Stander rekindles passion for residence life

By Michael Linnell
University Communications Director

MINOT, N.D. – Karina Stander was just happy to help out during a time of need.

Stander was content serving Minot State University as a wellness specialist when the University reached out to her about being the interim Residence Life Director.

At the time, interim was just fine.

“I wasn’t sure right away if that was something I wanted to go back to. I left housing a little burned out. But the spirit was certainly still there,” she said. “The more I thought about it, having done it for eight years and the things I had learned over the years — and my passion for MSU, knowing the potential we have and the impact I could have on students in residence life, the more I started to think about it.”

When the opportunity arose to remove the interim tag, the passion was back.

“Working with the staff during that time, what they were working on and what I thought might be a good direction to go on things; brainstorming for the opening of the year, that really sparked my excitement,” Stander said. “Wellness was the hardest job I’ve had to leave, I really enjoyed that and it gave me a great base for Residence Life here, but I was ready for a new challenge.”

Stander’s credentials are more than your typical stand-in as well.

She graduated from the University of North Dakota with a degree in recreational therapy and sports and fitness programming and earned a master’s degree from Sioux Falls (South Dakota) Seminary in counseling. She worked at Augustana University as the full-time hall director in housing and coordinator of service projects for students in the greater Sioux Falls area. She then transitioned to an assistant director of housing at UND for five years, overseeing more than half of the university’s 3,000 on-campus students.

“I had great mentors at Augie,” she said of her start in housing. “Service was a huge part of Augustana’s mission. We started with just a few students and grew that program to a few hundred. It was really great seeing college students get excited about things they could do for others and become leaders amongst their peers.

“I really learned about working with people at UND. It’s a larger institution and to serve the needs of students required strong communication and the ability to pull out the strengths in people who were also there to serve students.”

Her move from Sioux Falls back to Grand Forks and eventually to Minot came about after meeting husband Ryan Stander at Sioux Falls Seminary. Stander, a professor of art at MSU, was accepted into graduate school at UND and a school in California. They decided to move where Karina found work. She says she, “struck out in Cali,” but was offered two jobs at UND, accepting housing.

After Ryan graduated with a master’s in art, he accepted a position at Minot State. The couple did a commuter marriage for a year before Ryan earned a tenure track position at the University. Things quickly fell into place for Karina.

“After Ryan got the tenure track position, I figured I would move, so I quit at UND. The next day, the Wellness Center position opened up, and Paul (Brekke, Wellness Center coordinator) took a chance on me,” she said. “I was very active in wellness at UND and was recognized as the Robert Boyd Healthy UND Champion the year after I left the school. I was nominated before leaving and even with that, they still wanted to honor me with that award. I transitioned very well to the Wellness Center here.”

The Wellness Center and Residence Life both work with students, and their health and well-being. Wellness will continue to be a focal point for Stander. She knows, however, there are some challenges ahead that she didn’t have to face in wellness.

“I’ve really only been known for the fun stuff and that has helped me make some great relationships with students,” she said. “But there are going to be some tougher things to face, such as student conduct. When done well, addressing conduct can grow community as much as event programming.”

In addition to promoting wellness, Stander hopes to be a champion in relationship building across campus, not just for her personally, but for the department.

“The goal is to build better relationships across campus, not just us working with students in the halls, but everyone outside of the halls, faculty and staff working together, to blend it into a great experience for students,” she said. “Bringing more academic involvement into the halls would be a beneficial thing if we want to help build a strong living and learning community. One of my top strengths from the Clifton Strengths finder is maximizer, I want to take something good and make it better. I am excited to work with others on campus that share that passion.

“I can’t say enough about the people who have inspired me in the transition: Aaron Hughes (student activities coordinator), what she does for the University is top notch. How she connects to students is amazing. Paul and Courtenay Burckhard (wellness specialist) and their commitment to campus wellness. Lori Braasch (administrative assistant in Residence Life) is the heart of the residence life office. She has a strong work ethic and her attention to detail is great, but she also has a passion for students. And Abby Graves (Residence Life coordinator) is new, but she brings great experience from her time as a residence hall director at Minot State and having just spent two years teaching in Prague. Additionally, she brings good energy, singing, and positivity to the residence life office.”

Stander is glad she changed her mind halfway through her interim summer position.

“It’s a new position for me at MSU which is a fun challenge in familiar territory,” she said. “It has generated new energy and excitement, and my goal is to keep that going and share the experience across campus.”

About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 10/16/19   

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