but also a sizeable portion of the overall student population, with there being around 1,200 international students who attend the university. During this pandemic, many of them are unable to go home due to travel restrictions. With finances being tight and influence on public policy often being minimal, these students have been facing struggles. This is where the project becomes an important opportunity for international students to fulfill a need for employment and have their voice be heard.

“Not only to utilize their experience as a launching pad but then to provide them an opportunity for hope to get employment to pay bills, buy food and do something meaningful that’s not a hand-out,” Dr. Anne Dahlman said.

Dahlman is a former Honors Program director, originally from Finland, who now serves as Interim Dean of Global Education. In her role, Dahlman has helped international students in beginning to work with the project and has connected closely with their experiences in doing so.

“International students are very proud in terms of resourcefulness and ability to take care of themselves because they would not get a student visa if they didn’t show they don’t need the help of the U.S. public,” Dahlman said. “They’re treated as very capable workers and as researchers, and are providing valuable input to the history of our campus, our region, and our country.”

Journals and written pieces are valuable project contributions, but they are valuable to students who often view constructing such pieces as an outlet of relief. For international students, this is especially true being so far from home in such an unprecedented situation.

However, as Dahlman noted, “They say that especially when you are very emotional that you go to your first language so the reflection would be very different if they went to their second language.”

While this can be a barrier to those who do not know the writer’s first language, it also provides a way to show the diversity of the student population and keeps intact the goal of gaining people’s perspectives as history unfolds. In doing so, there is great importance in being sensitive to people’s emotions and connections during this time.

“When people reflect, I hope we give that we are able to allow them the space and modality that allows them to reflect, so we are not just having them share their thoughts,” Dahlman said. “This will give students a way to talk to people back home and include them in their reality in a way that’s constructive and has a lot of potential.”

For those who are interested in putting forth a submission for the project, it is important to note that no piece is ever taken for granted.

“Sometimes, some things come to us and we’re like, ‘What is that?’, Archives Technician Anne Stenzel said. “Sometimes something will come in and be donated and it may not appear to be important, but sometimes somebody will ask us a question and that particular document provides that exact answer.”

“The things that you donate may not appear to be valuable but they are to us and they may provide some value to someone someday.”

Ultimately, the COVID-19 Community History Project serves a purpose that is greater than the sum of our parts, in terms of how these submissions will tell the tale of who we are to future generations, long after we’re gone.

To learn more about the project, please visit


Spring Break Story Time

The first eight weeks have blown by and gone, which means it’s Spring Break time. Before we went on Break, we were doing some “lounge”-ing around and thinking of our favorite Spring Break memories.

“My freshman year of college, I did an alternative spring break trip to Appalachia. After that, I basically worked and slept. Well…except for senior year of college. That was the year I really went wild and crazy, and I had my wisdom teeth taken out.”
– Ginny, our associate director

“My family likes to travel a lot. So when I was in freshman year of high school, I took a trip to Paris and London with my family. We flew into Paris, spent some time there and went to the Arc de Triumphe, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower.

Then we took the train under the English channel, spent some time in London and saw the Tower of London, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. Then we flew out of London after that.”
– Samantha

“Most of my spring break memories are getting caught up on work. In college, I often had a speech tournament over one or both of the Spring Break weekends, so that limited travel elsewhere. 

Honestly, I’ve never really minded not having a traditional spring break experience.  I found a slower week to catch-up and maybe even get ahead was really good for my mental health.  I don’t mind winter, so being somewhere warm is not a need.”
– Leah, our director

“I wasn’t able to afford any Spring Break trips until I went back to college as a non-traditional student in my mid-twenties. That year I went to Jacksonville, Florida to visit my sister and her family and get some sunshine. All the other Spring Breaks, I stayed home and worked a lot so I could pay my tuition.”
– Pam, our administrative assistant

“When I was a kid, my dad was in college at MSU-Moorhead and we usually went somewhere during his Break. One particular trip was driving to El Paso where we passed through several states and even went to Juarez, Mexico one afternoon.

