St. Cloud State responds to the economic crisis

Top economics professors respond to the financial crisis with reliable, responsible, understandable analysis.

From the President

Step aside for innovative problem-solving

Earl H. Potter III

We talk a lot about “making a difference” at St. Cloud State. In the way our faculty, staff and students perceive the world and their place in it. In the confidence and ability our students develop to make responsible, positive choices for their lives. In the cultural and economic wealth and health of our community.

We encourage tackling issues and challenges with creativity and enthusiasm. We foster leadership without imposing barriers or restrictions on innovation. We enable progress without impeding a free flow of ideas. And in recent months we’ve witnessed some striking examples of the kind of activist problem solving that we hope will thrive in a climate that empowers people to make a difference.

When the students in the St. Cloud Times story reprinted on the next two pages felt the sting of racist words scrawled on their class poster, they offered an innovative way to send their “no more” message to any purveyors of hate on our campus. The members of Professor Yolanda Lehman’s “Race in America” class represented a groundswell of productive defiance.

These students stand on the shoulders of many on our campus who broke barriers fighting for social justice and freedom from discrimination and disrespectful treatment. For decades St. Cloud State activists have rallied efforts to create a more welcoming, safe and comfortable environment for all our students, faculty and staff.

But this diverse group of students took outrage and defiance to a new level with a remarkably expedient response. Faculty, staff and administrators stood aside in respect, allowing these students to invest their passion. They made headlines. They made a difference.

The campus community has found other remarkable ways to overcome familiar challenges in the past year:

  • By taking a proactive approach to educating our students about responsible choices about alcohol use and other behaviors that could affect their health and well being, the UChoose program has become a positive, high-profile response to a common campus problem. More importantly, it has resulted in positive changes among our students and in the way our students are perceived.
  • University alumni and friends, led by former St. Cloud State Student Government president and local attorney Brian Schoenborn ’92, have been the driving force behind the exciting campus/community partnership that has unleashed unprecedented enthusiasm for supporting the National Hockey and Event Center expansion with ambitious fundraising goals.
  • In these challenging economic times, this year’s annual campus fundraising campaign had a 14 percent increase in participation from faculty, staff and emeriti over last year’s. The 2009 Faculty/Staff Campaign raised a grand total of $250,000, which translates into a 20 percent increase in dollars raised.

These examples of how we’re living up to the greater expectations we’ve placed on ourselves as a campus community, as well as the many stories on the pages of this issue of Outlook, indicate increasing pride in St. Cloud State both internally and externally.

They reflect our vision of a culture whose success is greatly measured by how and how much we make a difference, individually and collectively.

Earl H. Potter III, President

University News

Students take stand against graffiti

Students standing in front of the We are ONE board

Among the students who applied the lessons of Yolanda Lehman’s (seated) ”Race in America” class are, from left: freshman mechanical engineering major Anthony Larson, Sartell/St. Stephen; freshman Sarah Gruhot, Fargo, N.D.; and sophomore international business major Andrea Dohmen, Hampton. More than 830 spontaneous reactions to racist graffiti that defaced a class poster in Stewart Hall were generated for “The Wall,” a display that was moved to Atwood Center for more than two weeks.

Several students in a class called “Race in America,” without prompting from university administrators, banded together to immediately and publicly denounce a racist message posted on a bulletin board honoring Height’s accomplishments. They left the racist vandal some graffiti of their own.

“Not true. Not funny. Not OK in my community,” read one.

“Racism is ignorance,” read another.

“Man up,” another read. “Do you talk to your mother with that mouth?”

The student-driven outcry spread through text messages, e-mails, Twitter and Facebook early this week and continued Wednesday [April 18]. By Wednesday evening, students had left more than 100 notes for the unknown racist. [On April 13 the display was moved to Atwood Center and the expanded bulletin board had 833 responses in two weeks.]

“Learning about (Height), you kind of connected with her. It was personal,” said sophomore Sara Schoborg, who is white. “I think this reaction is a really strong one and a good opportunity for students, especially the silent majority. It’s a great opportunity for students to speak out against it.”

The students in Yolanda Lehman’s diversity class have just finished reading “Open Wide the Freedom Gates,” the memoir of Height, who turned 97 on March 24. The students consider her a hero, Lehman said, and they created a bulletin board to honor her.

It didn’t take long for someone to scrawl the racist message across the bulletin board, which hangs in a stairway between the first and second floors of Stewart Hall.

“My students were very justifiably mortified,” Lehman said. “But they were also determined to respond to it in a way that would make Ms. Height proud.”

“She wouldn’t have let this go by,” student Andrea Dohmen said of Height. “She would have stood up against this and done something.”

Dohmen, who is biracial, and African-American student Ernest Langston said they were proud that so many fellow students stood up against the hate speech. Seeing and hearing the opposition from white students creates a safer environment for students of color, they said.

“This response has been very positive and truly engages the community in how we can come together,” Langston said.

“Now we see the allies who will say that this is not cool.”

Those students began to leave their messages in Stewart Hall in a campaign driven by student outrage. The group wasn’t about to let one misguided person speak for the entire campus, said junior Trisha Mulheron, who is white. So the students decided early on against taking the bulletin board down.

“We decided ‘Let’s leave it there and use it as a learning experience,’ “she said.

Mulheron spoke to a chemistry class Wednesday and many hadn’t heard about the graffiti. She encouraged students to tell their friends and respond with messages of their own.

And Mulheron left a message of her own to the vandal.
“Progress can’t be measured in the actions of ignorant people, but in the community response to these actions. We will not tolerate hate.”

“We’re really proud of the way the students have responded to this. (The graffiti) was a reprehensible and despicable thing to do,” said Michael Spitzer, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “I can only characterize it as an affront to the university.”

St. Cloud State made headlines in late 2007 and early 2008 for the discovery of several swastikas on campus. The source of nearly all the swastikas remains a mystery. And while the campus community united against that graffiti, this outcry was more immediate. And Lehman noted the numbers of European Americans who vocalized opposition that they might have been feeling but not expressing previously, Lehman said.

“They are saying that not only does this offend (students of color), it offends me,” Lehman said of the white students. “This is my university, and I am paying tuition dollars to come here. And this is not the kind of community I want to be a part of.”

Lehman said she was proud to know the students and honored that they are standing up to resist a message of hate. “I think that this fundamentally changes the climate of the university,” Lehman said. “(The vandals) can no longer assume that nobody will report them and that their statements represent the feelings of the majority of the campus.”

David Unze

Garvey Commons innovation going national

Sodexo flavored water in Garvey Commons

Two innovations tested in the student dining hall – Garvey Commons – are making their way to schools across the country that are served by dining services provider Sodexo.

Flavored water, introduced at St. Cloud State this school year, has proven so popular that Sodexo expects it to appear at many more of the campuses it serves. Six dispensers are filled with layers of ice and cut up fruits and vegetables to create water that tastes of lemons, limes, oranges, cucumbers, mint, apples, strawberries or other seasonal fruits or vegetables. One of the students’ favorites? Cucumber.

Students are drinking their way through approximately 150 gallons a day of the filtered, flavored water, and soda usage is down.

The concept of dining without benefit of trays, first piloted last fall, has been approved by Student Government for the long term. Going trayless saves 650-750 pounds of food and 400-500 gallons of water a day, and use of chemicals like soap and rinse solution is down 10 percent.

