Student leadership: spirit inspires hope

While living on campus as a full-time student since the fall of 1992, I have been involved in more than 20 student organizations. I have worked with some incredible student leaders. And, unfortunately, I have also witnessed some not-so-incredible ones. There are always some students who foolishly seek titles in order to add another bold-faced heading to their resume. They gain powerful positions and seek attention for themselves, but in the end, they’re ineffective leaders. My broad range of experiences at the University, however, has shown me that this kind of student is the exception, not the rule.
Student leaders abound at the University. They can come from tiny rural high schools or suburban private ones. They can be graduate or post-secondary students. They can be of any race, nationality or gender. They can be political science or food science majors. They can influence one student or the entire student body. The fact is, there are many different kinds of dedicated student leaders and they are too often taken for granted.
I would like to thank those students among us who lead. The state of Minnesota should value these students for their strength and spirit and work to keep them here as its future lawmakers, doctors, engineers and musicians.
With the diverse nature of our University, it is impossible to name all of the student leaders from this year. With that in mind, I would like to share a small sample of the kinds of leaders who have personally given me faith in the future of this institution. They are students of sacrifice and honor who represent the hundreds of “good eggs” at this University. You may recognize some of their names, but most are known only through their work.
Friendly Spirit: Rebecca Mathern served as the Minnesota Student Association’s vice president last year. She worked all year long on the Student Unions Board and Women’s Week. She’s also an active member of Kappa Alpha Theta. Mathern is one of the easiest people in the world to talk to. Her genuine smile helped students during her frequent meetings with administrators as MSA vice president.
Spirit giver: Brian Bonin was a team captain on this year’s men’s hockey team. He won the Hobey Baker Award, which recognized him as the best college hockey player in the nation. Throughout his hockey career, Bonin gave the University a sense of worth and pride. When other Minnesota sports teams were losing, the morale of the state rode on his shoulders. But he didn’t complain. Instead he worked hard, and when he succeeded, he graciously credited those around him.
Spirit maker. Drew Kunkel was the baton-waving drum major of last year’s marching band. With his on-field acrobatics and months of practice, Kunkel did all he could to uplift the University with the band’s talent and tradition.
Equality through strength. Cherie Espinosa spent the year working as an outspoken activist for the La Raza Student Cultural Center. She was successful in each of her battles, which included fighting for minority grant funding, leading University and Big Ten students in discussions on boycotting California table grapes, and challenging MSA to try and understand diversity issues.
Spirit speaker. As chairman of MSA’s Academic Affairs Committee, Matthew Curry spent his year pursuing the publication of professor evaluations. He consistently had to defend his conservative values as a member of MSA and the Student Services Fees Committee. Many times, he stood alone and held his ground so that his voice — no matter how unpopular — would be heard loud and clear.
Respect through strength. Katherine James served as the 1995-96 graduate and professional student body president. She lobbied hard for funding for the Academic Health Center at the state Capitol and organized a recent University-wide symposium. During her term, James used her smart, professional and focused style to fight for graduate students’ causes.
Spirit thinker. Jim Hilt served as chairman of this year’s Homecoming Committee and the 1995-96 Student Activities Board. He also served on the Student Service Fees Committee and ran for MSA president. Hilt should be recognized for his creative brainstorming. He is always trying to find new ways to solve old problems.
Suffrage through strength. Cori Ertz is a second-year resident assistant at Middlebrook Hall. She also serves on the University Wellness Task Force. Ertz continually sacrifices everything she can for the causes and people in which she believes. And as the chairwoman of MSA’s Legislative Affairs Committee last year, Ertz gave students an unyielding voice on tuition and financial aid issues at the federal and state levels.
Spirit dreamer. Matt Musel served as the president of MSA this past year. He built the organization around the kind of person he is: more progressive than reactionary. In the beginning, Musel led students by showing them his way, and by the end of his term, he forced others to show him their ways of leadership. Musel worked alongside students in battles for tuition relief, minority grants and General College. He is a true visionary who isn’t afraid to challenge the beliefs and prejudices of others. Finally, like everyone on this list, Musel puts the good of others before himself.
The 1996 President’s Annual Awards Program will be held tonight at Coffman Memorial Union. Student leaders will gather to celebrate with other leaders like themselves who dedicate large portions of their lives to the University. The banquet, which is sponsored by the Office of Student Activities, will recognize more than 100 students for their leadership and service to the community.
I believe the students mentioned above, those who will be honored tonight and those who will follow in their footsteps are exactly what Truman E. Rickard wrote about in our school’s alma mater, “Hail! Minnesota”:
“Thy sons and daughters true will proclaim thee near and far; They will guard thy fame and adore thy name; Thou shalt be their Northern Star.”
Sam Black is a senior in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and is a member of the Daily’s editorial board.