I remember we did a fun photo op where my dad took a picture of me on the Mexico side of the border sign, as an 8-year-old kid, and my mom being on the U.S. side. El Paso and Juarez were cool and vibrant with culture in a new way to me as a kid.”
– Jonathan 

“My second year of college, I went to FL with my family. Our flight out was delayed by 8 hours so we spent it all in a small airport in Fargo and I finished one of my three books that day.

We went to Harry Potter World, my entire family got the 24-hour stomach flu, and then we went to the beach and spent the week at the pool. We stayed at my grandparents’ house they rented in a retirement community so I spent a lot of time with older adults.

I listened to a lot of good live music and got really, really, really, really sunburnt. I peeled for like 5 weeks after we got back.”
– Emily

From everyone at the Honors Program, we hope that y’all have a safe and fun Spring Break!

How to Balance It All: Work, School, and Extras

Life is one giant balancing act- between work, classes, and being involved in campus, there isn’t a lot of spare time for us to relax and be social! So how do we find that happy medium that works everything in? I went around to all of the Honors staff and asked for advice on how to try to stay balanced. Here were their responses:

1. Understand that there truly is no such thing as balance.

While adults may preach ‘it’s all about balance’, when it comes to this aspect of our lives there is no such thing. Everyday is going to be different: some days you will spend 12 hours in the library and others you won’t even look at your backpack. When you have too many of one type of day, that is when you begin to run into problems. Once you accept that there is no perfect equation, you will be that much more efficient. Just know that you can have a little bit of everything.

2. You have to continuously fill your own cup.

Find what truly makes you happy, and then don’t give it up. For some people, that means going to the gym everyday for an hour. Others enjoy reading for 20 minutes before going to bed. Whatever it is that keeps you grounded and content is something that you keep in your schedule no matter what.

3. Manage the time in your day.

When someone says ‘balance’, what they really mean is ‘manage’. Time management is such an important tool for busy students! If you are booked everyday between 8am-4pm, then you should utilize the time you do have at night. For some people, time management means making a list of the things you absolutely need to get done that day and adding in more as you complete your list. For others, this means allocating a certain amount of time a day to different things. Again, every day is going to be different but that isn’t a bad thing.

4. You cannot be the best at every single thing you do- focus on one at a time.

When it comes to classes, work, being involved on campus, and having a social life, there are a lot of different areas for us to stand out and excel. But we can’t excel in all of them. Each semester or time of year, pick one area of your life that you want to be the  very best in. You want to put in more time at work and be a great employee? Take less credits that semester or cut down on what clubs you are active in. Want to get all A’s in your classes? Cut your volunteer hours in half that semester. Have a fabulous research project idea but nervous it may take up all your time? If it is something you want to do, make time for it. Look back at number 2 to remind you how to pick your priorities. 

5. Learn how to say no.

There is no easy way to say this but… no. Learn how to say that one word and you will find that your schedule becomes more manageable and enjoyable. If someone asks you if you would be willing to do something for one of your clubs but it doesn’t sound like fun to you, then say no! Adding things into your schedule because they’ll look good on a resume isn’t a good plan. You only get four years to experiment and find your passions, so why spend it on things you don’t like? Get involved and volunteer for things you do enjoy or want to pursue. It may take some time and you’ll be constantly changing your schedule around, but it is totally worth it in the end.

6. Do what makes you happy.

This is a cliche, I know, but it really is applicable to everything! There are so many things that you can choose to do with your time- watching movies, volunteering, research. But with all of these opportunities, it can become difficult to make our final decisions. Don’t do a resume-building activity instead of something that sounds really interesting to you just because you think it will look better in the long run. Do what sounds interesting or makes you happy. Do what you’re passionate about and the experiences you have will beat everything else. Everyone enjoys passionate people way more than they enjoy good-on-paper people.


