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Majors & Degrees

Learning Leadership

July 29, 2021

Mandy Parpart’s favorite thing about DSU is the people.

Mandy Parpart in front of the DSU Bookstore
Mandy Parpart in front of the DSU bookstore.

“The joy of this job has always been that people have allowed me to make the job what I wanted it to be,” adding new things every year to make it fresh, and to connect with colleagues and students.

“If I have some crazy idea, people are willing to jump on board and we make it happen.” If there are challenges, “we focus on what we can do, and come up with solutions.”

Parpart started at Dakota State 19 years ago as Assistant Director of Student Activities and Residence Hall Director and is now the Director of Student Engagement and Leadership.

Throughout the years, “I have been lucky enough to have many mentors in my life who believed in me and pushed me to take on leadership roles. Because of that, I strive to create opportunities for students to become better leaders, and encourage them to do more than they thought they could.

Students don’t have to have the title of leader to make an impact. “People can lead from all parts of an organization.” In fact, “there’s no real recipe to be a successful leader,” Parpart said.

In fact, “leadership is a mix, and your personality has to be included because you have to be that genuine person, with a little bit of vulnerability so people know you’re still human.”

This can make leadership a difficult concept, so Parpart started a DSU chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success in 2015. Through a step-by-step process, students develop goals through peer groups which encourage and help them on steps to achieve those goals.

“If students are ready for a challenge, I will support them and keep challenging them, but if that’s not something they’re interested in, I will help them where they are,” she said.

She meets students where they are, quite literally, at a number of campus events. That’s one of the things she enjoys about the job.

“I like that every day is different,” she said. “I like the excitement of the start of school, the traditions with orientation, Homecoming, Family Weekend, and Day of Service, so I get to dabble in a lot of really cool things.”

There are cool opportunities for students, too.

“Students can get so much more out of their college experience if they put something into it,” she said, by joining a club, getting involved in residence life events, or in the community.

Parpart models this in her personal life. She works part-time at Valiant Living, a Madison, SD non-profit organization that serves people with disabilities. She started the job to pay some bills, and now says it has changed her life in ways she could never have imagined, even though it’s just a part-time job.

“It fills my cup.”

Originally from Delano, MN, Parpart graduated from St. Cloud State and has a master’s degree in strategic leadership from Black Hills State, but she has grown roots at Dakota State.

“It’s impossible for me to leave.” She can’t even answer the question of what she will do in another 19 years or so when she could retire, but after some thought said she will try to find ways to make a difference.

“I don’t ever see myself being still and not giving back to the community in some way.”

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