Student Unions & Activities : University of Minnesota

Student Unions & Activities logo

People's Choice Award

This award recognizes two outstanding student groups selected by the students at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.  The nominees in this category are the top 5 groups in the Outstanding Undergraduate Student Group of the Year and Outstanding Graduate or Professional Student Group of the Year categories as determined by the Excellence Awards Selection Committee.  The two winning groups will be announced at the Tony Diggs Excellence Awards Ceremony.

Learn more about the 2017 nominated groups by reading the following excerpts from the groups' Excellence Award nomination.  For more information on each group, visit their profile on GopherLink.

Group Nominee Overview

Outstanding Undergraduate Student Group of the Year

Outstanding Graduate or Professional Student Group of the Year

Outstanding Undergraduate Student Group of the Year

CFANS Undergraduate Student Board

Back to Top

What are the mission, purpose and goals of the group and how has the group met or exceeded these goals?

The mission of the CFANS Undergraduate Student Board is to represent CFANS students and provide them with the opportunity to participate in the consideration of the curricula, instruction, educational facilities, policies and goals of CFANS; as well as to provide students with the practical experience of participating directly in decisions concerning their academic and professional life. Our ultimate goal is to create open lines of communication across all levels of the college through hosting events and building connections between CFANS students, faculty and staff, and alumni.

The CFANS Undergraduate Student Board has accomplished this mission by uniting the CFANS community. CFANS has benefited through faculty-student engagement events, student unifying programs and professional career events. These events help students feel like they belong in CFANS and create professional skill building opportunities. Specific events include Picnic on the Plaza, Bagels with Brian, Student Thoughts Forums, CFANS Spirit Week, Speed Networking with CFANS Alumni, and Borealis Night of Excellence. Picnic on the Plaza, CFANS Spirit Week, and Borealis Night of Excellence are all events that were created with the goal to celebrate students and faculty within CFANS. Bagels with Dean Brian Buhr and the Student Thoughts Forum are held to connect the faculty and staff to students. Speed Networking connects CFANS students and alumni and encourages conversation between the two. By providing these opportunities for students to feel included and be successful, we are improving the quality of our students’ experience at the University of Minnesota.

Please address how the student group was outstanding in the following areas: recruitment, marketing and outreach, leadership development, and event planning.

Recruitment: The student board has a board consisting of 51 student positions and this allows us to be present in the classrooms as peers to inform how to become more involved in CFANS. Every meeting is open to the public to allow students to voice their opinions. We assist the admissions team with tours of the St. Paul campus to give a firsthand account of what it’s like to be a student in CFANS. We believe that students are one of the best recruitment tools for CFANS and we have readily assisted CFANS Admissions office with a variety of opportunities.

Marketing and Outreach: The student board uses social media, printed posters, direct communication through emails, and word of mouth to spread information around the CFANS undergraduate student body regarding the events we host to improve the vitality of the student body.

Leadership Development: Leadership development is a priority of the board for our own members of the board as well as students who attend CFANS Student Board events. Additionally, the CFANS Student Board sponsors over 30 college-related events not specifically coordinated by the student board each year. Students who attend student board meetings get to listen to speakers, hear about leadership development opportunities, and participate in planning the events we facilitate.

Event Planning: The CFANS Student Board holds each other accountable for event planning by email check-ins, in-person meetings, and SMART goals. The board sets deadlines for each responsibility associated with an event and reports back to the board when each responsibility is checked off. There are constantly events that are being planned by the board as a whole (Doughnuts with Dean Brian Buhr), individual major representatives (Student Networking Night), and our advisors (Alumni Social Events). All of these events are subject to the Student Board’s accountability standards.

Design U

Back to Top

What are the mission, purpose and goals of the group and how has the group met or exceeded these goals?

