Cancer Treatment, Sustainability, Poetry & More Featured at BSU Conference

Bemidji State University students presented the results of their academic efforts in a day-long series of oral presentations, poster displays, art exhibits and musical performances on April 3 at the university’s 20th Annual Student Achievement Conference.

BSU President Faith C. Hensrud praised the students, faculty and staff participants for their work during the opening remarks of the conference’s kickoff breakfast.

“This is an exciting day to see what our students and faculty have been working on throughout the semester,” she said. “It’s also a day to take a moment to celebrate our students.”

She added that the academic and artistic achievements on display at the conference speak to BSU’s mission of teaching and exploration, as well as the vision to encourage students to lead inspired lives.

Dr. Ed Galindo, faculty member at the University of Idaho and associate director for education and diversity for the NASA Idaho Space Grant Consortium, was the 2019 keynote speaker. Galindo spoke about his rich history of conducting research with Native American students and shared his best practices with students, faculty and staff.

“First, you have to build a relationship on integrity, trust and respect,” he said. “And most importantly, learn to listen more and talk less. If you can’t connect with a student, you can’t fully teach them.”

The opening ceremony also included a new, 15-minute student keynote presentation by Savannah (Anna) Corradi, Bemidji native and 2019 recipient of the Bemidji State University Award of Excellence in Academic Achievement. Corradi began working with Dr. Mark Wallert, professor of biology, when she was a junior in high school after he presented to students in her class. She is now a BSU sophomore studying chemistry and researching ovarian cancer treatment.

“I am passionate about this topic because each year there are 22,000 newly diagnosed cases of ovarian cancer and 14,000 deaths,” Corradi said. “My ultimate goal is to continue my research to find more effective ways to fight this cancer, and go on to get my Ph.D.”

Wallert welcomed Corradi to the stage and praised her for her dedication, drive and ambition.

“Anna’s only a sophomore. I look forward to seeing what she will achieve as a senior and I’m even more excited to see what she does when she gets her Ph.D.,” he said.

The conference featured over 175 projects and presentations by nearly 280 students representing a wide variety of academic majors and programs, with additional students participating in invitational displays featuring design, fine arts and music.

More than 50 students gave oral presentations on subjects including solar-powered food dehydration, for-profit prisons, sonata theory in Schubert, BSU centennial clock making, native flute construction, amphipod colonization and density and how to use sustainable technologies to address local food security.


Triple-major Sam Galatz, a senior from Hector, Minn. studying English, Spanish and creative and professional writing, presented their multi-genre writing following the character Jeremy, a young adult hospitalized after a mental breakdown. Galatz shared excerpts from their book entitled “Aether” including narrative, poems and personal experience.

“Through my writing, I really want to illustrate what it’s like to live with mental illness,” they said. “I want others who live with mental illness to feel that they are not alone. For those who have not experienced a mental illness, I hope to help them better empathize with those who do.”

“Hagg-Sauer Waste Audit”

Aili Kultala, a senior from Stacy, Minn. majoring in environmental studies, and Jon Barcenas, a senior from Bemidji, Minn. studying project management, presented their findings from analyzing contamination trends in waste found in Hagg-Sauer Hall over five consecutive days during the fall semester.

“Overall, we found a lot of waste in the recycling that could instead be recycled or composted,” Kultala said. “By presenting this research our goal is to work with BSU to reduce landfill waste and also expand our recycling efforts into the community. BSU is seen as a green school and we want to be a leader in the community.”

“Student Spotlight”

President Student Commissioners Jared Henning, a senior from Jackson, Wisc. studying business administration, Timothy Nelson, a senior from Minneapolis, Minn. studying physical education, Tia Neuharth, a junior from Savage, Minn. studying nursing, Donelle Omer, a sophomore from Bemidji, Minn. studying psychology, and Rupesh Thapa, a senior from Bemidji, Minn. studying computer information systems, proposed an idea to shine a spotlight on student achievements to boost student retention at BSU.

When asked why the group was interested in this topic, Thapa pointed to creating a positive culture.

“We want to focus on diversity and retention at the same time and create a sense of belonging for all students here at BSU,” he said.

Poster presentations

Poster presentations by 110 students included topics such as factors contributing to youth homelessness, brown bear harvest rates in Alaska, a spatial analysis of bumblebee populations, adolescent substance abuse, an assessment of the future impact of artificial intelligence, cultural appropriation and the history of Native American mascots and the effects of rainbow trout on brook trout populations.


MN State logoBemidji State University, located amid the lakes and forests of northern Minnesota, occupies a wooded campus along the shore of Lake Bemidji. Enrolling more than 5,100 students, Bemidji State offers more than 80 undergraduate majors and eight graduate degrees encompassing arts, sciences and select professional programs. BSU is a member of the Minnesota State system of colleges and universities and has a faculty and staff of more than 550. The university’s Shared Fundamental Values include environmental stewardship, civic engagement and international and multicultural understanding. For more, visit or find us at BemidjiState on most of your favorite social media networks.