Nine students were selected fall semester 2015 outstanding students at Metropolitan State. The honored students are Heidi Anderson-Ferdinand, College of Arts and Sciences; Kyle Cold, College of Individualized Studies; Pa Houa Her, School of Urban Education; Brian David Klein, College of Management (COM) undergraduate; Vladimir Litvinov, School of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice undergraduate; Agnieszka Longtine, College of Health, Community and Professional Studies; Julie McGary, School of Nursing (SON) undergraduate; Jonathan Popko, SON graduate; and Chad Struss, COM graduate.
Heidi Anderson-Ferdinand, of Fridley, who was selected student commencement speaker, graduated magna cum laude. She recently began working as a branch librarian of the Pine City Library, which is part of the East Central Regional Library System. She previously worked at the Northtown and Rum River branches of the Anoka County Library System. The history major made abundant use of alternative learning strategies, including completing internships at the University of Minnesota, the Walker Art Center and the recently-opened East Side Freedom Library. She received two degrees—an associate of liberal arts and an associate of science in library information technology—from Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) in 2013 and was a member of the academic honor society member (Phi Theta Kappa) and the Minnesota All-State Academic Team. She was among a select group of students tapped to visit members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. Anderson-Ferdinand is a member of the American Library Association (ALA), the Minnesota Library Association, the Society of American Archivists, the Twin Cities Archive Round Table and the ALA History Round Table. She is currently attending graduate school online at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Information Studies, working on a Master of Library Information Science with an archival concentration.
Impressed with his community service and emergency management skills and experiences, the U.S. State Department requested Kyle Cold to consider applying for a Peace Corps post in Ukraine. Result: He is now teaching English and working in community development assisting nongovernmental organizations in the northern Ukraine. Cold, who crafted his own major in global human studies, earned about 60 credits in student-designed independent studies. A vice president of the university’s Law Enforcement Student Association, he founded and led a student group called the Silver Hand Society, which does emergency management and preparedness services in partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Up until he left for the Ukraine in October, Cold was a disaster-response volunteer for the Minneapolis American Red Cross; a volunteer member of the Linwood Township Fire Department; a smokechaser for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR); and a specialist for Anoka County Emergency Management. He has training and is certified in emergency management with Homeland Security Emergency Management, the Anoka County Emergency Medical Technician Program, the Anoka County Fire Academy and the DNR Fire Training Academy. Cold’s future plans include working in international relations and disaster relief, obtaining a Ph.D. in this field and teaching that subject matter as a university professor.
Pa Houa Her, of Oakdale, is a first-generation Hmong who says it is a “dream” fulfilled to become the first in her family to obtain a college degree. The early childhood major—who received two Metropolitan State scholarships, the Forrest W. King Endowed Textbook Scholarship and another one from the School of Urban Education—has long been active in the community. She was a classroom volunteer for two Saint Paul schools, including Jackson Preparatory Magnet School in Saint Paul, where she also student-taught. Additionally, Her was a home literacy instructor and an after-school tutor for two other Saint Paul schools. As part of her community service associated with being selected first runner-up in the 2005 Miss Hmong Minnesota Pageant, she tutored Hmong children and served as a social and health services “navigator” for Hmong families in need. Some of her paid positions also aided the community, including serving as a teaching assistant, an after-school Hmong literacy instructor, and Hmong dance teacher. Her graduated in 2008 from Century College with an associate of arts degree and was a member of that school’s Education Club and the Asian Student Association. Future plans for the mother of two—who was born in a Thailand refugee camp but moved to the United States when she was four—include obtaining a teacher’s license and fulfilling another dream—instructing urban children.
Brian David Klein, of Maple Grove, is a long-time community volunteer. The management information systems major volunteers for Feed My Starving Children, French Bulldog Rescue Group, and Outfront Minnesota, a nonprofit that provides programs and services to Minnesota’s LGBTQ and allied communities. He previously helped out at the Saint Cloud-area Tri-County Humane Society. For 13 years, Klein worked for Hustad Housing Company, a Saint Cloud housing retailer that sells factory-built and modular homes. He started out in customer service management, was promoted to operations management and later spearheaded several IT business analyst projects. While working for Hustad, he also managed a retail center in Sartell. Klein graduated with academic honors (Phi Theta Kappa) from Normandale Community College in 2001 with an associate’s degree in small business marketing and management. His future plans include securing an analyst or consultant position with a large Twin Cities-area company and, longer term, pursuing a graduate degree.
