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Quite a year

Rugby native Heilman has been busy as NDSU Student Body President

April 3, 2009
Matt Mullally

NDSU Student Body President Joe Heilman knew this was going to be a challenging and interesting school year for him.

He had no idea.

The Rugby native and senior has presided over student government at NDSU attended and spoken at several university events; testified on education bills during the legislative session; was part of a university group that went to India, and most recently has been one of the campus leaders involved in the flood fight in Fargo.

"I guess I didn't know what I was getting into,' quipped Heilman, who is the son of Duane and Jeni Heilman, rural Rugby. "Actually, it's been quite a learning experience and an opportunity to do many things I likely would not have been able to do if I weren't in this position."

The past few weeks have been especially taxing, he admits, attending hours of university and city commission briefings regarding the flood fight. "My mornings would be going to the meetings, and then the afternoons were spent sandbagging,' Joe said.

Heilman has been proud of the response his fellow students have shown during the ordeal. "The decision was made to cancel classes for (a couple weeks), and within hours there were between 1,500 and 2,000 students lined up, ready to volunteer (to sandbag and build and patrol dikes),' he said. "Many of them worked the night shifts."

Heilman said students from the other colleges in the Fargo-Moorhead, Minn. area pitched in as well.

Earlier in March, Joe was in India along with university officials, including the vice president of diversity and equity and global outreach. and assistant vice president of student affairs. NDSU is engaged in "twinning agreements," Heilman said. Students from India can attend two years of college there and then two at NDSU, earning degrees from both colleges. His role was to visit with students and explain what student life is like and what the expectations are for attending NDSU.

While in India, Heilman and university officials received updates via e-mail on the flooding conditions back home. It was in India where Joe also listened over the Internet to NDSU's first-ever NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament game. "They had a tremendous season, and I was fortunate to be able to listen to their tournament game,' he said.

He arrived back in Fargo on March 23 and the next day was attending meetings with university and city officials concerning the flooding.

"What I learned from those meetings is how decisions are made, sometimes tough ones,' he said.

Joe, who is a 2004 Rugby High School graduate, mentioned his experience working at the state Capitol during the legislative session left quite an impression as well. "I met a lot of people and saw the legislative process firsthand,' he said.

Perhaps down the road Joe may give serious thought to getting active in state politics.

In the meantime, there is the matter of finishing his final semester, and his presidency. Normally, student elections are held in early April, but due to the cancellation of classes, the elections will be conducted later this month.

Heilman is on track to graduate this May with a business administration degree with a minor in accounting.

However, he knows he will leave with more than that. "I have plenty of experiences to draw from,' he said.



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