Challey Spotlight: Micah Aanerud

The Challey Institute for Global Innovation and Growth is highlighting the impact of our faculty and students at NDSU and in the community. This month, we are shining a spotlight on Micah Aanerud.

Challey Spotlight: Micah Aanerud

Sophomore, Agricultural Economics

Micah Aanerud is a sophomore studying agricultural economics with minor studies in crop and weed science and history at NDSU. He grew up on a farm near Donnelly, MN. Micah was hired into the first cohort of the Mancur Olson Fellows program. During his time as an undergraduate research fellow, Micah worked on several projects related to natural resources and the oil and gas industry. In addition, Micah has participated in intramural sports and taken on leadership roles in NDSU’s Residence Hall Association and NDSU Cru, a Christian ministry organization. This past year, Micah served as president of Cater Hall and the head of Cru’s Community Team. Micah is set to graduate next spring with plans to return to the family farm.

Challey Institute activities: “Society vs. The Environment?” reading group; “Dystopian and Utopian Novels” reading group; “Recreating the Constitutional Convention of 1787” and “Rage Against the Machine: Technology, Rebellion, and the Industrial Revolution” simulations; “Hillbilly Elegy” colloquium; Mancur Olson Undergraduate Research Fellows program; Menard Family Distinguished Speaker Series

You have been a part of several reading groups and discussion colloquia. What value do you think these programs bring to students and to the NDSU campus?

They bring a lot of variety of topics and perspectives, and I really enjoy them because of that variety. In the fall reading group [Society vs. the Environment?], we talked about the most effective ways to distribute limited resources. But then in the “Hillbilly Elegy” colloquium, we talked about the issues and struggles of a particular part of America and how we can maybe help with that. And then in the spring reading group [Dystopian and Utopian Novels], we had more philosophical discussions. I feel like you need to study these different aspects to be a well-rounded individual, and it’s good to be aware of all these things going on in the world. 

Through these opportunities, I feel like I learned how to be more confident in stating my opinion. The people in the room definitely all brought different backgrounds and perspectives, which was interesting when talking about these topics. Many of us became good friends. I got to meet a lot of people that I definitely wouldn’t have otherwise met. Being an extrovert, I love that. Sometimes I think it’s easy for students to get stuck in a bubble and stick with the same group of people for their entire time at college. But I enjoy these different programs, and I’ve enjoyed getting to meet people outside of my bubble.

You had the opportunity to attend some interesting events this year through the Menard Family Distinguished Speaker Series. Which one did you enjoy the most?

J.D. Vance. I really enjoyed him as a speaker. It was very revealing. You know, I was somewhat aware of that part of America but not super knowledgeable, so it was great to hear the perspective he brought to things. Of course, the benefit of that event was that we also had the book discussion and the movie, so I was able to learn and take in the information in a lot of different ways. Whether that be asking questions and being engaged in his presentation, being engaged in the discussion and reading the book, or even being passively engaged while watching the movie – there were a lot of different ways to hear his message, and I really enjoyed him. 

How have scholarships and philanthropic support had on impact on your time at NDSU?

A goal of mine has been to graduate from NDSU debt-free, and because of scholarships and because of saving my money before school, I’m on track to do that right now. The reading groups and the Fellows program don’t feel like actual jobs. They feel like part of my education. But because I’m getting paid to do them, they help me reach my goal, and that’s huge for me.

The Sheila and Robert Challey Institute for Global Innovation and Growth aims to advance understanding in the areas of innovation, trade and institutions to identify policies and solutions that enhance economic growth and opportunity. Learn more at
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