Written by Emily Schiltz

Three Simple Joys

The beginning of October means that warm weather is long gone, midterms are around the corner and students are becoming more stressed by the minute. With this busy time ahead, we asked students to take a moment and reflect on some things that give them joy. We received over 50 responses, and here were some of their responses:

“Music, Friends, Sleep”

“Coffee, color coded notes, and my roommates”

“Hiking, writing, and drawing”

“Petting my dog, fall air, candles”

“A long night’s rest, something making me laugh with my friends, feeling like I had a productive day”

“God, God’s Creation, and God’s Love”

“Books, coffee, sunny days”

“Iced coffee, candles, wearing comfy clothes”

“Plants, music, candles”

“Quiet time, Church, My Journal”

“Crisp autumn air, morning yoga in my pajamas, a warm cup of coffee in my favorite mug”

“Sports, Painting, Grey’s Anatomy”

“Taking a long nap, reading a good book, and petting cute dogs”

“Music, coloring, chocolate milk for breakfast”

“Popcorn, planners, and hope”

“Naps, candy, a good belly laugh”

“Music, video games, driving”

“Video games, music that fits the moment, dozing off under a blanket in the evenings”

“Coffee, blankets, Grey’s Anatomy”

“Home cooking, hot tea, spending time with roommates”

“Music, Hot Chocolate, and Food”

“Laughter, friendship, accomplishment”

“Fly a kite, look at old pictures, call a picture”

“The smell of rain, sweatshirts, quesadillas”

“My family, my health, reading”

“Personal time, exercise, and surrounding myself with people I love”

“Sleeping in, reading, and thunderstorms”

“Watching Netflix in PJs, coffee, and checking off boxes!”

“Coffee, hanging with friends, playing cards”

“Laying in a hammock, rock climbing, and taking naps”

“Sitting by moving water, beating Emma in Bananagrams, Reading a good book!”

How to Get Organized

You have gone to all of your classes and received all of your syllabuses. Now what do you do?

As a college student, it is really important to keep on top of assignments and exams. But when there is so many classes to keep track of, how do you keep it all straight? As a returning student, I’ve got tons of tips on how to get organized and stay organized for the semester.

1. Clean it all out.

For me, organizing my school supplies is the first big step in getting ready for the semester. I test all of my pens and highlighters to make sure they work and then put them in a shared space with my pencils. I put all of my loose leaf paper in binders and label all of my notebooks and folders. This helps me make sure I am always prepared for my classes and sets my mind at ease.

PRO TIP: Pack your backpack for the next day the night before. Put all your notebooks, pencils, and lab manuals in there before crawling into bed and the next morning will be a breeze.


2. Buy a planner.

There are soo many different options when it comes to getting a planner. If you have used a planner in the past, then buy one that has worked for you. If you are new to the wonderful world of planners, look for a planner that has both monthly and weekly pages. There are multiple sizes, colors, and set ups to choose from!

PRO TIP: Don’t buy the first planner you pick up. Look through a couple different planners and see if there is a style you like best. Each planner is different in its own way and it takes time to decide what may work for you.

weekly calendar me weekly calendar pay

3. Copy down assignments/exams from your syllabus, one at a time.

After receiving a syllabus, I take a highlighter and quickly skim through the schedule portion and highlight all of the assignment due dates, homework due dates, or quiz and exam dates. When I have time later, I write all of these due dates down in the monthly calendar area of my planner. Going one syllabus at a time helps me stress less and feel less cluttered.

PRO TIP: Highlight from the date your exam/due date is on all the way through the end of the assignment title. This way, there is little chance of you reading the due date wrong and putting it down on the wrong date.


4. Color code.

Color code EVERYTHING. Splurge and get yourself a new set of pens, pick a color for each class, and write in all of your due dates in that color. This helps me organize my brain so that when I see an orange assignment due date, I know what class it is for. If all your assignments are in black, you will have to label them with the class name too. This takes up extra space, whereas colors keep it simple. It also brightens up my calendar!

