McKenna Togstad graduated from MSUM in May 2020 with a degree in economics. Throughout her time at MSUM she accomplished a lot and was very involved on campus. Her undergraduate research was published in Issues in Political Economy. She also participated in the National Student Exchange (NSE) program which gave her the opportunity to study in New Jersey for a semester.
The National Student Exchange program allows students to spend either a semester or a year at another school while paying the cost of their home school’s tuition.
“I always knew that I wanted to travel during school,” says McKenna. “I first took a trip to New York my sophomore year and decided I really wanted to spend more time out there, so I reached out to the study abroad coordinator who helped me prepare for the NSE program.”
She appreciated that she had the opportunity to experience a different school’s overall lifestyle in New Jersey. She decided to branch out and take some art classes instead of her usual economics classes.
“I learned a lot about being independent and this was a great way for me to step out of my comfort zone,” says McKenna.
While studying in New Jersey she spent most of her weekends in New York City visiting tourist attractions and attending Broadway shows. That sparked the interest that inspired her to choose Broadway as the topic for her undergraduate research project.
For her research, she studied the impact of the Tony Awards on gross revenue and longevity. She explored why a show should be invested in winning Tony Awards based on the economic impact a win has.
With this, she discovered several interesting things. For example, a win in an acting category leads to greater financial gain than a win in a technical category. She also learned about many different aspects of the inner workings of Broadway shows. Overall, she found wins are beneficial in the long run as they lead to the opportunity for shows to run longer and make more money.
“I picked this topic because I love Broadway. I worked on this paper for almost two years so it was important for me to pick a topic I knew I wouldn’t get tired of,” says McKenna. “I thought this topic seemed exciting for both myself and for other people to read.”
Dr. Oscar Flores and Dr. TJ Hansen served as excellent mentors, and they helped contribute to the success of McKenna’s research. She had taken several classes from them before, and they always had an open door. “Even today I still talk to them and I’m grateful for the connection I made with them; they’re not only mentors while you’re a student, but they’re mentors for life,” says McKenna.
McKenna was also active on campus. She was a member of the MSUM Swimming and Diving team, and she was a Dragon Ambassador. In swimming she competed in distance free style events. Competing and bonding with her teammates were what she enjoyed most.
As a Dragon Ambassador, her job was to take potential students and their families on campus tours. This gave her the chance to meet a lot of people she wouldn’t have otherwise meet. Her favorite part of being a Dragon Ambassador was the opportunity to tell people what she loves about MSUM, including the robust experience she had in New Jersey.
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Helen Wussow is a lifelong educator who believes in the power of higher education. As a faculty member and administrator, she has devoted her career to providing opportunities to students who otherwise might not attend university. She’s also a recipient of a 2021 MSUM Distinguished Alumni Award.