Thursday, September 29, 2011

DC Trip Day 1

Today was a successful day of lobbying on Capitol Hill. Unfortunately many of the representatives have returned to MN after the passing of the latest continuing resolution so we were not able to meet with them. However, the staff of each member were very interested in our message and spent time with us discussing higher education issues.

We met with staff from Senators Klobuchar and Frankin's offices and representatives McCollum, Kline, Cravaack and Ellison. Each of these meetings entailed a discussion of maintaining the maximum Pell grant and what work needs to be done to do so. We stressed the importance of maintaining these programs but not in turn for cutting other student assistance programs. With the two most recent decisions to maintain the maximum Pell grant have come cuts to two programs. The first was a decision to end subsidized loans for graduate students. The second, made most recently, was to end the 6 month grace period students receive after graduation for loan interest repayment. Our country cannot keep funding these programs on the backs of our students.

We will continue to share this message tomorrow when we meet with the rest of the MN delegation and the United States Student Association (USSA).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

DC Preview

DC Preview

This afternoon MSUSA board members Matt Lexcen from MSU-Mankato and Jack Linehan from Winona State University, Director of Government Relations, Jonathan Bohn and I flew to Washington D.C. To represent the over 75,000 students at the MnSCU universities.  Our goal? To continue to fight for Pell Grant funding, advocate for keeping the subsidized loan program for undergraduate students and to make sure that the MN delegation understands the importance of investment in higher education.

As you may be aware our country is fast approaching the September 30th budget deadline.  In response to the end of this continuing resolution, Congress passed another six week continuing resolution late last night. In it, the Maximum Pell Grant Level was held constant at $5,500 and the program was funded at same level.  The funding for Pell Grant was held constant as a result of the elimination of the 6th month grace period students receive after graduation on accruing interest payments on their subsidized loans.  Students will now being accruing interest on these loans right after their graduation but will still have a 6th month time period to begin paying it off.

Though it may seem the problem has been avoided, this is not the case.  This is a temporary fix and there is is still a lot of work to be done to make sure our representatives understand the importance of the Pell Grant and subsidized loans and the benefit they provide to MN students.

Tomorrow we will kick off our legislative work in our nation's capital. 

Be sure to check the MSUSA Facebook Page for updates daily.  I will be blogging nightly and posting pictures/video from each of our meetings.

September Conference Recap!

The September Conference with the MSUSA board of directors and campus committee members took place this last weekend at MSU-Mankato in Mankato, MN.  A big thank you to the Minnesota State Student Association (MSU-Mankato's student government) for hosting the conference!

We kicked off the conference Friday night with a game of "human bingo" as a fun meet and greet activity.  The rest of the night consisted of previewing the role of each campus specialist and outlining responsibilities for the year.  Director of Government Relations Jonathan Bohn outlined the duties of the legislative/MnSCU specialist. He present information on the local, state and federal platforms, addressing specific goals for each. Participants learned about the state bonding year for the upcoming session and MSUSA's plans to lobby for Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR) funding for projects on our universities. 

Next, Director of Communications, Jered Weber and Director of Development and Alumni Outreach, Kari Winter discussed PR strategies and how to effectively share the message of MSUSA.  Campus committees would later have an opportunity to compete in a "radio ad" competition where they each developed a radio advertisement dealing with something around MSUSA.

The last presentation of the evening was done by Director of Campus Organizing Matt Smriga.  Matt presented on the role of the diversity specialist and how their work fits in with the overall activities of the campus committee.  This also served as a time to hear what diversity related issues campuses are experiencing. 

Saturday morning began with two breakout sessions.  In one, the MSUSA Board of Directors discussed goals for the upcoming year and how to increase participation amongst students at our seven universities.  The conversation included ideas to build partnerships with other associations both public and private to engage students on our campuses in more of our day to day work.  There will be more conversations around these ideas in the future when the whole board is able to gather.

The other breakout session was a time for the campus committees, Vice Chair Nikki Sabby and the staff to go through specific tasks and a timeline for each campus committee position.  Campus committee members found this helpful and I think we will see a great deal of success as a result!

Senator Sheran and Representative Morrow joined our association for lunch on the MSU-Mankato campus- a school that is in their district.  Students at Mankato have developed a great working relationship with their local and state officials and these are two individuals who continue to work tirelessly on behalf of our students! Representative Morrow took the opportunity to lead a brainstorming session on the topic of a completely state funded undergraduate degree.  Students had the opportunity to develop ideas and address concerns they had.  Both him and Senator Sheran also made themselves available to discuss upcoming issues related to our respective campuses. 

