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.


Summer at Robindel

by Jaci Ullrich, ’18 (Biology; Clear Lake, IA)


As someone who hasn’t had much of a chance to travel and explore new places, it was quite a big step for me to hop a plane for the first time and travel to New Hampshire to work as a counselor at an all-girls camp for 9 weeks this last summer. I was immersed in a new environment and surrounded by people from all over the world all the while training for a job that I have never done before. It was definitely overwhelming, but I was so busy having fun and learning new things that the adjustment was rather easy.

Within the first two weeks at Camp Robindel I was trained as a ropes and archery staff member, instructed on how to manage and interact with the campers, and assigned a group of girls that I would be living with for the next seven weeks. During this time, I was spending every minute of every day surrounded by the other staff members. Even though it was exhausting, the sense of community that we formed and the way we worked together with the campers were some of the best learning experiences that I have ever had.

While working at Robindel there were two main groups of staff members that I interacted with daily: the co-counselors that I shared a cabin with and the members of the ropes and archery staff that I was a part of. While working with these people I practiced valuable skills such as patience, adaptability, trust, and selflessness. As I learned to work well with my co-counselors, I found that using these traits brought out the best results in our ability to work as a team. Although these skills were crucial for me to really work well with the other staff at Robindel, it was also important to use these traits when working with the campers.

As a camp counselor, it was my job to act as a mentor toward the campers. Especially as part of the ropes staff, it was important for me to be positive and encouraging in order to help the girls push themselves and try new things outside of their comfort zone. It was amazing to see the growth in the campers throughout the course of the summer and to know that I was a part of that progress.

By the time summer came to a close I had developed valuable skills that I can apply to myself now and in the future, and I had built unforgettable relationships that will last a lifetime. I believe that this experience has helped me to become a more well-rounded student, friend, and mentor. Often times being a counselor was stressful and exhausting, but in the end I have realized that it was probably the best learning experience that I have ever had.

NCHC Chicago 2015

November 12-15, six of us traveled to Chicago for the 2015 National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) Conference. We had a wonderful experience learning and would like to share with you our favorite aspects of the conference.

NCHCAshley Kanak, Lexi Turgeon, Dr. Anne Dahlman, Rachael Igo, Tyler Keller, Katelynn Malecha

Ashley Kanak

Student lead presentations and roundtables at NCHC are a way to measure and assess what students want from their honors education. There are many great ideas from university honors programs and colleges from courses to peer mentorship which elicits lively conversations about what works best at their institution. Making connections, learning about best practices, and discovering new techniques for honors education is what the conference is about. What I find to be the most evident is that many programs discuss the value of leadership development, research presentations, and opportunities for community and cultural engagement. This brings a sense of great pride knowing that these values are deeply-rooted into our honors program at MNSU. I believe that in sending students to learn about new ideas our honors program understands that there is always room for growth when it comes to honors education.

Lexi Turgeon

Attending the National Collegiate Honors Conference was a wonderful learning experience! I was able to attend a number of sessions put on by different Honors Programs from around the country. One of the main things I took away from these sessions is that our Honors Program is pretty great! As Honors Student Council President I plan to communicate with the students about some of the ideas we brought back from the conference, and continue to shape the program!

Dr. Anne Dahlman

The trip to NCHC was a very enriching experience.  Hearing about the programs and experiences from many other Honors Programs across the nation reaffirmed that our Honors Program is an excellent one and that we do many things well.  At the same time, we came home with our heads full of ideas for improving our program.  You will see these improvements put into practice starting already this spring.

Rachael Igo

My favorite part about the NCHC conference was building community with others.  The six of us who traveled to Chicago from Mankato got to know each other really well during our trip. It was really fun to learn about Honors Programs and explore Chicago together, and we enjoyed discussing our ideas with one another. It was also a great experience to meet other members of the honors community from places all over the nation.

