University President Nils Hasselmo told about 60 freshmen he was “as timid as you could be” when he started college.
The outgoing University leader encouraged new students to become leaders themselves Monday at a meeting of the Prospective Leaders Among New Students in Coffman Memorial Union.
“In a very real sense, you help create the University that we see today,” Hasselmo told the students. “For the University isn’t just bricks and mortar. … The University is people.”
The president helped kick off the leadership group’s first meeting of the year. The organization was started by members of the Minnesota Student Association, and its purpose is to help acquaint new students with the hundreds of organizations at the University.
“We hope that students get involved in MSA and student government,” said Helen Phin, MSA president. “But certainly we want students to get involved with the University, period.”
Phin said the group helps students learn skills, such as how to organize group functions and how to efficiently use resources, so they have better direction when they take on leadership roles.
The group, which used to be called the New Student Leadership Program, was formed last year when former MSA President Matt Musel and Vice-President Rebecca Mathern decided to change MSA’s freshman representative body.
The change included replacing MSA’s freshman council with the leadership program. The council had allowed new students to participate in student government even though they missed the spring MSA elections.
Phin said the council was a “microcosmic MSA” but had no direction. Her predecessors decided to use the council’s funds to train potential University leaders instead.
Turnout at Monday’s meeting was comparable to that of the group’s first meeting last year. Eric Hanson, MSA vice-president and coordinator of last year’s leadership program, said that “chaos and confusion” reigned at last year’s meetings. But, he added, the disorder made for “free-flowing and fun” meetings.
Runninghorse Livingston, a College of Liberal Arts junior and current program coordinator, said he hopes to bring that same “fun” atmosphere to this year’s meetings.
“Horse is one of the most entertaining people in (MSA), so it should be fun,” Hanson said.
Students who turned out for the first meeting came for a variety of reasons. Freshman Kevin Nicholson said he had signed up for the group at orientation and had received a call about the meeting the night before.
Michelle Stone and Jocelyn Haffele said they came to the meeting because they wanted to get involved in student government.
John Gerads also said that he was interested in student government but mentioned another reason for his attendance. “There’s free food here, too,” he said.