New Honors Office Staff

A few new faces can be seen in the Honors Office this semester. Read about the new honors student workers in the Office.


Hunter Herber, ’20 (Biomedical Sciences; Lewiston, Minn.)

Hi everyone! My name is Hunter Herber and I’m one of the new student workers in the Honors Office. I’m planning to major in biomedical sciences and minor in Spanish. My goal is to someday go to med school and work at Mayo Clinic. Some of my hobbies include spending time with friends and family, running, finding and listening to new music, and going to movies. At the office, I typically run errands and do a variety of different projects for Ginny, Sadie, and Dr. Dahlman. Please stop in and say hi! I’m looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible.



Sarah Aldrich, ’18 (Spanish Education; Jordan, Minn.)

Hello!  My name is Sarah Aldrich, and I am the Student Activities Director in the Honors Program.  You might see me when you drop by the lounge, so feel free to say hi and ask me a question if you have one!  This year I will work with students and staff alike to host fun events like theatre nights, culture nights, and informational sessions regarding leadership, global citizenship, and research.  Come to these events to get the most out of your honors experience.  Keep a look out for them on the Facebook page, events calendar on the Honors website, and in the weekly newsletter.  I would love to hear your ideas for new events, so don’t hesitate to start brainstorming! I am a junior majoring in Spanish education and minoring in Teaching English as a Second Language.  My hobbies include eating Sour Patch Kids, making bad puns, reading, and baking!


From Our Community to Yours

This year several of our students will be Learning Community Coordinators for some of Minnesota State University, Mankato’s many learning communities. Read what some of them have to say about this opportunity.

Okhumhekho Kassim, ’17

20151218_134611_HDR-2%5b1%5dMy name is Okhumhekho Kassim. I usually go by Kassim, Okhus, or Ify. I am currently a senior at Minnesota State University, Mankato (MSU), studying Bio-Medical Science and Chemistry with an emphasis in Pre-Medicine. I am from Benin City, Nigeria.  I like to engage in extracurricular activities, and I partake as a member of several Recognized Student Organizations (RSO) and societies such as the Pre-Med club, Minority Association for Pre-health Students (MAPS), Beta Beta Beta biological honor society, African Student Association (ASA). I have led few leadership positions in some of the organizations. I also love to dance, cook, bike, hike, fish, play sports, and indoor games.

During the 2016/2017 academic year, I will be the Learning Community Coordinator (LCC) for Pre-Professional students. I look forward to meeting and embracing the inspired Pre-Professional students to the Learning Community. My aim for the Pre-professional Learning Community is to assist the students with their academic and career goals as well as helping them balance academics with extracurricular activities. I aim to assist the students with any academic difficulty they may have and encourage them to utilize the university’s resources for their benefits. I will apply and share previous experiences I have gained at MSU while being the LCC. I also aim to build a strong community of motivated students who share similar goals. I believe having a great foundation during the first year enhances a student’s academic success.

Ana Leyva, ’19

12312471_1220972987929309_552152538_nMy name is Ana Leyva and I’m a sophomore Music Education student with a minor in Theater here at MSU. It is rather hard to say where I’m originally from, since I was born and raised in Mexicali, Mexico. However, I also lived a big part of my life in Calexico, California until my senior year of high school, when my family and I moved to a Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. So far, my life really has been a rollercoaster due to all the changes I’ve been through in such a short amount of time. Yet, I’ve had so many meaningful experiences along the way, including my first year experience at MSU. This academic year, I will be the Learning Community Coordinator for the Exploring Education Learning Community which focuses on students becoming secondary education teachers. This fills me up with excitement as I will be meeting new people with the same passion for education as I have. Likewise, I’ll be given the opportunity to lead them throughout their process of transition into college and, hopefully, make it as memorable and enjoyable as mine.

Liesel Theusch, ’19

My name is Liesel Theusch, and I am a sophomore Math Education major in the Honors program. In my first year as a college and Honors student, I was very involved in the music ensembles on-campus and officiating intramural sports. I think it is safe to say I found my niche and loved every minute of my first year at MSU!

This coming academic year I will be acting as the Intro to Science, Engineering, and Technology Learning Community Coordinator (LCC), and I can’t wait to get started! After living in the Honors learning community during my first year, I want to share the sense of family with other learning community members that I experienced. I highly anticipate this experience because of the impact I am able to have on other students in their social and academic pursuits. The opportunity to influence others’ experiences is one of the foremost reasons I plan to become a teacher and I think these two roles will be very closely related. Acting as an LCC will teach me skills to further my aptitude in my future career as an educator as well as the Honors competencies in a fun way.