Tyler Keller

My favorite part about attending NCHC was participating on a panel with other students across the nation talking about our Honors Program. Through this panel I had the chance to brag about how awesome our program is and offer advice to upcoming Honors Programs. It made me realize how successful our program is but also showed me ways our program can be improved. I hope to be able to use some of the ideas we learned to implement in the future.

Katelynn Malecha

Attending NCHC was one of the best opportunities I’ve had in my whole college experience and education. One of the most impactful sessions included the “Honors Living/Learning Communities.” Being the First-Year Honors Learning Community Coordinator I found this session extremely beneficial to hear what other universities are doing within their Honors Programs, Honors Colleges, and Learning Communities. This session was a roundtable in which the audience is encouraged to share or ask questions to the presenters. I found this useful in the way I could ask other directors opinions on the program here or their programs. NCHC was a wonderful experience and I hope to present at it next year.

My Study Abroad Experience in Cuenca, Ecuador

by Anna Rice, ’16 (Biomedical Sciences)

As an incoming freshman, I knew I wanted to study abroad, but I was unsure about where and for how long. As I continued my Spanish language classes through my freshman and sophomore years, I explored the idea of studying abroad in a Spanish-speaking country. Through the individual study program at Minnesota State University, Mankato I chose to travel and study in Ecuador for 8 weeks to further my Spanish language skills. Because it is an individual study program, I was responsible for booking flights and traveling to Cuenca, Ecuador on my own. I was extremely nervous, as I think most people would be, but I said my goodbyes and boarded a plane to South America!

Once I arrived, my host family picked me up and took me back to their home. They were warm and welcoming and did not speak a word of English! I was definitely out of my comfort zone, but I tried to catch as much as I could and with in a week, I could already understand ten times more Spanish than the first night of my trip. It just goes to show, things that you aren’t comfortable with don’t have to be uncomfortable forever. I started classes at Estudio Sampere, the sister university through Minnesota State University, Mankato. There were a handful of Mankato students involved in my same program. We had not all met before arriving, but we became quick friends. We attended school from 7:30 am to 12 pm every day, taking grammar and discussion based courses, with around 5 to 6 students each. After class, I would return home for lunch, and do some homework until mid afternoon. Almost every day I would meet up with the other students from school and hang out at a café or go explore the city. We tried to immerse ourselves in the culture as much as we could by visiting markets, restaurants, cathedrals, orphanages etc. We had our fair share of fun, and my Spanish greatly improved as I was speaking more and more each day. By the end of my trip, I would go to class and not even think about what I was going to say, or worry about not understanding an assignment. By the time I finished my 12 credits at Estudio Sampere, I was ranked the level below a fluent Spanish speaker.

As we only had class Monday through Friday, on the weekends we were free to roam. The school did offer optional weekend trips like hiking through the Andes or visiting ancient ruins, which we took full advantage of. Other weekends we took off to explore on our own. One of my favorite parts of my study abroad experience was the trip we took to the Amazon Rain forest. After riding a Grey Hound bus for nine hours through the winding roads of El Cajas National Park in the Andes Mountains, we arrived in Puyo, a small town in central Ecuador. We stayed in cabins at what I would compare to a camp ground run by a local family. We went on hikes, canoed, swam in waterfalls, and visited a village of indigenous people. We were fortunate enough to spend the day learning how they make jewelry to sell, how they hunt, and their traditional dances and foods. I was immersed in their culture and was able to see first-hand how different their lives were compared to mine without running water or electricity. Interacting with the natives and learning about their culture was incredible. It was an absolutely amazing and eye-opening experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. The weekend to the jungle was definitely one of the best weekends of my trip.

Ecuador was one of the greatest experiences of my life and I would absolutely recommend studying there or just visiting. I made so many memories and had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world with whom I have made life-long friends. Anyone pondering the idea of studying abroad anywhere, DO IT! The experiences you gain and the people you meet will have a lasting impact on your undergraduate career and your life.