The highlight of the board meeting was an opportunity for board members to meet with MnSCU Student Trustee, Brett Anderson who spoke to the remarks Chancellor Rosenstone presented to the MnSCU board of trustees and the potential for change in the system.  Brett also took the opportunity to hear concerns from board members regarding issues on campus and tuition and fees.  The board members all appreciated this opportunity and we look forward to working with Trustee Anderson over the next two years. 

The remainder of the board meeting consisted of updates.  It was reported we are still working on aquiring a building with our sister association MSCSA.  The acknowledgment for the accountability policy the board requested at the August Conference was presented and approved.  Changes to the employee handbook were approved with the exception of a health insurance opt-out provision which was tabled until the November board meeting. 

Overall, this conference was a success and I am confident our student leaders left well prepared to carryout the work of this association on their respective campuses.  Planning for the November Delegates conference is already underway so look for more information as that fast approaches. 

If you have any questions regarding the material covered at this conference please view the conference documents at or contact our office!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

September Board/Campus Committee Conference Preview

Student leaders from all the seven state universities (Bemidji State University, MSU-Mankato, Metropolitian State University,  MSU-Moorhead, St. Cloud State University, Southwest Minnesota State University and Winona State University) will gather this weekend (September 23-24) at Minnesota State University Mankato in Mankato, Minnesota for the September board and campus committee conference.  The MSUSA staff and officers have been hard at work planning for the upcoming year and we are all excited to share these plans with our campus leaders.

After this weekend our student leaders will have a better understanding of their roles and the work each person can expect to participate in this upcoming year.  Friday night will consist of overviews of each campus committee position.  The  diversitity, public relations and legislative/MnSCU specialists will leave with clear expectations of the position and excited to tell more students about the work of MSUSA.

On Saturday the board of directors and campus committees will enter into breakout sessions where each group will discuss goals for the upcoming year both broadly for the association and specifically for each campus. Kari Winter, Director of Development and Alumni Outreach, will introduce the Campus Fundraising Competition for the McCormick Student Leadership Scholarship. More information on the competition will in a later blog post, but trust me, it will be epic!

The MSUSA Board of Directors will meet Saturday afternoon.  The board agenda consists of mostly updates but also includes a conversation with MnSCU Student Trustee Brett Anderson.  Trustee Anderson will listen to student concerns and campus issues and lead a conversation on potential changes to the MnSCU system. 

For more information on what will be covered this weekend click here.

I look forward to what promises to be a fun and productive weekend!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

WSU Campus Visit... Success!

On a crisp late-summer day, I, along with my brave sidekick, Director of Communications Jered Weber, made a glorious trip to Winona State University. The object of our quest was to meet with the WSU “Fab Four,” known to the outside world as the MSUSA campus committee.

The campus was buzzing with activity as we arrived. It was inspiring to see all the bright, enthusiastic students filled with hope as they begin the new academic year (it was quite the contrast to Jered’s half-asleep, groggy demeanor. Let’s just say he’s not a morning person).

Jered and I met up with the WSU campus committee shortly after we arrived. Sharon, Katie, Danielle and Tram were a breath of fresh air and their energy succeeded in bringing Jered to a state of full lucidity. The ladies were excited to begin campus committee work and I was impressed with their grasp of why working to promote MSUSA is so important. We spent some time chatting and getting to know each other and then proceeded to do an organizing activity out on the beautiful Winona campus mall. The sun glinted off our clipboards as we practiced the much-feared but incredibly effective art of person-to-person canvassing.

Meanwhile, Jered and Katie (the PR Specialist for WSU) met with several WSU media contacts in order to begin a mutual relationship of unbridled glory and justice (i.e. getting MSUSA mentioned in campus radio and TV broadcasts and in the campus newspaper).

Jered and I left WSU feeling uplifted and inspired by the dedication and talent demonstrated by the WSU Fab Four. Well done ladies. We look forward to working with you throughout the year!

Onward and upward to the next campus!

Penny Application Due Date: November 1st!

Only a month and a half until Penny Program applications are due!

