Making sunny connections on the court

Making sunny connections on the court

It’s just a typical day at the office when Walter Mannino ’09 arranges a special high-five, a coveted autograph, or a prime spot on the warm-up bench. But to the clients he represents as an account experience specialist with the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, it’s a memory they’ll never forget. Mannino manages a portfolio of more than 300 business/premium and individual ticket accounts. On LinkedIn, he describes his job as “maximizing the season ticket-holder experience.” That means thinking up new and creative events like the “high-five kids,” which gets younger fans out on the court to greet the players. “We want to ensure they have a great experience, give them the ‘wow’ moments,” he said. “We ensure they are getting great memories so that when they grow up, they bring their kids. “I try to make sure my accounts take a memory from each game. During yesterday’s game, we got to bring in some kids for the bench warmer program. They got to sit on the bench and watch the players warm up right on the court. To see the excitement the kids get when they get that close to the players was great. We want them to feel like they got an amazing experience. “Saint Mary’s helped me in that respect. You have that personalized experience at Saint Mary’s. I want to pass that along and show people as many personalized experiences as I can.” Mannino admits, like most college students, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to study when he first came to Saint Mary’s, but looking back, majoring in sports management was a slam-dunk. “I realized that...
Dr. Jim Towers retires from Saint Mary’s

Dr. Jim Towers retires from Saint Mary’s

Dr. Jim Towers has made a career of educating students and educating educators. He’s shared his passion for learning with students around the globe. His first teaching job after college was at a high school in the Australian outback — the wayoutback. In fact, he remembers leaving the classroom one afternoon to investigate a loud noise outside, only to discover several kangaroos rummaging through the garbage bins for discarded food. After graduate school, Dr. Towers again headed overseas, this time to Kuwait. “I taught in a private high school mainly for the embassy kids and oil people’s kids and sheiks’ kids,” he said. “It was a heck of an experience, living in an Islamic culture.” When he returned to the United States, he took a job teaching in Illinois and eventually came to call Saint Mary’s home in 1988, when he was hired as the chair of the Education Department. He took one leave of absence to help formulate a new university specifically for women in the United Arab Emirates. “That’s kind of an anomaly. It was one of the first ones to happen in the Middle East,” he said. “They needed someone to be the dean of the college of education and needed someone to start it up for a year. I helped put the curriculum together and got staff in place.” Basically, Dr. Towers is a believer in lifelong learning and is happy to enable learning for students of any age in any location. Dr. Towers said he hopes that through the years he’s instilled in his students the importance of continued intellectual curiosity. “I hope it...
GIS business thrives with Saint Mary’s alumni

GIS business thrives with Saint Mary’s alumni

Mark Packard M’97 knew where to look for expertise in 2006 when the geographic information systems (GIS) department of an environmental consulting company he worked for spun off into its own company, ddms. Having earned his Master’s of Science in Geographic Information Science at Saint Mary’s University, he went back to his alma mater’s network. First Packard hired one Saint Mary’s alumnus. Then two. Today, six of ddms’ 20 employees are graduates of Saint Mary’s GIS program. That’s not to say that Packard hires only Saint Mary’s alumni or that he does so out of loyalty to the institution. Rather, each employee at ddms — regardless of where they were educated — has won a job offer through an interview process where six or more people have been interviewed. “Just because you went to Saint Mary’s, we won’t blindly let you in,” Packard assured. “Everyone has had to earn it, and everyone has had to go through a multi-phased interview process.” So what sets apart Saint Mary’s GIS graduates? “We have a really good understanding of what it takes (to do this type of work),” Packard said. “We know that their level is where we need it to be for our hires. We have a really high comfort level in understanding what their education was, having gone through it.” Packard’s own GIS story started in 1996 when he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in geology. He enjoyed his undergraduate education, but knew he needed more computer and technology training. That led him to enroll in the Saint Mary’s master’s of science in GIS program. “I think I finished in...
Dr. Ting Ni retires from Saint Mary’s

