Leah Elsbecker is like most second semester college seniors. Ask her what her plans are after graduation, and she's quick to reply, "Find a job."
The Lake Park, Iowa, native will be one of five student speakers at the Foundation Scholarship Luncheon today. This annual event brings together scholarship recipients with donors who helped make those scholarships possible.
Elsbecker has received several scholarships during her career, including the Thomas Hill Presidential Scholarship and an Academic Scholar Scholarship.
And, as a finance major, Elsbecker knows how important scholarship dollars are. "I'm going to school for finance, and we talk about budgets and money and things like that. My big worry is to make sure I can pay off my student debt. These scholarships have meant that I don't have to work a fulltime job, so that's helped free up some of my time, and in the future, it will help with my repayment of that debt. It's enabled me to relax a little bit more."
Much of her free time is taken up by her involvement with the Colleges Against Cancer club, of which she has been president the past two years, and as chairperson of the SMSU Relay for Life event.
Lake Park, Iowa, is a community of about 1,200 an hour-and-a-half from Marshall. She graduated from Harris-Lake Park High School, in a class of 26. "SMSU was far enough away to be independent, but close enough if I needed to go home for a day. It's small enough but big enough, and I like that there's no out-of-state tuition."
She's taking 15 credits her final semester, and graduation in May is weighing heavy on her mind. "Everything gets busier. You're job hunting, the Relay (for Life) is coming up, classes. I'm preparing for life afterwards."
She's worked at Maurice's for the past two-and-a-half years and one post-college option is to work in corporate finance with that company in Duluth. "There's also a possible opportunity with Edward Jones investments, too," she said.
A number of SMSU students will be attending the upcoming Minnesota State Universities Job and Internship Fair next Tuesday in Minneapolis. Career Services personnel have helped her with her resume and with other job-seeking skills, she said.
It's important for new students to live on campus, said Elsbecker. "I lived my first two years on campus. After I moved off, I went to less and less activities. It helps, too, to have RA's around to help you, they are like a mentor. You know more people."
Her own mentor the past couple of years has been Stacy Frost, Director of Annual Fund & Parent Relations. Frost is the Colleges Against Cancer advisor. "She's given me career advice, helped me to make connections with people in Marshall. She's a good person and helps me lower the stress level," said Elsbecker.
Was SMSU a good college choice for her?
"It was a good choice. When you come to college you learn so many things that aren't academic; you learn how to get along with people you might not necessarily like, you're on your own and pay bills and make new friends and you learn random stuff you never knew about."
Her advice to an incoming freshman? "Be involved with as many things as you find time for. Learn more about yourself and what you like and enjoy. When you live on campus, meet as many people as you can, and make those connections and attend those events."