Donuts with Dragons

Earlier this winter, members of the MSUM Foundation, President Anne Blackhurst and Interim Dean of the College of Business and Innovation Denise Gorsline, had the pleasure of meeting with over 30 alumni working for Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota (BCBSND). Ranging from a wide variety of backgrounds, from biology to business majors, these Dragons helped the health insurance company serve over 375,000 people in 2017 alone.

BCBSND is North Dakota’s oldest healthcare provider, and serving the community is a big part of their mission. In 2017, their employees volunteered 2,700 hours to community projects through Blue&You, their employee volunteer program. In 2018, BCBSND received the LIVE UNITED Leader of the Year Award from the United Way of Cass-Clay.

The company’s connection with MSUM is a strong one. Many Dragons have stepped out of graduation and begun long-time careers at BCBSND. For many of the over 70 Dragon employees, the potential for growth adds a feeling of security.

Brianna Smykowski ’13 (graphic design) started as a graphic layout artist shortly after graduating and transitioned into her role as communications project coordinator in 2017.

“The longer I’m here, the more it seems like home,” Smykowski said.

Greater Pride

Many of the Dragons employed by BCBSND began their time at MSUM as transfer students, which has instilled an even greater pride in their alma mater.

Jasen Walker ’11 (biology), an internal auditor, transferred to MSUM and soon realized the difference in attention and quality.

“I started my freshman year at NDSU. Then I transferred to MSUM. I couldn’t have made a better decision,” Walker said. “MSUM really focused well on their students.”

Like Walker, Smykowski began her time at MSUM as a sophomore transfer student after considering six other colleges and their art programs.

“MSUM stood out as a place I thought would be a good mix for me,” Smykowski said. “When I got here, I found out that MSUM’s art programs were highly sought after. In my class I’d have Cobbers and Bison students, and that really spoke to me. They chose to do certain classes at MSUM because of a teacher and what was offered here.”

Some BCSBSND employees are still studying at MSUM. Jessica Church, a temp doing work for the BlueCard system transformation, is two semesters away from earning her degree in sustainability with an emphasis in environmental policy. A transfer student as well, Church has connected with professors and classmates and already knows her association with MSUM will be stronger than with the other educational institutions she attended. The Dragon camaraderie will go with her wherever she goes.

“My professors were nice, and you get to know everybody really well,” Church said. “If I ever decide to move out of the Fargo-Moorhead area and I’m wearing a Dragon shirt, someone’s going to recognize it and we’ll have that connection.”