At age 20, Vladimir Litvinov, of Prior Lake, is one of Metropolitan State’s youngest graduates. The criminal justice major is a first-generation student from Uzbekistan who arrived in the United States with his parents when he was four. Litvinov—who has worked the past four years as a front-desk sales representative at a Savage car dealership—earned two associate’s degrees from Normandale Community College in 2014. He graduated with academic honors (Phi Theta Kappa) from Normandale. Litvinov previously performed community-improvement activities as an Explorer for the Bloomington Police Department, and he is now volunteering for his Russian-language church, the Shakopee Slavic Baptist Church. A 2013 Prior Lake High School graduate, Litvinov plans to earn his bachelor’s in law enforcement from Metropolitan State in 2016. Following that Litvinov—who has an Emergency Medical Responder Certification—intends to pursue a master’s degree in criminal justice from the university.
Agnieszka Longtine, 34, of Zimmerman, is a Polish native who spoke no English when she and her family moved to the United States in 1997. Compounding her challenges, she was the primary caretaker for her family, including maternal grandparents who endured ongoing medical issues. The alcohol and drug counseling major completed two university internships as a licensed alcohol and drug counselor specializing in assisting adolescents. While attending Metropolitan State, she was a chemical dependency technician for five years for a Monticello chemical health residential program for adolescents, winning several employee-of-the-month awards and ending ups as lead technician trainer. Longtine—who helped organize a fundraising benefit for a young mother and friend battling breast cancer—graduated from Minneapolis Community and Technical College in 2006 with an associate of arts in law enforcement. Her career plans include continuing to work with adolescents and families. Eventually, Longtine hopes to pursue a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling.
For the past five years, Julie McGary has been a birth center nurse manager at River Falls Area Hospital, River Falls, Wisconsin. The registered nurse is certified in obstetric nursing and is a member of the Wisconsin Perinatal Association. The Hudson, Wisconsin resident’s nursing career spans 30-plus years and has included a variety of health care posts in several states, including Minnesota, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Long active in the community, McGary is president of Turningpoint for Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence in River Falls. A member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, she also volunteers for Feed My Starving Children, March of Dimes, World Vision, The Borgen Project, a Seattle nonprofit that addresses worldwide poverty and hunger; and the Family Resource Center, a parent-education and family-support program serving western Wisconsin. McGary, who graduated from Century College in 1984 with associate of science degree, plans to continue her community service and perhaps work to raise awareness in mental health and substance abuse, domestic and sexual violence, and global poverty. She also plans to pursue a graduate degree in public health with a focus on policy and advocacy.
Jonathan Popko, of Saint Paul, served as president of the Nursing Student Organization (NSO), a university group that sponsors health-care events and often provides real-world learning opportunities for nursing students. Formerly NSO’s vice president, Popko spearheaded a variety of activities that led to vastly increased membership for the student group. He has been working on-call or part-time the past several years for Acceptance, Communication and Respect Homes, a Roseville provider of housing and services for persons with disabilities. Previously, he was a lab technician for the University of Minnesota’s Department of Pharmacology. Active in the community, he has been a patient visitor at a Fairview hospital in Minneapolis; taught computer classes at Saint Anthony Park Library; and served as a homework help tutor for adults at the Minneapolis Central Library. He graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2008 with double majors in neuroscience and genetics cell biology and development. Popko’s future plans may include working as a family nurse practitioner, nurse educator or public health nurse. He also expects to further his higher education.
Chad Struss, of Cambridge, who graduated with a Master’s of Public and Nonprofit Administration, is Isanti County’s auditor-treasurer. Campaigning for the elected post last year was both the most challenging and rewarding career experience for the introverted-leaning Struss, because it moved him out of his comfort zone. He oversees a nearly $1 million annual budget and a staff of 11. His office, which performs accounting, payroll, investments and cash management, elections, property tax administration and licensing functions, was recently honored for excellence in financial reporting. Previously, he was Isanti County’s finance director and assistant county auditor for eight years. Before that, he was a local government auditor in the Minnesota State Auditor’s Office. Active professionally, Struss is a member of the Minnesota CPA Society, the Minnesota Association of County Officers and the Government Finance Officers Association. He is also active in the community, serving on the city of Cambridge’s Planning Commission, the council of Christ the King Catholic Church in Cambridge, and the Anoka Ramsey Community College Business Advisory Committee. Struss graduated from the College of Saint Scholastica in Duluth in 2003, majoring in accounting, serving as student senate president, and participating on the school’s cross country team.