PRO TIP: Use a color for all of your meetings, club activities, and/or extracurriculars. They can all be one color or a separate one for each of those too, but it will help keep you organized on that front too.

PRO PRO TIP: Use red for your exams!! Red stands out in your brain more so it’ll stick out on your calendar. You’ll never miss studying for an exam this way.

monthly calendar

5. Make weekly to-do lists AND daily to-do lists.

Every Sunday night, I look at my monthly calendar and see what I’ve got going on this week. From here I make a master list of all of the assignments, chapters, or quizzes I have to complete by the end of the week. After this, I go through each day and write down things that have to get done that day. If I have a reflection due Wednesday, I write it down for Tuesday. Chemistry assignment due Friday night? It goes on Thursday’s list.

PRO TIP: Write 3-5 things down on your To-Do list each day. Prioritize those things and complete them. If you can add more, great, but start small and don’t overwhelm yourself.

weekly to do daily to do

6. Have multiple calendars or calendars in multiple places.

Being able to access my calendar from multiple places has become extremely helpful in my daily life. I have a planner where I keep my monthly schedule as well as my To-Do lists, but I also utilize the calendar app on both my computer and my phone. There are many different calendar apps you can use, but I like Google Calendar. You can download it on your phone and your laptop, making your daily schedule easily accessible at any time! Write in your classes, meeting times, when you want to go to the gym- you name it.

PRO TIP: Use at least 2 different types of calendars. One should be a planner, where you write in your due dates and your exams, and the other a daily schedule, such as Google Calendar. As you get busier and schedule more things, it will get harder to keep track of. A daily schedule will save you.

To learn about other calendar apps, click here:

7. Utilize your devices!

Your laptop and/or phone have hundreds of resources readily available to you. Use them. Phones have access to apps such as Reminders, Notes, Office365, Quizlet, etc. to keep you organized AND to help you study. For those with a Macbook, the Sticky Notes app is super convenient. You can pull up a sticky note and keep it in the corner of your home screen as a reminder of what you need to do every time you open your laptop.

PRO TIP: Don’t pay for an app when you can find a free version. There are so many free versions of organizational apps, don’t waste your money.


I hope these tips help!


Meet the First-Year Honors LCC!

kade lccThe 2019-2020 Learning Community Coordinator for the first-year Honors Launch Learning Community is Kade Patterson! Here’s his introduction:

Hi! My name is Kade Patterson. I am a sophomore at Minnesota State University, Mankato. I am majoring in mathematics education aspiring to be a teacher at the high school level. I am from Sauk Rapids, Minnesota. Sauk Rapids is right across the Mississippi River from Saint Cloud. I have a mom, dad, brother, and sister. My brother, Keegan, is going to be in ninth grade this year and my sister will be a freshman in college. My sister is going to school at Minnesota State University, Moorhead and is planning to major in Elementary Education.

kade-siblings.jpg Over the summer, I worked as a maintenance worker at Territory Golf Club in St. Cloud, Minnesota. I also coached a fourteen-year-old baseball team over the summer. In my free time I enjoy hanging out with friends, playing games, and being outside. In high school, my favorite things to do were play baseball and be in band. I am majoring in mathematics education because throughout my schooling I have excelled at math and have found great joy in solving math problems. I chose to go the education route instead of the countless other routes because I had a teacher in high school named Chuck Kruger. He inspired me to become the best person I can be, and I want to be able to inspire other students like he did for me.


I am excited to come back and get to know you all! I had a great experience in the Honors Launch Learning Community last year. The learning community played a big role in making my first year at college a positive experience. It provided me with a group of people that I knew around campus. It also provided me with the people that are now my closest friends. The learning community also gave me a really nice introduction to the Honors Program at MNSU. A lot of the events we went to as a learning community were directly tied to the Honors Program and what the expectations for Honors students are. I cannot wait to meet you guys and help you have a positive experience like I did!

