Nine students were named as Outstanding Students for spring 2017 semester. The students were recognized at Metropolitan State University’s 100th commencement exercise, May 1, at Roy Wilkins Auditorium in Saint Paul. Approximately 1,100 students received bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees with 761 students participating in the spring ceremony.
Dietrich Anderson, College of Community Studies and Public Affairs
Seven years ago, Dietrich Anderson, Roseville, was facing a judge in drug court. Today, Dietrich stands tall as a summa cum laude graduate with a degree in alcohol and drug counseling.
Working jobs in the food industry through most of his 20s and 30s, Anderson felt the wear of the grind. He was also in the throes of addiction, which made his life unmanageable. His self-worth at an all-time low, Anderson found himself in drug court.
“My journey to recovery started with my participation in the Dakota County Drug Court program. I would learn to love myself again and rediscover that I could make something of my life,” he said.
With this help and the support of his family, Anderson began his way to brighter future. He is graduating as the College of Community Studies and Public Affairs’ Outstanding Student for spring 2017 semester. He graduated with a degree in drug and alcohol counseling.
In 2014, Anderson transferred to Metropolitan State University from Saint Paul College. He immediately found support and direction in his advisor, Karin Jax. “Since day one she has been a true supporter, advisor, and cheerleader for my success while at Metro,” Anderson said. Anderson also credits several other faculty members who regularly went above and beyond to enrich his experience at Metropolitan State.
Anderson worked two jobs through most of his college experience. He eventually left one of those jobs in favor of a full-time internship. He credits maintaining his sobriety and practicing self-care for keeping him successful in his studies and work life.
“Being in recovery is like having diabetes; one has to continually do maintenance,” he says.
Anderson maintains his healthy lifestyle by staying busy, and it means a lot to him to remain accountable to family and friends. Currently, Anderson is interning with NuWay House, Inc., a private, nonprofit organization that serves people recovering from substance use and mental health disorders. After graduation, Anderson hopes to become a licensed drug and alcohol counselor with NuWay House, Inc. He recently applied and interviewed for a master’s program at Metropolitan State University, and his ambitions don’t stop there.
“I may even go on to get my PhD in mental health someday, but one step at a time.”
Erin Crosby, College of Nursing and Health Sciences
Years ago, Erin Crosby, Minneapolis, was living a self-described carefree life.
“I spent most of my free time playing tennis, and working four-hour shifts in a toy store,” she said.
Crosby wished she could have warned herself for the future.
“Now that I’m in grad school full time and working 12-hour shifts in a hospital, I can’t believe I could ever find anything to complain about,” she says. “If I had a time machine, I would certainly have some sage advice for 15-year-old Erin.
A lot of hard work later, Crosby is graduating as the College of Nursing and Health Sciences Outstanding Student for spring 2017 semester. She graduated with a Doctorate of Nursing Practice.
She describes her time at Metropolitan State University as “glorious; busy.” Sacrificing time with family, and maintaining her own sanity proved be challenging during Crosby’s four years at Metropolitan State.
“The biggest challenge being an adult student is to find a balance between school, my family, friends, work, and my sanity,” she said.
For Crosby, graduation means her husband never having to hear about advanced care planning, or any number of the projects that took over her life for two years. Graduation also marks the end of an era.
“I’ve overcome many challenges, and made a lot of sacrifices. I’d like to say that I should get all the credit, but truthfully, the people who should be getting recognized are those who provided unwavering, endless encouragement for someone in full-time school. The support from them means everything to me,” Crosby said.
Outside of school and work, Crosby likes to wake up early, drink “loads of coffee,” and enjoys some time to herself. She also exercises and takes various fitness classes, including an aerial fitness class.
With more free time, Crosby looks forward to enjoying her family and friends, including the friends she made at Metropolitan State University.
“We were all strangers in the beginning of this journey, which feels like a lifetime ago. I have made many lifelong friends, and cannot wait to see what we all do in the future. I have learned so much from the other students and professors, and am grateful for all of them.”
