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!


Summer Internship: The Opportunity to Discover the Density of Your Quantum States…

by Tatiana Soboleva


Being a junior in biochemistry last year placed me in the hot spot of academic development, and more importantly, the ardent desire to get outside my comfort-zone and explore new worlds. My prodigious excitement of this past summer was joining the summer research internship offered by the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Utah State University through a fellowship I received with the help of the Office of University Fellowships.

Utah STate

Applying for my fellowship was quite a challenging process, but a rewarding one! In essence, the application required a thoughtful approach towards several parameters about myself as student, an objective auto-analysis if you will: discovering what tools I had in my tool box that made me of interest to the programs I applied to.  This was the perfect time to work closely with the Office of University Fellowships and professors from my department. They offered me great advice in connecting with research organizations I was interested in, including potential schools and labs that offer such opportunities. When it came to searching for specific fellowships and putting together my application, I found the staff at the Office of University Fellowships extremely helpful. They reviewed my applications multiple times, giving constructive and objective feedback. They helped me to write and re-write my essays until I had a well-rounded product that reflected my best personal capabilities, goals, and motivations.

Utah state 2

I pursued an inorganic and organometallic synthesis research opportunity and became part of a new scientific family- Dr. L. Berreau’s research lab. This is not an exaggeration- by joining the program, I became a member of an entire family where everyone was responsible for me and I was responsible for my project.

My experience at Utah State University helped me to determine my research field for my ultimate PhD career. I absolutely fell in love with the brainstorming of reaction design, its practical execution, and the analysis of outcomes and potential improvements.

During my internship, I learned a lot about the manner in which graduate school operates. I did observe only the summer work regime of the graduate students I collaborated with; however, I got an accurate image of what I could expect to see during my graduate studies. I was able to ask questions about graduate school experiences from the graduate students I knew in the lab. That helped me to understand what that realm of academia looks like. To summarize graduate studies in a sentence, it is a hard work! Graduate students spend a lot of time researching and studying. Working with graduate students gave me the opportunity to hear the heart rate of the lab.


My fellowship opportunity let me clearly see the cracks in the walls of my knowledge in chemistry and biochemistry. It also revealed areas that I was interested in, but did not have a prior exposure to. I like to nickname my experience, “the diagnostic center for my academic car.” It might sound strange, but truly, it was exciting to be able to visualize what I need to remodel, refresh, repair and buy for my academic-knowledge car. I love shopping in this case!

A lesson I learned about the process of becoming a professional is that it is often staggered by a person’s inability to determine areas that need improvement. Gradually they become satisfied with where they are at; that is not what science is about! They have to be perpetually mobile; otherwise, the flame that was once lit in them will cease to exist with the lack of oxygen.

To conclude this short discussion, I would like to thank the scientific family of Dr. Berreau’s lab that adopted me for the past summer, showing me the path of my interests and giving me tools to get close to the destination; letting me perceive the density of my quantum states and inspiring me to extensively replenish my knowledge.

Some of My Favorite Intercultural Encounters

An inspiring insight on culture as a warm welcome to campus by your Honors Director, Dr. Dahlman


Global citizenship to me does not necessarily mean exotic travel to faraway places. Just traveling to new places without investing in learning about cultures is just that, traveling. Globally minded citizens engage with people from different cultures wherever and whenever.   It is my life’s mission to learn about other people, their cultures and views and promote intercultural understanding.

I would like to share just a couple of my favorite intercultural encounters and what I learned from them.  One of my favorite interactions has been with a student who I got to know in one of my classes many years ago at MSU, Mankato. She was from Egypt and had also lived in Kenya. She had lived half of her life in a refugee camp.  Coming to the U.S. and Minnesota meant an amazing opportunity for her both personally and professionally.  However, she faced many obstacles while in college.  Despite the fact that she was a brilliant individual, she wasn’t always able to demonstrate this through her language abilities. She told me that failure was not an option for her because her professional goals were not hers alone but that her hopes and dreams were also for the people back home in Africa. We stayed in touch when she graduated. I just saw her a month ago at the University of Minnesota, where she is currently in Medical School (and doing really well!!).  She has taught me so many lessons about resilience, hope and commitment.

