Dec. 7, 2023

Students reflect on NDSU experience

Commencement is a time for reflection for students, their families, faculty, staff and the NDSU community. It’s a time to celebrate all the hard work that made an important academic milestone possible.

With that in mind, four NDSU seniors recently shared their campus experiences, memorable moments and what they’ll miss most about NDSU after they graduate.

Winter commencement ceremonies are set for Friday, Dec. 15, in the Sanford Health Athletic Complex. Two ceremonies are scheduled.

The 2 p.m. ceremony will be for graduates of the College of Arts and Social Sciences and the College of Health and Human Sciences. The 5 p.m. ceremony is for graduates in the College of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Natural Resources; College of Business; College of Engineering; and Interdisciplinary Studies.

Ambrosia Yellow Bird, a human development and family science major, was selected class representative to address the 2 p.m. ceremony and Simon Kroll, a computer engineering major, was selected to speak at the 5 p.m. ceremony.

Natalie Lemnus, a marketing and finance major, was selected as the alternate speaker for the 5 p.m. ceremony and Emily Balluff, a mechanical engineering major, was nominated by the College of Engineering as a commencement speaker candidate.


Ambrosia Yellow Bird


What will you miss most about NDSU?

Yellow Bird, Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, North Dakota: I’ll miss the feeling of pride I get walking through campus knowing that I’m doing something big not only for myself but my community. I’ll miss going up to the third floor of the MU and looking at my Grandpa Monte’s paintings. I’ll miss visiting the Sahnish room, and reminding myself that Indigenous people belong in academia, even if it’s not always easy for us. I’ll miss booking study rooms in the library for eight hours at a time with my best friend and absolutely grinding on an assignment I should have been working on for weeks.

Kroll, Royalton, Minnesota: I think what I'll miss the most about NDSU is definitely the people. I've really gotten to know my department, and it's nice to be able to stop by different offices to get advice, help with a class or just to chat about the weather. Everyone's friendly and approachable, and I've built some good connections.

Lemnus, Valley City, North Dakota: I will miss the sense of collective community in being a student at NDSU. Being at NDSU is being a part of something that is bigger than just you. I’ll miss my peers and going through the ropes of college with them. It is such a formative time of our lives and there’s this underlying sense of collectiveness when going through it together.

Balluff, Nowthen, Minnesota: The people. NDSU’s community is truly like no other that I’ve ever seen. When you’re walking down the street everyone’s like ‘hey, how’s it going?’ I’m definitely going to miss that. 

What was your most memorable NDSU experience?

Yellow Bird: Marching with my fellow students through campus during the 2020 protests. Seeing all of the beautiful brown and black faces of NDSU, listening to their stories and pleads for justice, knowing that our ancestors are so proud of us. 

Lemnus: I will never forget my first home Bison football game as an NDSU student. My freshman year of college I made tons of new friends, and I will always remember going to that game with what felt like strangers at the time, who now have become my best friends and we look back and remember that day fondly. NDSU absolutely gave me my lifelong friends.

Balluff: The one that really comes to mind is Homecoming week, especially this year. I had the amazing opportunity to be one of the keynote speakers at the president’s dinner this year and I got to meet some amazing people. The next day I got to be a part of the College of Engineering parade float. Watching my friends play the deans in cornhole was really fun.


Simon Kroll
What was your favorite class?

Kroll: My favorite class was signals and systems. It’s one of the most difficult classes in my major, but I really liked the material and the lecture style. I really enjoyed how knowledgeable the professor was on the content. It was a lot of hard work, but I really appreciated the understanding I got out of the class.

Yellow Bird: My favorite class was Tribal and Indigenous Peoples Studies 101 when my grandpa, Dr. Michael Yellow Bird Sr. was still teaching at NDSU. It made my heart so happy to hear him tell stories about our people, and also to be in a classroom where I’m not the only Indigenous student.

How did NDSU set you up for success after graduation?

Yellow Bird: My experiences at NDSU have given me connections and relationships with people in my field that I will continue to use in my career, as well as mentors who say my name in rooms full of opportunities. NDSU has also taught me about time management, critical thinking, communication skills and adaptability.

