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Student receives award for leadership role

April 12, 2007

After spending six months homeless in the Twin Cities, Travis Pierson overcame all obstacles by demonstrating leadership in all areas of life.

Originally from Kansas City, Pierson moved to Minnesota in October 1999.

The first six months he spent wandering the streets of Minneapolis, he said he lived in churches and various family members’ houses.

Not long after being homeless, Pierson found a home in White Bear Lake, Minn., then went on to graduate from high school in Oakdale, Minn.

He joined the Army right after high school and is still actively involved.

“I’ve always been able to display abilities of a leader,” Pierson said.

Even as a manager for Checker Auto, he wanted to be a good role model for the other employees, he said.

This semester Pierson was chosen to receive the Glenn Potts Leadership Scholarship, which is only granted to business or economic majors with no academic qualifications.

“I’m happy to see people giving awards for something other than raw grades,” Pierson said. “Even though my grades aren’t the highest, I have the leadership.”

Glenn Potts is the director master of management and a professor in economics.

The scholarship was given in his name by UW-River Falls alum Tom Kolar, who is a mortgage lender in Minneapolis.

“We are very grateful that Tom has given us this scholarship and that I’m involved in the process of meeting people and influencing their lives,” Potts said.

According to the Enrollment Services Web site, the Glenn Potts Leadership Scholarship is “awarded to a student majoring in economics or business. Students must have a GPA of 2.5 or higher and have demonstrated leadership qualities. Required application materials include a copy of current DAR, a résumé, maximum of one page documenting leadership qualities, and a maximum of a one-page recommendation from student’s academic advisor.”

Since 2001, the scholarship of $1,000 has been awarded to students who show a clear reason they will expand leadership in the future.

“There are many outstanding individuals who have made contributions to the community that may not have academic standing, but has the potential to demonstrate leadership,” Potts said.

The scholarship was designed to help students finish their degree as well as give them recognition and encouragement, Potts said.

Once students submit résumés and letters from their respective advisors, the committee narrows the applicants down to only a few individuals and spends almost an entire day interviewing them.

Brian Schultz, associate dean of the College of Business and Economics (CBE), is one of the three who select the candidates, along with Potts and Kolar.

“We choose who we feel really shows they’ve taken leadership in the past and will continue to do so in the future,” Schultz said. “Travis went through some difficult situations early in his life and could have easily gotten into a lot of trouble, especially after his family moved to the Twin Cities. He still took the initiative to work hard and get a job to provide not only financially, but kept a positive attitude with his family to keep everyone together.”

In the past three years, Pierson has demonstrated his abilities in many ways from assisting Katrina victims in Ocean Spring, Miss., to contributing his time as a Sunday school teacher in Inver Grove Heights, Minn.

Pierson, along with his church youth group, will be making a third trip to help Katrina victims this August and he continues to support them well after the repairs have been made.

“Doing this has changed the way that we have all thought of life in general,” Pierson said. “You stop worrying about stuff and you find more important things in life to think about.”

The youth group chose August to travel to Mississippi because it is near the two-year mark of when the tragedy occurred.

“We are really looking forward to seeing the people that we have previously helped and seeing their progress since our last visit,” Pierson said. “This whole experience was something that I had to do. Since I was once homeless, I feel that can relate with them in some way.”

Pierson contributes most of what he’s done so far to his wife, Darcie, who is a UWRF alumna.

“She helped me get myself together,” Pierson said. “She has been a big encouragement and a shoulder to lean on.”

The Glenn Potts Leadership Scholarship will be given as part of the reception at the CBE awards ceremony held April 30.

“Travis is an outstanding individual,” Potts said. “He’s a member of the military and has shown tremendous leadership in the community as well as church.”

He is also working full-time in security at the Best Buy in Richfield, Minn., where he plans on continuing his career after graduation.

“I want to become a financial analyst for Best Buy,” Pierson said. “Than eventually my goal is to be the Chief Financial Officer.”

Currently, Pierson is a full-time student at UWRF majoring in finance.