Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269
April 27, 2009
Leading by example
Student body president from Whitehall to be honored with Outstanding Senior Award this week
By Dan Carter
MSU Billings News Service
Rob Barnosky was clearly enjoying himself. It was one of those days when the sunlight and a busy schedule were waning and the mood was light on the second floor of the Montana State University Billings Student Union Building.
Fellow students were milling about, some lounging on a comfortable couch, others finishing up an activity meeting. Barnosky, on the other hand, was gleefully waving his arm, Wii remote in hand, trying to defeat a third-grader at video tennis. Flailing away at imaginary lobs, the laughs were coming faster than the returns.
The kid was Barnosky’s “little” match in the Big Brothers and Sisters program and it was evident the joy was bursting at the seams.
Fast forward a few months and Barnosky is up to his elbows in plastic containers. He and some students involved in the MSU Billings Environmental Awareness Club are weaving their way around backpack-toting colleagues to deploy recycling containers on various floors of the Liberal Arts Building.
It’s not easy work, but he is helping put vision into action at the university. And he was clearly enjoying himself.
Easy with a smile and a hearty laugh, Barnosky embraced life as an MSU Billings student. His involvement, his commitment to serving fellow students and dedication to his academic career has earned him the Outstanding Senior Award for 2008-09 at MSU Billings. He will be honored during convocation and commencement exercises this weekend along with Kerry Lou Vowell, who will be recognized as this year’s Golden Merit Award recipient.
A psychology major from Whitehall, Barnosky will graduate Saturday with 871 of his classmates at MetraPark. During the ceremony, he will also give a short speech as president of the Associated Students of Montana State University Billings.
Looking out across a satin-robed sea of upturned faces, he could just as easily look to his past and marvel at how far he’s come.
Coming from a diverse family with 14 brothers and sisters, Barnosky said at an interview in is ASMSUB office that he didn’t really know what to expect when he came to college. Committed to serving their country, many of his siblings decided to join the U.S. Army rather than enter college. A photo of his 20-year-old sister Katie who is now in the Army sits on his desk.
Uncertain about his future and attending college in Billings, Barnosky said he didn’t know what to expect.
“When I came here, I didn’t think I would make it much more than a semester,” he said, sitting in his ASMSUB office.
But a semester turned into a year and that year turned into four. Now Barnosky is graduating with a 3.87 cumulative grade point average and has his eyes on graduate school. And the initial uncertainty turned into full-fledged, dive-into-the-deep-end involvement.
Aside from his current service as ASMSUB president, Barnosky served as Residence Hall Association president in 2007-08, was an ASMSUB senator in spring 2008, was a summer resident assistant last summer and volunteered widely on Service Saturdays and other campus activities. He currently serves on a dozen campus committees, ranging in everything from the Career Services Advisory Board to the Day Care Committee to a host of student-related committees.
During his tenure at MSU Billings, he has written articles for the student newspaper, the Retort, and has also participated in intramural sports, including work as a referee and referee supervisor.
“The thing that I liked about Rob was that he didn’t hesitate,” said Steve Johnson, recreational activities director at MSU Billings. “He saw something that needed to be done and he always did it.”
While Barnosky was popular with his fellow students, he knew how to differentiate between his work and his social life, especially when it came to ensuring fair and safe sports activities, Johnson said.
“One thing about it, he didn’t worry about peer pressure,” he said.
Barnosky said he grew to understand the value of getting involved in student life and appreciated that understanding even more when he became a leader. The details of ensuring successful student-led activities weren’t always fully understood by everyone, even those who served on the student senate.
“You could tell the people who didn’t live in the dorms because they didn’t always understand what the clubs were doing,” he said.
Barnosky served on the student senate for a semester before deciding to run for student body president. That decision, he said, was something he will never regret.
“But going from not really being involved to student body president was a huge step,” he said, with his signature broad grin. “I made a few mistakes, but I learned from them. I’m still learning every day.”
Aside from a stellar academic career and solid relationships with faculty and administrators, Barnosky said he is most proud of initiatives to bring comprehensive recycling to the university and establish the ASMSUB Future Leaders Endowed Scholarship.
He and others worked to find donors so enough money could be put into the MSU Billings Foundation so the scholarship fund could be endowed. He said he is especially proud of that work because enough perpetuates and encourages future leadership. The scholarship provides $350 for books to a COT recipient and a $500 regular scholarship to a student on the main campus. Barnosky wanted to make sure students who received the scholarship were involved and willing to give back. Recipients must participate in at least one campus clean-up and provide a letter at year end describing their involvement on campus.
“I think that was one of the best things we did,” Barnosky said.
He said he didn’t always make people happy because tough budgetary decisions had to be made. But he said he kept his focus doing good work for all students.
“I’ve always thought that you won’t go wrong my measuring your decisions by what your core purpose is and that’s what I tried to do,” he said.
His leadership skills were noticed in the past year. He gave testimony to a Montana legislative committee supporting MSU Billings’ budget request and Barnosky is one of three finalists under consideration by Gov. Brian Schweitzer for appointment to the Montana Board of Regents as a student regent.
Barnosky said he isn’t going anywhere soon. He has already applied to attend grad school at MSU Billings in the fall and will see where his studies take him.
“It’s nice to know and have people here who know your name,” he said. “And it’s a nice personal experience to have teachers who actually care about you.”
His advice to future students?
“Get involved and enjoy the time you’re here.”
He’ll soon realize that he took his own advice to heart.