Kroll: The resources and opportunities are made really accessible here at NDSU. If you’re somebody that’s looking for opportunities, there’s lots of people here who are willing to support you and there are tons of projects and organizations to get involved in.

Lemnus: NDSU set me up for success after graduation by looking at me as a holistic person, not just a student. NDSU encourages you to lean into the aspects of yourself that make you, you. There’s a club, group activity or meetup for almost any interest you can think of. There’s emphasis to develop yourself in a well-rounded way, not just strictly in academics and I really think that sets you up for success after graduation with a greater sense of yourself.

Balluff: The career opportunities and career assistance here was huge. I think at least two or three times a semester I was sending stuff over to the Career and Advising Center to review my resume or a cover letter. That was awesome. And what I mentioned before, the community here is like none other. Everyone wants to help you succeed.


Natalie Lemnus
What is a lesson you learned as a student that you’ll take with you?

Lemnus: That you are solely responsible for creating the life you want to live. No one is going to do it for you. If you have a vision of the life you want to live, you are the one responsible for creating that reality. Your habits create your life and if you sit around and wait for something to happen, it never will. You must take charge of your life.

Yellow Bird: You will make mistakes. A lot of them. Keep pushing and keep your head up always. Your people need you.

What is your best advice for freshmen entering NDSU?

Kroll: Try things out and be curious. For my first internship as a freshman, I went around and talked to as many companies as I could. At the time, my goal was learn about what each company did and what type of projects their engineers worked on. I ended up connecting with a small company that was willing to give me a chance. If you’re excited and want to get started early, don’t be afraid.

Balluff: Persevere. That is the biggest thing. No matter what major you are, no matter where you came from or where you’re going, you’ll hit a breaking point at some point and that’s natural when it comes to college. What makes you the best in your professional field, whether it be engineering, business or whatever, it’s all about how you approach those challenges and how you get past them.

What do you love about living in Fargo?

Kroll: I really like the proximity to some of the exciting things that are happening. There’s just a lot of really cool opportunities, especially in the area of agricultural technology.

Lemnus: I love Fargo. Fargo feels like a big city and a small town all at the same time. I am so appreciative of the work that organizations do in our community to bring vibrancy and a sense of belonging. There are so many things to do and places to try, creativity and entrepreneurship are encouraged and supported in Fargo.


Emily Balluff
What makes NDSU special?

Balluff: Its super student focused. Everything is made around the students and I really like how they ask for student opinion on a variety of different things, especially when we’re bringing in new faculty, when we’re designing new spaces.  

Yellow Bird: NDSU’s research programs are phenomenal. You can really study almost anything you’re interested in. The professors are great, and most of them actually care about their students and try to make connections with them.

Kroll: I’d have to say again, it’s the people that put passion into it. At the end of the day, it’s the people and the individual interactions that create the culture of any environment.

Lemnus: NDSU is special because of its community. We see it in the alumni who are so excited to come back to campus, to see current students, to support initiatives. We see it in the kids who run around with NDSU shirts on and tell people they are going there when they’re older. People are proud to be a bison and to be a part of the community it is.

Who was your favorite professor?

Lemnus: My favorite professor was Eric Gjerdevig. His industry knowledge was extremely insightful. I found it really helpful to have a professor that had spent years working in the sector that he is now teaching. The real-world application of the lessons were incredibly tangible. You couldn’t be bored in his class with the way he conducts lecture. He sees students as young professionals and goes the extra mile to set us up for success post-grad.

Balluff: Jordi Estevadeordal. He’s my favorite because he was the person that said ‘I’ll give this girl a shot,’ and that was something I really needed at that time. He would tell jokes in class and made it fun. When I asked him to do research, he was like ‘oh heck yes you can do research.’ And because of that I ended up leading the NDSU Hybrid Rocket Propulsion Design team. I started doing research here. He also wrote me countless letters of recommendation to grad school and for North Dakota Space Grant. He was just kind of that person to say, ‘Yes, I want to help you advance,’ and he’s been the person who’s done that the most.

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