MSUM graduates start ‘Hack Fargo’

Justin Tuchek and Sri Kadimisetty on winning team at Startup Weekend

No talk; all action.

This phrase encompasses the idea behind Fargo’s Startup Weekend, which was held March 8-9 at the Fargo Theater. Over 90 students and professionals were present at the event.

Justin Tuchek and Sri Kadimisetty, MSUM computer science students who graduated in May, participated in Startup Weekend.

This word cloud, found on Hack Fargo’s website, contains the words most commonly heard during a police dispatch call.

“Startup Weekend is this event for developers, designers and the spirited entrepreneur,” Tuchek said. “The event is to raise the entrepreneurial spirit in town; to get things kick-started here.”

Tuchek and Kadimisetty finished the event on the winning team, Hack Fargo. The team’s idea was simple and straightforward: to create a platform to make public city data more accessible.

“We take government data that’s kind of trapped and we … make it into a format that can be easily used for apps or some kind of mobile service,” Kadimisetty said.

The team targeted just one set of data during the 54-hour competition – police dispatch calls in the Fargo-Moorhead area. Though the calls are public record, there was no real beneficial use for the information – that is, until Hack Fargo came along.

“One cool thing that we could do is potentially map crime against light bulbs out at streetlights,” Tuchek said. “Is there a correlation between having burnt out lights and an increase in crime from the dispatch logs?”

Tuchek and Kadimisetty probably know the answer, and plan on letting others know through continued work on the project.

Although the event is over, all eight members of Hack Fargo intend on moving forward with the project. The winners of Startup Weekend were provided with a prize package to help them start their business, including: three hours of mentorship through Emerging Prairie; $500 for the setup of an LLC or LLP; legal assistance; and the opportunity to speak at One Million Cups in Fargo.

“We want to be the framework for a movement, so we want others to build off of service we provide,” Kadimisetty said.

Tuchek says working with community professionals during Startup Weekend was definitely a “fast learning curve,” but the experience has been a great benefit.

“It’s a great way to get involved in your community and to see what’s being actively done and who’s actively involved with it,” Tuchek said.

For now, Tuchek and Kadimisetty are focused on entering the workforce, but still plan on devoting time to Hack Fargo.

“As long as we have free time on our hands and are motivated enough, we can keep this going,” Kadimisetty said.

Other members of Hack Fargo include: Blaine Booher, Clifton Labs; Shane White, OnSharp and Midwest Streams; Zachary Tracy; Flo Sauvageau; David Lannoye, Microsoft; and Michael Ressl, Hard Charge.

Visit team Hack Fargo’s website at or follow them on Twitter: @HackFargo.

MSUM percussionists perform with 2014 Pulitzer Prize winning composer, John Luther Adams

This past weekend, 11 percussionists from the MSUM Percussion Studio traveled with Dr. Kenyon Williams to Duluth, Minn., to perform “Inuksuit,” an epic outdoor work composed by Alaskan composer John Luther Adams. While in Duluth, they attended a concert featuring works by Adams as well as a world-premier composition written for the occasion.

After the recital, the students received the opportunity to work closely with the composer as he coached the gathered performers on how to best perform “Inuksuit” the following morning.

At the performance, Adams continued to work side-by-side with the students and the performers gathered, tailoring the piece to the environment it was performed in. After returning to MSUM, the ensemble learned that Adams had received the Pulitzer Prize in Music for 2014. Congratulations to Adams, and to the MSUM students who had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with a composer of his stature!

Analyzing Risks

Actuarial science program prepares students for global internships

Actuary is the number one career in America according to Actuaries analyze financial costs of risk and uncertainty, and use mathematics, statistics and financial theory to assess the risk that an event will occur to help businesses and clients develop policies that minimize the cost of that risk.

Students at Minnesota State University Moorhead can receive their degree in mathematics with an emphasis in actuarial science. One of the many perks to studying actuarial science at MSUM is 100 percent job placement after graduation.

According to, “employment of actuaries is expected to grow 27 percent between now and 2020. Students with internship experience who have passed at least one actuarial exam while in school should have the best prospects for entry-level positions.” Continue reading

Move It and Lose It

Reframing perceptions about exercise

With obesity affecting more than 78 million adult Americans in 2013, there is no question a need for practicing healthier habits has arisen.