The Penny Fellowship & Scholarship Program assists Minnesota State College and University (MnSCU) students financially so that they can participate in unpaid public service internships and continue their commitment to community service. Please help us to share this information with students you work with. Students attending any MnSCU institution (state universities or community and technical colleges) are eligible. The Penny Program is sponsored by the Minnesota State University Student Association (MSUSA), which represents the more than 70,000 students attending Minnesota’s seven state universities.

Timothy J. Penny Federal Public Service Fellowship
The purpose of this fellowship is to provide MnSCU students with the financial opportunity to grow as public servants through participation in federal government internships in the Washington, DC area. Fellowships of $5,000 each will be given out to students for internships in Washington D.C.

Timothy J. Penny State Public Service Fellowship
The purpose of this fellowship is to provide MnSCU students with the financial opportunity to grow as public servants through participation in Minnesota state or local government internships. Fellowships of $2,500 each will be given out to students for legislative internships or an internship in Minnesota at a state agency.

Once a fellowship is granted, the successful applicant has up to one year to implement an internship activity. The Board will require confirmation from the supervisor of the internship before funds will be released. Each successful applicant will be assigned a mentor from the Penny Program Board, who will assist the student in finding an appropriate internship site.

Barbara J. Penny Community Service Scholarship
The purpose of the Barbara Penny Community Service Scholarship is to recognize MnSCU students who have demonstrated a commitment to community service, and to promote their growth as community leaders. The Penny Scholarship monetarily awards two students a year with up to $1,500 each.

Applications are due November 1st and can be downloaded online at

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

MSUSA Meets with MnSCU Chancellor

MSUSA and MSCSA held it's first joint meeting with the new MnSCU Chancellor Dr. Steven Rosenstone last week. Amanda Bardonner, State Chair and Jonathan Bohn, Director of Government Relations attended for MSUSA. Traditionally these meetings have been held with a large contingent of staff from MnSCU but the student organizations requested to change the format with Dr. Rosenstone and focus more on important broad topics with a focus on long-term reform.

In this meeting we focused on three areas: online education, credit transfer and the observations of the Chancellor during his campus visits. During our discussion about online education we focused on the best ways to deliver online education for students. Credit transfer will continue to be a controversial topic within MnSCU and the discussion at this meeting focused on continuing the progress we have made in recent years. We discussed how to ensure that transferring within the system is flawless and meets the needs of the students being served from their perspective and not just from the perspective of the system and faculty.

Next we moved on to Chancellor Rosenstone's observations from the traveling he had done over the summer. Rosenstone traveled more than 4,000 miles to visit MnSCU campuses and meet with student, administrative and faculty leaders. He told the group that from these meetings he quickly learned that MnSCU has very dedicated leaders that are committed to delivering the highest quality education available in the country.

We look forward to continued discussions with the Chancellor. The two organizations meet almost monthly with the Chancellor and his staff. These meetings help the Chancellor maintain contact with the students and hear the problems they are facing.

Please check the blog for continued updates.

Penny Program 25th Anniversary Logo Contest Winner!

Congratulations to Chris M. Dugan, a student at Anoka-Ramsey Community College for winning the Penny Program's 25th Anniversary $500 logo contest! He's originally from Coon Rapids, MN and earning his Associate's degree in Fine Arts. He plans to continue on to earn his Bachelor's with a focus on Graphic Design or Printmaking and heard about the contest through a professor.

The Penny Program will be celebrating it's 25th Anniversary in 2012. The program awards Minnesota state college and university students who participate in public service internships and show a commitment to community service.

Join us for the 24th Annual Penny Program Fundraising Reception and Silent Auction on Friday, November 11th, 6-9pm at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Park.

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Conversation with MnSCU Student Trustee, Brett Anderson

MSUSA Director of Government Relations, Jonathan Bohn had a chance to sit down with recently appointed MnSCU student trustee, Brett Anderson to talk about his background and plans for his new role. Check out the interview below or click here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Alumni Update: August 2011

Happy Hour, October 6th
Join us at O'Gara's Bar and Grill in Saint Paul on Thursday, October 6th, 4:30pm - 7:00pm for a happy hour social event! This will be a great chance to network with other alumni and to learn more about the Alumni Association.

Alumni Board Meeting Held, September 1st
The Alumni Association Board held a meeting on Thursday, September 1st. At the meeting they discussed their 2010-2011 successes, voted to become a sponsor at the Penny Reception and set meeting dates for the first Thursday of every other month, starting November 3rd, 2011.