When we talk about cultures, we don’t just mean ethnicity, race or different countries.  My next example deals with culture in terms of socio-economic status.  This incident happened last winter. I was sitting at a coffee shop in the Twin Cities on a Saturday morning. I saw a homeless person sitting on a park bench outside of the coffee shop.  It was chilly and he did not have a coat on.  From the corner of my eye I saw how he entered the coffee shop (I assumed to warm up a bit) but was escorted out as he did not purchase a drink.  I stood up and went outside to him and asked him if I could purchase a coffee for him. He looked me in the eyes and said, “Thank you ma’am.” I purchased a huge cup of coffee and a muffin for him.  Five minutes later I saw how he stood up and walked right into the coffee shop and sat down in one of the comfy leather chairs and drank his coffee.  That day I learned the lesson of human dignity and how we can do little things to help even if we cannot rescue people.

My last example of a cultural encounter happened last December when I was in Warsaw, Poland, to do a workshop for teachers there.  I take pride in the fact that I speak several languages and always try to accommodate communication by speaking the local language.  However, I don’t speak any Polish.  Many people spoke English there but not all. I noticed how people who knew very little English tried so hard so that we could communicate.  I felt bad as I was in their country and they had to accommodate to my needs.  I understand that English is a common language for people across the globe, but we still need to be aware of the truths underlying those communications, for example, who gets to speak in their language? How do we show respect through language choice and communication? How does language relate to power? That was a very humbling experience for me.  At a minimum, we should never just start speaking English, assuming that the other person speaks/understands English, but always kindly ask if that indeed is the case.

I look forward to a great year in Honors! I look forward to hearing about your intercultural encounters (old and new) and the learning that resulted from them. Always remember:

“Life begins at the end of our comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch

UMRHC at Minnesota State is One Week Away!

by Tia Jacoby, ’15 (Communication Disorders; Farmington, Minn.)

marketing committee

Sajid Sarkar, José Lopez Munoz, Spencer Sulfow, Tia Jacoby, Haley Doran

The 2015 Upper Midwest Regional Honors Conference is rapidly approaching, and those of us that are a part of the course Exploring Leadership in the Context of Conference Development, are more than excited for the 26th of March to arrive. On our first day we were informed that our small class would be responsible for contributing to this huge event that would be hosted at Minnesota State University. Many of us had never attended a conference like this before, so we started the semester by visualizing our goals. The 2015 Upper Midwest Regional Honors Conference theme is “Confluence and Conflict” and will contain a variety of presentations for scholars to attend. Our class of fifteen highly motivated honors students has been excited from day one for the challenge of organizing such a respected event.

Our first step involved forming into committees. The five of us (pictured above in our spiffy honors shirts) compose the Marketing Committee. (If you see someone sporting an “Honors Crew” shirt at the conference, feel free to ask them for help!) We are in charge of spreading news about the conference and providing updates on social media. Look for tweets from us during the conference by following our twitter account: . The other two conference committees are the Program Development Committee and the Hospitality Committee. The Program Development Committee worked hard to create the program for the conference and helped create the presentation schedule. The Hospitality Committee coordinated fun social events including ice skating, an ice cream social, and film showing. Our three committees have worked diligently to make this conference the best yet.

Exploring Leadership in the Context of Conference Development has been a challenging course that has taught us the vitality of organization. There are so many details that go into planning a conference, and not one of them can be overlooked. Planning this conference taught our committee how important communication is. Everybody has to be on the same page if we want to be successful. All three committees are thrilled for the big day to arrive so that we can continue to aid our honors community. Check out our honors website for even more information about the 2015 Upper Midwest Regional Honors Conference. We cannot wait to see everyone there!

Honors International Students Spotlight

The Honors Program at Minnesota State University, Mankato encourages students to study abroad and develop intercultural relationships in order to fulfill their global citizenship competency. Naturally, we are welcoming to international students who visit Minnesota State, and invite a number of them to join our Program during their stay. Three of these students who are currently with us have agreed to share their experiences.


Victoria Camasmie, ’18

(Business Management and Marketing; Brazil)

I am enjoying my second semester here at Minnesota State and I have been having an amazing experience so far. Being far away from home can be hard sometimes, but I think feeling homesick is a very common feeling among all students, especially for those who are visiting from other countries. I believe international students bond with each other because we are all going through this same situation. One of the things I miss the most about Brazilian culture is our food. I also miss the hot weather back home. I knew Mankato was cold, but I did not know it was so windy!  It is difficult to come to a new place where the culture is so different from the one you grew up in, but living abroad and being able to speak another language is an experience that only one who goes through it knows how it feels. The world is so big and filled with different cultures! I want to know as many cultures as I possibly can. Intercultural exchange opens up my mind and gives me the opportunity to understand people in a better way. Being a member of the Honors Program, participating in extracurricular activities, and doing volunteer work has given me the chance to engage with the community and meet new people. I love living in Mankato. However, it is just the beginning of my journey into the world.