Though the trayless approach requires more trips to and from food stands, student reaction has been positive. “Definitely, yes,” responded two-thirds of the students surveyed. “The benefits to the environment outweigh any inconvenience in going without trays.”

Sodexo is now working with the Residence Hall Association to explore ways to use the savings, one possibility being late night service.

St. Cloud State was the first university served by Sodexo in Minnesota where the trayless concept was introduced, but staff expect that their results will lead to similar efforts across the Sodexo system.

Retired surveying leader honored

Kenneth Wong

Recently-retired Professor of Geography Kenneth Wong was recognized for his accomplishments as leader of the University’s Land Surveying and Mapping Program with the Earl J. Fennell Award.

The annual award from the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM) is given to one leader across the United States and Canada in recognition of educational contributions to the surveying and mapping profession. He accepted the award at the annual ACSM convention in Salt Lake City in February.

Wong, who retired in December after 8½ years at St. Cloud State, more than doubled the number of surveying majors and raised the amount of scholarship money available to students from a few thousand dollars to $28,000. He also developed the “2+2.5” model that allows students to complete two years of preparatory work at partner vocational technical colleges, then complete their four-year degree at St. Cloud State.

As a result of the steps Wong took to enhance the academic rigor of the program, St. Cloud State graduates have one of the highest passing rates on the Fundamentals of Surveying Examination of any university in the country.

Mass media successes return to campus


Seven of the many students the St. Cloud State Department of Mass Communications has prepared for work in the mass media were back on campus this spring.

The student chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists brought the alumni back to talk about their careers, challenges they have faced, industry trends, how new media has affected their jobs and how students can prepare for the change. The panelists also answered questions from the audience and invited students to speak with them one-on-one and have their work critiqued.

The panelists represented newspapers, radio stations and TV stations from Central Minnesota and the Twin Cities. St. Cloud State alumni on the panel were:

  • Jeff Olsen ’93, backpack reporter for KARE11-TV
  • John Lauritsen ’01, reporter for WCCO-TV
  • Ann Carroll ’95, reporter for Fox Sports Network
  • Joe Gill ’99, morning show host for KASM-AM
  • Cassie Hart ’04, news director for KNSI-AM
  • Adam Hammer ’05, entertainment reporter for the St. Cloud Times
  • Dana Thiede ’86, field producer for KARE11-TV

Also on the panel were Ed Smith, KSAX-TV station manager, and Nicole Garrison-Springer, who is a Pioneer Press money reporter and president of the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists Pro chapter.

Greeks take first again

Patrick Patterson and Kari Dahl with award presenter Kent Gardner

From left, honorees Patrick Patterson and Kari Dahl with award presenter Kent Gardner, executive director of the Order of Omega.

Members of the University’s fraternity and sorority learning community received first place in the national Order of Omega Case Study Competition held in February. This is the second year in a row St. Cloud State students have taken top honors.

The contest, in which two members of the fraternity and sorority community have five hours to propose a course of action in response to real-life situations, featured 16 colleges and universities nationwide. The competition was held at the Mid-American Greek Council Association annual meeting in St. Louis, Mo.

Senior Kari Dahl of St. Cloud and graduate student Patrick Patterson of Rockford, Mich., received first place and $125 each for their collaborative project.

“Kari was being very innovative during the case study,” said Patterson of his teammate. “Without her interesting approaches, our team certainly would not have stood out to the judging panel as it did.” The hypothetical case the two were given involved the appropriate handling of a complaint regarding a party-related assault. “Case studies like this speak well for the University as well, because they indicate that we have the skill sets to be able to respond to real-life fraternity and sorority experiences,” Patterson said.

Student wins chance to study 'down under'

Erin Bastyr

Erin Bastyr, senior environmental studies major, received a $5,000 student mobility scholarship through International Development Project-Australia to study at Southern Cross University in Lismore, Australia.

Bastyr, of Lonsdale, was chosen from applicants at three Midwest universities for the scholarship. She planned to study digital photography and environmental studies while at the Australian university.

Southern Cross University, which has a student population of 6,000, offers courses in art and humanities, business and computing, education, criminal justice and travel and tourism. St. Cloud State students studying there are also offered an outdoor education class, which includes intensive field experiences.

In addition to Australia, St. Cloud State has semester-long study abroad programs in Chile, China, England, Germany, Japan, South Africa and South Korea.

Marketing efforts win national awards

”College is the road. Not the destination.” print ad

A brochure, a magazine ad, television spots and a branding project – all done to market St. Cloud State – have brought the University recognition.

Admissions Advertising Awards

Two pieces developed for recruitment purposes won awards in the largest educational advertising awards competition in the country. A four-color magazine ad took a Gold Award and a brochure, “Make It Your World,” took a Merit Award in the competition, which was sponsored by Higher Education Marketing Report.

The 24th Annual Admissions Advertising Awards competition had attracted more than 2,000 entries from more than 1,000 colleges and universities across the country. St. Cloud State competed in the category for schools with 10,000-19,999 students.

The Gold Award ad was developed for St. Cloud State by Stamats, a higher education marketing firm that based it on the results of extensive research at the University. “College is the road. Not the destination.” has appeared in Metro Magazine, Mpls. St. Paul Magazine, Minnesota Monthly and the St. Cloud Times, among others.

”Make It Your World” brochure

The “Make It Your World” outcomes brochure developed by St. Cloud State carried the stories of 17 successful graduates, 14 of whom achieved wide recognition in their fields, won exciting internships or landed their dream jobs within 10 years of graduation. Graduate profiles included a lead television anchor, the founder of a successful Internet marketing company, a special agent on a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement narcotics task force and a scientist who has authored two popular layman’s guides to physics.

Central Minnesota Advertising Federation Addy Awards

A series of television spots developed by Hatlingflint, St. Cloud, received a Silver Addy in the Central Minnesota Advertising Federation Addy Awards competition. The 15-second spots depict four St. Cloud State brand attributes as determined by 2006 market research – a global university, a smart investment, a broad and diverse academic program and a strong, outcomes-based education. The ads have been used on Charter Cable, Comcast Cable in the Twin Cities and Husky TV productions of Division I Husky hockey.

A second Silver Addy went to Hatlingflint for its rebranding of the G.R. Herberger College of Business. The new positioning was launched last fall with clever plays on the “Get Ready to Work” tagline developed by the agency. Story and photo in Winter 2009 edition of Outlook, Page 4, www.stcloudstate.edu/news/outlook.

See all St. Cloud State marketing materials at www.stcloudstate.edu/ucomm/video/print.asp.

Podcast star to be television star


The story of Holocaust survivor Henry Oertelt, told in a series of podcasts developed by the University’s KVSC 88.1 FM radio station, will receive additional attention. The National Association of Television Production Executives has finalized plans to produce a feature film about the life of Oertelt, who escaped from Berlin as a teenager in 1945. The film will be based on Oertelt’s book, “An Unbroken Chain, My Journey Through the Nazi Holocaust.”

KVSC brought Oertelt and his book to the attention of many when it developed a series of 12 podcasts telling Oertelt’s life story (www.kvsc.org). That series debuted in 2007.

The Holocaust survivor has spent 40 years speaking about his experiences and the importance of tolerance, political involvement and confronting hatred.

'University Hymn' marching to new beat


The “University Hymn,” familiar to students, faculty and alumni since it was introduced during the 1950s, made its debut in a new march arrangement at athletic events in February.