Spencer Sulflow, ’18

Spencer SulflowMy name is Spencer Sulflow, and I am an Exercise Science Major with a Pre-Physical Therapy emphasis. I grew up in Montevideo, Minnesota, and enjoy running, disc golfing and photography. Additionally I am involved in the Honors Program, Cru, Pre-Physical Therapy/Occupational Therapy Club and Encounter. I will be coordinating the Sophomore/Junior Learning Community this year. Having been in both the Freshman and Sophomore Honors Learning Communities the last two years, I have benefited in so many ways both academically and socially. I am excited to help pass this on to new honors students through my role as an LCC. As a learning community member I learned how important a positive community can be in college, especially being involved in one right from the start. This not only helped me stay focus on academics, but also gave me other opportunities to get involved.

Studying Abroad in Cuenca, Ecuador

by Mikyla Denny

Mikyla, El Cajas National Park

Studying abroad has always been a dream of mine, and finally this semester it came true. I am currently studying abroad in Cuenca, Ecuador. Cuenca is located in the Andes Mountains. It stays around 60-70 degrees daily. I live with a widow and three university students who are native Ecuadorians. Every four weeks I have a different set of classes, and currently I am in a grammar and a conversation class with another student whom I knew previously from Minnesota State University, Mankato. In total there are three of us from MNSU. There is plenty of time in my day to explore, do my homework, and relax in the afternoons. Though there are not that many students at the school that I go to, I have made new friends with students from different countries.

Mikyla, El Chorro Giron  Mikyla, Isabella Island of the Galapagos, Volcano Chico

Almost every weekend we go on a trip that is organized through the school. So far we have trekked through El Cajas National Park (which is located in the Andes), visited an ancient Incan ruin called Ingapirca, and climbed up to El Chorro de Girón which is a waterfall. They were all extremely beautiful. Of course I took many pictures, but photos do not do the landscapes justice. The school also has weekly activities for us, such as movie nights on Tuesdays, dance classes on Wednesdays, and once and awhile cooking classes or vocabulary game nights on Thursdays. We also go to a different museum every Wednesday after class.

Mikyla, Ingapirca (Incan Ruin)

During the weekend of Carnival I had the opportunity to go to the Galapagos with a friend. It was an incredible experience. On the first island we stayed at, Isabela, we hiked a volcano and went snorkeling. Several times while snorkeling I was in arms length of a sea turtle. I couldn’t believe it! The beaches there were gorgeous. On the second island we stayed at, Santa Cruz, we went to a national park where we saw many land tortoises. We also visited the Charles Darwin station where we saw different species of tortoises and some land iguanas. We also swam at beautiful beaches. On both islands we saw amazing wildlife, such as flamingos, penguins, finches, water birds, blue-footed boobies, seals, sea lions, tortoises, sea turtles, and iguanas (land and marine). It was an unbelievable experience.

Mikyla, Santa Cruz Island of the Galapagos  Mikyla Isabela Island of the Galapagos

I am extremely interested in languages and the marginalization of languages and cultures. Soon I will be starting my own anthropological research on the perceptions that the non-indigenous community have about the indigenous language and culture. From this research I hope to identify where these perceptions and biases come from. Besides my advisor, I have been collaborating with one of the Anthropology professors from the University of Cuenca.

While I am enjoying my time in Cuenca and have had some amazing experiences, it was hard for me at the beginning. I had never traveled alone for so long before. During my first week I got really homesick. I kept thinking that three months was a long time. I found that talking to my family at night helped. Also, now that I am busier with school, it is easier to pass the time. However, I still haven’t quite gotten accustomed to eating rice every day even though I loved eating it back home. Despite these few obstacles, I am enjoying my time in Cuenca immeasurably. Time is going fast, and I know I will be sad when it is time to leave and say goodbye to my host family.

Studying Abroad in Chia, Columbia

by Alexis Cummings

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Studying abroad in Chia, Colombia has been a blessing of a lifetime. Prior to Colombia, I studied three semesters of Spanish at Minnesota State University, Mankato. I am currently enrolled in a Spanish course that consists of three hours per day five days a week at Universidad de la Sabana, where I study grammar and communication. I also take Latin dance lessons and go on weekly cultural outings. This way, I am able to learn more about important cultural dances and touristic sites around the capital of Colombia, Bogotá. This opportunity has been a great experience so far because I have made friends from all over the world and each day I work to improve my Spanish.

