Keeping in Step

What happens after receiving the acceptance letter, the high school diploma, and the family farewell?

This is usually where the scene ends. There’s a grey area between enrollment and graduation that’s only sporadically spotlighted for significant achievements ... until now.

Six Bulldogs have graciously allowed us to open up the aperture on their campus experiences. From cramming for their first finals to stretching those dining dollars, big moments and slices of life, we’re keeping in step as they hike from Welcome Week to graduation day. 

Hanna Giroux

From Hibbing, Minnesota 

 Freshman Hannah at Bulldog Scramble high fiving

It was serendipitous. Hanna Giroux was working at Walmart in her hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota when she noticed the 3M on the boxes she was putting away. “That planted the seed that I might like to work at 3M someday,” she says, before adding that her dream job actually rockets things up to working for NASA.

Math always clicked. Hanna was in taking college-level calculus by her senior year of high school, so she’s pretty sure she’ll major in some sort of engineering. She was introduced to the field as a high school freshmen by a family friend, and has been honing in on her options ever since then.

Even though she’s academically prepared, Hanna’s a little nervous leaving mom and her beloved dog, and about her rigorous first-year schedule. She has chemistry every day, and a tough programming class. And coming from Hibbing, a smaller city of 16,000, to Duluth, which is about five times bigger, challenges her comfort zone a bit, too. 

But Hanna’s digging in. Beyond her classes, she’s playing with UMD’s Pep Band and has really connected with her roommate. 

Hannah with her dog at home

Hannah moving into her freshman dorm room

Freshman Hannah Giroux playing in UMD's Pep Band

Jacee Zasadni

From Gilbert, Minnesota

Jacee standing on a dock at home

Yes, it’s an official UMD group. And Jacee Zasadni didn’t even know about the Texas Roadhouse Club when she transferred from Mesabi Range College this year– it’s an unexpected bonus. 

Freshman Jacee sitting outside on the bank of a lakeJacee has always been a gifted student. By her junior year, she was a full time post secondary option student at Mesabi Range College, where she was inspired by a professor to pursue her passion for social issues– especially as they relate to the LGBTQ community. 

She wasted no time. So far, in addition to the Texas Roadhouse Club, Jacee’s a member of the Queer and Allied Student Union, College Democrats, and is looking into becoming a resident advisor next year.

This has helped her transition from a community college to UMD. “Before school started I was anxious about making friends and taking the right classes, but most of my worries have been dissipated just by being here.”

Robert “Robbie” Licari

From Biwabik, Minnesota 

Freshman Robbie fly fishing at home

An appreciation for the outdoors was absorbed through the utopia-like setting that Robbie Licari grew up in. The 50-acres of wooded waterfront is also the setting for Robbie’s environmental awareness. “I spent a lot of time hunting and fishing with my dad, and we’d go on lots of trips together, too,” he explains.  

At UMD, Robbie would like to study advanced materials and try to figure out how to make manufacturing more environmentally friendly.

For fun, he’s taking his experience as a high school competitive swimmer to UMD’s pool and is killing it playing waterpolo.

Freshman Robbie Licari at his beautiful wooded home

Freshman Robbie moving into his dorm

Freshman Robbie playing water polo in UMD's pool

Lindsay Johnson

From Duluth, Minnesota

Freshan Lindsay teaching dance class

It’s all relative for Lindsay Johnson. She grew up only seven miles from campus in a close-knit family in Duluth’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, but feels like she’s in a whole new world at UMD. 

Her enthusiasm for trying new things is almost palpable. With social work as her declared major and her life goal of helping kids super well defined, “I’m going to do whatever I can do to get there,” she says.

For now, she’s fully immersed herself in Bulldog life and has even found time to coach a kids’ dance class– which she loves.

Freshman Lindsay moving in

Freshman Lindsay with her sister on a swing

Freshman Lindsay with her sister drinking coffee

Tallie and Yohanis Hundessa  

From Brooklyn Park, Minnesota 

Tallie and Yohanis moving into their dorms during Bulldog Welcome Week

Siblings Tallie and Yohanis Hundessa moved to Minnesota from Ethiopia just four years ago, so the idea of UMD's concourse-connected campus was pretty appealing. "I moved from a warmer area and I wasn’t used to snow, and I'm so happy Duluth is a closed campus," says Yohanis, who adds the recent blizzard was fun at first, but got old pretty fast.

The warmth of the Bulldogs, on the other hand, has been a pleasant surprise. Before arriving on campus, Tallie and Yohanis were worried UMD might not be very welcoming. "When I compare it to other schools, I really like it here. I had heard it was not diverse, but I haven’t found that." 

After thinking about biomedical engineering or pre med, Yohanis decided to major in electrical engineering. It's an interest that started in Ethiopia as an award-winning project–  an electrical door that can be opened with a card. "I first saw this in a movie and decided to replicate it. The police will be called if they don't recognize your card." 

With skills like that, his electrical engineering classes are, of course, going well. And his English class, the one he was the most worried about, is easier than he expected. 

Tallie and Yohanis spend time together studying

Freshman Yohanis Hundessa eating in the Dining Center

We'll continue to stay in touch with Hanna, Jacee, Robbie, Lindsay, Tallie, and Yohanis next semester.