The new arrangement is the work of Glen Tuomaala, who directs the Husky Sports Band. Local printing company executive Eric Palmer, the band’s percussion arranger and instructor, wrote the percussion parts. The hymn was originally composed by the late Amy Dale and the late Harvey Waugh, faculty members.

Hear the “University March” at www.stcloudstate.edu/news/videoplayer.asp.

New provost named

Devinder M. Malhotra

Devinder M. Malhotra has been named provost and vice president for academic affairs at St. Cloud State. He takes office July 1, replacing retiring Michael Spitzer, who has been provost since 2002.

Malhotra was dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Southern Maine since 2005, prior to which he spent 26 years at the University of Akron as an associate dean, chair of the economics department and faculty member. He also has teaching and research experience at Case Western Reserve University, Kansas State University and with the government of India.

Malhotra was born in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir, in northern India. One of seven children of a lawyer and a homemaker, he was educated at a Catholic boarding school in Dalhousie and the Modern School in Delhi. His father and older brother were members of the Congress Party and served in Parliament.

The provost position at St. Cloud State serves as the institutional leader in the president’s absence. The academic vice president position that was expanded to provost in 2002 provides leadership for all academic components of the university.

Student media rank high

Clip from

Clip from "The Run"

Student-run media outlets at St. Cloud State – UTVS-TV, KVSC 88.1FM and the University Chronicle – collected honors this spring in national, regional and state competitions.

Broadcast Educators Association Awards

UTVS and its Husky Mag and Husky Productions entries received three of only 17 top Broadcast Educators Association awards at this year’s Festival of Media Arts in Las Vegas.

Junior Joel Larsen of Morris and sophomore Jordan Austin of Apple Valley won first place in the studio competition for their work with Husky Mag, a weekly show on University and high school sports. Seniors Kristina Perreault of Hugo and Scott Wittrock of Waseca received first place for their music video, “The Run,” viewable at vimeo.com/wittrock. Junior Justin Maas of New Hope and senior Gwen Siewert of Lake City placed second, along with the entire crew, for studio production.

Clip from

Clip from "The Run"

Mark of Excellence Awards

The Region 6 Society of Professional Journalists, which includes chapters in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North and South Dakota, conferred six Mark of Excellence Awards on St. Cloud State media and students.

  • The entire University Chronicle staff was recognized when the paper took the Best All-Around Non-Daily Student Newspaper title. Senior Andrew Downs of Alexandria also took a first place in editorial cartooning.
  • UTVS-TV took first place in the television newscast competition, an honor that went to the station’s entire staff. Students recognized for sports reporting were junior Chelsie Allen of Hayfield, “History of Husky Hockey,” first place; sophomore Jordan Weinand of Farmington, “Equipment Management,” second place; and the team of Allen, junior Joel Larsen of Morris and sophomore Jordan Austin of Apple Valley for “Husky Mag,” third place.
Jordan Austin

Jordan Austin, filming for UTVS’s "Husky Mag".

Minnesota Associated Press Broadcasters Awards

KVSC 88.1FM garnered four of the 2008 Associated Press awards handed out in March. Honorees were senior Aaron Bjorkstrand of Burnsville, “Rage Against Abuse,” best in show; senior Jenna Wundrow of Jim Falls, Wis., “SCSU Recycling Program: ‘Green or Guilty?’,” first in documentary/investigative competition; Bjorkstrand, “Husky Hockey Review,” first in sports reporting; and juniors Peter Tomala of Columbia Heights and Patrick Sullivan of Kasson, “Husky Sports Friday,” honorable mention in sports reporting.

St. Cloud State Helps Fight a Flood


On a cold March day St. Cloud State’s living classroom is the floor of the Fargodome.

Dump trucks, front-end loaders, semi-trailer trucks, forklifts and volunteers dance a mad minuet in the 120,000 sq. ft. arena, with a goal today of filling a half million sandbags. Outside, the Red River is over its banks and threatening this North Dakota city of nearly 100,000.

More than 30 St. Cloud State students, staff, alumni and faculty members – shoveling, filling, tying, carrying, stacking – have traveled three hours by bus over ice-covered highways to help, along with busloads of other volunteers, including another 60 from the St. Cloud area.

“It is very much a live-classroom experience to actually work with different groups of people,” says Michner Bender, associate professor of environmental and technological studies. “I don’t think you get that type of experience in a physical classroom. You need to be outside in the real-world classroom to gain that perspective.”

Bender is taking a break at the south end of the arena, beneath football goal posts. Nearby, eating a snack cross-legged on the concrete is Kristin Petersen, a first-year student from Rush City. Her pants are covered with sand from filling bags on her knees.

“It’s been wonderful how everyone’s working together,” Petersen says. “You kind of just fit in where you need to. No one tells you what to do, but you just figure out by watching others what you need to do.”

At the other end of the arena, Deondre Smiles is part of a bag-moving brigade. The first-year student from Maple Grove is an aspiring geography major with an interest in cartography. Helping him move bags to a pallet is Kurt Stunek ’81, who used vacation pay to take a day off from his job at Anderson Trucking, St. Cloud.

To the east the flooded river is 36 feet and rising. Matt Trombley ‘97, director of Student Organizations and Leadership Development, and Beth Knutson-Kolodzne, Volunteer Connection coordinator, help with the sandbagging while keeping an eye on the time. The bus will need to leave early to return to St. Cloud by 7:30 p.m. Rain, followed by a cold snap, has turned stretches of I-94 into a skating rink.

Knutson-Kolodzne, who is nursing a blister on her left thumb, looks out over volunteers who look like so many ants among anthills. She shouts to be heard above the cacophony of engines, voices, scraping tools, belching airbrakes and loudspeaker announcements.

“You might be standing, you know, literally six inches from someone here today, and lifting a bag all of six inches,” she says. “But that bag is 30 pounds and that helps get it another six miles to the levee, where it needs to go, to help save this town.”

Feature Story

The Go-To Guys


Banaian, who has participated in more than 40 off-campus speaking engagements and countless media interviews in the past year, jokes that he kind of misses his life as the “Maytag repairman,” referring to the relatively stable years before the economy plummeted and the public started clamoring for answers.

“Fifteen years ago this topic was unsexy,” said Banaian. Now that many of the unfavorable circumstances he’s been teaching about – and some the books didn’t cover – have come about, the incredible knowledge of local fiscal data and business climate he and MacDonald have amassed makes their kind of expertise a hot commodity.

“We always wanted to get out of the Ivory Tower,” Banaian said. “Now we’re being invited out.”

MacDonald and Banaian, the experts behind the 11-year-old St. Cloud Area Quarterly Business Reports they share with the region through the St. Cloud Times Media-published ROI Central Minnesota magazine, take seriously their roles as translators of academic economics and complex business data. They don’t always agree on the fine points of their economic forecasting – or their politics – but they do share a commitment to “keeping it real” for the public.

Their expertise has been tapped often this past year as Central Minnesotans struggled to get their heads around rapidly deteriorating economic circumstances. “They get high marks for accessibility, credibility and candor,” said John Bodette, executive editor of the St. Cloud Times, where the names Banaian and MacDonald have appeared in dozens of stories aimed at helping readers sort out the impact a global crisis will have on their own bottom line.