Design U exists to provide students with the opportunity to engage in fast-paced, real world design challenges by partnering with startups and nonprofits around the Minneapolis and St. Paul area. Our organization is composed of students from all different academic backgrounds, bringing together the skills and interests of engineers, businessmen and women, and designers to successfully operate as a product design consultancy. Design U is structured under 3 divisions, Research + Strategy, Digital, and Prototyping, which are then connected with clients seeking work in respective areas. We create strong and mutually beneficial relationships with our clients; students are given an opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills in different industries while the start-ups receive free service and insight from college students. This past fall, the group had a total of 110 applicants from students spanning across CDes, CSOM, CSE, CE+HD and CLA. After a formal interviewing process, 45 driven and qualified students were selected and placed on teams of 5 in their selected division. The teams were then paired with one of 8 companies: Planned Parenthood, Art Shanty Projects, Make It Simple, Love One Another, Homi, Spark DJ, The Loft Literary Center, or Live.Give.Save. Each team effectively communicated and collaborated with clients while following a 10 week project timeline to create an exceptional deliverable.

Please address how the student group was outstanding in the following areas: recruitment, marketing and outreach, leadership development, and event planning.

Recruitment for members was accomplished through Welcome Week events, classroom visits, personal networking, and social media. During Welcome Week, we utilized a handmade , light up booth and focused on increasing awareness + interest among incoming freshmen by participating in several student organization fairs. We advertised the group’s interdisciplinary functionality and real world connection, and targeted students from all engineering, business, and design fields through flyers, branded laptop stickers, and laser cut magnets. In order to reach older and more experienced members, we recruited from upper division level classes within CSOM, CSE, and CDes. We utilized Facebook and Instagram to further create awareness and interest of the group. We successfully received an interest of over 350 students, of which 110 applied. Throughout the semester, we continued to display Design U’s progress and achievements via social media.

Our funds were used in three ways: providing resources for each division, member trainings, and event planning. We purchased building materials for the Prototyping teams, software for the Digital teams, and interviewing materials for the Research + Strategy teams. We used these resources to implement trainings for all group members, covering the design thinking process as well as division specific trainings in which industry and faculty were invited to lead. Design U hosts several events for members, such as our bi-annual Portfolio Showcase and 10,000 Makes. Our Portfolio Showcase is an opportunity to celebrate the members’ hard work and present the projects to clients (current and prospective) and the public. 10,000 Makes is 2-day event which invited students from all disciplines to create + build a solution to a specific theme. Lastly, we host several team bonding events in hopes to foster lasting relationships and create a tight knit community.

Education Minnesota Student Chapter

Back to Top

What are the mission, purpose and goals of the group and how has the group met or exceeded these goals?

This vibrant student group epitomizes the importance of small ‘d’ democracy, professional leadership, and the ability to empower others. These dedicated group members provide a voice for pre-service educators, serve as an ally for Minnesota PK-12 students and their communities, advocate on behalf of the education profession, and inspire professional innovation.   They facilitate opportunities for leadership, community involvement, and professional development in the field of education to engage a wide-range of participants and to generate robust impact. Here is a sample of their recent events.

Community Events:

-Read Across America - Marcy Open School
-Minnesota Educator Academy Professional Conference - Exhibitor
-Outreach to Teach Service Project - Kenny Elementary
-Student Interviewer - MN Teacher of the Year Candidates

University of Minnesota Events:

-Out in Education with GBLT/Queer Alliance and OStem
-Degrees Not Debt
-Restorative Justice Practices
-Film Screening: ‘Fear & Learning at Hoover Elementary’
-Why Unions Matter
-Addressing the Opportunity Gap

Campus Engagement:

- Explore U
- Paint the Bridge
- Student Unions & Activities Leadership Summit

CEHD Engagement:

- Fall Block Party
- Micro-Grant Recipient to create Gender Neutral Bathroom in Peik Hall                                                                                     

These activities exemplify how this student group follows through on commitments, initiate action, and effectively engage others to enhance outcomes.  Through their ability to effectively plan, they contribute to the betterment of society and project an optimistic perspective through their many endeavors.

Please address how the student group was outstanding in the following areas: recruitment, marketing and outreach, leadership development, and event planning.