Interested in learning more or in joining the first-year Honors Launch Learning Community? Check out the Learning Community webpage or contact Honors at or 507-389-5191. 

Alternative Spring Break 2019

There are a variety of ways that college students can choose to spend their spring break. Some students choose to visit their family and relax, some go on vacation to get some sun, and some even travel to other countries as part of a class. For others, however, they choose to spend their spring break doing something good for a community. This past spring break, Shelly Baldrige traveled to St. Louis, Missouri to volunteer with the organization Kingdom House. Here is her account of the experience.

“For the 2019 Alternative Spring Break, I, along with 4 other MNSU students, traveled to St. Louis, Missouri for a service-learning trip with Kingdom House. Kingdom House is a nonprofit organization that works with the economically disadvantaged in St. Louis to help them get out of poverty by learning about money management, providing affordable food, clothing, childcare, assisting in job searches, and teaching English as a second language among a great number of other services. Throughout our trip, we took part in educational sessions, service projects, and volunteered with the Family Center in the evenings.

Leaders pic

During the educational sessions, we went through a poverty simulation in which we had to stretch our limited dollar for a month while encountering various financial obstacles such as medical issues, school fees for our children, car payments, rent, food, and crises at our jobs. It was incredibly eye-opening to have a small taste of the very real challenges that the economically disadvantaged of the world are faced with day in and day out. Many of our group members expressed a difficulty in choosing the morally correct choice and the financially responsible choice in tough situations. Our educational sessions also covered food inequity, with one of our tasks being to create a week-long menu for 5 people. It was very challenging trying to please everyone in just our group, and we were 5 grown adults. It took us between 20-30 minutes to create our menu and many families – especially those with young children – do not have that kind of free time. We were able to purchase our entire menu for the week under our allotted food stamps budget, but it was not hard to see how families with several young kids could struggle to make ends meet. Our final educational session had us playing monopoly, but with some players having economic disadvantages or advantages (i.e. more or less money than the norm, paying higher fees, receiving less from other players, etc.). This demonstrated a small-scale edition of what the economically disadvantaged experience in their real lives and I personally was astounded by the constant barrage of misfortunate that the players at a disadvantage experienced. Towards the end, everyone was allowed to play by the normal rules but those who had been at a disadvantage previously were unable to comfortably catch up to the other players. For me, this was an incredibly educational tactic for showing how those who have lived in poverty their whole life would face a massive struggle trying to get out.

For our service projects, we were first tasked with coming up with a list of activities to do with the kids in the Family Center each night that we volunteered there. While this wasn’t particularly challenging, we did have to demonstrate our teamwork in selecting activities and then assembling our boxes of supplies for each craft. Our subsequent service projects involved reorganizing the storage spaces of Kingdom House that were filled with a wide variety of donations ranging from baby supplies to clothes to school supplies or birthday kits. This involved a great deal of patience and perseverance as the rooms were cramped, messy, and stuffy. However, it was incredibly rewarding to see how much work we had gotten done and hearing the appreciation from the Kingdom House employees, knowing that we had helped check off a few more boxes on their endless to-do list. Finally, we each spent 2 nights volunteering in their Family Center, creating crafts and playing with the many kids who needed child care as their parents were at work or taking classes provided by Kingdom House. It was exceptionally fun getting to interact with such a diverse group of children and get a small look into their lives. It was a humbling experience realizing how few luxury items these kids had in their lives, that I felt entitled to in my childhood, and still seeing the blissful joy on all of their faces. This trip was by far the most rewarding educational experience I have ever had, and I greatly enjoyed my time there. My only wish was that we could have stayed and helped out for longer!”

To learn more about the Kingdom House, please visit:

Continued Education Down a Non-Traditional Path

This spring, we have been fortunate to make contact with Honors Program alumni Laurel Gustafson who has graciously agreed to write the following post for us. Laurel graduated in 2003 with a B.S. in Recreation, Parks and Leisure Services. She then went on and received her M.S. in Experimental Education in 2014. Soon after receiving her second degree, Laurel and her husband decided to travel the country while living out of their van- an experience that changed their lives forever. Here is the story of their journey.