“Economics has to be personal for people to be interested, and now it’s personal,” Banaian said. “This crisis is harrowing for people. It’s their house, their job.”

“King delivers valuable information that business owners can put to work right away,” said St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce President Teresa Bohnen ’81 ’84, who has called on Banaian in recent months to speak at several Chamber and civic events.

“He really speaks the language of business.”

While Banaian is the more visible face of the team, MacDonald has been putting his personal stamp on the Quarterly Business Report since 1998, when he and former St. Cloud State Professor Mark Partridge started preparing their first four-page report, which they distributed to a couple hundred businesses. The report began with the Chamber sending feelers to its members on their behalf, trying to gauge interest in such a venture. The interactive process of gathering feedback from area businesses ranging from restaurants to construction to banking has been finely honed since those early days. Now MacDonald sends quarterly surveys to an exclusive list of contributing business leaders only he can name. They send their responses to him with hand-written observations that enrich MacDonald’s analysis and give him ideas for future survey questions.

Five years ago Banaian, who is chair of the St. Cloud State Department of Economics, added his expertise in data analysis and presentation to the Quarterly Business Report enterprise. “King’s data skills are better than anybody I know, and he’s made a big difference,” MacDonald said. “We have a good collaboration. We challenge each other.”

“The kind of outreach we have with the report is pretty rare,” MacDonald said. “Every quarter we come up with special questions, collect data and put together a useful, understandable report.”

“Rich and King have a following here,” said Tom Moore ’78, president of the St. Cloud Area Economic Development Partnership. Moore, St. Cloud, doubts there’s another community the size of St. Cloud that has the benefit of such in-depth research and information on the local business scene. “The business reports provide valuable information for businesses already here as well as for companies we’re trying to attract to the area,” he said.

“Our mission is to help create more jobs that pay well,” Moore said. “One of the reasons the Partnership sponsors the reports is when companies are looking for information about this region, they can go to our Web site and find it in current and past Quarterly Business Reports,” Moore said. “We’re really fortunate to have them.”

MacDonald said he frequently gets inquiries from other university economics departments asking for information on how they accomplish this unusual effort. “When they find out the scope of this project, they aren’t willing to put all the work into it.”

The efforts have paid off. “Each Quarterly Business Report is the basis of a front-page story in the Times, and the report is referenced in numerous other stories – most of them on page one,” said Sue Halena, managing editor of Times Media. The shift to ROI Central Minnesota magazine in 2005 helped make more Central Minnesota readers aware of the report, she said.

“They’ve been a wonderful addition to ROI,” said Bodette of the MacDonald-Banaian collaboration. “They’re two top economists interpreting data and telling us what it all means. They really try hard to put it in terms people understand.” Bodette also appreciates the care Banaian and MacDonald take with interpreting their information. “They weigh their words carefully. They don’t try to be alarmists.”

The University has tremendous potential for sharing its intellectual resources with the community, Bodette said. “These economists are examples of two who put all the talent they have to work.”

MacDonald and Banaian said the value of connecting and offering expertise beyond campus was handed down by senior faculty mentors such as Hal Lofgreen and Bill Luksetich and is shared by department colleagues.

“How many products do we have at the University that are a collaboration of the University, one of its departments, the Economic Development Partnership and the media,” MacDonald said.

And their students? The current economic crisis has infused a lot of energy and intellectual interest into the study of economics, and the Student Economists Association has been particularly active this past year in organizing focus groups and panels to explore the unusual circumstances occurring in their discipline.

“It’s great to be able to share the benefits of our outreach and the perspective it brings,” said MacDonald, who noted, “We can walk into a classroom and tell our students about what’s going on in the local economy. There’s nothing more interesting than reality.”

MacDonald’s perspective on the economy:

“The last really bad recession is what turned me into a Ph.D. economist. When I started grad school in 1984 we’d just rebounded from a rough three-year economic period. Economics was something to really sink your teeth into.”

“I am concerned that the current economic weakness includes elements of structural change that ultimately will reduce our rate of long-run economic growth.”

“Improved economic and financial education is on anyone’s short list for what should be undertaken to prevent this type of financial crisis from happening again.”

“I believe we will begin an economic recovery when households have repaired their balance sheets.”

Banaian’s perspective on the economy:

“The Fed has emptied the holster. They’ve used all the tools at their disposal.”

“In the Panic of 1907, the last panic before the formation of the Federal Reserve, banks were teetering on collapse. J. Pierpont Morgan gathered bankers in his home and said to them: ‘I’m putting money in. Won’t you join me?’ Now bankers seem to expect government to do it.”

“Banks have changed. Big banks have gone into other stuff. Not all the banks are like the Bailey Building and Loan in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.”

Some Banaian predictions from the Winter Institute:

  1. Oil prices will come up
  2. Mortgage rates will be stable
  3. Keep an eye on timber prices, and
  4. St. Cloud’s economic base to build on: Health, education, business services and transportation

Rich MacDonald

Rich MacDonald

Rich MacDonald splits his professional time between St. Cloud State’s Department of Economics and the New York-based Council for Economic Education. It’s a mutually beneficial situation he refers to as “a beautiful relationship.”

The dual career was launched late in 2007, after 14 months on leave from St. Cloud State serving in a position of influence for K-through-12 economics education as the Council’s vice president for programs in New York. MacDonald turned down the Council’s offer of a full-time position, but he accepted a compromise.

Now he works three to four days a week with the New York organization. “I had to make a decision – where did I want to be? The answer was I wanted to live in Minnesota,” said the Dansville, N.Y., native. “This is a good place to live and send kids to school. And I have this ability to live a nomadic lifestyle out of a suitcase.”

As the Council’s senior advisor for program development, he is an integral part of a leading economics and financial education organization that has extensive programs throughout the United States and in many countries around the globe. “It gives me a lot of national presence,” said MacDonald, who also serves on the State Council of Economic Advisors.

Along with the extensive outreach he does with the Central Minnesota business and economic development community, MacDonald’s multi-faceted career gives him a unique perspective to offer his students. “It’s great for them to share the benefits I gain from my work.”

King Banaian

King Banaian

Growing up in New Hampshire, King Banaian and his businessman dad did some of their best bonding reading stock listings and watching Louis Rukeyser help ordinary Americans understand economics through public television’s “Wall Street Week.” Now Banaian, professor and chair of the St. Cloud State Department of Economics, is helping Central Minnesotans understand the economics of a crisis that’s brought the problems of Wall Street into their homes.

While Banaian is too prudent to offer absolute predictions on the outcome of the current economic downturn, he recalls that historically every time the stock markets would “crash,” it took less time to rebound. “I remember Rukeyser saying the sun will come out tomorrow, but in the meantime it was ‘eek’ and ‘ouch’.”

Often referred to in the media as a “conservative blogger and radio personality,” Banaian has been bringing considerable first-hand experience with global economics to his classrooms since he came to St. Cloud State in 1984. He has done professional consulting work in such countries as Egypt, Indonesia, Macedonia, Armenia, Mongolia and the Ukraine. He spent a year in the mid-1990s in Kiev advising the National Bank of Ukraine on how to build a viable economic system – teaching them macroeconomics. “I developed a forecast for inflation in that country that worked reasonably well for several years.”

When it comes to forecasting the economic future for Central Minnesotans, Banaian takes his responsibility seriously. “This is a small economic community,” he said. “What I say has an impact on the psychology of that community. We were very cautious about using the word recession. When we finally used it, it was accepted because we eased into it. Everyone was saying, ‘Yes, you’re right’.”