At-Large Seat Vacancy
The MSUSA Alumni Association Board is currently accepting applications for one At-Large position. This term will run until the Annual Meeting in Spring 2012. Please contact Board Chair, Josh Martin if you are interested.

Meagan Hertzog Appointed to Alumni Board
Congratulations to Meagan Hertzog for her appointment to the MSU, Mankato seat on the Alumni Association Board. She will serve on the Advocacy Committee. Meagan's term will run until the Annual Meeting in Spring 2012.

Alumni Spotlight: Brian Schoenborn
Check out our most recent Alumni Spotlight featuring Brian Schoenborn. Brian served as the State Chair in 1991-1992 and as legal counsel for MSUSA over the years. He's a graduate of St. Cloud State University and currently works as the Managing Partner of the St. Cloud office of the Leonard, Street and Deinard law firm.

Andrew Spaeth Completes Voyageur's Hudson Bay Expedition

Congratulations to Andrew Spaeth, our 2010-2011 State Chair, for completing the over 1400 mile canoe journey from Lake Superior to Hudson Bay. With three others, Andrew spent 77 days on this adventure over the summer. Click here to learn more.

Register now: Mentorship Program
Eight students have registered for the Spring 2011 Mentorship Program and are looking for alumni just like you to work with! Please register online today to mentor a student. Each mentorship pair can be customized to communication styles and topics. This is a great way to get to know future leaders and give back to MSUSA.

24th Annual Penny Reception, November 11th, 2011
The Alumni Association will be a Penny Pod Sponsor at the November 11th, 2011 Penny Reception. You are invited to join us at this fun event to support MnSCU students who have shown a commitment to community service and participate in public service internships. It will be held from 6-9pm at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Park and will feature live music, hors d'oeuvres, a silent auction, fundraising games and a cash bar. You can register and/or pay online by clicking here.

Thank Congress for Protecting Pell Grants
Please help us to thank members of Congress for contributing $17 billion over the next two years towards the Pell Grant. While this was a huge victory, there is still the possibility this funding could be cut when FY12 education appropriations legislation is written.

Student Conference, September 23rd - 24th
The MSUSA Board of Directors and Campus Committees will be meeting in Mankato, September 23rd - 24th. Students will learn how to create a radio ad, go over the details of the Campus Committee member job descriptions, and kick-off the McCormick Leadership Scholarship campus fundraising competition - The Campus Cash Clash.

MnSCU Foundation Golf Scramble, September 23rd, 2011
A foursome from the MSUSA Alumni Association will be present at the MnSCU Foundation Golf Scramble being held on September 23rd, 2011 at the Oak Glen Golf Course in Stillwater, MN. Check-in is at 11am with the program and raffle ending the evening at 5:30pm. However, we need alumni to fill the team! If you are interested in this free golf opportunity, please contact Board Chair, Josh Martin by Friday, September 9th.

MSCSA Hiring Director of Government Relations
The Minnesota State College Student Association will be accepting applications until September 16th for their Director of Government Relations position. This person will carry out state and federal legislative objectives of the association, including the growth and maintenance of strategic relationships. Click here for more information.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Thank Congress for Protecting Pell Grants

Dear Students:

Over the past few months MSUSA has focused much of its legislative effort on funding for the Pell Grant program, with a goal of preserving the current $5,550 Pell Grant maximum. This concerted effort included sending out various legislative alerts, letters to the editors, and a trip to DC to meet with the MN Congressional delegation.

The recently enacted Budget Control Act of 2011 raised the debt ceiling and provided $17 billion over the next two years to help shore up the Pell Grant program. This was an incredible victory for college and university advocates and for all of higher education, since Pell Grant funding was increased in a bill that otherwise dramatically reduced federal spending.

In light of this extraordinary achievement, we believe that it is crucial that our students contact their Congress person and Senators as soon as possible to thank them for making Pell Grants a budget priority. Hearing from students now could reinforce our message and help discourage cuts for the program when the Fiscal Year (FY)2012 education appropriations legislation is written. We continue to hear reports that serious consideration is being given to trimming the program from its current levels, despite the infusion of funds just provided.

Please urge your fellow students to contact Congress, ideally by Wednesday, September 7, though contacts from them would be helpful at any time. Students can make these contacts through the Pell Grant Action Center, where with a few clicks you can send a message to your representative and senators.

We urge you to encourage widespread participation in this effort. For further information, please contact Jonathan Bohn, Director of Government Relations at