Winter commencement: ‘Become the person you want to be’

Three NDSU seniors recently met in Festival Concert Hall to discuss their campus experience, memorable moments, influential mentors and what they’ll miss most after graduation.

NDSU is set to hold commencement ceremonies Friday, Dec. 16, in the Sanford Health Athletic Complex. Two ceremonies are scheduled.

The 2 p.m. ceremony will be for graduates of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; College of Engineering; College of Human Sciences and Education; and interdisciplinary studies. The 5 p.m. ceremony is for graduates in the College of Agriculture, Food Systems and Natural Resources; College of Business; College of Health Professions; and College of Science and Mathematics.

Justin Lester, an agriculture and biosystems engineering major, was selected as class representative to address the 2 p.m. ceremony and Haley Helmin, an accounting major, was chosen to speak at the 5 p.m. ceremony.

Seth Brandl was named soloist and alternate speaker for the 2 p.m. ceremony.


2022 NDSU Winter Commencement


What is your favorite memory at NDSU?

Brandl, music education, Grand Forks, North Dakota: One of the great concerts I’ve been able to be part of (in the music program) at NDSU. Getting to do some really, really cool things at our age and being part of a huge group of people going for the same reasons.

Lester, Buffalo, Minnesota: One of my favorite memories is looking back at different moments and seeing the growth that I’ve had. Looking at how bad I was when I presented material to a class as a freshman in some of my first classes and now, these last couple weeks, I’ve noticed how much I’ve been able to improve. And I also can say that about a lot of aspects of my life. I’ve grown so much from 18 to 22 years old.


Explain one of the best opportunities you had at NDSU.

Helmin, Brainerd, Minnesota: I was able to intern with the North Dakota auditor’s office. I wouldn’t have found out about that opportunity if it wasn’t for NDSU. I’ve very thankful that NDSU has amazing resources for us to find internships if that’s what we need for our degree.

Lester: The best opportunity I had at NDSU was to be part of a program that the College of Engineering has called Engineering Ambassadors. Through that role I was able work with other engineers who were highly motivated and meet with prospective students who were interested in NDSU. I got to talk about why I enjoyed my time at NDSU and why I think it’s a great place to go to school.


What is a lesson you learned as a student that you will take with you?

Lester: It is OK to make mistakes. I learned that early in college. I was able to understand that and look back and try grow based on that mistake.


What will you remember most about your time at NDSU?

Lester: The great people I was able to interact with. From student to staff to faculty members, so many people have left a great impact on my college career.

Brandl: All the opportunities I’ve been given. As a singer and performer I’ve been able to perform in England and Wales with the choir. I would have never done that on my own. I also loved all the service opportunities. Blue Key got me really involved in a lot of service. Serving, making friends and the great opportunities I’ve had.


Name someone who was influential during your college career.

Lester: Someone who I think had a big impact on my college career was College of Engineering advisor Joel Hanson. He was one of the first people I interacted with as a potential student looking to come to NDSU and through different experiences I’ve gotten to work with him quite a bit. He’s done a really good job as an advisor to help shape who I am. He’s been an excellent resource.


What will you miss most about campus?

Brandl: I love just being on campus. My last semester has been spent student teaching, so everyday I’m job shadowing a teacher. I’ve been off campus for a semester and any opportunity to come back is a wave nostalgia already, and I’ve only been gone for a couple months. Especially in the spring and summer. It’s really special to see all the greenery, flowers and trees. There is something about campus that gives me a good feeling.

Lester: All my friends. Being able to walk through campus, see someone and being able to catch up for a few minutes. I’ve made such a good group of friends that I won’t have around every day.

Helmin: I wasn’t on main campus a lot because I’m a business major and we’re mostly located in downtown Fargo. I just love being able to see the business community everyday while also learning about business. Being part of that culture was really cool. I was immersed in what I’m going to be doing in the future.


What is your best piece of advice for freshmen entering NDSU?

Brandl: Take advantage of all the opportunities given to you. It’s easy to get a little overwhelmed because there is so much to do. But that’s a good thing. It took me a little while to get over the culture shock of being on my own. But there are so many opportunities if you just look for them. Get involved as early as possible.

Lester: This is a new chapter in your life. You should take a moment or two to reflect on who you want to be going forward. It doesn’t matter who you were in high school. That’s in the past, you are interacting with all new people. Try to find what you want to be and try to take a hold of that. Become the person you want to be.

Helmin: Do something to get yourself involved. Everyone leaves NDSU with the same degree. What you do with your time at NDSU, your minor, your extra-curricular involvement, that’s what is going to set you apart when you enter the workforce.


What do you love about living in Fargo?

Brandl: I do like how much it snows here. You can get away from the city feeling, but there also is a great downtown area with a lot of shops and businesses. You can choose what kind of feeling you want in Fargo. If you want city streets and shops, go downtown. If you want to get away from it, there are a bunch of wide-open spaces to go for a walk. You have the best of both worlds in Fargo.

Helmin: I love that there is so much to do in Fargo. It’s a small town but also like a big city. There is so much to do that I could never get bored living here.

Lester: It feels a lot like a suburb in some ways, but at the same time there is a lot more here than I was used to growing up. Not having a 45 minute or an hour trip to go do something is great. And having a Chipotle five minutes from my apartment is great, too.


What is a lesson learned as a student that you will take with you?

Helmin: I feel like I learned a lot at NDSU. Something big that I address in my commencement speech is passion and purpose. Follow your passion and your purpose and you’ll never work a day in your life, you’ll feel fulfilled.

Brandl: I learned how to say no. You need to understand your limits and you need to be able to do things to the best of your ability. Sometimes if you are stretched too thin, you get everything done, but you might not love the finished product. I had to eventually learn that, although I wanted to do as much as I could, I had to start picking and choosing if I wanted to do at my best.


Name a professor you enjoyed learning from.

Helmin: Nancy Emerson. She is an accounting professor who really understood my learning style and I feel like her teaching style also went very well with how I learn. She’s been there for me through a lot, always coming in to say hello, going out of her way to make sure I’m having a good day.

Lester: Zhulu Lin. He really mastered the job of being able to teach the theory and teach it well while giving examples to help students learn. He allowed us to go through some of the problems in class and give his guidance to show us some easy mistakes we might make. He’s able to find that balance of getting the materials he needs covered as well as letting us learn hands on with examples.


What was the best class you took in college?

Lester: It would be different for every year I’ve been in college. But, overall, I would say a class called Open Channel Flow. We learned the theory for a decent chunk of the class, but we also had a heavy aspect of design. That’s a big role for an engineer going into your career. Being able to learn the theory behind it then actually learning the software was something very valuable.

Helmin: Accounting 312. It’s our intermediate class designed to be more difficult. It pushed me really hard to make sure this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It really challenged me.


What makes NDSU special?

Helmin: It feels like a small and big community at the same time. I found that I made lifelong friends and people I’m going to call a family for the rest of my life and I think that’s really special about NDSU.

Lester: The people. The students, staff and faculty you interact with really makes NDSU what it is. The interactions you have with them shapes you into who you are today and that’s where you get the value of being at NDSU.