Mankato and Me

by Libby Guss, ’18 (Spanish and Social Work, Mankato; Minn.)


I have lived in Mankato for the past seventeen years. It is the community that raised me and helped shape me into who I am today. Volunteering around the city is not something that I feel obligated to do, rather, it is something I am proud and very happy to do.

Each week, I spend about seven hours volunteering at different places. While two of the places do tie in strongly with my majors, Spanish and Social Work, the other is a form of stress relief for me: “kitten therapy.” The Blue Earth Nicollet County Humane Society (BENCHS) is our regional no-kill animal shelter. Volunteering at BENCHS is how I start every Sunday. There, I clean the cat “condos,” feed the cats, give them fresh water, and provide them with the attention they deserve. I may be allergic to cats, but this does not stop me from cuddling with five kittens at once. I would recommend volunteering at BENCHS to any student who wants to be a part of their community while also de-stressing from the demands of college.

Libby at BENCHS

One of the other places I volunteer is the local hospital, part of the Mayo Clinic Health System. There, I am a part of STEP Force, which stands for Speedy Transport & Escort Pool. During my shifts each week, I receive calls to discharge patients, escort patients, deliver flowers, move wheelchairs, and more. Some of the people I meet call the hospital their second home due to the frequency of their visits, while others tell me that they haven’t been in a hospital for an extended period of time since they were born. Not every person I meet is in the hospital for unfortunate circumstances, however. In fact, many of the people I discharge are new mothers and their families. Young children always brighten up my day, too, such as one little girl who told me that her new sibling’s official name is “Baby Brother,” and that that is all he will ever be. My work at the hospital is never extremely challenging but it is always incredibly rewarding. I have the opportunity to interact with so many different people from a wide variety of backgrounds, each with a different story to tell. It feels like its own world, one where everyone is welcome but no one really wants to visit. Whenever I can put a smile on a patient’s face, I consider the day very successful.

Libby at the Hospital

My favorite organization by far to volunteer for is the YMCA’s Brother/Sister Program. Through it, I mentor a young girl in the community who comes from a background that does not allow her to have the same opportunities many other children have. She is one of the kindest, smartest, and funniest people I know. I look forward to every time we meet and spend a large portion of my free time planning activities for us to do. She loves animals and has told me she wants to either be a veterinarian, pet shop owner, doctor, or film maker when she grows up. I suggested she just be a “Businefilmternarian.” One activity that we have been working on is reading the Harry Potter series together in attempts to raise her reading level. She has fallen in love with the story of Harry. She told me that after we finish each book, we need to watch the corresponding movie and then talk about all the similarities and differences between them. I cannot put into words how proud she makes me with these quick comments she throws out all the time. Being a mentor with this program has been an invaluable experience for me. I have grown so much as a leader and as a person in general due to this program. Having my little sister in my life and hearing about her day to day activities and her dreams and aspirations motivates me to do so much more in my own life. In fact, it was because of the Brother/Sister Program that I found out that I can turn all of these passions of mine into an actual career as a Social Worker.

Libby and Teagan again          Libby and Teagan

It is my belief that everyone has the right to and deserves happiness. My mission is to help as many people as I can to find or rediscover happiness in their lives through whatever means necessary. With the help of the Honors Program and my volunteering experiences, I know that I will be able to set myself apart in the future and truly make a difference in someone’s life.

South Africa: Rich in Culture, Social Justice, and Hope

by Makenzie Petzel, ’16 (Social Work & Spanish; Arlington, Minn)


Makenzie (on the right) with her South African pen pal

The Department of Social Work at Minnesota State University, Mankato has a strong relationship with the Department of Social Work at the University of Fort Hare, South Africa. Our department at Minnesota State gives students the opportunity to travel to the city of East London, South Africa to meet fellow social work students, tour the country, learn about its history of social development, and work with an organization called CATCH Projects (Caring, Affirming, Training for Change). CATCH’s mission is to partner with community residents and champion active citizenship in the community of Mzamomhle in order to protect and promote the health and rights of vulnerable women, children and families impacted by poverty, violence and AIDS.

