MSU President's Newspaper Column

By Dr. Brian Van Horn

Grateful for the people who make Mayville State a special place

It’s hard to imagine that the academic year is coming to a close. These last months seem to have flown by. We look forward to celebrating with the fall 2020, spring 2021, and summer 2021 graduates on commencement day, Saturday, May 15. We are excited for the opportunity to have an in-person graduation. Out of respect for COVID-19 safety guidelines, the event will be very structured, but it will be a special day, nonetheless.

As is the tradition, the day will begin with a graduation brunch hosted by the Alumni Association. The brunch is considered the first official alumni event for the new graduates. Thanks to the generosity of our friends at Bell Bank, graduates and their families will be able to attend free of charge. As part of the program, we’ll hear from some of the graduates who will speak on behalf of the class.

Commencement exercises will begin at 2 p.m. in the Lewy Lee Fieldhouse. Masks will be required, and due to social distancing guidelines, seating will be very limited. Graduates will be restricted to having no more than four friends or family members as part of the audience.

Mayville State alumna Michelle (Worner) Kommer will be our commencement keynote speaker. Michelle is the founder and owner of HighRoad Partners, LLC, a full-service health insurance agency specializing in group employer and individual benefit policies. The organization also provides “in-sourced” human resources solutions to fill a gap that often exists for small businesses.

Michelle previously served as a member of North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum’s cabinet as Commissioner of Labor. In 2019, she took on the challenge of serving as the state’s Commissioner of Commerce. Prior to this, she had served as Executive Director of Job Service North Dakota, in addition to her duties as Labor Commissioner, making her the first person to lead two governor’s cabinet agencies at the same time.

While I am thrilled for the graduates who have reached their academic dreams and goals, I am a bit sad to know that we won’t be able to see them on a regular basis going forward, as they will be leaving the campus to pursue their exciting new careers and a new phase in their lives. I am proud of them as they set out for their new life adventures.

Many of those who will participate in commencement 2021 festivities have become very dear to me. These students were fairly new to Mayville State when I arrived on campus in 2018 to begin serving as Mayville State’s president. In a way, we’ve grown to love Mayville State and the Mayville State family together.

I am Comet Proud of these special members of the Mayville State family. They are influential leaders who have excelled in athletics, clubs and organizations, and more. I’ve enjoyed getting to know them, mentoring them, and cheering for them in their competitions and activities. They will be missed. We will always treasure them and look forward to hearing about the exciting things we know that lie ahead for them as our future leaders.

We hope you will join us in showing your gratitude for Mayville State University during the MSU Foundation “I’m Thankful for Mayville State” annual fund drive on Thursday, May 6. Please consider making a gift on May 6 that will pay forward your thankfulness for “The School of Personal Service.” Your generosity will have an impact in the life of someone who is working to earn a college degree. See more at

If you are a Mayville State graduate, you might think back to the excitement of your graduation and the anticipation of the great adventures that were ahead of you. This is an opportunity for you to pay forward the benefits that Mayville State afforded you.

If you are a friend of Mayville State or a community member considering a gift, you might think about the many ways in which Mayville State strengthens our community and helps to make Mayville-Portland and all of Traill County a great place to live and grow.

We cannot thank our friends and supporters enough for all that they do to help make Mayville State an extra-special place, a place where lives are changed for the better. We are truly grateful.