Marsha Shoemaker

Husky Sports

Schlagel tops the career wins chart in Husky men's basketball

Kevin Schlagel ’77 ’82, St. Cloud

St. Cloud State men’s basketball coach Kevin Schlagel ’77 ’82, St. Cloud, earned his 232nd career win on Feb. 21 to become the winningest coach in Husky men’s basketball history.

“It feels really good to give something back to St. Cloud State because St. Cloud State has been good to me and my family,” said Schlagel. “It has been a privilege to have the opportunity to coach young people and to work with the coaches I’ve had over the years.”

The win moved Schlagel to the top of the career win chart at St. Cloud State, surpassing Butch Raymond (231 wins) and Red Severson (209 wins).

With a 22-9 overall record in 2008-09, Schlagel has 237 career wins and has posted a winning record in each of his 12 years, won 20 or more games six times, won 17 or more games 11 times, and averaged 19.75 wins per season.

Schlagel, a former Husky player (1972-76), completed his 30th season on the Husky coaching staff, having served as an assistant coach from 1980-97 to Noel Olson, Sam Skarich and Butch Raymond

Under Schlagel’s leadership, the Huskies have won three conference championship tournaments, including the 2009 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference/Sanford Health Tournament, earned one regular-season conference title and made six National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament appearances.

Anne Abicht

Sports highlights

  • Senior guard Katie Tacheny, in Women’s basketball, Woodbury, was named First Team All-NSIC, NSIC All-Tournament, Daktronics All-Central Region First Team and a State Farm Women Basketball Coaches Association All-America Finalist. Sophomore post Rachel Booth, Minneapolis, was voted the Most Outstanding Player of the NSIC Tournament.

  • St. Cloud State men’s basketball team

    The St. Cloud State men’s basketball team won the NSIC post-season tournament to land in the NCAA Division II Central Region Tournament.

  • For the first time in school history, the men’s and women’s basketball teams captured post-season conference tournament championships in the same year. Both teams played in the NCAA Division II Central Region Tournament.

  • Sophomore guard Taylor Witt, Morris, was named the Most Outstanding Player of the NSIC Tournament and a First Team All-NSIC pick. Sophomore forward Andrew Bernstetter, St. Joseph, was an All-NSIC Second Team pick.

  • St. Cloud State women’s basketball team

    The St. Cloud State women’s basketball team won the 2009 NSIC/Sanford Health Tournament on March 8 and earned a trip to the NCAA Division II Central Region Tournament.

  • The Husky wrestling team ended its season with an eighth-place finish at the 2009 NCAA Division II championships in Houston, Texas. That marked the Huskies’ best finish at the NCAA championships since an eighth-place finish in 1986. Senior Brad Padgett, Buckley, Wash., (184-pounds) and freshman Tad Merritt, Canby, (165-pounds) brought home All-America honors with third-place finishes, while sophomore Derek Skala, Owatonna, gained All-America status with a seventh-place finish at 174 pounds.

  • Junior forward Ryan Lasch, Lake Forest, Calif., was one of three Huskies to earn All-WCHA (West Central Hockey Association) honors in 2008-09. He gained All-WCHA First Team honors for the second consecutive season, while junior defender Garrett Raboin, Detroit Lakes, (second team) and sophomore forward Garrett Roe, Vienna, Va., (third team) also were honored by the WCHA.

  • Junior Heather Miller, Sun Prairie, Wis., gained All-American honors at the NCAA Division II Indoor Track National Championships as she finished fifth in the triple jump and eighth in the long jump. She also finished second in the triple jump at the NCAA outdoor meet where she was also fifth in the heptathon. Junior sprinter Gabe Udia, Inver Grove Heights, won an individual NSIC title for the men with a win in the 55-meter dash at the indoor meet. Nick Trisko, a sophomore from Melrose, won the 100-meter dash at the outdoor conference meet.

  • The women’s hockey team had its largest class of student-athletes – five – named to the WCHA All-Scholar Team: Jenaca Fredheim, Campbell River, B.C., Courtney Josefson, Bemidji, Brita Schroeder, Monticello, Kelly Meierhofer, Sauk Rapids, and Caitlin Hogan, Oakdale.

  • St. Cloud State senior diver Nate Jimerson, Apple Valley, won a national championship on the one-meter diving board at the 2009 NCAA Division II National Swimming and Diving Championships. It was the third national title of his career, as he won the one-meter and three-meter events at the 2008 NCAA Championships.

  • Men’s tennis coach Jerry Anderson ’85, Big Lake, collected his 200th career victory in the Huskies’ season opener on Feb. 1. Anderson was in his 12th season as the Huskies’ head coach and has guided St. Cloud State to eight consecutive NCAA Division II tournaments. He also led the women’s tennis team to an NSIC tennis championship in 2009.

Alumni News

Employers partner with Career Services

Amanuel Fekade meets with LarsonAllen tax specialist Ben Horak

LarsonAllen LLP is among the many employers from Central Minnesota and the Twin Cities who willingly give their time to help St. Cloud State students prepare for an increasingly competitive job market. Here, Amanuel Fekade, of Ethiopa, who earned his MBA this spring, meets with LarsonAllen tax specialist Ben Horak (left) during an on-campus interview.

Students entering the job market can be forgiven if they feel stressed. “There are a lot of messages out there about how bad things are,” said Andy Ditlevson, associate director of St. Cloud State’s Career Services Center (CSC). “They don’t need the message anymore that these are tough times. Instead, we’re focusing on what they themselves can do to improve their odds.”

One of those “can do’s” is taking advantage of offers by company leaders in Central Minnesota and the Twin Cities to share their time and expertise with St. Cloud State students.

“Employers are so willing to work with our students,” said Addie Habstritt Turkowski ’86, CSC director. “We’re grateful for that, and we want to find ways to give our students the benefit of these professionals’ expertise without undue demands on the employers’ time,” she added.

New approaches to help students enter the job market are often the result of collaboration between CSC staff and area employers. As an example, CSC staff told the center’s advising board that the economic downturn had dramatically increased the number of students asking for the center’s help. The 20 employers on the board promptly replied, “We can help with that,” and Feedback Fridays were born.

Feedback Fridays bring employers to campus for a day to answer students’ questions, critique resumes, make job search suggestions or help them network. Because students raced to sign up for 30-minute time slots with ING Direct, Walgreen’s, Cargill and General Mills, CSC responded by scheduling Feedback Fridays with Target, Enterprise Rent-a-Car and Frito Lay and is planning more.

“Employers tell us St. Cloud State does a great job of preparing students academically,” Turkowski said. “But if they lack anything, it’s professionalism and polish.” Acting on that observation, CSC is now the only one of the state’s seven public universities that requires students to complete a “career fair prep” program before they can sign up for a statewide career fair. During a prep event, employers like Macy’s and Target offer students guidance on resumes, professional dress, interview skills and how to conduct pre-interview research. To make it even easier for students to prepare, a five-minute “prep video” is in production and will soon be online.

“Employers also tell us that the number one shortcoming of the young people they hire is unrealistic expectations,” said Ditlevson of a finding of the annual Minnesota Job Outlook Survey conducted by CSC.

