As a junior at the University of Minnesota Crookston, I recently had the opportunity to meet with our district’s legislators, Senator Mark Johnson and Representative Deb Kiel, to share why the U of M is so important to me and why we need state investment on the Crookston campus to enable future U of M students to reach their full potential.

    I told them my story: I come from the small town of Lake Norden, South Dakota, graduating from a high school where you knew every student on a first name basis (and most of the time a middle name basis, too).

    Most students that graduate from my highschool choose to stay in South Dakota for college. At first, I fell into that norm and enrolled in an in-state school. But as high school graduation approached, I got an uneasy feeling about my decision. So I researched my passion, golf and turf management, to see what else the world could offer.

    The University of Minnesota Crookston was at the top of that search. So I called admissions, scheduled a tour and met with my future advisor as well as my future golf coach.

    On the car ride home, I had both good and bad news for my parents. The good news was that I had happily decided to attend U of M Crookston. The bad news was that because of my late decision, I was going to have to rewrite every single graduation thank you card.

    But it was the best decision.

    The University of Minnesota Crookston has provided me with endless opportunities, from receiving a U of M degree on a small campus, to getting involved in student government, to competing in collegiate golf, to growing my professional network by meeting superintendents from some of the most famous golf courses in the world—some right here in Minnesota.

    On top of all that, my U of M Crookston education has given me the opportunity to conduct undergraduate research, which centers around the relationship between agronomic field conditions and player safety on athletic sports fields. Working with my professor on this topic has been an amazing experience. I am proud to say that next year we will be headed to Baltimore as well as Phoenix to present our work.

    Undergraduate research is a unique opportunity and a strength at  U of M Crookston, but on campus, many of our labs are outdated, cramped and not equipped for students to tackle 21st century research challenges. That’s why we need legislative investment.

    Specifically, the University wants to renovate and repair Dowell Hall and Owen Hall, two of the most active buildings on campus and the hubs of science research at U of M Crookston. This project is called “Greater Minnesota Academic Renewal.” And these buildings do need renewal. They are old and outdated, and many of their labs and classrooms are outdated and unuseful. In fact, built in 1908, Owen Hall is the oldest building on campus.

    With legislative funding, the University will get to work to transform these spaces for the direct benefit of students. We’ll turn Dowell Hall into a 21st century space for STEM education, computational research, and teacher education. And Owen Hall will be renovated with modern chemistry and biology labs that will provide spaces for independent undergraduate research.

    With legislative funding, U of M Crookston can continue to give students the very best opportunities for growth and learning. I have had no shortage of amazing opportunities at U of M Crookston, and I want nothing less for future generations.

Benjamin G. Koisti

University of Minnesota Crookston

    Koisti is a junior majoring in golf and turf management, while also minoring in business management. He is president elect of the Crookston Student Association.