The experience of traveling to South Africa in May of 2015 challenged my thinking on how I live my life as a person and as an aspiring social worker. Throughout the trip, I compared the nature of the delivery of social services and governmental attitudes in the United States to what I was learning about social justice and the effects of apartheid in South Africa. I saw a greater level of passion for social justice among the South African students than I have during my classes at MSU Mankato. Now, this could be due to the fact that South Africa has greater cohesion in attaining social justice for all, or it could be due to individual differences among the people. Regardless of the reason, the difference in level of passion in students was evident. In my opinion, all social work students are motivated to help other people; otherwise they would not choose the profession. However, individual passion plays itself out differently for each person in the field in which they want to work and how vocal they are of their passion.

South Africa

A glimpse of the community of Mzamomhle

This experience also taught me a lot about privilege and opened my eyes to how blessed I have been in my life, in my upbringing, and how well my needs were provided for as a child and into adulthood. Happiness is not in the amount of things we have or where we live, it’s about the support around us and making the most of what we have. I can never say I know how it feels to grow up in poverty like many of the children in South Africa have, but I can use what I have been blessed with in my life to help others in my practice. For the most part, this will play out as I use my education in social work to ethically advocate for clients, but my passion for volunteer work, connection to my church community, and community connections can, and likely will, help me learn of programs and organizations to which I can refer my clients for additional support.

Going forward from this trip, I hope to always remember the level of passion and commitment to social justice I witnessed during my short time in the country. The organizations we visited in South Africa mentioned the phrase “planting seeds” on multiple occasions. Even on my own, I can plant seeds for change with every interaction with individuals, families, groups, communities, and greater society. Social problems in the United States are widespread and too big for any one person to tackle on his or her own, but if I am able to help one client beat homelessness, unemployment, or drug addiction through direct practice and referral, work is being done to break the negative cycles of social problems across the country. I believe it is important not to underestimate our power as individuals and in collaboration with others to promote change in our agencies, communities, and nations. I sincerely hope that greater passion for social justice was sparked for my fellow classmates as it was for me through this experience in cultural exchange.


The new community garden of CATCH

Meet Our New Staff Members

This year we have two new staff members in the Honors Office. Please read their introductions below.

Sara Baranczyk


My name is Sara Baranczyk, and I am a sophomore in the Honors Program at Minnesota State University, Mankato. I am double-majoring in Physics Education and Communication Arts and Literature Education. My goal is to eventually become a high school teacher, but I am not entirely sure which subject I want to teach (hence the double-major). Education is something that I am very passionate about and hope to help improve for future generations of students. Other passions of mine include food, literature, and art. I am really excited to join the Honors Leadership Team as the Media Relations Coordinator. I have always enjoyed writing and reporting, so I think this job is well-suited for me. Rachael Igo, the current Media Relations Director, is training me in to take over her position after she graduates. I am looking forward to this semester and having the opportunity to get to know everyone a little bit better this year.

Mariah Sletten


My name is Mariah Sletten. I am a freshman and student worker in the Honors Office. I joined the Honors Program and applied to be a part of the Honors Office team for many reasons – the main one being to obtain as many resources as possible to aid me in my efforts to make some type of a difference. I have a strong desire to become a social worker. I have enjoyed being able to listen to people’s problems and to do my best to help them since I was a child. This is the focus group I would love to help the most. The adoption process and foster care systems in particular are the two areas that I believe would allow me to strive to accomplish these aspirations. I would like to leave you with what will probably be the most important information to know about me: I am a huge book, music, and (drumroll please) Netflix enthusiast. I enjoy utilizing these tools to help me find my balance and unwind after a long day.