Now the employers themselves are helping CSC develop “a day in the life” videos, shot at company locations, to give students a better “on-the-job” understanding of a variety of careers. St. Cloud State alumni at LarsonAllen, for example, helped demonstrate a day in the life of an accountant and alumni at internet marketing firm W3i participated in a video on marketing.

Speed Mentoring (think speed dating) is another new way to help students while conserving employers’ time. The two-hour events hosted by the Alumni Association include eight 10-minute rounds during which students practice introducing themselves and making a good first impression with employers. Nearly 30 employers gave their time for the first alumni speed mentoring event, including alumni from Health East Foundation, KSTP-TV, Weber Shandwick, Flaherty & Hood, P.A., and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Every bit of the help employers provide to CSC is of value to students, who will face tough competition when they enter the market. “Students need any edge they can get,” said Turkowski, who pointed out that during the three major career fairs held in Minnesota every spring, “Employers may talk to 500 students – and have 5-10 openings.”

Using University resources to re-launch career

Matt Weber ’08

Using a word that may well fit the situation of many during the nation’s economic downturn, Matt Weber ’08 describes the last six months of 2008 as “stressful.” The holder of a new master’s in business administration (MBA) said that the period after he was laid off and before he completed his degree and locked in a new job was, in fact, “very, very stressful.”

Weber had been working toward his MBA in a program offered by St. Cloud State at the Schwan Food Company in Marshall when, after three years with the frozen food company, he was suddenly laid off in May 2008. After a few months of futile job searching, he took a different tack and sat down with staff at the G.R. Herberger College of Business. “They helped me create a plan to finish my master’s,” said Weber, who then moved with his wife and two children to Sartell to complete the St. Cloud State degree he received in December.

Would Weber have better luck in the job market with a master’s? To make sure, during fall semester he called on the Career Services Center for a resume review, posted it on the center’s Web site, and participated in the center’s dining etiquette/speed networking event in late September. Because of that opportunity to meet and visit with a variety of employers, Weber said, he already knew many of the employers who turned up at the fall career fair a few weeks later. Within a week of the fair, IBM called him for an interview that was followed by a job offer that he declined in favor of a consulting position with an employer he met at the career fair, Genesis 10.

”Not only did Career Services and the Herberger College of Business make it easy to transition into the master’s program full time,” said Weber, “they made sure I had the resources I needed once I was ready to tackle the job market again.”

Preparing for the job market 24/7


Today’s students – millennials – are used to tapping resources whenever and wherever they are, according to Career Services (CSC) staff. At the same time, the economic downturn means more and more students need the center’s help. To stretch its resources and give students job hunting assistance 24/7, the center is expanding its Web offerings.

  • Resume Writing 101 – A 12-minute presentation to help students write effective resumes is online, where they can also find a resume-writing checklist and resume samples.
  • Blogging – Another initiative, developed in response to employers’ concerns about new hires having unrealistic job expectations, finds student interns blogging day to day about their experiences at work. Communication studies senior Natasha Ashfeld of Cold Spring talks about her work day at a health care organization, for example, and Jessica Merten of St. Cloud, Wis., a master’s student in the industrial/organizational psychology program, blogs about her experiences at an early childhood center.
  • Job Tip DVDs – Employers have given their time to share job search tips on camera, allowing CSC to create videos students can quickly access online and faculty members can use in their classes.

Longtime, ever-growing features of the Career Services Center Web presence include:

  • SCSUCareers.com – Employers can quickly post jobs, screen candidates and schedule on-campus interviews. Students – and alumni – can post resumes, search for openings, sign up for automatic e-mail notification of job openings and schedule on-campus interviews.
  • EdPost, JobPost, InternPost – Allow for easy postings and searches for teaching and administrative positions for K-12 schools, internships and positions in business, industry, government, human services and the arts. Find at www.stcloudstate.edu/joblistings.

Navigating career preperation


According to Bobbi Murphy ’78, assistant director for employer relations and internship development at St. Cloud State, the relationship between well-educated interns and employers looking for a talented, motivated workforce is often mutually beneficial.

“Employers may not be hiring, but instead looking to hire interns as an alternative,” Murphy said, “and that’s good news.”

Those employers who are hiring are seeking out graduates with internship experience, according to a February 2009 survey of 35,000 students by the National Association of College Educators. Of those who had landed jobs, 73 percent had completed an internship at some point in their college careers.

Malisa Yang in plane cockpit

Malisa Yang, senior, Blaine, aviation management, in cockpit

Malisa Yang, a 21-year-old aviation management senior from Blaine, spent spring semester as an aviation intern for Northwest Airlines in Eagan.

Yang said the 30-plus hours she donated to the airline each week fulfilled a lifelong dream of working for the company, while preparing her for her ultimate goal of becoming a pilot.

“I grew up near Northwest and always, always wanted to work with them,” Yang said, “and doing this internship gives me so much knowledge and experience.”

New experiences are abundant for an intern at Northwest.

“My days are never the same,” Yang said of her work, which included anything from ground school, working alongside flight simulator technicians and pilots and validating events for Flight Operational Quality Assurance, a system that analyzes data generated by a flying aircraft, to finding ways of improving safety and efficiency.

“I think [this internship] is preparing me greatly because I’m working with pilots, safety investigators, instructors and fleet reps,” said Yang, “and I’m also going through ground school and indoctrination classes.”

Barbara Castillo in Dubai

Barbara Castillo, sophomore, Santiago, Chile, travel and tourism major, in Dubai

Yet, like any soon-to-graduate college student, Yang is looking to apply her newly acquired skills to a full-time job, a feat she said will be that much easier considering all she’s learned in the field and the industry professionals with whom she’s come into contact.

“Never pass up an internship,” Yang said. “Not only do you gain experience, but you have the opportunity to network. You never know who you’ll meet in the near future.” She now enters the job market with references from several NWA employees.

Barbara Castillo, a 21-year-old travel and tourism sophomore from Santiago, Chile, served as an intern for private airline company Imperial Jets last summer. With no aversion to travel, Castillo packed her bags and headed to the celebrated city of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Castillo served there as a travel management intern for the airline.

Castillo said the experiences she gained in Dubai, a tourism hotspot and cultural melting pot, were invaluable both personally and career-wise.

“Ways of working are linked to culture,” Castillo said. “If you work in such a diverse environment, it looks great on a resume.”

Judy Mosby

Judy Mosby, senior, Crystal, community psychology major

Plus, Castillo added, serving an internship abroad has other perks as well. “You get to travel and see the world for free.”

Senior Judy Mosby, senior community psychology major from Crystal, spent spring semester as an intern at the Roosevelt Early Childhood Center in St. Cloud, assisting small children in the classroom.

Mosby put in more than 20 hours per week in the unpaid internship and, though she knows the experience she gained will help her land her dream job as a child life specialist counseling children in hospitals, she also knows just how valuable interns can be to their employers.

“It helps them when they need extra help, in areas where they can’t hire,” Mosby said.

Ryan Corrow-Roller, a 21-year-old travel and tourism senior from Zimmerman, served as an intern at St. Maarten 12 Metre Challenge this spring, a yacht-racing venture in the Caribbean city of Philipsburg.

According to Corrow-Roller, his internship on the island of St. Maarten prepared him to enter the workforce as a well-rounded, experienced graduate.

Ryan Corrow-Roller on boat

Ryan Corrow-Roller, senior, Zimmerman, travel and tourism major, who will be back at St. Cloud State this fall.

