The Student Activities Fair can be overwhelming for new students at K-State. At first glance it is just a sea of tables and hundreds of activities to choose from, but for Jessica Van Ranken it was the next few years of her life all in one room.
Now a junior working on a pre-law degree in political science with a minor in business, Van Ranken has various involvements on campus, many of which stemmed from her participation in the Student Activities Fair her freshman year. This year, she is the vice president of the Union Governing Board, director of community and internal relations on the Panhellenic Council, a member of the Student Foundation and a member of Sigma Kappa sorority.
When asked about which involvement she dedicated the most time and effort to VanRanken said, “The Student Governing Association is probably the involvement about which I feel most passionate.”
Van Ranken became involved in SGA her freshman year by applying for their intern program. Every year she has dedicated more time to SGA and now holds the title of speaker pro tempore of the Student Senate.
“SGA is the organization which allows a lot of other organizations to function and that means a lot to me,” Van Ranken said.
Being as involved as she is means maintaining a hectic schedule. Van Ranken attends about two meetings every day while also going to class, doing work for the organizations outside of the meetings and finding time to study. For many, a schedule that busy can lead to a lot of stress and maybe even effect their mood, but that is not the case for Van Ranken.
“She never gives less than 100 percent in everything that she does,” said friend and fellow student senator Sam Edwards, junior in public relations.
Van Ranken said she attributes this to not only her passion for the organizations she is involved in, but also her love for her peers and the overall atmosphere of K-State itself. She said she feels that being busy is not a burden when she enjoys every aspect of what she is doing.
“K-State is a wonderful place to feel busy (because) being involved (here) means that you are involved with a lot of other people who care about you and your success,” Van Ranken said.
Aside from her involvement with organizations on campus, Van Ranken has many other interests including Swedish folk dancing, reading, watching C-SPAN and spending time with her friends.
“Jessica really likes Sweden, coffee and McChickens,” Edwards said.
Van Ranken said her friends are very important to her and she makes a conscious effort to keep time in her schedule to hang out with them. Although she is not always able to be with her friends because of her schedule, her friends know that she is always there for them. Her friends describe her as funny, quirky and unique.
“You don’t meet people like Jessica often,” Lexi Zavala, junior in kinesiology and former roommate, said. “She always wants to go through life making people laugh.”
Van Ranken comes from Lindsborg, Kansas, a town of about 3,500 people. Lindsborg is known for its Swedish heritage and when asked about Swedish culture, her face lights up. Although she is not Swedish, she grew up around the culture and said she feels as if it is a part of who she is.
“In high school I was able to travel to Sweden and Denmark with my folk dancing team,” Van Ranken said. “I was very fortunate to have that experience.”
This past summer she was also able to spend a month in Mumbai, India. While there she interned for a microfinance nonprofit, which was centered on the idea of helping the impoverished in India by giving them small loans to put towards their entrepreneurial efforts through creating a stable business.
In the future, Van Ranken said she hopes to become a lawyer working for the public good. She has a special interest advocating the rights of the elderly. She also dreams of one day managing a large-scale political campaign.
Van Ranken said she has always known what she wanted to do with her future; however, in elementary school she once hoped to become a WNBA player with a part-time job as a hairdresser.
“I don’t really know what inspired that idea, because I cannot play basketball and I am terrible with my hair,” Van Ranken said.
With all of her experience in leadership roles and organization involvement, Van Ranken said the biggest thing she has learned is not to take life too seriously. She believes that enjoying life is extremely important and that a person must enjoy not only the things they are working toward, but also their life outside of those things.
She said she encourages students to put themselves out there and express their voice in everything that they do, which will help them grow as leaders. She also said finding your niche in college is extremely important and attributes Sigma Kappa as being her niche.
Being a leader, despite all of the stress, is part of what makes Jessica Van Ranken who she is. She found a place in the K-State family and has continued to strive to improve it with every organization she is involved in and every leadership role she has taken on.
“By the end of the year, you know that all of the stress is worth it to Jessica because she loves what she does,” Zavala said.