Education Minnesota Student Chapter, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities has catapulted their visibility by marketing through Facebook, Twitter, composing editorials in the Minnesota Daily, being featured within Minnesota Educator magazine, and the CEHD Burton Brief newsletter.  The group communicates and collaborates with Education Minnesota student chapters at other Minnesota universities for inspiration and feedback on how to better their organizational work.

University of Minnesota Education Minnesota Student Chapter Executive Board Officers convene at the start of each semester to plan impactful events, with ‘teach-ins’ occurring twice a month during the academic year.  They have benefited from officer training at the Education Minnesota Spring and Fall Leadership Conferences and the National Education Association Leadership Summit. They strive to empower future educators by discussing relevant topics in public education such as how to increase racial diversity among teachers and methods to meet the needs of all students.

Most notably, the group led a service project at Kenny Community School in Minneapolis last spring.  This project assisted the school in expanding inclusive curriculum materials for the students, staff, and community.  This project reflects how this student group appreciates the importance of diversity and conveys this value to others.  The group organized an inventory of the current books within Kenny's library and provided new books upon the request of educators to enhance their inclusive and culturally relevant teaching.  The University of Minnesota group also invited the collaboration from statewide Education Minnesota student programs. Participants came from Moorhead to Winona and locations in-between.

Tesla Works

Back to Top

What are the mission, purpose and goals of the group and how has the group met or exceeded these goals?

The purpose of Tesla Works is to foster hands-on learning outside of the classroom and inspire students to challenge themselves with projects that they would otherwise not have the resources to make. Tesla Works provides a unique foundation for the pursuit of innovative and challenging projects that enhance students’ overall academic experience and skill set. We provide a framework in which any student can submit an idea to the group, gather support, and bring their idea to a finished product.

In 2017 our members started 12 new projects, 8 of which are still active and 2 of which are now completed. Almost half of our 18 active projects were started in 2017. Each project is led by a student project manager, who is able to get hands-on experience leading a team and completing a project. Members learn how to work in teams towards a common goal displaying their work to the University at project showcases each semester.

Tesla Works also strives to introduce makers to our community and teach them any technical skills they want to learn. We do this through weekly events called Friday Night Projects. Each Friday Night Project is a hands-on learning experience, and can be anything from groups making boats to everyone building two Dance Dance Revolution pads. Everyone is encouraged to participate and work on whatever part of the project interests them, no experience necessary. Members are able to share knowledge and gain comfort building in a structured, low-risk environment.

Please address how the student group was outstanding in the following areas: recruitment, marketing and outreach, leadership development, and event planning.

Tesla Works has an outstanding recruitment and marketing strategy: we simply show off the cool stuff we’ve made! Projects such as our Rubens’ tube, wave pendulum, and Slayer Exciter were demonstrated to over 5,000 people from 2014 to 2017. Our name recognition has grown through marketing ourselves at events like the State Fair, Tech Fest at The Works Museum, and the Minneapolis-St. Paul Mini Maker Faire. Students on campus also see our demos at various events like the Fall and Spring Activities Fairs and our own semesterly project showcases. Through these and similar events we have added 430 new members to our email list in 2017.

Only half of the officers board is elected each semester, which allows continuing officers to train the new officers. In 2017, Tesla Works has improved this transitional period by encouraging departing officers to document their role, providing a general framework for future officers to reference while encouraging them to customize their position. This creates a sense of interdependence within the officers board while not hindering the independence of individual officers.

During the fall Tesla Works planned an event as part of Day of Design, a national event to teach design thinking. About 10 active projects were present and working through different phases of the design process. Participants could join any project and help them ideate, design, or build. The event was a huge success; members and project managers alike loved it, and our video was featured by the organizers of Day of Design.

Volunteer Tax Assistance Program

Back to Top

What are the mission, purpose and goals of the group and how has the group met or exceeded these goals?

VTAP strives to offer exceptional Federal and State tax services to the University of Minnesota community free of charge. We feel we have a responsibility to give back to the community that has taught us the skills we need to have successful careers. This is accomplished through the training of students in technical aspects of tax preparation as well as in professionalism. It is our goal that the service learning opportunity VTAP provides will give students knowledge that will help them prepare for future careers.