“This internship stood for everything I appreciate,” Corrow-Roller said, “such as seeing a new part of the world, working outside of my comfort zone, learning new skills, interacting with people and having a good time.” Whether that meant racing five regattas a day, maintenance work, tending to guests or enjoying a day on the water, for someone whose career aspirations include seeing as much of the world as he can, this internship was a perfect match.”

“These opportunities exist and are out there for the taking,” Corrow-Roller said. “So look hard and work even harder than you look, and without a doubt these opportunities will bring you to the odd ends of the earth and places that you had never imagined.”

Amber Ness


GeoComm was honored in 2007 as the Minnesota Small Business of the Year

GeoComm was honored in 2007 as the Minnesota Small Business of the Year by the federal Small Business Administration. From left are Dan Rudningen ’89, vice president of sales and marketing; Jody Sayre ’98, vice president of client services; Tom Grones, CEO and president; and Janet Grones, vice president of finance.

GeoComm, the nation’s leading developer of computerized mapping software for 911 communications systems, is going international.

And St. Cloud State University alumni will be there, leading the sales effort, supporting clients, developing maps, programming software and advising public safety agencies on everything from radio systems to mapping solutions for vehicles.

Near one-fourth of GeoComm’s employees are St. Cloud State graduates, including Dan Rudningen ’89, co-founder and vice president of sales and marketing.

Rudningen is focused on Canada these days, educating potential clients and developing partnerships on the heels of a government requirement that wireless service providers upgrade 911 services. By Feb. 1, 2010, Canadian providers must be able to locate a celn automatically transmit that location to a 911 call center.

GeoComm is equipped to succeed in Canada because it helped pioneer the same systems in the United States, including the first federally approved wireless 911 system, installed in 2000 in St. Clair County, Ill.

Wireless 911 “opened the door for our company’s success,” Rudningen said.

Working with Rudningen on the top floor of GeoComm’s historic brick building in St. Cloud is Jody Sayre ’98, Sauk Rapids, vice president of client services. Sayre supervises employees in the company’s three areas of expertise: 911 software, geographic information system (GIS) map data and public safety consulting.

She works with clients in 43 states, including the Mid-America Regional Council, the organization that coordinates 911 services for nine counties and 120 cities in the bi-state Kansas City region.

Sayre’s responsibilities include managing the ongoing development of GeoLynx 9-1-1, the company’s flagship software suite. GeoLynx is a command-and-control emergency dispatch system that plots the location of emergency callers, regardless of the type of phone – wired, cellular or Internet-bl phone user making an emergency call and theased. GeoLynx also can provide call-takers, dispatchers and responders with a wealth of detailed information, including driving directions, exterior photographs, floor plans, access points and easements.

Another St. Cloud State graduate leading the charge into Canada is Kathy Liljequist ’96, St. Cloud, GIS consultant and 13-year GeoComm veteran. Liljequist, who holds a master’s degree in geography, recently helped deliver a presentation at a public safety annual meeting in Ontario. Among her presentation themes was the importance of maintaining accurate GIS map data.

Karl Larsen ’05 and Jessica (Hixson) Beierman

Karl Larsen ’05 (left ) and Jessica (Hixson) Beierman look at map data from Oahu, Hawaii. Beierman is working on her thesis for a master’s degree in geography with a GIS emphasis. She expects to graduate in 2010.

“You can have the Cadillac version of software,” said Liljequist. “But if you don’t have accurate data it’s not going to do you any good.”

“That’s what is different about 911,” said Sayre. “Accuracy has to be 100 percent.”

GeoComm has benefited from a “critical mass” of St. Cloud State geography graduates, according to Tom Grones, co-founder, chief executive officer and president. Graduates know ESRI ArcView, the same software platform GeoComm uses. And, Grones said, they tend to be from the area and want to stay in the area.

Professor Ben Richason, who advises GIS students at St. Cloud State, worked with GeoComm’s co-founders in the mid-1980s when Stearns County set up its 911 system. Grones was the county’s emergency services director. Rudningen was one of about 10 geography students who developed the 911 map, including inventing street names and addresses for rural areas.

Back then students drew maps by hand in the former Tideman Cartographic Center. Today’s Spatial Analysis Research Center is filled with computers and serves a range of clients, including agencies such as the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and corporations such as Target.

The one constant through the years: The Geography Department produces graduates who know how to process and display geographic information.

Said Richason: “We prepare graduates who are well-trained, highly-motivated GIS professionals.”

St. Cloud State Alumni at GeoComm

Jake Anderson ’03, St. Cloud, implementation supervisor
Jessica (Hixson) Beierman ’10, Sauk Rapids , GIS supervisor
Susan (Beumer) Becker ’00, Rockville, administrative assistant
Matt Besser ’02, Sartell, implementation specialist
Nate Ekdahl ’04, Ramsey, assistant geographic services manager
Bruce Geyer ’74, Little Falls, software development supervisor
Paul Hedlund ’02, St. Cloud, associate software developer
Dustin Kanewischer ’08, White Bear Lake, GIS specialist
Anita (Redman) Kask ’89, Clearwater, technical support supervisor
John Lambaere ’03, Sauk Rapids, software testing coordinator
Karl Larsen ’05, Waite Park, GIS coordinator
Kathy (Beckett) Liljequist ’96, St. Cloud, GIS consultant
Shaun McCloud ’03, St. Cloud, software testing analyst
Chad Miller ’06, St. Cloud, GIS specialist
Heidi (Elg) Ness ’03, Sauk Rapids, GIS specialist
Avery Penniston ’03, St. Cloud, software developer
Todd Pieper ’99, St. Cloud, assistant communications consulting manager
Deb Rozeboom ’00 ’05, Sauk Rapids, GIS supervisor
Dan Rudningen ’89, St. Cloud, vice president of sales and marketing
Jody (Emmerich) Sayre ’98, Sauk Rapids, vice president of client services
Ryan Schrofe ’08, St. Cloud, GIS specialist
Renee (Holland) Theisen ’94, St. Cloud , administrative supervisor
Scott Wolhart ’03, St. Cloud, technical services manager

GeoComm Facts

Located: Historic Lahr Block, 604 West St. Germain, in downtown St. Cloud
Founded: June 1995
Shareholders: Tom Grones, Dan Rudningen ’89, Mike Frericks and Kathy Liljequist ’96
Employees: About 100
2008 revenues: $9 million
Call centers served: More than 600

Jeff Wood

Warrior to civilian

St. Cloud State Veterans Resource Center

On May 1, the day the new VA education benefits took effect, student veterans flocked to the St. Cloud State Veterans Resource Center for help signing up. At the computer in the foreground is Jonathan Utecht, sophomore environmental science major from Cold Spring. Others are, from left: Joshua John, senior criminal justice major from St. Cloud; Christopher Strong ‘09, then-senior history major from Maple Grove; and Jennifer Lais, a Big Lake native who’s pursuing a second bachelor’s degree in nursing. At far right is James McAuley, Central Regional Coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs. The new benefits include money for housing and books, in addition to tuition.

When U.S. Air Force veteran Chris Strong enrolled at St. Cloud State in fall 2006, he discovered that military life – which included a stint in Iraq – had a strikingly different rhythm and feel than student life. His adjustment began as a lonely challenge.

