Onward: An interview with Ben Bagwell

MINOT, N.D. – Minot State University Ben Bagwell’s office is a looming, 30-foot rock structure prominently in the front of the Wellness Center.

Bagwell took over as the coordinator of recreation programs at the MSU Wellness Center not long after graduation. He earned his Climbing Wall Instructor with Lead endorsement from PCIA and is regularly working with students or climbing the signature architectural apparatus — which he estimates he’s done close to 2,000 times!

The native of Hillsboro, New Hampshire, has lived in Minot since 2014 and, for the most part, calls the Magic City home. He earned his undergraduate degree at MSU in corporate fitness and wellness management in 2022

Minot State’s University Communications interviewed Bagwell to learn more about his short time with the University.

You were hired in the fall 2022 at the Wellness Center, how has the first two academic years gone?
BB: It is everything I hoped it would be and more! The rock wall has seen a monumental rise in usage, and intramural sports are the most popular they’ve been post-COVID. I have loved seeing the rock wall staff grow and develop in these two years.

You were certainly familiar with the Wellness Center during your time at MSU, but what are some of the areas that have been a surprise for you now being in this position?
BB: Oddly enough, things have been pretty straightforward and predictable. I feel like my experience as a student worker helped to prepare me for what to expect. If anything has been a mild surprise, it has been the jump in interest the rock wall and Intramurals have seen over the past year.

How many times have you reached the top of the rock wall!?
BB: You know, I actually sat down and did some math on this one. Having completed the Mile High Climbing Challenge last fall, I have officially climbed 11 miles (approx. 1,650 climbs) on our wall. However, unofficially, that number is probably a little closer to 2,000.

You get to work with students both as employees and as clients, how is that aspect of your job?
BB: I will talk until I’m blue in the face about how fantastic my staff has been. They have been so fun to work with, and it has been awesome to watch them develop and learn. I think that having student staff really makes the rock wall a more approachable place for students coming in. It also makes Intramurals a lot more fun, as students get to work with their peers and classmates.

What are some of the new initiatives you are working on for students at the Wellness Center?
BB: We have partnered with Minot Family YMCA on a few projects, including a climbing competition last fall. We are also preparing for our second annual Battle of the Badges Kickball Tournament, cooperating with Minot PD and Minot Fire Department. On the intramurals side, we have added badminton and pickleball into our regular lineup of sports.

How much do you feel your degree at Minot State has prepared you for this position?
BB: I think the easiest way to answer that is by saying that the transition was seamless. I graduated in the spring of 2022 knowing that I wanted to work in this field. That was coming off the heels of an awesome experience during my final semester, during which I completed my practicum hours with Dave Dunsmoor at the YMCA. I felt beyond prepared when I came in to be interviewed for this position.

What made you decide on your major and was it what you wanted to do from the start or did you change along the way?
BB: I started in the athletic training program, and I was on track to be part of the last class to graduate before the program was discontinued. However, during my junior year, I realized that I was not meant to be in that program. It felt like such a major life decision at the time to switch majors. At the same time, I have always held that I should make the decision that God gives me peace about. It became clear to me that I needed to switch paths. Once I did, I knew I’d made the right choice.

What are some of the areas that made you choose Minot State in the beginning?
BB: I feel like it gets said a lot, but the cost was a major factor for me. I knew I probably wanted to stay close to home, but MSU offered what I wanted at a super affordable price.

What are some of the other high points of your academic career at MSU?
BB: I managed to stay on the Honor Roll for a while, but my grades dipped after 2020. My fondest memories looking back were all during my practicum, both with Dave as well as at other locations. The hands-on experience was irreplaceable.

Tell us about your life outside of work, family, hobbies, or other areas of interest?
BB: I am about to celebrate my third anniversary with my beautiful wife, Madilyn. We have one daughter, Eliana, who is one and a half, and a son on the way. In my personal life, I love taking time to relax with a good book (really anything by Brandon Sanderson). I also like to write a little bit, myself. You’ll see me out on the disc golf course a lot during the summer, as well as around town (or even around the state) at various parks. During the three-quarters of the year that the state freezes, I enjoy skiing up in Bottineau or just staying inside watching movies.

Being from Minot for most of your adult life, how important was it to find a career in the area?
BB: I never particularly wanted to name Minot as my hometown. I always thought that I would leave town as soon as I possibly could. Then I met a girl, and the rest is history. We still see ourselves potentially living elsewhere, but we knew that we wanted to start our family up here. Between the two of us, we have a huge support system of family and friends. Once I heard that the job here was opening up, I felt instant peace about sticking around.

What else are we missing in telling your story?
BB: I just want to add how truly blessed I am. I’m only 24-years old, and I have traveled more, met more people, experienced more cultures, and seen more of this beautiful world than a lot of people ever will. That is all because, during the vast majority of my childhood, my parents were missionaries. I could add pages and pages of stories and memories from those years. It was such a fundamental part of my life. Even though it wasn’t perfect, I would not trade that experience growing up for anything.

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: 04/18/24   

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