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2020 Community Connections Profile - Lindsey McNeill: A 'Texan turned Minnesotan' who is, in fact, going back home to her roots

Mike Christopherson
Lindsey McNeill says she has a "dream job" because she gets to play with ponies every day.

First off, could you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your family, education, background/previous stops, career, etc.?

    Where to begin… well I come from the far away big city of Houston, Texas. I grew up in the city (15 minutes from downtown) for 18 years of my life. All of my family still lives in Texas, my wonderful mom, dad, sister, and 1 ½ year old nephew. I grew up being very involved in swimming, water polo, and girl scouts.

    After graduating high school I had the choice of playing water polo in California or go to school for horses. Logically, I chose horses. I went to West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas (Go Buffs!). I earned my Bachelors of Science in Equine Industry and Business. While there I was an athlete on the equestrian team and in 2012 qualified for the IHSA nationals in both Hunt Seat and Western disciplines. In addition to equestrian, I competed on the Horse Judging team at West Texas, which was also a very successful team.

    I then decided why not move even further north? So I moved to Brookings, South Dakota and earned my Masters of Education in Curriculum/Adult Higher Education. While there, I was a graduate assistant for the NCEA equestrian team there also. Since UMC competes against SDSU I learned of the open position to teach in Crookston the year I was graduating from grad school. I have been in Crookston for the last four years, recently purchasing my first home!

You’re from Texas. You’re a young educator. You’ve settled down in Crookston. You’ve even bought a house here. Community leaders would look at you and say you are exactly the type of person they want to “live, work, play and learn” in Crookston. Tell us what the Texas-to-small-town-Minnesota transition was like, and what’s kept you here so far…

    I believe I get asked this every time I meet someone new. “Why are you still here?” Obviously my logical answer is “Well the weather, of course!” Just kidding! Though I have adjusted very well to the winters, including re-learning how to drive. My real answer though, the people. The people are why I have stayed here. I have an amazing group of co-workers, friends, and what I call my Minnesota family. The transition from True Texan to True Minnesotan would not have been easy without the support from everyone in the community, eh?

You work in the Equine Industries Management program at UMN Crookston. It’s a so-called “niche” program that has been targeted as a definite growth program for the Crookston campus. As someone who is obviously passionate about horses and the equine field as a career, explain to the unenlightened masses what is so amazing about what you do?

    My job is a dream job. I get to come play with ponies all day every day! The best and most rewarding part of my job though is the students. I have been fortunate enough to have such a great group of students that I have gotten to teach and learn from for the past four years. I love getting to walk into the arena, teach my students, and watch them grow their skills. I never thought I would be doing what I do, but I seriously would not have it any other way.

I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve ridden a horse in my life, and haven’t done so for almost 30 years. And yet I claim to absolutely love horses. I could just roam the stables on campus and pet horses all day. Is there something wrong with me?

    Absolutely not! I think horses have a great way of pulling people in and having a bit of a soft eye. They are always therapeutic and can always make your day ten times better. So, clearly, Mike you are destined to own one. I can help you buy a 1200 pound therapy horse that you can talk to every day, and the best part, they don’t talk back!

In addition to your work at UMN Crookston, you’re also a bartender/server at Drafts Sports Bar & Grill. Has that helped you meet new people and make friends in Crookston, or are most of your friends somehow tied to the campus?

    Drafts has been a huge help in my transition to Minnesota life. Jasmine and Brent have been such great bosses and welcomed me with all my Texas quirks. I have had a blast getting to work there. I am usually known by half of the community as the woman that bartends at Drafts, or the crazy horse teacher. I love it. I have met so many people and made connections that have even helped my program. Crookston is a very small world and it’s been great getting to know the community.

Do you consider Crookston to be a “college town,” in regard to however you personally define what a “college town” should be? Please explain.

    I have lived in two separate “college towns.” Canyon, Texas and Brookings, South Dakota. My definition for a college town would be that the population either doubles when the students come for the school year or the economy of the town is effected by the students. I think because our campus is so small we aren’t necessarily considered a college town. We don’t have a lot of college-like businesses. It was extremely helpful when we had a coffee shop in town, that is what I lived and breathed when I was in college.

In just about every photo I’ve ever seen of you, you’re not just smiling but you are, like, extremely smiling. Is that just a personality quirk? Are you super-enthusiastic and bubbly all the time? Or are you really just that happy all the time?

    If you asked my students the answer is absolutely yes. I am just as bubbly and enthusiastic in my classes. Sometimes my students tell me I can be a bit much, but my opinion is that I want to bring some light to their day. College is stressful and if I can at least help lighten the load by bringing a smile to class and a joke, I think I can make some ones day better. Students are under a lot of pressure these days, why not bring some fun into their stressful lives?

Do you have any skills and/or hobbies that are particularly quirky or unusual that might surprise people to know about?

    To no one’s surprise my go-to answer would be horses. I guess since that is not really unusual to my life, I think something a lot of people don’t know is that I’m a puzzler (is that a word?). I love going home and doing puzzles, it’s a great mental break from work.

Let’s try a you’re-stranded-on-a-deserted-island question: You have an amazing home theater and audio system and somehow have all of the electrical power you could ever need. But you can only play three songs and watch three movies. Which three songs and which three movies do you pick?

    Oh, man this is a tough decision.

    Songs: Wannabe- Spice Girls (For when I need something upbeat!)

    We owned the night-Lady Antebellum (or ANYTHING by this band)

    Sweetest Devotion-Adele (Because I can’t leave Adele out)

    Movies: Bridesmaids- I know every line and still laugh.

    Dumplin’- LOVE the meaning behind this movie! Dolly Parton all the way!

    The Notebook- I have to be the cliché single lady

I’m not asking you to list your heroes, since that term is a bit too casually tossed around these days, but could you list three people you look up to and/or admire, and explain why?

    My number one, my Lord and Savior, He is the one that has gotten me to where I am today.

    My number two, my collegiate mentors. Amanda Love, John Pipkin, and Rebecca Bott-Knutson. These three have been major influencers in my life, I would not be successful without the foundational education they gave me.

    My number three, my friends, specifically my horse friends. They have been a major support system for me since moving to Minnesota and have taught me so many valuable lessons.

Please describe yourself using no more than 10 words.

    A Texan turned Minnesotan, ope, y’all.