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The Life-Changing Journey of Starting a Her Campus Chapter

On a lovely morning in May of 2015, I was proactively procrastinating studying for my microeconomics final. Why would I study when I can scroll through the Facebook newsfeed and read articles that “just get me?” As I was scrolling, I saw an article on HerCampus.com that was written by someone I graduated from high school with – “What? That’s so cool!” As I continued to read more articles on this glamorous-looking website, I fell more and more in love with it, deciding I HAD to bring it to Mankato. About two hours of reading articles [procrastinating studying] and a few cups of coffee later, I decided to [apply to] start a chapter. Mind you, this was completely spontaneous – which is how I choose to do a lot of things in life. I guess I could have titled this “When Procrastinating Studying for Finals Results in Starting a Chapter of Her Campus.”

I quickly called my friend Lizzy (she was actually studying for our exam) and said “I am going to start a chapter of Her Campus and I want you to help me.” She replied with “well, OK sounds good. Why are you doing this? We have a final exam tomorrow.” I ignored that question and told her I would keep her in the loop.

Once I was finally approved to be a Campus Correspondent for Her Campus at MNSU, the excitement began. With the help of Hanna and Jackie (the Campus Correspondents at UW Stout), the organizing got real. I started getting my friends involved and planning how [I thought] the semester would go. Needless to say, as much as you plan things out, it never goes that way. But this was a good thing! I originally started Her Campus to have something fun that my friends and I could do together. It quickly outgrew that thought and became something much larger. By the start of the school year, we had 20 members to start our chapter strong! That proved that there was a need on campus, and I was going to do what I could to fulfill that.

To me, Her Campus was simply a fun online magazine that we would write for… Until I talked to the Dean of the College of Business, Brenda Flannery. To be a female Dean at an AACSB business school is a huge deal and a fascinating accomplishment, as only 19.9 percent are female. This was the (I know this sounds cliché but) life-changing conversation that changed the vision Lizzy and I had. Dean Flannery brought up statistics about women in business and how the enrollment of female business students is declining. There are other majors that are predominantly male dominated such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and we knew we could help fix this. It was time to start recruiting more members if we wanted to make big things happen – we had 25 members at the time.

As word spread, more and more people were interested in learning about the organization. Nick Linde, the Development Director of the College of Business, reached out to me and shared his interest to help, because women empowerment is something he is a strong advocate for.

Lizzy and I were given amazing opportunities to network and spread the word about Her Campus at the YWCA’s Annual Meeting, Minnesota State University – Mankato’s Annual Gala (we got to wear ball gowns to this!), a meeting with two female partners at KPMG (a big four accounting firm), and a delicious lunch at Zelo with the CFO of Piper Jaffray. The experiences I have gained and things I have learned are unexplainable. Meeting alumni that are just as passionate about women empowerment as we are was absolutely amazing!

The chapter began to grow more and more and we involved ourselves around campus as much as we could. The way we ran the chapter quickly and dramatically changed as we learned what did and didn’t work. You could say we lived by the saying “fail forward” (I think Lizzy would agree). Sitting in class, chatting about this, that, and the other thing helped us brainstorm so many ideas, but what we finally realized is that two people thinking together is much less efficient than 30 (the size of our chapter at the time). I created a survey and let the members tell me what they wanted. Yes, I am the leader of the group, but a leader doesn’t exist if there is no group to lead, motivate and excite. It was time to get their feedback and give them what they wished for.

After redesigning how we ran things *again and again* we thought we finally had a system down. That was until we recently sent out another survey and got amazing feedback – time to change things up again! In a leadership role, you learn more about yourself than you would imagine. You also gain priceless knowledge and experience by keeping an open mind and listening to those around you. One of my absolute favorite parts of leading is hearing everyone else’s ideas. I happily accept that I am definitely not the smartest person in the room. By bouncing ideas back and forth from each other, our chapter has gained so much strength and positive atmosphere because we are listening and working with our members, not telling them and enforcing policy while being absent.

I continue to learn new things each day about myself and being a leader, as well as the world around me. Being the Campus Correspondent, President and Founder of Her Campus at MNSU has been an incredible journey already and I am excited and optimistic to see what the future holds for us. There is something humbling and amazing about being surrounded by a group of people who are passionate about the same thing as you, and watching great things happen from that energy. I will leave you with this quote and my life mantra by Henry David Thoreau, “go confidently in your dreams; live the life you imagined.”

Shaela Nelson (pronounced Shay-la), commonly referred to as Shae, is a Junior at Minnesota State University, Mankato, majoring in marketing and minoring in entrepreneurship. Shaela enjoys being a part of many organizations on campus, volunteering with animals and randomly busting out crazy dance moves. Being from the "Land of 10,000 Lakes," you can find her enjoying the lake-life while boating, at any given time of the summer - when she's not a nanny for her favorite kiddos. Shaela enjoys writing for Her Campus because it allows her to express herself and the many ideas she has. Life Motto: "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams; live the life you imagined." -Henry David Thoreau
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