Prathibha Mangedarage, ’17 (Biology; Sri Lanka)

Coming to MSU from a diverse country like Sri Lanka which is home to many religions, ethnicities and languages, meant that diversity was not something new to me. I was pleasantly surprised when I got the opportunity to meet students from all over the world here in Mankato. I came to the US hoping to get a world-class education that I need to pursue a career in the field of Biomedical Sciences. But, my experience here has been much more than just studying to obtain a degree. My college career in the US has completely changed who I am and the way I see the world. The diversity in the United States has opened doors for me to explore various cultures and has helped me become a more culturally competent individual. As an international student, I also get to represent my country and culturally contribute to the community by sharing my culture with others. It is always a pleasant experience when I get the opportunity to share my views and values. My experience in the United States has taught me the importance of understanding people’s different beliefs and being respectful of them. The relationships I have made in the US have helped me to learn about American culture, break misconceptions and stereotypes, and have a better understanding of diversity. Through my experiences abroad I am becoming a better educated and well-rounded individual. I am able to think more critically and broadly about world views that I would not have elsewhere.


Sarah Snoussi, ’18 (Electrical Engineering; Tunisia)

Coming to the United States was a dream coming true for me. I have always dreamed about coming to the States but never thought it would happen this soon in my life. I had been desperate, separated from my family, studying at a university in my home country with different expectations. The faculty abused my energy; I was like a robot studying day and night, Monday to Saturday, no weekends or vacations, dreaming I would make it to the next year. To be blunt, my dreams and expectations about higher education had vanished into old broken walls of disappointments and my deadly routine. When I first came to the United States, I had a strange feeling that I never experienced before, an amazement that took over me. I would wake up at 6 a.m. every day because I wanted to use every second of the day to enjoy and discover every corner of this little town called Mankato. I used to walk around campus with my camera taking pictures of everything, random things. I looked for things that reminded me I wasn’t at home anymore, not in Tunisia, that I was somewhere in my dream. It was an incredible feeling to enjoy everything, every little detail. I was never sad, never annoyed, and always thankful for being here in my dream. Studying no longer became a problem for me. It was a pleasure, something I did for fun. Back home I felt like the professors were so distant and strong. I was scared to negotiate with them and felt forced to simply do what I was told. At Minnesota State Mankato, it is different. Students are the center of attention, and everything revolves around them. The question is no longer “how can we torture the students,” but rather “how can we make them have the best experience and provide them with the best education?” I know this is hard to believe for a lot of Americans. I truly appreciate being here in the United States, even as an exchange student. Living this experience has created another dream inside of me. Maybe one day, my study abroad to the United States will foster big changes in my home country. Maybe I can be the start, the spark of that big change.

To learn more about studying at Minnesota Sate as an international student, please visit our University’s International Student and Scholar Services web page.

To learn more about the Honors Program or apply, please visit our Program’s web page.

Building a Framework for Understanding Cultural Differences

by Caryn E. Lindsay

With a diverse background of experiences from around the world, Caryn has been Director of International Programs since 2005. She has worked internationally for the U.S. Information Agency and for the State Department in Washington, D.C. and New York City. One of her most valued experiences was volunteering for a year with a women’s center in Prishtina, Kosovo. Caryn has lived in Germany, Chile, and Italy and has been fortunate to visit Australia, China, Ghana, Scotland, New Zealand and many European countries. She speaks German, Spanish and Albanian and is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Minnesota.

Caryn Lindsay

In the Honors Seminar “Becoming Global Citizens,” I attempt to share with students the things I wish I had known before studying and working abroad. It would have saved me some significant stress. Like the students, I love learning from people around the world, but enthusiasm is not enough. If we engage deeply with people with backgrounds different from our own, it can often lead to miscommunication and frustration. Why are “they” always late for appointments? Why do “they” talk so loudly — are they angry? Why won’t people offer me a ride home when they know I don’t have a car?  In short, why are “they” not acting as I expect?

Using Geert Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, we are building a framework for understanding why behaviors differ and how we might step back, take a breath, and analyze the cultural differences at play in many of our interactions. I hope that the students will find the framework to be a valuable tool as they grow and develop in their academic and professional careers.