In the last year, VTAP trained over 100 volunteers in basic tax knowledge and professionalism. With these volunteers, VTAP was able to complete 1,400 tax returns. After a visit from the IRS, the VTAP site was given an excellent rating. With a return rejection rate of under 5%, VTAP performed twice as well as the national average. The organization as a whole has shown resilience, as it went through major infrastructural changes. After losing funding from MSA, VTAP officially became a nonprofit in 2017, and obtained a grant from the state of Minnesota to keep its doors open. This last year, VTAP has shown its ability to thrive in this time of ambiguity.

Please address how the student group was outstanding in the following areas: recruitment, marketing and outreach, leadership development, and event planning.

Recruitment is vital to VTAP's success. Over the last year, the organization has expanded recruitment to all areas of the University. While still a club based out of Carlson, there are volunteers with majors ranging from Actuarial Science to Chemical Engineering. VTAP appreciates that any student can be good at taxes, not only accounting or finance majors. This appreciation of differences has made the organization stronger, and more well-rounded.

VTAP thinks of every single volunteer as a leader. They are leaders in the office, and leaders amongst their classmates. Knowing how to do taxes is a unique skill for a college student but learning the soft skills that go along with that makes VTAP's volunteers a cut above the average student. Every volunteer goes through 4 weeks of training to learn how to operate within the office. The leadership team that runs the office on a day to day basis goes through even more extensive training. During the 2017 tax season, VTAP had an executive board for the first time ever. The position descriptions had to be written, and training had to be done for each individual. VTAP made this change out of a desire to elevate more leaders within the organization and allow more students a chance to be involved with the backend of the organization. This is something that will be carried forward in the organization for years to come.

With the executive board, came the first ever VP of Marketing. The creation of this position allowed for increased marketing around recruiting season, and elevated use of social media during tax filing season. For the first time ever, VTAP had corporate sponsors in 2017. The leadership of the organization reached out to individual businesses asking for any amount of sponsorship they could give. Sponsorship materials were developed for this, and VTAP was able to secure over $2000 in funding.

The relationships developed with sponsors lead to the biggest event VTAP has hosted to date- a Big 4 networking event. At this event, the Big 4 Accounting firms came to Coffman with 4-6 representatives and networked with around 50 of VTAP's volunteers. This had been a goal of VTAP's for many years, and it was a tremendous success. The sponsors had nothing but positive feedback, and VTAP's leadership is currently planning the next event.

Outstanding Graduate or Professional Student Group of the Year

Medical Industry Leadership Institute Student Group

Back to Top

What are the mission, purpose and goals of the group and how has the group met or exceeded these goals?

The mission of the Medical Industry Leadership Institute's Student Association (MILIsa) is to develop and promote a sustainable network of professionals, locally and globally, linked to all facets of the medical industry, with the purpose of creating opportunities for success in and transition to the medical industry. The group will accomplish this through interactions with the healthcare community, alumni and other students, whereby gaining exposure to current and relevant topics in the field.

The vision of MILISA is to develop new leaders for success in the global medical industry.

Our goals are as follows:

  • Increase the exposure of members to the medical community both at the university and in industry
  • Create opportunities for members to engage medical industry representatives and recruiters
  • Help prepare members for medical industry interviews leading to successful transitions post-graduation

Over the past year, MILIsa has expanded its offerings to include more interaction between the alumni and students, including a formal mentorship program, as well as among students from different schools.  The group also helped to host a record number of events, ranging from tailgates to site visits. The healthcare industry can have a family feel to it at times, so providing opportunities for alumni, students, and faculty to engage was our first priority, followed closely, with helping prepare students for rejoining the workforce.  To accomplish this, we started a function interview practice program.

Please address how the student group was outstanding in the following areas: recruitment, marketing and outreach, leadership development, and event planning.

A change in leadership this year for MILI lead to substantial amounts of uncertainty about the program from the student and administrative side.  MILIsa stepped up and became the glue for the program, helping to promote the lasting effects it has on students and alumni and asking for support from school administration.  The group started talking more with prospective students, current students, and alumni about how they could help reaffirm the program's importance. A promotional video remains in the works highlighting these efforts.