Emily Bublitz, a Dragon Mentor and senior at MSUM, will be showcasing her presentation “Move It and Lose It: Can Reframing Exercise Increase One’s Intentions to Work Out?” at this year’s Student Academic Conference on April 15. In her presentation, she will use the theory of planned behavior to support her main argument that retraining the way your brain perceives exercise can support healthy endeavors in the long run. Continue reading

Making Strides

Physics student scores prestigious internship in fuel cell lab
2014 Student Academic Conference presenter

Half a world away, a young Iwnetim (Tim) Abate dreamed of a world free from global warming.

Years later, Abate is taking part in making his dream a reality.

The junior physics major at MSUM is making strides in the field of physics and engineering. Abate, an international student from Ethiopia, is already making a name for himself, scoring prestigious internships and winning major awards in his field.

The last two summers, Abate interned at the California Institute of Technology, working under Sossina Haile in her fuel cell lab.

“When I was working there I was exposed to a new kind of engineering,” Abate said. “Now I want to do it in the future.”

Abate worked on creating a fuel cell that is more efficient than those currently used, ultimately reducing emissions altogether.

“Solid oxide fuel cells are a kind of fuel cell which converts chemical energy to electrical energy,” Abate said. “They have zero carbon dioxide or toxic emission so they are environmentally friendly devices.”

Energy efficiency strikes close to home for Abate, whose home country is constantly struggling to maintain the flow of energy.

“There are still cities in my country where they don’t have electricity for days,” Abate said. “I want to be a part of the people who will make my country self-sufficient in energy.”

Abate is diligently working toward his goal. In addition to his impressive internships, Abate is presenting his research at this year’s Student Academic Conference at MSUM on April 15.

“I just want to share how science is beautiful,” he said. “If you have some solution to global warming, it can help the whole world.”

He said his foundation in science came from his education in Ethiopia, but is being solidified through his education at MSUM.

“I’m learning the principles at MSUM,” Abate said. “They offer them in a way that you’re able to apply them.”

And it is because of MSUM that Abate was able to continue his education in the U.S.

“I pay cheap, but the experience I’m getting out of (MSUM) isn’t,” Abate said.

Abate will also be presenting two other research projects at the Student Academic Conference. He has been working with professor Ananda Shastri of the Physics Department, and professor Damiano Fulghesu of the Mathematics Department to develop his research in the two fields.

To participate in the Student Academic Conference, submit your application by Feb. 28, 2014. Please email questions to

For more information on the Student Academic Conference, visit

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with the school you love

Last year’s student speaker and scholarship recipient, Amie Nowacki.

MSU Moorhead Founders Scholarship Gala set for Feb. 14.

For 125 years MSUM has impacted the lives of students, making our community, region and world a better place. Helping students succeed and find their passion is part of the university’s mission and is ingrained in MSUM’s heritage. Contributing to the Founders Scholarship is one more way faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the university show support for students.

The Founders Scholarship is a competitive $2,500, need-based scholarship awarded to students who embody the values set forth by MSUM’s founders: success, service and citizenship. Long ago our students were affectionately known as “scramblers,” because they came from modest means, worked hard, and left with a brighter future. Continue reading

From 11th Street to Wall Street

MSUM student earns job on Wall Street, chosen among Ivy League students

By Meghan Feir

It’s been said that sometimes, all it takes is one chance to get your foot in the door, and in Minnesota State University Moorhead student Dang Pham’s case, that phrase is more than appropriate.

Pham, a senior at MSUM, reached out to various banks across the country to show his interest in the field of investment banking. Two thousand emails later, 1,999 of which didn’t receive much interest, one bank did ask for an interview. It just happened to be from the hub of all things finance – Wall Street.

Originally from Viet Nam, Pham has been at MSUM for three years, and in that time, he has shared his interest for finance in various ways. As the business manager of The Advocate, MSUM’s campus newspaper, Pham has had hands-on experience working with area businesses. He has also been the bookkeeper for MSUM’s Art & Design Department.

It was during this timeframe that Pham discovered investment banking, which has since become his passion. Parts of an investment banker’s responsibilities include assisting corporations, issuing securities, raising capital and advising on mergers and acquisitions.

When Pham’s initial interest in investment banking sparked, he immediately went to MSUM School of Business adjunct professor Mark Anderson, the president of BlackRidge Financial. “He’s energetic, knowledgeable and always pushed us to do something that’s way out of our current learning curve,” Pham said. “He taught me a lot about finance.”