Having formed a common basis for understanding during our first few sessions, cross-cultural groups of three students are now beginning to work on a presentation. Each group has selected one of the Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness (GLOBE) study’s regional clusters. They will be responsible for creatively conveying the cultural characteristics of their cluster to their fellow students and applying the knowledge gained in the first sessions. The final project will then be to reflect upon the challenges and successes they had working toward a common goal in cross-cultural teams. I have designed this activity to replicate the teamwork within a multicultural environment that students can expect to encounter in graduate school and in their professions. Students will have an opportunity to practice working across cultures and then reflect upon the challenges this can bring. I hope that the students will develop the habit of reflecting on their interactions as they continue to improve their cultural competence. The students are engaging and interesting. I can only hope they are half as impressed with me as I am with them!


Hofstede, G.H. Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work – Related Values.Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1980 (revised and expanded in 2001).

House R.J. et al.(eds.), Culture, Leadership, and Organizations: The GLOBE Study of 62 Societies.Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2004.

Teaching “Performance and Social Change” as an Honors Course

By Dr. Leah White

Dr. White is an Associate Professor and Director of Forensics in the Communication Studies Department at Minnesota State University, Mankato.   She received her BA degree in Communication from Concordia College, her MA in Speech from Kansas State University, and her Ph.D. in Communication Studies from Arizona State University.  Leah’s academic interests include performance studies, feminist theory and forensic pedagogy.

Leah White

I have taught the Honors Seminar “Performance and Social Change” twice in the past five years and both experiences have been highlights of my academic career. I proposed the course because my experiences trying to teach Augusto Boal’s Forum Theatre techniques as a unit in other courses had been unsuccessful. I realized to successfully teach this material, I needed a course format focused only on Boal’s methods and I needed students fully prepared to take on the risks that come with using Theatre of the Oppressed techniques. The Honors Program provided me with the freedom to create this course, and access to students interested in taking on the challenge.

Although I am passionate about the course content and enjoy the opportunity to expose students to Boal’s work and the theoretical concepts behind his methods, it is the process of working with students to create an effective performance that excites me the most about the class. We begin the class with no predetermined performance goal, beyond a commitment to use the methods to address an issue of injustice present within the Mankato Community. The students choose the issue we will address and I work with them to find an appropriate performance opportunity. Performances grounded in Boal’s methods must emerge from the performers involved. Through storytelling and improvisational techniques, rough script outlines develop. Once I had taught students the methods I had to trust the students to work well collaboratively with only minimal guidance from me. As a person who thrives on schedules, plans and control, teaching this course has been a growth opportunity for me as well.

The performances went well both semesters. In 2011 we worked with 7th and 8th graders at St. Peter Middle School and in 2014 we worked with International Students at MNSU. My fondest memories of the classes, however, are not of the performances, but of the risks the students enrolled in the class took to get to the point they could present these performances. The course begins with students reading about and discussing concepts relevant to oppression and privilege. Many students have not yet had an opportunity to critically reflect on how their own lives are marked with elements of both privilege and oppression. Therefore, after a few weeks of intensive reading, but before we begin working closely with Boal’s methods, we take time to share some of our own stories related to these concepts. Students are asked to present a “Difficult Moments” narrative in which they share a memory of a time when they either experienced oppression, contributed to the oppression of another, or observed the oppression of another but did not intervene. These stories are difficult because we often shy away from openly discussing oppression and privilege. The discussions are frequently messy and emotionally charged. Yet, these experiences mark us in very deep ways and sharing them allows us to find points of commonality. Within this identification with others we are able to become proactive agents for change. I have been profoundly touched by the stories my students have shared during this assignment and the level of self-awareness emerging from the experience.

I believe when students choose to become members of the Honors Program they are making a commitment to being open to academic challenges beyond what other students will experience while at MNSU. This does not mean the classes are more rigorous in a traditional sense, but rather the classes are designed to disrupt one’s comfortable patterns and encourage academic reflection of difficult questions; many that may not have answers. I am very appreciative that the students enrolled in my Honors Seminar willingly embraced these unknowns.

How the Honors Program and Presidential Scholarship Benefit My College Experience

By Tyler Keller, ’18

Meet Presidential Scholar Tyler Keller, from Medford Minnesota. Tyler is one of our first-year honors students. He lives in the Honors Learning Community on campus and is studying Secondary Education and Mathematics. Keller says “I enjoy the Honors Program because of the sense of community. Through the Program I have built friendships I believe will last a lifetime.” Below he reports on his experience of starting college as both an Honors Student and a Presidential Scholar.