Laurel Gustafson:

Continued Education Down a Non-Traditional Path

Paying tuition has been a regular commitment to my learning. As the sole contributor to my undergraduate degree, it was an exciting moment to pay off loan debt within 5 years of graduating. It wasn’t that my degree in Recreation, Parks and Leisure Services led to a high-paying job; I prioritized my spending and got rid of a large, outstanding payment. A payment for a rich time of growth in and out of the classroom that set the stage for future decisions.

In 2014, my husband asked me if we could quit our jobs to travel full time.

Caption: How we made our decision to travel.

We hit so many roadblocks in figuring out how to do it, so we tackled them one at a time. How will we pay for this? Budget. What do we do with our things? Sell. Share. Store. What do we do with our cat? Share 😉 What if we don’t like it? Stop. What vehicle could we use? A cheap van. Can we really do this? Yes. Just start.

Having experience in prioritizing a budget paid off significantly. In our new lifestyle, we’d pay tuition yet again for an education, but this time we would scatter those tuition payments to many parks, donut shops, gas stations, and grocery stores across the US.

In July of 2016, we turned over our keys to our rental space and proceeded to sleep in that parking lot for a week. I know, you’re thinking: how glamorous! My husband finished his work commitments with Minnesota State University Mankato during that time, and we started to figure out what it would be like to use public bathrooms all the time. It wasn’t until we crossed the state line into Wisconsin that we felt we had started this journey, which had been 18 months of saving, dreaming, and changing to our new normal.

Caption: The kitchen we built under our bed in our 2003 VW Eurovan.

We had a rough guideline of where to travel but no detailed agenda. Our overnight stays consisted of state parks, state & national forests, Walmart & Cabela’s parking lots, homes of friends & family, and a few hotels. We loved the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and stayed there longer than we thought we would. We booked a 1-week camping stay in Acadia National Park long before we were certain we could endure an October night sleeping in our uninsulated van in Maine. Our timing of traveling south followed near-peak leaf season that fall.

There was a time in this drive south when we questioned all of our travels. We spent another night in a parking lot. Another night resting between Point A and Point Unknown. It was our decision to stop that was our best decision. We didn’t stop traveling, we stopped moving. We spent more time at each location. We lingered. We finally stopped letting the busyness of our society control our thoughts. Eight days walking the beaches of the Outer Banks during the 2016 presidential election. All we had for a connection was a slider phone that could call and send texts. No data. No cable. No Netflix. Using older phones with spotty wifi at public locations was how we stayed in touch. Although it took a while to break away from the feeling of needing to be connected, it was a refreshing moment to realize how much reflection I had been doing in lieu of the bombardment of news and ads and Facebook likes.

That turning point led to two of our favorite parts of our travels. Although our initial thoughts of traveling had us on the West Coast at this point, we kept returning to New England. We discovered a house-sitting opportunity in New Hampshire and spent the month of March 2017 in an 1800’s post and beam home nestled south of the White Mountains. The homeowners (now dear friends) entrusted us to take care of their dog, three cats, and home through a season of potential nor’easters. Amazing.

Caption: Building a snow quinzee after a nor’easter in New Hampshire.

Another rewarding season of our trip was finding a WWOOFing [World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms] location that invited us to stay on a private island off the coast of Maine. In April 2017, we stepped onto a boat and were welcomed to the working family of this island farm. We started chores before the sunrise. We gardened. We set up fencing for animals. We cleaned barns. We assisted in lambing season. We made butter and ice cream from fresh cream. We picked things up and put things down. I worked on a life-struggle while being so far removed from my normal circle of support. I cried. We laughed. We worked on it. We basked in the sunrises and could often be found sleeping before the sun set. We jumped in the ocean on a nice day and hunkered down tight during the moments of ruthless waves and high tides. We were immersed in a world new to us, and we learned. We learned a lot.