Katrinna Dexter, School of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice
Katrinna Dexter, Rochester, had already double-majored in criminal justice and psychology before deciding to return to school to obtain her master’s degree. Dexter found the master’s program in criminal justice offered by Metropolitan State University, was a perfect fit and she never looked back.
“I have been enrolled at Metro for the past two years in the masters of science in criminal justice program where I have maintained a 4.0 GPA… it is extremely important to both me and my family and I cherish the accomplishment,” Dexter said about her most recent scholarly endeavor.
Dexter is graduating as the School of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Outstanding Student for spring 2017 semester. She will graduate with her master’s of science in criminal justice degree .
Having her master’s degree isn’t enough for Dexter. She plans to continue her education; setting her sights on juris doctor, as well as doctor of philosophy degrees. “I look forward to advancing my education, while simultaneously building a national platform to impact the way our juvenile justice system works for and treats youth,” Dexter says.
Already having worked in nearly every aspect of the criminal justice field, Dexter will continue on her path to educational greatness, with her focus on the equitable treatment of youth within our justice system.
Kay Erwin, College of Management
Raising children, volunteering, and taking classes at her local community college, Kay Erwin, Rochester, found herself at a crossroads: “I was worried that my job might be eliminated and I wouldn’t be able to acquire an equal job without a bachelor’s degree, so I made the decision to enroll at Metropolitan State University.”
Balancing work, family and school, Erwin was rarely seen without her homework nearby.
“I would do homework after work, before work, on vacation, in the car (as a passenger); I spent almost all my lunch hours shut away in a conference room doing homework,” she says.
Through to her diligence, and the help around the house from her husband, Erwin is now graduating as the College of Management’s Outstanding Student for spring 2017 semester. She graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration.
Erwin was proud to have the opportunity to set an example for her children, “they have watched me successfully balance family, work, school, and volunteer service,” she says. “They were able to see, from my example, that great effort yields great results.” Her family plans a celebratory trip to Florida later this year.
Although content with her current employer, Erwin hopes to use her new degree to leverage herself into a new position, “where I am making a difference in the lives of those in our community. My goal is not to make large sums of money but rather to bring others up by helping them to meet basic needs and ultimately realize their potential – just as I have through completing my degree.”
With her newfound free time, Erwin will continue to find fulfillment and happiness through volunteering. She can also be found in her garden, paddling her canoe, and traveling.
Tom Krueger, School of Urban Education
Tom Krueger, Minneapolis, is a familiar face in the Minnesota theater scene. As a board member and coordinator of student leadership of the Minnesota Thespians, he has organized year-round youth leadership development for 18 students from around Minnesota.
Krueger has also coordinated with high school educators and the Guthrie Theater Education Department to strengthen educational theater across the state. In this role, he collaborated with students and production staff, producing all-state shows, empowering students to use theater as a vehicle for social change. He has also been involved with the Rosetown Playhouse where he has been both the project manager as well as stage manager. Here, Krueger helped coordinate the Karen Summer Play for middle and high school students who are refugees. Krueger also worked to support multigenerational cast, volunteers, and staff for productions involving more than 100 participants.
Krueger is graduating as the Metropolitan State University’s School of Urban Education Outstanding Student for spring 2017 semester. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
Krueger works in human resources for the Roseville Area Schools district. He negotiates contracts on behalf of the district as well as supporting the district through hiring and onboarding new employees. He is the recipient of the City of Roseville Human Rights Commission Award for his work with the Roseville Area Middle School Theatre Program. He works to set a tone for cultural competence and equity for applicants and current employees.
Krueger also serves his community through volunteering with a number of organizations, including Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, Minneapolis NAACP, The Friendly Streets Initiative, Nice Ride Minnesota, and Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition. He is also a frequent observer at Minneapolis Public Schools board meetings.
Bukola Oriola, College of Individualized Studies
The College of Individualized Studies Outstanding Student for spring 2016 semester and student speaker at Metropolitan State University’s 100th commencement exercise is Bukola Oriola, Anoka.
She was presented with a bachelor’s degree in individualized studies with focus on community leadership and diversity.
