To Mariah Pfundheller, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point is a special place that encourages her to grow.
“I have never been anywhere that encourages me to expand my horizons the way I want to as much as the faculty does here,” she said. “The university has helped me grow tremendously.”
It’s also a place where everybody knows her name. Well, maybe not everybody. But certainly many other students, her professors, several university staff members and even the chancellor.
“I’ve never had a professor who didn’t know me by name,” she said. “Everyone here is super close.”
The university is just the right size, with a welcoming, supportive community that makes her feel at home. And Pfundheller has made the most of her opportunities inside and outside the classroom to grow and accomplish much.
Pfundheller – a senior special education major
from Altoona, Wis. – has a passion for being active and involved. She is a University Leadership Award winner, has visited 20 foreign countries and works as the student leadership and marketing coordinator for the Student Involvement and Employment Office
(SIEO), which oversees more than 200 student organizations.
Pfundheller also has been involved with:
- the student group American Indians Reaching for Opportunities (AIRO) as a marketing representative;
- the Student Council for Exceptional Children, a group for prospective special education teachers;
- the International Club, which promotes and encourages international cultural experiences through friendship, understanding and social interests;
- international student orientation as a student mentor;
- the UW-Stevens Point Knitting and Crocheting Club as a co-founder and president. The organization knits and crochets for Stevens Point-area charities and nonprofit organizations.
One of her most recognizable accomplishments has been the growth of the SIEO Coffee and Culture series, which builds conversations on varied topics such as spirituality, diversity and veterans’ issues. UW-Stevens Point students, faculty and staff are invited to hear a speaker and enjoy tea or coffee while engaging in round-table discussions.
When Pfundheller began working with the series, it was offered about twice a semester. It’s now offered seven or eight times a semester thanks to her efforts and the faculty and staff she recruited to help spread the word. Nearly 3,000 students attended Coffee and Culture events during the 2014-15 academic year.
“I’ve watched (Coffee and Culture) grow for two and a half years,” Pfundheller said. “It’s been very rewarding. I think it’s fascinating to work with people who are different from and similar to me. Some students and faculty have told me this program has made them feel more accepted on campus.”
Pfundheller hopes to someday work as a special education teacher in a foreign country such as Singapore, where her brother lives and works as a dentist.
What would she tell a prospective UW-Stevens Point student?
“Come here,” Pfundheller said. “Go places. Live in the residence halls. Get to know as many people as you can.”