Caption: Assisting in birthing a calf on the island farm.

Overall, we didn’t know when this segment of our life would change until it changed. We found out we were expecting the baby we were told would probably never happen. It was the birth of our daughter that brought us back to our home state of Minnesota, but our mindset of collecting new experiences has never left us. The value obtained from paying tuition when ready to soak up life is never a question.

“If we thought we had to know what we were doing before we began, we would never have started.”

~Jinti Fell

Nomadic Australian Vlogger, Mother, Adventurer


Just start.


*Each hyperlink in the story is to a different social media site used to keep our friends and family updated on our travels. We’re not professional photographers, journalists, or videographers. We just did it; taking some pictures, notes, videos along the way.

To learn more:

A Reflection on Research

This February, after a pair of weather delays, the Honors Program hosted a research fair for students to interact with professors in various disciplines about how to get involved in research. History, Psychology, Marketing, Business Law, and the College of Allied Health and Nursing all had representatives at the fair.

Kade Patterson, a first-year students in the Honors Program, explored the fair. As a Math Education major, he has had some worries about completing the research competency. Here is his reflection on his experience at the research fair:

Fulfilling the competencies, especially the research competency, has been a concern of mine. However, through classes and events I have begun to understand and formulate ideas on how I am going to fulfill the competencies. When I attended the research fair, I learned that there are more opportunities to participate in research than I had originally thought. I started to understand that if I asked professors in my discipline about research opportunities, they could suggest research projects for me to participate in. The research fair also made me think about possibly doing a research project outside of my discipline. I could potentially find an area that I am interested in and then get involved with that department.  After going to the research fair, I felt more confident in my ability to fulfill the research competency.

Research Fair

Students visiting with professors at the fair!

The Life of a Student Athlete

The past couple of weeks, our student athletes in the Honors Program have taken a couple minutes out of their busy schedules to chat a little bit about how they balance school, extracurricular activities, and their sport throughout the year. Here are a couple of our athlete’s responses. 

Zoe Wright

zoe wright

What is your major? What year in school are you? What sport(s) do you play?

I am a Biochemistry major in my sophomore year, and I play for the women’s soccer team here at Minnesota State.

What season is your busiest during the school year, and what season is your least busy during the year?

I actually keep myself very busy throughout the school year – Our soccer season is officially in the fall, which means 20 hours or more a week in practice, games, and travel. While the spring season is a bit less time spent in my sport, I take on a heavier course load.

What types of things are you involved in besides school and athletics, if any?

I am involved in the Pre-Med club on campus, I am doing undergraduate research with Dr. Thoempke, and I am involved with a women’s Bible study.

How do you balance athletics, school, and any extracurriculars? What types of things do you do to keep yourself organized and prepared for everything?

I use a lot of my “down time” to prepare for what’s next. For example, before I wind down for each day, I make sure I am prepared for tomorrow in the best way I can be so that I don’t have to spend time on silly things like finding my uniform or charging my laptop later. I’ve found that it’s paying attention to these little things consistently that makes all the difference.

How often do your school work and your sport interfere with each other? Do you find it difficult to excel at both?

There have been a handful of occasions where I have to reschedule labs and/or exams because of travelling for soccer, which is definitely less than ideal. For the most part, my professors have been very kind and accommodating. However, our coaches understand that we are students first, and try to do everything they can to make sure we are still excelling in the classroom. I believe our team GPA is about a 3.6.

What types of things do you like to do to de-stress or take a mental break?

I’ve been trying to read fiction as an alternative to watching Netflix lately, and honestly, it’s one of my favorite things to do now.

What has being a student-athlete taught you in your time here at Minnesota State?

Being a student-athlete has taught me to be accountable for myself. There is a lot we have to do when nobody’s watching, so I have to learn to do it for the future me, or for my future team.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time as a student-athlete on campus?

One of my favorite memories has to be winning the conference tournament. It felt like all the work we’d been doing all season finally paid off into something big.