Oriola is a Twin Cities activist and internationally-known figure for her advocacy work in the fight against human trafficking. In 2005, Oriola left her life and her publishing job in Nigeria in favor of a new life in the United States. Not long after arriving, she found herself in an abusive relationship and spent two years living the horror that is human trafficking. Oriola was able to remove herself from that situation and was determined to help others. Already holding a degree in mass communications, Oriola decided to return to school, and in 2014 she enrolled in the individualized studies program at Metropolitan State University.
“College is where you learn to project yourself in ways that people can understand and you can positively impact the community,” she says.
Through her advocacy and degree program work, in 2016, Oriola was appointed to a two-year term on the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking. In that year, she traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend an inaugural meeting of the council with then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Before her return to university, Oriola braided hair to make ends meet. She was nervous about returning to school, but in her upbringing education was a priority. Her parents made sure that all of their children graduated from college.
“I watched my parents sell our most prized belongings to put us through school,” she said of her parents’ dedication.
As part of Oriola’s individualized studies program, she and another Metropolitan State student researched and designed a trip to Nigeria to visit colleges and polytechnic schools to spread a message of hope and speak about her experiences in human trafficking. The trip proved to be a massive success; their message reached an estimated 20 million students in just ten days.
Oriola is now graduating with honors and was even asked to speak at her commencement ceremony. Graduating is bittersweet for Oriola, because her parents have died, and most of her family will not be able to travel to the U.S. to celebrate with her. She looks forward to having more time to dedicate to “being the voice for victims and survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence.”
Betsy Salvatore, College of Liberal Arts
For years, Betsy Salvatore, Shoreview, was a busy stay-at-home mom. She volunteered in the classroom, designed the newsletter for her kids’ elementary school, created websites for two of her children’s sports teams, and co-directed a district-wide race. Salvatore put aside her lifelong dream of attending college to see her kids through their own college experiences.
“My top priority was raising our four children,” she said.
In January 2014, with three daughters holding doctoral degrees and a son well on his way to graduating, Salvatore enrolled at Metropolitan State University. She set her sights on a technical communication and professional writing major and never looked back. She wasted no time getting involved at Metropolitan State.
“For two years, I was the layout/designer for Haute Dish: The Arts and Literature Magazine of Metropolitan State University,” she said.
Representing Haute Dish, Salvatore was a student panelist for the “Publishing Student Work: How University Literary Magazines Foster Access, Equity, Growth and Self-Confidence in Writing Studies” presentations at the Minnesota Writing and English Conference in April 2016. She also interned at Thompson Reuters as a learning and development designer.
Salvatore is graduating as the College of Liberal Arts’ Outstanding Student for spring 2017 semester. She will graduate summa cum laude with a technical communication and professional writing degree.
Graduating with her bachelor’s degree means the world to Salvatore.
“Although it took me a long time to get here—37 years on and off—it was a dream I never gave up on,” she said. “I instilled the importance of education in our children… my family knows how I longed to earn my degree, and they’re thrilled for me and my accomplishments.”
After graduation, Salvatore will consider pursuing a master’s degree in technical communication. She also looks forward to having more time for reading and spending time with family and friends.
Judy Worrell, School of Nursing
After a successful career in business, including a 23-year run as chief financial officer at a product design firm which she co-founded, Judy Worrell, Minneapolis, was ready for a change.
As a high schooler, Worrell was one of two students selected for a nursing pilot program, which emphasized the nursing specialty of respiratory medicine. Worrell found her passion in nursing and graduated an “A” student. From college, Worrell was hired as a supervisor to open the new Respiratory Medicine Department at Purdue University (in Lafayette, Ind.). She later left the nursing field in favor of a career in business.
“I always had the plan to retire early from my career in business to return to my first career and love of nursing,” she said. “After my return to college, I graduated with a 4.0 GPA and returned to my love of nursing as registered nurse.”
At a time when many of her peers are either about to or have retired, Worrell decided to step her game up—again—and enrolled in the bachelor of science in nursing program at Metropolitan State University. In the program, Worrell achieved a 4.0 GPA and is working as a registered nurse. She will graduate as the College of Nursing and Health Sciences’ Outstanding Student for spring 2017 semester. She will graduate with a bachelor’s of science in nursing degree.