We implemented an event planning and debrief procedure this year that allowed us to have a week by week task list leading up to the event for the core team and then detailed assignments while the event was taking place for the whole board.  Following the event, we also included a debrief of what went well or not. This lead to less chaotic events where even those running it could enjoy themselves.

This is the first year that we have tried to do more cross-school program too.  For our kickoff event in September, invitations were sent out to the administrators from any healthcare related program and heavily marketed to the business in analytics and pt-MBA students.  Additionally, we hosted a cross-school happy hour that allowed us to connect with several students in leadership positions across different programs who agreed to help us to market future events to their classmates.

Minnesota Institute for Neuroeconomics and Decision Science

Back to Top

What are the mission, purpose and goals of the group and how has the group met or exceeded these goals?

This group was developed to create an interdisciplinary environment to talk about issues related to how humans make decisions and how the brain represents choice. The group has successfully applied for and received funding multiple times from COGS, SUA, and plans to expand grant applications in the future. MINDS brought in a leading neuroeconomics researcher, Joseph Kable, from the University of Pennsylvania and featured faculty speakers from other university departments like psychology, neuroscience, and economics.

Please address how the student group was outstanding in the following areas: recruitment, marketing and outreach, leadership development, and event planning.

Recruitment: Events were attended by around 30-40 graduate students each time, but also 3-5 faculty members coming as audience members, even sometimes at journal clubs. Undergraduates from related labs also started attending events and MINDS embraced this as a form of mentorship that graduate students could take on.

Marketing and Outreach: Outreach is good, MINDS is hitting more graduate student list servs than before, though this is still an area of improvement. By increasing speaker representation from multiple departments there may be increased reach.

Leadership Development: Current MINDS president Becca Kazinka has progressed through several roles before assuming the top position.

Event Planning: MINDS successfully recruited researchers from multiple areas of study, from multiple institutions, and created unified programming that consistently drew crowds. They also integrated journal clubs into their programming.

Minnesota Pharmacy Student Alliance

Back to Top

What are the mission, purpose and goals of the group and how has the group met or exceeded these goals?

The mission of the Minnesota Pharmacy Student Alliance (MPSA) is a commitment to the advancement of our profession & the development of student pharmacists by providing extracurricular opportunities that foster professional engagement. MPSA’s vision is that every member utilizes MPSA to explore opportunities within the profession, both as a student pharmacist and beyond. The organization’s goal is striving to develop stronger community relationships and increase collaboration with professional organizations, patient care groups, and the interprofessional healthcare team. Through these opportunities, members will advance the profession of pharmacy and begin to leave their unique imprint.

This past year, MPSA has especially been focused on building a stronger legacy together by motivating our student members to effectively engage others to enhance the impact of our professional development and community outreach initiatives. Our student leaders represent multiple professional pharmacy organizations and various volunteering groups. Our leaders are continuously working together, and have planned/promoted over 160 events for our members in the last year alone.

Please address how the student group was outstanding in the following areas: recruitment, marketing and outreach, leadership development, and event planning.

MPSA recognized that recruitment could be improved this year. Recognizing the importance of first-year students in maximizing the potential of the organization, recruitment was expanded to include an introduction and roundtable during a first-year seminar class, structured open meetings prior to the close of membership recruitment, and a new Meet and Greet prior to the start of the fall semester on both campuses. Leadership development was also an emphasis this past calendar year, with a summer leadership retreat in Hinckley for elected and appointed student leaders to orient them to organizational needs and opportunities, expectations within MPSA, and to boost inter-campus collaboration. Finally, event planning and marketing/outreach were improved with an updated network to plan and advertise MPSA events: a website with layout and backend updates, a weekly Monday email to the nearly 500+ membership advertising upcoming professional development and community outreach events, a Wednesday reminder email, increased social media presence with Facebook and Instagram, and post-event forms to maintain an accurate log of all events.

Multicultural Pharmacy Student Organization

Back to Top

What are the mission, purpose and goals of the group and how has the group met or exceeded these goals?