Dr. Ting Ni retires from Saint Mary’s

Dr. Ting Ni’s remarkable story has inspired countless students throughout her tenure. (And it’s even suppressed a bit of whining by students who could otherwise be tempted to take their education for granted.) Ni, a native of Tianjin, China, grew up during the tumultuous Cultural Revolution. For 10 years, between 1966 and 1976, schools were closed in China under Mao Zedong’s orders. And at 16, Ni was sent to a village to be “re-educated” by peasant labor. She was told she would spend the rest of her life working in this village. She spent long days doing hard labor in the fields. “Peasants would work from dawn until it was dark when you couldn’t see anymore,” she said. But in the evening, she taught herself English by listening to a radio, thirsty for knowledge. Prior to the Cultural Revolution, both of Ni’s parents were educators, and she grew up on a college campus surrounded by an academic environment. “Teaching was always something I wanted to do, even when I was really young,” she said. “My first dream was to go to college. The Cultural Revolution interrupted my dream, but that dream didn’t die.” Her parents, labeled as counter-revolutionaries, were punished. Her father was sent to what Ni compares to a concentration camp, and her brother was sent to work in a dangerous coal mine thousands of miles away. Yet her mother would send her used books, which were hard to come by as libraries were closed, and many books had been destroyed. During this period, Ni heard about a national exam — administered by the government — that the...
Graduates see bright future

Graduates see bright future

Earning a college degree is never easy, but the reward is lifelong. The student speakers at the Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota Schools of Graduate and Professional Programs Commencement Ceremony on June 1 would attest to that. PHOTO: Braulio Carrasco M’14 stops and poses for a “selfie” photo with program director Susan Moore before receiving his diploma. Prior to their fellow graduates walking across the stage at the Saint Mary’s University Center and receiving their diplomas, several students provided reflections. The speakers told stories of various bumps in the road and moments of doubt along the way toward earning the degree that they wanted. “A little bit less than two years ago, I started my journey at Saint Mary’s,” said Yue Xu M’14, a native of China who received her M.A. in Health and Human Services Administration on Sunday. “I faced a lot of differences between the traditional Chinese education style and the western education style. I remember that I did not know what a syllabus was, and I did not bring it to my first class. “I also remember asking myself a lot of questions, like what did I get myself into? Am I prepared enough to start a master’s program in an English-speaking country? Should I drop it right away? And to be honest, a lot more thoughts passed. Then I remembered to ask myself one last question: how much do I want a master’s degree? The answer to that question helped me make my decision to continue my studies at Saint Mary’s.” Besides cultural and language barriers, Xu also had to focus on two family emergencies...
Aspiring police officer spent semester with Interpol

Aspiring police officer spent semester with Interpol

Junior Colin Hennessy’s desire to help people started in grade school. Back then, he would play pretend fireman, chasing his dog with a water hose and spraying water into the open windows of his house. His parents put a kink in the hose. “Needless to say, my firefighting days ended as abruptly as they started after my parents found out the kitchen and living room were soaking wet and the dog was hiding in house,” Hennessy said. Little did the Hennessys know that childhood pretending would eventually lead their son to an internship with INTERPOL in Washington, D.C., and aspirations to become a police officer battling narcotics. Hennessy, a criminal justice and law enforcement major from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is one of two students spending spring semester interning in Washington, through a partnership with the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars. When Hennessy applied for the internship, he wasn’t sure where he would be working. “About a month before I was set to leave for D.C., I received an e-mail that INTERPOL had looked over my information and wanted to offer me a position. I was so excited about this opportunity and it was difficult to contain myself,” he said. “I had just gotten offered a position with a very prestigious federal investigations agency that assists law enforcement activities worldwide!” Hennessy knows that getting experience with investigations is vital to his career. “Policing is about much more than just finding the bad guy and putting him or her behind bars,” he said. “Investigations are the major lifeblood of law enforcement agencies around the world. This is also a...
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