Anderson put Pham in contact with bankers, recruiters and program managers. “Only about 20 out of 200 investment banking firms in the states are known to sponsor work visas for international students,” Pham said, “and as prestige is highly valued in this industry, investment banks hire almost exclusively from certain ‘target’ schools, namely the Ivies and other top institutions.”

Pham eventually received a call from a recruiter at UBS, and weeks later, an email stating he had been selected for the first round of interviewing.

Physically shaking, Pham underwent his first phone interview – his first interview ever, in fact.

Toward the end of October, UBS flew Pham to New York for the second round of interviews. Following a walk down Wall Street, touching the wall of finance for luck and writing a note in the common book at Trinity Church that said, “Dang Pham from Viet Nam – I have an interview on Wall Street tomorrow. Wish me luck,” Pham spread notes across the floor of his room in the Waldorf Astoria, drilling his brain on answers to potential interview questions and reviewing recent transactions UBS had made with clients.

Columbia, Cornell, Georgetown, MIT and NYU – just a handful of the home institutions of 14 finalists also vying for the position. Armed with determination and interest, Pham underwent close to two hours of interviews with various bankers and flew back to Moorhead to anxiously wait for the final decision.

Nearing the end of the following workday, the group director who first interviewed Pham called and officially extended an offer for him to join UBS next July.

After the phone conversation, celebrating was in order. “I went to say thank you to Dr. Anderson and professors in the School of Business, MSUM Career Development Center, friends, supervisors, bankers, recruiters – anyone who had helped me defy the odds. It was the best feeling ever – a happy ending to an 11-month rollercoaster.”

Along with his positions at The Advocate and the MSUM Art & Design Department, Pham is serving as a student affairs chair for the MSUM Student Senate and a peer tutor at the MSUM Academic Support Center.

In June 2014, after he is expected to graduate from MSUM with a B.S. in Finance, Pham will pack his bags and move to New York City, ready to start his full-time job as an investment banking analyst at UBS Investment Bank, which will begin in July.

MSUM alum starts craft distilllery, Far North Spirits

Cheri Reese, a 1989 graduate of MSU Moorhead, who earned a bachelor’s degree in English, has started a craft distillery, Far North Spirits, near Hallock, Minn., with her husband, Michael Swanson. The husband-wife duo released their first spirit, Solveig Gin, in mid-December.

Familial ties to the land around their hometown of Hallock brought these fourth-generation farmers, Reese and Swanson, back from their previous home in bustling St. Paul, Minn.

The distillery sits on a working family farm only 25 miles from neighboring Canada in the northwest corner of Minnesota. They will rely on a field-to-glass farming model and their Scandinavian heritage to capture Minnesota’s character, history and agricultural abundance. Far North Spirits aims to exceed the industry’s highest standards of authenticity and quality as they produce small-batch, craft-distilled products. Continue reading

Professor Kevin Zepper visits area high school to teach poetry

MSU Moorhead English Professor Kevin Zepper has taken it upon himself to visit regional high school English classes to help students learn about and create poetry.

On Monday, Dec. 16, he will be visiting a sophomore English class in Hancock, Minn. The class, which is currently focusing on the works of Emily Dickinson, will be enhanced by Zepper’s visit as a conclusion to their final English component of the semester. They will examine the rhythms, rhymes and subject matter akin to the great poet’s work.

Zepper will work with the students discussing and writing poetry in Dickinson’s metered style. He also will ask them to describe the town of Hancock through their poetry, along with various other subject matters as inspiration.

After the students have finished composing their “Dickinson-esque” poems, the class will read through the poems they have created within the class period.

Zepper is reaching out to high school students in the area, to highlight the benefits of poetry and help them discover their inner poet.

This effort is in conjunction with the Northern Lights Library Network.

Society of Physics Students named “Distinguished SPS Chapter”

The MSUM Chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS), known on campus as the “Physics Club,” has been named a “Distinguished SPS Chapter” by the SPS National Council.

This award is “based on the depth and breadth of the SPS activities conducted by the chapter” in areas of of “physics research, public science outreach, physics tutoring, hosting and representation at physics meetings.” The MSUM SPS chapter was particularly cited for hosting the 2013 SPS Zone 11 Meeting.

This recognition is awarded to about ten percent of SPS chapters nationwide.

Congratulations MSUM SPS!