Worrell plans to begin a nursing educator master’s degree program in June.
“I have no intention of retiring and hope to be teaching and working with the next generation of nursing students very soon,” she said.
Beyond the hospital and the classroom, Worrell and her family serve the community in several ways. Over 15 years, Worrell was a foster mother and took in 60 newborn babies into her family’s home. Since 2001, Worrell has been an advocate for Vietnamese immigrants in accessing medical and legal care and resources. She also served on the Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities and was asked to testify twice in front of the Minnesota Legislature regarding the need for housing for people with disabilities.
Worrell and her husband Bob have five children and ten grandchildren. She enjoys having a house full of family and spending time at their lake house in the summer.
Jabir Yusuf, College of Management
After receiving his bachelor’s degree in Electronics Engineering from the University of Mumbai, Jabir Yusuf, Maple Grove, moved to the United States. He initially worked in IT, and soon found himself in leadership and management positions with several Fortune 500 companies.
Jabir was the director of project management at Optum, and oversaw a team of project managers, as well other projects in the health care domain. Even with these responsibilities and a family, Jabir always dreamed of obtaining a graduate degree and he returned to school by enrolling into the master of business administration program at Metropolitan State University.
In the program, Jabir maintained a 3.93 GPA, while enrolled in the MBA program with double concentrations in management information systems and Project Management. Jabir found his mid-career return to school to be intellectually stimulating, and he appreciates meeting a community of students with diverse backgrounds.
Jabir is graduating as the College of Management’s Outstanding Student for spring 2017 semester. He will graduate with his MBA from the College of Management.
“The MBA program at Metropolitan State University has provided me with an in-depth, thorough understanding of how successful businesses are managed and will enable me to contribute more effectively as a leader in complex and changing organizations within a highly global economy,” Jabir says.
When not working or furthering his education, Jabir is active in his community, and volunteers at his local community center and on several committees. He also participates in interfaith events that promote better understanding between different faiths. Jabir is also the volunteer coordinator at Optum, organizing group events at Feed My Starving Children, and leads Peer Leadership and Community of Excellence forums. Jabir and his family have traveled to several European countries and they return to India for biennial visits to extended family and friends.
Armed with his fresh MBA, Jabir says his “aim is to attain a senior leadership position in my organization by taking up more responsibilities in the Project Management Organization (PMO).” He looks forward to climbing the ranks within the organization.
Heidi Zimmerman, College of Sciences
Returning to school after not stepping foot into a classroom for 16 years can be intimidating. After more than a decade as a veterinary nurse and seven years giving private piano lessons, Heidi Zimmermann, New Ulm, was ready for a change and set her sights on a bachelor of arts in biology degree.
“I was always a little anxious before starting every new class as I was pretty sure I would be one of the oldest students in the class,” she says. Her anxiety proved to be not enough to prevent her from her goals.
Zimmermann enrolled at Metropolitan State University in fall 2012. In 2014, Zimmermann learned she was pregnant and decided to take a short break from her studies, as she knew she wouldn’t be able to immerse herself in school the way she had the two years prior. It wasn’t long before she was back in the classroom, however.
“I knew if I did not go back right away, I may never have. The most challenging part became dividing up time between my daughter and husband, work, and doing well in school,” Zimmerman said. “I realized I couldn’t give the kind of time to studies that I had before, so I really tried for quality in small bits, instead of quantity.”
Zimmerman graduated as the Metropolitan State University College of Sciences’ Outstanding Student for spring 2017 semester. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology.
For Zimmermann and her family, graduation means the “steady marathon” is over, along with the sickness that comes prior to an exam.
“My husband won’t miss pretending to care about exothermic and endothermic reactions or the importance of Paneth cells in our intestines,” she says. Zimmermann plans to continue with education and work toward a career in health care or laboratory science.
As she prepares for a move this summer, Zimmermann enjoys time with her daughter and husband, and bakes along to “The Great British Baking Show,” perhaps too ambitiously. When she’s not actually baking, Zimmermann dreams of owning her own food truck, slinging savory-baked delights throughout her neighborhood.