What do you get when you mix together a closet of purple polos, a marching band uniform, a dash of servant-leadership, and a generous helping of K-State enthusiasm? You get some of the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s most involved students on campus, who are working not only to make a lasting impression on Kansas State University, but to gain real-life experience in preparation for the world beyond Kedzie’s walls.
If there’s one person on campus whose vast and recognizable collection of purple polos can only be out-shined by his scope of school involvement, it would be Brett Seidl.
Seidl, a senior in public relations, dedicates his time as a member of Student Alumni Board, serves as various committee heads for Student Governing Association, works as vice president of Student Foundation, has been elected president of his fraternity, Delta Sigma Phi, and is developing mentorship programming for members of the Quest Freshman Leadership Honorary through Blue Key Senior Honor Society.
“I was involved a little bit in high school, but definitely when I came to K-State, I really kind of came out of my shell,” Seidl said. “I never would have thought that I would be this involved or have this many cool opportunities at K-State, so it’s definitely been a spread your wings type thing.”
Seidl maintains his fraternity offered him numerous mentors who shaped his first several semesters at the university and pointed him in the right direction when it came to campus involvement. Of all the organizations he’s committed himself to over the years, Seidl said Delta Sigma Phi has been the one he’s felt most passionate about, due to the amount of experience and opportunities it’s provided.
“My fraternity involvement has been really big in learning how to work with people and learning how to communicate with people,” Seidl said. “I think I took leadership roles in Delta Sigma Phi because I felt passionate about it … I had never been in an environment where I had to interact with so many people from so many different backgrounds, so closely on a lot of things that I felt like mattered.”
Fellow fraternity brother and former K-State student body president, Nate Spriggs, senior in agricultural economics, worked alongside Seidl in several capacities, including Delta Sigma Phi and Student Alumni Board.
“Brett always wants to be inclusive of everyone,” Spriggs said. “He’s very cognizant of everyone’s views. I’ve seen him facilitate multiple meetings and he makes sure everyone’s voice is heard. He’s committed to finding solutions that are the best for everyone.”
Spriggs attributed Seidl’s sense of sincerity as a facet of his leadership growth at the university level.
“Brett doesn’t do things for a title or for recognition,” Spriggs said. “He’s extremely sincere and very intentional in the questions he asks, the conversations he has and what he chooses to get involved with. He wants to do things that will have a great impact and that he feels he will be best at, so he never just does things to be doing things.”
Seidl’s co-director for Quest Freshman Leadership Honorary, Samantha Kellerman, senior in nutritional sciences, echoed Spriggs’ sentiments.
“Not only is Brett one of the most passionate and driven K-Staters I’ve ever met, but he is one of the most down to earth and genuine guys out there,” Kellerman said. “Whether he’s interacting with faculty and administrators, encouraging members of a team, or mentoring freshman on campus, he truly embodies what it means to be a servant leader. He’s exactly the type of leader and team player you’d want to work with.”
Kellerman added that Seidl’s ability to discuss difficult topics in a cool, collected manner and his diligent use of Google calendars has made him particularly enjoyable to work with over the 3 ½ years she’s known him.
In March 2013, Seidl, with the help of senior in public relations, Chelsea Gerber, created and launched the “Your Union” campaign to pass a referendum for the renovation and expansion of the K-State Student Union in upcoming years. Together, they worked to increase awareness through presentations and on-campus promotions about the needs of the deteriorating building and the ways in which its restoration would better serve the student population.
Spriggs, who worked closely with Seidl on the project, said pioneering “Your Union” is a perfect example of the leadership style he exhibits.
“Brett has always been a problem solver,” Spriggs said. “He likes to find the elephant in the room and take it on by bringing together people of all different expertise and then finding creative ways to solve those problems, and I think the Union is the perfect example of that. He’s graduating soon and he’s never going to experience (the renovated Union), but he was motivated by the opportunity to solve a problem that we had on campus and make things better for the people who come after him.”
As for his time in the A.Q. Miller School, Seidl said Kedzie Hall has provided him with great resources and opportunities, including a trip to China to participate in an independent study.
“From day one, when I switched into the public relations track late freshman year, the journalism school has been a great place to call home,” Seidl said. “My faculty and advisers are so incredibly friendly and accessible, and I feel like I’ve had a lot of opportunities for hands-on experiences.”
So, what drives someone like Seidl to continue devoting his rare and valuable free time to serving the university?
“Ultimately, it’s just my love for K-State,” Seidl said. “I’ve gained so much self-confidence during my time here and looking back now as a senior, I think for the first time I can finally realize that.”
Even though his time at K-State is dwindling, Seidl is determined to pay it forward by investing in young K-Staters the way his mentors did for him.
“I guess they always say the mark of a good leader is to produce more leaders,” he said. “I’d like to have a legacy that after I leave, there are going to be people who had some sort of positive experience because of me, so they’re able to do something good for K-State, too. I would feel like I was failing if I wasn’t giving back or doing something to help develop those opportunities for other people.”
