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Nicholas Theiss selected Metropolitan State University outstanding student

Fri, Jul 5th, 2013
Posted in All Education

You’ve heard the expression about making lemonade from lemons? Nicholas Theiss of North Saint Paul can conduct a workshop on that.

Reared on a 200-acre hog farm near Fountain in southeastern Minnesota, Theiss envisioned a blue-collar career. That’s why he worked as a pipe fitter apprentice’s for five years.

Then along came something called Keinbock Disease. It meant the lunate bone in his right wrist was getting insufficient blood supply. Slowly, the bone was dying, breaking apart.

“It’s actually quite excruciating,” said Theiss, 38. “I lost a lot of my grip in my right, dominant hand. Since I couldn’t grip, lift, carr¬y or use wrenches or weld with my right hand, that had a drastic effect on my job as a pipe fitter.”

Theiss sought multiple medical opinions. Some said surgery might buy him some time, but it was a progressive disease. Most importantly: There was no cure.

Time to think about that lemonade. In practice, that meant doing a career U-turn, trading in his blue collar for a white one.

So at age 36, Theiss enrolled at Metropolitan State University. He sought a mentor through the Guiding Empowering Mentoring Success (GEMS) program. Theiss’ mentor addressed many of his questions about transitioning into the new profession Theiss had targeted—professional communications. (Theiss and his mentor were later selected GEMS mentee and mentor of the year.)

Typical of his all-out personality, he immersed himself in his studies. He took two government internships. Theiss became a member of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), studied international public relations in London and attended a PRSSA convention in San Francisco.

He was also knee-deep in extra-curricular activities. As a member of the Metropolitan State Student Senate, Theiss logged more than 1,100 hours, advocating for a new science building, student center and parking ramp and building an online presence for the senate. Theiss also led a successful branding campaign for the senate while contributing to an important university advising task force.

As a member of the senate’s financial allocation committee, he rewrote financial policies, created and managed an online communications process and developed an information campaign that helps students better understand how student fees are spent. He also significantly improved the budgeting process for 35-plus student organizations.

Moreover, Theiss also squeezed in time to serve as temporary public relations officer for the Minnesota State University Student Association. Additionally, he volunteered for the Minnesota History Center and Minnesota Historical Society.

Duly impressed, Metropolitan State’s College of Arts and Sciences recently selected Theiss as spring semester outstanding undergraduate student. He was feted in an April 29 outstanding student reception in Saint Paul.

As Theiss, a father of two children, considers his radical career transformation now, he feels blessed. He indeed may have been soured by health issues, but he believes his future promises sweet opportunities.

“It’s huge to finally graduate from college,” said the 1993 graduate of the then-Preston-Fountain High School, where he lettered in basketball, football and golf. “I never thought this would happen when I was a pipe fitter. I’ve found I’m very adaptable, which fits perfectly with the culture of Metropolitan State.”

In retrospect, Keinbock Disease was a “shocker,” said Theiss, who plans to pursue a communications position with a nonprofit or government agency and, eventually, a graduate degree. “But with all humility, the disease turned out to be kind of a gift.”

Metropolitan State University, a member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, is America’s premier university for lifelong learning, providing unsurpassed, competitive academic and professional degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels while maintaining affordability.


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10:17:12, Aug 5th 2013

carolbentson says:
awesome//Congrats to Nick and good article