Award-winning students and childhood friends from California find their niche at MSU Billings
MSUB College of Education Convocation: Friday, April 27 at 4 p.m. at Alterowitz Gym
MSUB Commencement: Saturday, April 28, 10 a.m. at MetraPark
By Dan Carter
MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES
This is a story about two childhood friends from California who used an internet search to seek out a way for both to play college sports; both found themselves in Billings, Mont.,; both fell in love with the university; both decided to become teachers; and both embraced opportunities to take on leadership roles.
Indeed, Tyler Rutledge and Kyle Goings have been inseparable for much of their lives. And this weekend, both will graduate from Montana State University Billings as elementary education/special education graduates.
And both will be honored with Outstanding Senior Awards for their academic achievement and service during their time at MSU Billings. Their awards will be given at the College of Education convocation Friday, April 27 at 4 p.m. at Alterowitz Gym and noted in the program at MSU Billings’ annual commencement on Saturday, April 28.
“It’s been a great experience,” said Rutledge, acknowledging the journey north.
For those who know Rutledge and Goings, the dual award is no surprise. Quiet, confident and unassuming, both had a way of making an impression at MSU Billings. Whether through Rutledge’s vigilance to develop sustainability projects or Goings’ devotion to helping new students find their way around campus at orientation or during a visit, both have left a mark.
“Kyle’s graceful and energetic personality has been the catalyst for enrollment growth at MSUB, as I regularly run into students who say that they are here because of Kyle Goings,” said Jeff Rosenberry, assistant director of housing and student life at MSU Billings. “His work as an orientation leader is unmatched and he has the ability to create intentional and meaningful relationships with parents and students alike.”
For Rutledge, who finishes his academic career with a 3.40 grade point average, the impact was through environmental sustainability and awareness. He worked with university administration and staff to get a solar panel put up on the southern edge of the Student Union Building and found a way to get nine water bottle filtration stations set up across the university to encourage more use of refillable water containers. There is now a student-led sustainability effort at the university thanks to his efforts.
Their shared journey to success started about 1,100 miles away and four years ago.
Goings, who liked playing tennis and was attending California State University–Chico, was making 50-mile daily trips and working in a cabinet shop. Rutledge was playing quarterback for the football team at Mendocino College in Ukiah, about 125 miles away. Both wanted something different.
“I did a college search with men’s tennis and three for four down the list was MSUB,” said Goings.
“He called me and said he found a college with a tennis team,” Rutledge chimed in. “I asked, ‘Do they have a football team?’ and he said ‘No, but they have baseball.’ I said ‘I can do baseball.’ ”
In the summer of 2008, they drove to Montana for a tour and were sold on the personable service of the staff and the atmosphere. The fact that students didn’t have to pay for their own laundry at MSU didn’t hurt.
“They told us on the tour ‘We try not to nickel-and-dime people here’ and they’ve lived up to that,” Rutledge said.
The Californians arrived for college that fall, Goings set to play tennis and Rutledge to play catcher for the Yellowjacket baseball team.
“I’ll always remember the people here,” said Goings, who will graduate with a 3.80 GPA. “Abby Bumgarner and Tyler Harris, our RAs that year, were waiting for us at the airport.”
They both started down the path of elementary education, but soon developed a fondness for special education.
“Once I took a class from Greg Allard, I went with special ed,” Rutledge said. “He’s amazing.”
The next year, both became resident assistants in the residence halls at MSU Billings. As RAs, they took on leadership responsibility that connected them to fellow students in new ways.
“Unless you’re involved you have a hard time meeting people,” Rutledge said.
“I think I grew up a lot during that time,” Goings said.
Sidelined from sports by injuries, both took on other academic and extra-curricular activities. For Goings, it was work as a tour guide and orientation leader for the Office of New Student Services. For Rutledge, it was involvement in student government and sustainability efforts.
Both also found time to pass along their love of sports as volunteer coaches for a Billings Little League team. And now both are entering the summer preparing for their final stages of student teaching and eventual role as special education professionals.
When word went out about winning two of the top senior awards this spring, neither Goings nor Rutledge wanted to be interviewed separately. The arc of their shared story was a part of their success.
“We grew up riding bikes together as kids, but went to different high schools and then different colleges, but kept in touch,” Rutledge said. “But when this opportunity came up, we said ‘we gotta do it.’ ”
PHOTO ABOVE: Kyle Goings, left, and Tyler Rutledge came to MSU Billings four years ago from California to find a unique college experience. This weekend they will graduate with education degrees and Outstanding Senior awards.