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While abroad I have many activities planned. Because dance is such an important part of this culture, I am trying to learn traditional dances like salsa and bachata. I also plan to travel to other cities within Colombia. I would like to travel to Medellin, Santa Marta, and Cartagena because these are some of the most important cities within the country. Because I live close to the capital of Colombia, Bogotá, I also plan to visit important monuments and museums within the city. I am looking forward to sharing this beautiful country, my current home, with my friends and family who are coming to visit in April.

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Along with studying abroad come things that are sometimes challenging. I currently live with a family who has three sons and one daughter. Although it is an easy challenge, coming from a family with only two children, the house has a lot more energy than I am used to. I also have to be more concerned about my safety because I am living in the suburb of the capital city that has a population of eight million people. With this amount of people in one city also come traffic problems. Although the distance from my house to the capital is not far, it is important for me and my family to plan our timing to and from the city because of busy public transportation, unsuitable roads, and something called “Pico Placa.” Pico Placa is a law within the capital city that only allows certain cars to drive at certain hours of the day. This is supposed to help control the traffic around what we would consider rush hour by rotating odd and even number license plates each day so only half the cars can drive from 3 – 7 pm in the city. For the people of Bogotá, this law is am important part of their lives.

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After having been here for one month and two weeks, I have had many wonderful cultural experiences with the people of Colombia. I look forward to learning more about this beautiful language and country I get to call home. After having always dreamed of studying abroad, I am so happy to have this opportunity. I know that this will not be my last time in this country because Colombia will always have a piece of my heart.

Regards from Colombia,

Alexis Cummings

The Gilman International Scholarship

by Sarah Aldrich, ’18 (Spanish Education; Jordan Min.)
For anyone with a desire to travel abroad, here is a great way to get started!


For many students, studying abroad is a dream not easily realized.  Through a Gilman International Scholarship, 19,000 undergraduate students have traveled to over 140 different countries from more than 1,100 United States institutions.  Awards are given both for study abroad and internship programs.  Elizabeth Lohrenz, a Gilman Alumni Ambassador from the Kearney International Center on campus, spoke to students about this study abroad award and the importance of travelling outside of the United States.

Lohrenz, who spent her time as an undergraduate at Minnesota State University, Mankato, talked about her personal experience studying abroad through this award.  She traveled to Russia with a four week program, where she studied Russian in multiple cities and helped build an exchange program between Minnesota State University, Mankato and the university she studied at in Russia.  This experience led her to another opportunity abroad, when she interned in Frankfurt, Germany a year later.  In her talk, she emphasized how traveling can help build connections across the world.

Students interested in the Gilman Scholarship should first consider if they are eligible.  Students must be a US citizen at the time of being awarded, an undergraduate receiving a Federal Pell Grant, and be planning to take academic credits while overseas.  Students who are ethnically diverse, first generation college students, attending community or minority-serving colleges, from underrepresented fields of study, or have high financial needs will be considered for the award.  Before applying, however, considering where to study is very important.  Underrepresented countries and regions, such as those outside of Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand are more likely to be awarded.

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About one-third of applicants are rewarded scholarships up to 5,000 dollars.  For students who choose to study a critical need language, scholarships reach close to 8,000 dollars.  Because of the generous nature of these awards, they are very competitive.  Speaking with advisors—like Elizabeth Lohrenz or Ginny Walters—is a great way to get started.  For Summer and Fall 2016 travels, students should submit their applications by the first of March, 2016.

Traveling abroad while in college is an opportunity which everyone should consider, since possibilities stretch beyond just studying: there are ways to intern, student teach, research, volunteer and do field work.  Going abroad provides cross cultural experiences and perspectives that staying at one university cannot provide!  Doing so looks great on job applications.  To find opportunities abroad and build connections around the world, visit  To hear about other scholarships and fellowships, stay connected with the Undergraduate Research and Fellowships office.


Meet Our Newest Member

Leslie Kane is our new Graduate Assistant in the Honors Program. Please read her introduction below.