The mission of MPSO is to spread cultural awareness and inclusivity within the college of pharmacy, and in the community. The group has exceeded these goals each year by providing unique opportunities for students to immerse themselves in new cultures, and learn how culture and care go hand in hand in providing patient centered care. MPSO each year provides students opportunities to volunteer in minority/underserved populations where students can provide blood pressure checks, blood glucose, and cholesterol checks. The organization also invites pharmacists from different culture backgrounds to come give our students lectures on their own culture, as well as pharmacy practice in their home county- this allows for enlightenment on how pharmacy operates in other countries, and how it compares to the U.S. In addition, MPSO provides students opportunities to be student speakers each month, where they can present to their peers on their culture, and allow for peers to learn from each other.

Please address how the student group was outstanding in the following areas: recruitment, marketing and outreach, leadership development, and event planning.

In terms of recruitment, over the past 8 years MPSO has always been close to reaching 100 student members. This year, our E-board was able to recruit over 120 MPSO members! We attribute this achievement to our perseverance in educating our peers about the unique opportunities MPSO has to offer, and the valuable experience they will receive that will help them grow as an individual, and as a culturally aware healthcare practitioner. For marketing and outreach, we've attended pharmacy student org fairs to discuss with students about MPSO's mission and vision, and have also made efforts to collaborate with other student orgs in events.

Phillips Neighborhood Clinic

Back to Top

What are the mission, purpose and goals of the group and how has the group met or exceeded these goals?

The mission of the Phillips Neighborhood Clinic (PNC) is three-fold: 1) We will increase accessibility of comprehensive, patient-centered, quality health services to patient with unmet need. 2) We will develop compassionate, culturally sensitive future health professionals in an interprofessional, team-based learning environment. 3) We will support community partnerships and promote overall health and wellbeing in the communities we serve.

We strive to achieve our mission by providing no-cost clinical services and medications to any patient that presents in clinic.

Some of the services offered include physicals, wellness checks, dermatology, ophthalmology, foot care, women’s health, physical therapy, nutrition, oral health, and legal guidance. We see over 1,000 patients annually and offer educational experiences to over 375 volunteers and 110 preceptors. The PNC has been operating since 2003 and has been consistently expanding the number of services we offer.

The PNC’s commitment for a healthy community goes beyond the clinical services we provide. We recognize and understand that the health of individuals and their communities are determined, by their social determinants. These factors can include things such as: education, social support, and food security. To address our community’s social determinants of health, we partner with local community agencies - including Loaves & Fishes, Midtown Global Market, and Franklin library - to provide over 2,000 hours of community service in the Phillips Neighborhood. These stakeholders in turn provide the PNC with valuable advice that guides  our decisions on current and prospective health initiatives.

Please address how the student group was outstanding in the following areas: recruitment, marketing and outreach, leadership development, and event planning.

The Phillips Neighborhood Clinic recruits students from over ten schools/programs within the University including: Audiology, Dentistry, Law, Medical Lab Sciences, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Physical Therapy, Public Health, and Social Work.This past year, the clinic received over 230 applications from incoming professional students. Each application is read, evaluated, and discussed by a student volunteer selection committee. This process develops our volunteers’ appreciation of differences while also making them vested stakeholders in the future wellbeing of the PNC.

The Phillips Neighborhood Clinic is always looking towards expanding our marketing and outreach capacity. This past year we undertook two new initiatives that expanded our outreach capacity. This year was the PNC’s first  “Learn about the PNC” event, which provided undergraduate students the opportunity to learn about our services and volunteer opportunities. In addition, the PNC has been actively seeking ways to build partnerships with local newspaper organizations such as The Alley and the Somali American Newspaper.

Due to student turnover, quality officer training is a crucial component for the PNC. Our leadership development process includes a transition retreat and careful documentation of our roles. Due to the nature of planned turnover in leadership, this also develops resilience and tolerance towards ambiguity during the transition process. The new leaders of the PNC utilize interpersonal skills to successfully carry out the mission of the PNC. Our leadership transition model is so successful, that we have been invited to present it at workshops for other student health professional leaders.