Picture the epitome of the ultimate K-State fan, decked in purple and cheering on the ‘Cats at every football game with the sweet fanfare of the Wabash Cannonball playing in the background, and there’s a good chance the person who would come to mind is Ross Jensby.
Jensby, senior in public relations and political science, and a third generation K-State student, has spent the past four years constructing his reputation as “the” K-State guy. During his time on campus, he’s been involved as the tuba section leader in the K-State Marching Band, dedicated his time as a senator for the Student Governing Association, served on the Union Program Council as the organization’s president, a member of the Union Governing Board, and helped with the K-State Athletics Student Advisory Board.
Even prior to his pursuit of a degree in mass communications, Jensby participated in journalism-affiliated organizations such as Wildcat Watch. Though he didn’t apply to the A.Q. Miller School until his junior year, he managed to quickly establish himself as a vocal member by being selected as a JMC Ambassador to recruit potential new students.
“I did a lot of things in high school, so when I came in as a freshman, I felt like I was doing nothing and had so much free time,” Jensby said. “I started to do a couple of things, like UPC and marching band as a freshman, but I waited until my junior year to add student government, so I kind of added things as I saw I could.”
As a freshman, Jensby followed in the footsteps of his older sister in choosing to become a member of UPC and began flying through the ranks in no time at all. When a position on the executive board opened halfway through his first year, he didn’t hesitate to jump right in.
“It’s kind of unheard of to have a freshman be in an executive level position,” said Ben Hopper, program adviser for the K-State Student Union and adviser for UPC, who met Jensby when he first visited K-State as a high school senior.
“Ross is just a very special kid,” Hopper said. “It’s just been really great to see this amazing student leader develop into an even stronger student leader.”
Jensby’s acquaintances say his “calling card” is his avid zeal for the university, and his role as president of UPC has served as a monumental outlet for his school pride.
“Ross is very dynamic and just passionate about K-State,” Hopper said. “He just has this excitement and passion for K-State and making this place an awesome K-State family and experience, so through UPC, he’s been able to do that by putting on major events, and this year as president, really foster that K-State family feeling.”
Jensby said while the transition from being an event co-chair in the organization to serving as president has been interesting. He’s enjoyed facilitating a positive experience for the other members of the group by giving them vision and direction surrounding UPC’s big-name events, such as hosting Bill Nye the Science Guy and Seth Meyers from Saturday Night Live, on campus.
Even when his leadership roles get tough, Hopper said Jensby doesn’t dwell on the negative. In September 2012, UPC had arranged for Meyers’ SNL co-star, Andy Samberg, to perform for the student body, but when he cancelled at the last minute, Jensby promptly sprung into action.
“I don’t know what motivates him to be so positive,” Hopper said. “Even when he was ‘throwing together’ a major, $100,000 show, then promoting it and still having it be a huge success all within the first six weeks of the semester, he just had so much energy. He’s very adaptable. Wanting people to have a good time and positive experience is, I think, what motivates Ross the most.”
One of Jensby’s fellow KSU Marching Band members, Brett Eichman, added Ross’ interpersonal skills to the list of his admirable qualities.
“Ross is a great person and a lover of people,” Eichman said. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with him on a lot of different events through KSU Marching Band and Phi Mu Alpha, and he is always willing to do what it takes to help the people around him. Dr. Tracz (director of bands) always says to work hard to leave something better than you found it, and I think Ross works diligently to leave Kansas State a better place than he found it.”
Jensby said he tends to be most passionate about organizations that directly provide service to students, which is why he’s dedicated to his campus involvement.
He couldn’t pick a favorite.
“In UPC, we plan events and alternative options to give students healthy and safe choices,” Jensby said. “SGA uses tuition dollars to help student groups achieve goals and facilitate more learning outside of the classroom, and the marching band, I directly see as a service we do to provide the atmosphere that we see as K-State.”
In reference to his experience as a JMC student, Jensby said his transfer into journalism was made simple, thanks to the faculty he’s worked with in the A.Q. Miller School.
“The journalism school in general does a very good job of advising you and shaping your academics and helping you figure out how to graduate,” Jensby said. “The faculty that are good are really, really good.”
Even with graduation on the horizon, Jensby said he’s not particularly concerned about the tangible legacy he’ll leave behind.
“I think a lot of people worry that people will forget them,” Jensby said. “I don’t really care. I don’t need someone to remember that I was here. I’ve put a lot of time into doing different organizations and things outside of the classroom, so hopefully when I’m alumni, I can come back and say, ‘Well, this is better than when I left.’”
Although he admitted he has the itch to persevere outside the limits of campus, Jensby said that he’s savoring every last minute he has at the university he’s come to love.
“I’ve felt this way since I was a freshman, but having the opportunity to wake up and go to school at K-state every day has just been a dream come true,” Jensby said. “I mean, why would you not want to be a part of that? I’m just trying to soak up as much as I can while I’m here.”