Tyler Picture

Sitting in front of a Presidential Scholar interviewer was one experience I will never forget. I remember feeling nervous, but trying not to show it. Once we got into conversation, my nerves went away. I asked a lot of questions and really took the time to get to know my interviewer. At the conclusion of my interview I had the opportunity to ask more questions to people from various organizations on campus, one of which was the Honors Program. I visited the honors lounge and met students, but was still hesitant about the idea of being in the Program. I was still unsure of what I wanted to do, but I decided to give it a try. This small decision has proven to be an asset to my Presidential Scholarship and has been very beneficial for my first year here at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

When I first arrived on campus for move-in day, I had so many emotions running through my head. I didn’t know anyone, the environment was completely new, and my parents were not there to guide me on this new journey. However, being in the Honors Program and a Presidential Scholar allowed me to take part in activities that I otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to. These experiences made my transition into college a positive one.

After move-in day, I quickly made friends with other students who also decided to live in the Honors Learning Community. All of these students were highly-motivated individuals who had school as their top priority just like me. Being in the Honors Learning Community not only gave me the chance to familiarize myself with the Honors Program, but also build relationships with other first-year students. Many of us have been in the same classes and worked on homework together. It is nice to have a study group to count on in difficult classes. The honors faculty and staff are also very helpful. I have found myself going to them whenever I need a reference, help with writing a paper, or even in search of other scholarships.

Through my involvement in the Honors Program, I have been able to participate in unique activities and opportunities. In the beginning of the year, I participated in a scavenger hunt around campus with other students in the Program. It was a lot of fun and allowed me to explore campus. I also helped with a service project for the Make a Difference organization. Together as a Learning Community, we collected food from Mankato neighborhoods to donate to ECHO Food Shelf. Additionally, my first-year class elected me as their class representative in the Honors Student Council Executive Board. Through this position, I have had the opportunity to discuss future Honors courses, attend Honors events, and work with honors upperclassmen. This experience has been really great for me as it has given me something to stay involved with.

In September I had the chance to help out at the Purple and Gold Gala, a formal event where scholarship donors are recognized for their continuous support to the University, as a Presidential Scholar. The night included a delicious dinner and dessert bar. In the spring, the other Presidential Scholars and I will have the chance to visit President Davenport at his house and then attend a hockey game in the President’s suite. As a Presidential Scholar, I also get my very own mentor. Through monthly meetings, I have gotten to know my mentor very well and she has helped me with everything from registering for classes, to serving as a reference, to facilitating connections.

By being an honors student and a Presidential Scholar, I have been allowed to participate in many exciting events and activities. Both programs have been beneficial for my development and I am excited to see what the future holds.

For more information about the Honors Program, please call (507)-389-5191 or e-mail

How I Used the Honors Competencies to My Advantage

by Rachael Igo, ’16 (Creative Writing; Mendota Heights, Minn.)

Profile Picture

When I first started out in the Honors Program I found it difficult to relate to the competencies. I learned that being an honors student at MSU meant that I had to fully develop my leadership, research, and global citizenship skills. I was required to grow as a leader, learn a second language, immerse myself in another culture, and do a research project. However, through my experience in the program, I have discovered how to use these competencies to my advantage and integrate them with my interests, career goals, and field of study.  As a junior in the program I want to share how the competencies can help students. I hope I can provide encouragement to those who are beginners in the program and who are trying to wrap their minds around leadership, research, and global citizenship.

I first learned how to personalize the leadership competency. As a first-year student when I saw the program’s Honors Beacon newsletter was looking for writers, I naturally volunteered. It was a great way for me to get my writing published and gain experience for that magazine job I want to have between graduation and becoming a world famous children’s author.  I got more involved with the process of the newsletter and my sophomore year I became the Editor-in-Chief of the Honors Beacon. At first I didn’t realize it, but I had walked right into a leadership competency building experience. This was the first time I realized how developing leadership skills could help me to achieve my career goals.