If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before starting college, what would it be?

I would tell my younger self that I have to be ready to find myself outside of my comfort zone a lot, and to embrace it as a growing opportunity rather than shy away from it.

Share one piece of advice that you would give to other or future student-athletes.

Being successful as a student-athlete is all about learning to find balance. Prioritize your studies and work hard in your sport, but find time to take care of yourself as well.

Megan Serratore

megan serratore

What is your major? What year in school are you? What sport(s) do you play?

My major is biomedical science with intent to attend medical school. I am a senior (4th year). I run cross country in the fall and indoor and outdoor track and field in the winter and spring.

What season is your busiest during the school year, and what season is your least busy during the year?

My busiest season is my spring semester during my indoor and outdoor track season. My team has track meets nearly every weekend. My cross country season during the fall is a little more laid back. We usually only have competitions every other weekend for cross country.

What types of things are you involved in besides school and athletics, if any?

Besides school and athletics, I have worked part time as an at-home caregiver for elderly individuals while I have been in school. I also try to do volunteer work in my spare time. Some of my volunteer experiences include volunteering as a language partner, peer adviser, step-force volunteer at the Mayo Clinic, and helping supervise kids at my local Boys and Girls Club in Bemidji. This semester I am hoping to start doing volunteer work at the Harry Meyering Center.

How do you balance athletics, school, and any extracurriculars? What types of things do you do to keep yourself organized and prepared for everything?

To balance athletics, school, and other extracurriculars I set goals for myself and prioritize my time. I might set academic and running related goals, but I also set self-care goals. I think the craziness of college can sometimes make it hard to take good care of yourself, but it is important to prioritize your well being. To stay organized in school I rely heavily on my weekly planner. I have everything written down so I know when things are due. Writing everything down allows me to visualize what my week will be like and how I need to spend my time. I also have a big, paper calendar in my bedroom that is designated to non-academic related reminders.

How often do your school work and your sport interfere with each other? Do you find it difficult to excel at both?

Sometimes my class schedule will conflict with my cross country or track practice schedule. On these days, I have to find time in my day to work-out on my own either before, after, or between my classes. Missing practice is not ideal because I do not get to practice with my teammates, but school is always the priority. Also, I sometimes have to miss classes for weekend competitions. I think it can sometimes be difficult to excel in both sports and school. Sometimes my running suffers because school can be stressful. At the same-time, running adds structure to my day and has taught me how to work hard both in and outside of athletics. I think overall being both a student and an athlete has helped me be successful in college.

What types of things do you like to do to de-stress or take a mental break?

To de-stress I like to listen to music, spend time with friends, meditate, cook, take a warm bath, or do some form of physical activity outside like biking or rollerblading.

What has being a student-athlete taught you in your time here at MSU?

Being a student-athlete at MSU has taught me the importance of surrounding myself with people who build me up and support me. I cannot say enough how important it is to have a “team” of people who share passions with you and encourage you to work hard to be successful in your endeavors. There is nothing more satisfying than reaching team goals. Your “team” could be actual sports teammates, friends, co-workers, family members, etc. Reaching a goal is not as satisfying when you have no one to high-five. So, find your team!

What is one of your favorite memories from your time as a student-athlete on campus?

One of my favorite memories from my time as a student-athlete was when my track team won the indoor conference track and field meet during my freshman year. It was my first conference track meet and also the first time our women’s team won a conference meet in many years. So, it was very exciting and emotional.

If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before starting college, what would it be?

Do not do things that you are not passionate about. You should not do something just because you feel like you need to fulfill some type of bullet point list. Pursue activities that bring you joy, challenge you, and make you want to work hard. Also, do not wait until the night before an exam to study for a test!

Share one piece of advice that you would give to other or future student-athletes.

To future student-athletes, relish your time with your teammates doing something that you hopefully love. Being part of a sports team is such a unique, wonderful experience. Do not take it for granted.