“It’s a nerve-wracking scenario at first, coming from a place where you’ve often been in life-and-death situations, and going into a civilian environment,” Strong said. “It’s important to stay in touch with others who’ve been in the military who understand what you’re going through.

Through the doorway are a comfortable lounge area, a study room with desks and computers, and a support office where mentoring and help with benefits and other paperwork are dispensed. The Center is a highly visible symbol of the level of support the University demonstrates for Minnesota veterans and their families.

When Strong arrived on campus, St. Cloud State didn’t have an established student veteran resource center to ease the warrior-to-civilian reintegration for students like him. There was no place to go to hang out with fellow veterans and seek support and advice about the challenges of building a life with civilian friends and family.

All that changed before the end of Strong’s first year at St. Cloud State. When Central Regional Coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs James McAuley entered the picture in August 2006, his presence and a core group of committed students led by Strong helped launch what is now an invaluable one-stop shop for veterans and their families.

McCauley, a Brooklyn native and U.S. Air Force veteran, works three days a week with St. Cloud State administration, faculty and staff to help make the warrior-to-student transition as smooth as possible by identifying barriers and helping put students in touch with benefits and means of support – everything from employment to financial workshops. He also works with student veterans at St. Cloud Technical College, Central Lakes College, the College of Saint Benedict, Saint John’s University and other regional colleges. The VA certifying official is at the center eight hours a week to help with registration and scheduling questions.

St. Cloud State has become a magnet for degree-seeking veterans and their families. From 2006-08 St. Cloud State had a 10 percent increase in the number of students using VA education benefits. Because of stronger new benefits, the struggling economy and the outstanding support the University and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) offer veterans, the VA projects there will be a 20 percent increase in those using benefits in the next couple of years.

St. Cloud State has the largest student veteran population among the 32 MnSCU institutions. “The board of trustees, the chancellor and the leadership of MnSCU have consistently supported efforts to establish and support the policies and procedures necessary for our campuses to be able to create a veteran-friendly learning environment,” said Steven Frantz, system director, division of student affairs for MnSCU and a frequent speaker and advocate for student veterans at regional and national conferences.

That welcoming environment is vital for student veterans and their families to succeed, McAuley said. “They need a place where they can go for conversation and connection.”

It took a while for that place to evolve at St. Cloud State. “Those early days were rough,” Strong said. “We were in an 8-foot by 7-foot room. If there were three in there, there were too many.”

When President Earl H. Potter III, a 24-year veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, came in July 2007, one of his first actions was to appoint a task force of administrators, faculty, staff and student veterans to study and report on what resources exist and what more are needed to support the educational and personal needs of our student veterans. Within a year St. Cloud State’s veterans had a new, more spacious center and a growing network of advocates on campus.

“Our student veterans bring important assets to our campus community,” Potter said. “They come to us as leaders, with confidence and maturity. We’re fortunate to have them, and I’m committed to building the resources that will make the most of the character and wisdom they have developed in service to their country.”

Now the Center is getting a lot of attention from other college campuses sharing the influx of student-veteran enrollees. “A lot of people are calling now from all over the country, from California to Florida, wanting to replicate our program,” McAuley said. “They find out through word of mouth and conferences.”

When Strong came to St. Cloud State, he had little in common with most of his fellow students. He’d enlisted just after his graduation from Maple Grove Senior High School in 2001, and life for him in the post-9/11 military was a far cry from the lifestyle of the students sitting next to him in most of his classes. But with powerful allies in other student veterans, as well as MnSCU, St. Cloud State leadership and McAuley, he helped create a center that’s become a model program for the nation.

At St. Cloud State, he has gotten the preparation he needed to successfully make the transition first from airman to student, then student to businessman. Before graduating with a major in history and minor in computer networking and application this May, Strong secured a job in Fargo as a technical account manager for Microsoft. It’s another major transition, but one he’s ready and eager to make.

Marsha Shoemaker


Motivational speaker

Sandy (Fischer) Hansen ’94

Sandy (Fischer) Hansen ’94, St. Joseph, a motivational speaker, shares life and business lessons from her experiences as a young widow who struggled to regain solid ground while assuming the responsibilities of her late husband’s business. The founder of Rock Solid Motion took over AgVenture Feeds, Watkins, after the death of her husband several years ago. She earned her bachelor’s degree in local and urban affairs.

Social worker


Carol Payne ’80, Becker, was appointed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty to the Minnesota Board of Social Work, responsible for licensing and disciplining social workers.  The head of Payne Consulting, a licensed social worker, earned her bachelor’s degree in social work and psychology.

Early riser

Melanie Tompkins ’03

Melanie Tompkins ’03 has taken over the role of anchor for ABC 6 News Good Morning from 5:30-7 a.m. weekdays on KAAL-TV, which serves Southern Minnesota and Northern Iowa. Prior to joining KAAL she was a reporter and anchor at KOLN/KGIN-TV in Lincoln, Neb., and an anchor at KSAX-TV in Alexandria. She also was a member of the news team at St. Cloud State’s UTVS that won several Associated Press awards for its coverage of the September 2003 Rocori High School shooting. Tompkins, whose on-air name is Melanie Bloom, earned her bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism.

Two-time author


Jeff Falkingham ’73, Eden Prairie, has published a second work of historical fiction, “Sherlock Holmes: In Search of the Source.” The book, set in St. Paul, also gives significant attention to the St. Cloud area. It is a sequel to his earlier work, “Sherlock Holmes and the County Courthouse Caper,” set in his hometown of Browns Valley in November 1886. Since its release as a fundraiser for victims of the March 2007 flood in Browns Valley, “Caper” has raised nearly $7,000. Find excerpts from both books at www.cccaper.com. Falkingham earned his bachelor’s degree in cinematography.

Active teacher


Patty (Hartmann) Mollberg ’84, Detroit Lakes, now in her 24th year of teaching, received the 2008 Middle School Physical Education Teacher of the Year Award from the Minnesota Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.  During her 24 years of teaching, now at Detroit Lakes Middle School, she has taught K-12 health and physical education courses and coached volleyball, track and tennis. She has taken leadership roles in such fitness activities as Shoot for the Stars Activity Day, the Lakes Area Jump Rope Club and the Hot Hands Basketball Club.

Underwriting VP

Jeff Pearson ’87

Jeff Pearson ’87, Oakdale, is assistant vice president of underwriting for Midwest Medical Insurance Company, Minneapolis, leading Upper Midwest medical professional liability insurance firm. Pearson, who holds the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter designation, has worked in the insurance industry for more than 20 years, most recently with St. Paul Companies. He earned his bachelor’s degree in finance.

Hispanic leader


Armando Camacho ’97, St. Paul, is one of 25 on the Rise in 2009, a list of Twin Cities Hispanic leaders of note. He is president of Neighborhood House, since 1897 a haven for immigrants in St. Paul. He earned his bachelor’s degree in special education.

Attorney of the Year

Michelle R. Jester ’91

Michelle R. Jester ’91, Anoka, is one of 20 professionals named 2008 Attorneys of the Year by Minnesota Lawyer. She has been with Messerli & Kramer P.A. for 13 years, gaining partner status in 2002. Her practice focuses on all aspects of real estate transactions, including sales and acquisitions, development, leasing and financing. She has special expertise in the representation of lenders in origination of loans, workouts and foreclosures. Messerli & Kramer has offices in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Plymouth.