I had no problem with fulfilling the earlier stages of the research competency because I had to write multiple research papers in my English and Honors gen-ed classes. However, I struggled with finding a research project. I found inspiration for a project in one of my honors classes, Global Perspectives on Women and Change taught by Dr. Laura Harrison from the Gender and Women’s Studies Department.  This class was one of my favorite honors classes. I enjoyed learning about feminism and it became something that I cared about and wanted to explore more. I knew my schedule did not have the room to fit another minor, so I searched for other ways to be involved. At a research brainstorming event, one of my classmates from the GWS class and I came up with the great idea of doing a research project that related to our class. We asked Dr. Harrison to be our advisor, started doing background research last semester, and are currently seeking IRB approval on our survey. Through our research we will discover if MSU students who do not identify as feminists actually agree with feminist values. I am really excited about this project because it is a way for me to find the answer to a pressing question of mine and explore a topic in which I have a high interest. On top of that, I am getting the last two honors seminar credits that I need.

Global Citizenship is the competency I have struggled with the most. At first I did not know where to start so I focused on my language competency by taking Spanish courses until I completed the writing intensive level.  I found it difficult to fulfill my cultural competency because I am not studying abroad. I started by attending culture nights on campus. Attending these events was an experience I thoroughly enjoyed and most likely would not have attended if it were not for the global citizenship competency.  I also found myself befriending the international students in our Honors Program. I decided I wanted to develop my cultural competency by becoming further involved with international students. When I learned the Intensive English Language Institute (IELI) was looking for volunteers to tutor international students who needed help with their English skills, I signed up. This is a process I just started this week and I am already enjoying it. I get to spend two one hour sessions a week with the same student from South Korea.  I am so excited to build a bond with her and learn about her culture as she learns about mine.

Looking back at my experiences, I am very grateful for the competencies.  They have provided me with opportunities I would not have otherwise. Once I started to relate to them as ways to develop my own interests and achieve my goals, I enjoyed them. I recommend students look for what they are passionate about, and then be creative with how the competencies can help them become more engaged with their passions.

Visiting International Student Reflection

by Ijlal (Jilly) Ahmed Niazi

This is the second installment of two blogs authored by some of our visiting international honors students. Because of their academic excellence, these students’ study abroad experiences at Minnesota State University, Mankato have been sponsored by a variety of American or international agencies. We invite a select number of them to participate in our Honors Program while they are enrolled at Minnesota State Mankato. While here, the students can enroll in honors courses and participate in any number of honors activities. Doing so is a great way to meet other Americans and to get involved in the community at a deeper level than might otherwise have been possible. In these blogs, Yusra and Jilly reflect powerfully on their experiences in and outside of the classroom. It has been a joy to have them as part of our community, even if for a short while.

-Christopher Corley, Honors Program Director

Jilly cropped

I have found studying abroad to be one of the best ways to enhance my experience. I was pretty excited when I was selected for the cultural exchange program to spend one semester in the United States. I did not know which school I was going to attend because it was my sponsor’s decision. After a lot of waiting, I found myself here at Minnesota State University, Mankato. I was already prepared for a fun semester but another surprise was in store for me.

At the orientation, I was told that I was one of the students who had been selected to join the Honors Program during my stay. One of the courses the Program offered, Honors American Indian Leaders, was the main reason I accepted the invitation. I have always been interested in Native American history so I was excited for the opportunity to take this course through my enrollment in the Honors Program.

My semester-long experience is coming to a close, but I have really enjoyed being a part of this wonderful group. I have met a lot of new people, including my classmates in Honors American Indian Leaders, and Professor Rhonda Dass. Together we have learned so much about American Indian leadership and culture from Dr. Dass and enjoyed the unique layout of this course. We often meet outside of the classroom at various restaurants for class, and the majority of our time together is based on class discussion. The environment in the class is entirely different from any I have ever experienced in my own country, Pakistan.

By being a part of this program, I have had the opportunity to attend events that I might never get the chance to attend again. In my honors course, Dr. Dass encouraged me to attend the annual Pow-Wow held at the Land of Memories Park here in Mankato. I got a first-hand experience of Native American culture by attending the Pow-Wow that commemorated the 38 plus two Native Americans who were publicly executed during the US-Dakota War. Another cultural event I was able to attend through my honors course was American Indian Night put on by the University’s American Indian Student Association (AISA). My classmates and I also organized and hosted a dinner for the student leaders of AISA. These were wonderful opportunities to grow culturally and meet new people.

Being a part of the Honors Program has been a wonderful experience. It has changed my perspective on a lot of things. It has given me the opportunity to interact with people from a different culture and allowed me to look at the world from a different perspective. I am really lucky to have been a part of this program, and I am very thankful to MNSU and my sponsors for this opportunity. I will surely miss all of this.