For those of you I haven’t met yet, my name is Leslie Kane and I am the new Graduate Assistant in the Honors Program. I am beyond excited to be teaching HONR 401 in the fall and hope to see some of you in my class!

A little bit about me: I am from Lemont, IL, a south-west suburb of Chicago. I completed my undergraduate degree at Augustana College, a small, liberal arts college in Illinois where I studied Psychology and Theatre Arts. While there I studied abroad in Rome, had multiple internships and was involved in many activities, including symphonic band (Go flutes!), campus ministry, theatre, and martini swingers, the social ballroom dance group on campus. Currently I am taking classes in the Counseling and Student Personnel department and am pursuing my masters in mental health counseling. Once I graduate, I hope to pursue licensure and work in a college or university counseling center. When I’m not at my desk in the honors office, I can be found studying in coffee shops, attending play performances, and swing dancing. I am a true geek at heart and love chess and anything Harry Potter related. My birthday just happens to be on Valentine’s Day, which is only one of the greatest holidays in the world. If you disagree, I’m positive I’ll change your mind by the time the loveliest day of the year comes around.

Truly, though, I am so excited to be working with such talented and bright students. Coming from a liberal arts college, I really admire the work that it takes to become a well-rounded individual. Learning how to become a global citizen, doing research and gaining leadership experience will set you apart from the rest. The honors program is setting individuals up for success after college and I am so glad to be a part of the process. Thank you for welcoming me to your honors family. I look forward to getting to know all of you, and I can’t wait to see what the next semester has in store.

See you Later – Reflection: the Fourth Honors Competency

A heartfelt farewell from Ashley Kanak, our Graduate Assistant, as she moves to Georgia.  


As I look forward with excitement about beginning a new chapter of my life, I realize that I would not be heading in the direction I am without every person and every experience I had in Minnesota and the Honors Program. No matter how short or long of an interaction I had with students, faculty, and staff each person was part of my journey. I have collected many new stories, experienced adventures, and watched as characters developed and blossomed.

I took a unique path on my journey to Minnesota which all began in New Hampshire. Here I worked at Camp Robindel, a seven week long camp for girls which changed my life. I was able to meet new people from all over the world, many of which I still talk to thanks to technology and Skype. I developed my leadership and facilitation skills working with children and further developed my passion for teaching. After camp I returned to Georgia wondering where my life was going to take me next. I believe it was in October that Jolly, the camp assistant director, called me and asked if I wanted to go to graduate school and work in a place that would foster my leadership development. Of course I said yes even knowing this place was in Minnesota and I started to believe I would freeze solid upon arrival. After interviewing for the Graduate Assistant position for the Honors Program and receiving an acceptance letter from the Educational Leadership Program at the university, I began the mental preparations for a drastic climate change. I arrived in Minnesota in January on a day with -45 wind-chill, which on the bright side, I do not believe it has been that cold since then!

When classes began so did my work in the Honors Program. There was so much to learn about competencies, course requirements, and language development – oh my! Fortunately there are some highly motivated faculty and staff working in the office who care greatly about the future of the program and the individuals who will have an impact. Dr. Chris Corley is an inspirational educator and mentor who wants everyone to succeed and receive the best educational experience possible. Watching him teach the Developing Your Mentor Philosophy course impacted me to the point that I draw some of my educational philosophy from his methods. Ginny Walters is an innovative mentor, leader, and advisor to myself and the students she interacts with. She uses creative educational methods that are focused on student needs and finds inspiration in their success. Sadie Anderson is a multitasking professional wonder woman. Her drive to develop her own leadership skills through involvement in community organizations is something I admire. Dr. Anne Dahlman is a wonderful educator who looks to foster innovative practices in order to create positive educational experiences for students. The students I have interacted with make me want to be a better learner. Everyone is so highly motivated, passionate about their fields, and constantly looking for new ways to experience life. All of these people helped me to develop my passion for peer mentorship and allowed me to put into practice many ideas and concepts over the past two years.

I know that I will see all of you again. The faculty and staff are publishing in journals, presenting at conferences, and I believe will make the headlines one day about new educational practices. I know that all of the students will have an impact on the world in their own ways. It might be publishing in journals, developing new research models, leading corporations, or saving lives but each will positively impact the world on a global scale. I encourage the students to be lifelong learners, to experience as much as possible, and to always remember the importance of reflection.

The Honors Program at MNSU changed my life for the better and I will always value this experience as the one that shaped me into the leader I am today.