Young and in charge

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The K-State men’s basketball team is not the only group on campus led by a talented set of underclassmen.

As the spring term begins, campus braces for the usual rush of membership drives, philanthropy campaigns and student government elections typically led by juniors and seniors; but like the basketball squad, many organizations on campus are benefiting from the talents of promising freshmen and sophomores.

More than farming

Bethany Bohnenblust, freshman in agriculture communication, might have one of the busiest schedules on campus.

In June 2007, Bohnenblust was selected as state president of the Kansas FFA Association – an organization with more than 7,300 members.

Even after starting school in August, Bohnenblust found time to drive more than 12,000 miles promoting agriculture in Kansas as the state president.

Bohnenblust admitted the difficulty of balancing class and her commitment to FFA, but she said she stays motivated by the relationships she has formed with her fellow officers and the people she meets across the state.

“I love working with people,” Bohnenblust said, “and going out and talking to the family farmer who has been doing his job for 80 years and finding common ground.”

In almost eight months as state president, Bohnenblust has spoken to more than 15,000 people about agricultural issues.

Over winter break she traveled with four other K?State officers on an FFA-sponsored trip to Spain. There, she learned about the similarities between U.S. and European agriculture and noticed some striking differences.

“Over here, a big ideal is freedom and independence, but it’s not a big deal for them,” Bohnenblust said, alluding to the contrasting levels of autonomy enjoyed by farmers on the two continents. “They have no problem signing over all their business decisions or selling their land.”

Her passion for agriculture is evident. Bohnenblust jumped headfirst into the College of Agriculture, joining the Agriculture Communicators of Tomorrow (ACT) and the College of Agriculture Training Program (CAT). She said her role as FFA president has been rewarding, and the lessons learned have complemented her first semester experiences in the classroom.

“College isn’t truly learning about how to solve math problems or how to grow mold,” she said. “What it does teach us is how to think in the world we live in, how to call to action for a cause, and how to connect with our talents, with teachers, and within an industry.”

Searching her options

Where some choose to focus their energy on one event or organization, others have spent their first few semesters exploring as many clubs as possible.

Courtney Held, sophomore in dietetics, began exploring every opportunity from her first days on campus.

Held joined Alpha Delta Pi sorority her freshman year, and has risen to the role of formal recruitment chair.

She said other members of her chapter first encouraged her to explore all the possibilities on campus.

“The women in the house are so involved they really encouraged me to do the same,” said Held. “[They] told me about some of the organizations they were in. It really helped to have their perspective and hear firsthand what some of the clubs were like.”

Held took the advice to heart, becoming a Student Senate intern, a member of Quest Freshman Honorary, and joining Student Foundation and Student Alumni Board her freshman year. Held has also assumed a leadership position in SAB, serving as the co-chair of a committee that plans the student enhancement programs Wildcat Welcome Day and Senior Send-off. Busier than ever, Held said she still discovers positions that interest her.

“As the months and years roll by, I am constantly hearing about organizations that I want to be a part of,” she said. “I’ve been adding on here and there. It’s hard not to join everything.”

It is even harder for Held to imagine her life without all of the clubs, organizations, projects and priorities that keep her busy. When asked to envision a life that is less busy, Held said she would prefer to keep her schedule as it is now.

“I think about [if I would like being less involved] sometimes – when I have a free weekend or a non-busy day,” she said. “I don’t know what to do with myself. I get bored and antsy. I feel like I would go nuts without all of this. When I know I have a lot of things to do, it’s easier to get them done – I get on a roll and in the mode.”

Held said she can stay busy on campus and still keep academics her No. 1 priority. Brianna Nelson Goff, associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Human Ecology, identified Held as an exceptional student, where she recently became a member of the Student Dietetic Association.

Held hopes her involvement benefits students now and in the future.

“I think that making things better for future students is really important, and you should always leave things better than you found them,” Held said. “If no one gave back to the school, things would never change or get better. Then where would we be? I appreciate everything that those who have come before me did, and I want to provide those same experiences and opportunities to those who come after me.”

Choosing the best

K-State’s nationally recognized student recruitment programs have received an added boost this year from sophomores Paul Mintner and Kelsey Moran. The two are the coordinators of the K-State Scholars recruitment effort, operated through New Student Services.

“[We are] responsible for personally scheduling campus visits for around 500 high achieving prospective students each semester,” said Mintner. Visiting high school students have their days meticulously planned by Mintner and Moran, ensuring the prospective students have a campus tour, meet with faculty in their academic areas of interest and learn more about leadership opportunities and scholarships.

“The K-State Scholars program is an effort to showcase the best of K-State and convince them this university is the best environment for their academic and professional development,” Mintner said, adding the project is in the first year of its existence.

“This summer there was a conversation between several K-State scholarship recipients, faculty members, and Dean of Student Life Pat Bosco about how to recruit these kinds of students to K-State,” Mintner said. “This program was born from that vision.”

Mintner’s one and a half years at K-State have been demanding but gratifying, and being involved has been the hallmark of his short time on campus.

“There are so many amazing opportunities and people at K-State,” he said. “Getting involved can be hard work, but it’s so worthwhile in the long run.”

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