Running to Give Back

mindy_nienhouseHello Laker family! I’m Mindy Nienhouse, a health and wellness blogger at just a one girl revolution and proud two-time Laker alumna (2007, 2009). My journey towards health and happiness truly began while I was at Grand Valley, and for that I am forever grateful.

Coming from someone who used to have the “I’ll run if I’m being chased” mentality, it sometimes seems a bit surreal that running has become such a part of my identity since I first got the idea to run a 5k in 2007. What started out as a seemingly impossible goal to run 3.1 miles launched a new passion in my life. When I crossed my first finish line at the 2007 GVSU Homecoming 5k, it lit a spark in me. People often call running their therapy, and while I don’t want to discredit the amazing work of actual mental health professionals, I completely agree that it has its therapeutic aspects. The time I spend pounding the pavement gives me a chance to focus on something beyond the worries and stress of the day. Since that first 5k, I’ve run over 30 races of various distances and I’m training for my first TWO marathons and a half IRONMAN triathlon in 2015! Not too bad for someone who couldn’t run a block when I started.

Since it was formed in 2012, I have run the Fifth Third River Bank Run 25k with Grand Valley’s Laker for a Lifetime team. My time at GVSU was transformative in so many ways, as college is for many people, but it’s where my passion for running, and health in general, first began. It seemed like a natural fit to combine my love of running with my Laker pride to support current and future students through this fundraising opportunity. On May 9, 2015, I’m running the 25k one more time and honored for the opportunity raise money not only for Grand Valley, but I am also fundraising for Kent County Girls on the Run. These two organizations are near and dear to my heart. Running for charity makes the miles I log in training and on race day about so much more than just me. I’m running for current and future Lakers, knowing that by running, it will give these students a chance to complete their education and further their dreams.

If you’re participating in the River Bank Run this year (and you don’t have to be a runner to do so!), consider joining our team as a FUNDracer! If you think that you can’t run, I am here to encourage you that you are capable of more than you know and the River Bank Run/Laker for a Lifetime team is one of the most supportive, fun events to start with. But, if I can’t convince you to join us on the streets of Grand Rapids to run, cheer me and the rest of the team on at the spirit station/post-race party, or there are also opportunities to volunteer and donate to this great cause. You can learn more information on the GVSU Alumni page! I hope you’ll support our team in whatever way is best for you!


Connect to Serve. Serve to Connect.

Amanda RogalskiConnect by Serving. Your first motivation for getting involved with the community should not be to grow your network. Choose a cause or organization that you are truly passionate about. As you get involved you will naturally meet others and create relationships based on the organizations or issues that you support.

Start by packing lunches, serving soup, picking up trash, washing dogs, visiting the elderly or whatever the base level of service is. You may want to serve on a board but hands on service is where the best connections are made, through experiences. Earn some street cred in the trenches before trying to jump to a leadership position.

Service does build your network but use your heart as your guide. As you build your network, consider how to help each person by connecting them with someone else first.

This approach to service and networking takes time but you can start today. Who do you know and how can you help them?

Serve to Connect. We all know connectors. They’re the people who regularly ask us to meet for coffee, who are always introducing us to new people and things, who are great at staying in touch. They’re the people that know their strengths and weaknesses and surround themselves with complimentary people.

Be an intentional connector by focusing on these things:

  1. How can I help?
    1. Frame your mind to consider how you can help the other person through all interactions: who should they meet, what groups should they join, what should they read, who should they follow, what jobs should they apply for, what organizations should they serve?
  2. Review your network
    1. Once a month remind yourself who you know, connect with those you haven’t in a while and think about who in your network should meet.
  3. Don’t discount anyone
    1. Don’t say no to a coffee meeting, you may be surprised.
    2. This includes family and friends, being a connector doesn’t have to be about business. Think about bringing together different groups of friends or helping younger family members with career planning.
    3. Don’t hesitate to connect people of different generations. Your network is valuable regardless of your age.
    4. This includes you. You may not realize the value you bring or what your network holds until you use this perspective.
  4. When in doubt, refer.
    1. Focus on your strengths. Don’t waste time on projects that aren’t a great fit for you and your skills. As you make yourself available you will receive more and more requests. You may not always be available and you may not be the best person to help. Let your network help you. Do you know someone else with a more appropriate skill set or who is looking for a new project? It will benefit everyone involved to identify the best person to help.
  5. Keep asking, “Who do you know that I should meet?”
    1. End every meeting or interaction by asking who else you should be talking to or meeting with.

Amanda Rogalski is a proud alumna earning both her undergraduate degree in marketing and her graduate degree in communications from Grand Valley. She has spent her career on both the corporate and agency side of marketing and public relations. She currently lives in Chicago, works as a brand consultant and teaches communications at DePaul University.

Uncharted waters

I'm on a BOat

The alumni office has been inspired to launch a new blog program. Our 97,000+ alumni have adventurous stories to tell, experiences to share and advice to give, so it’s time to navigate uncharted waters and let Laker graduates steer the conversation in a blog format. To begin, we will feature a new topic each month with a guest blogger. Topics can range from social skills, resume building, career advice, community service, leadership, health and wellness, philanthropy and various subjects suggested, written and submitted by you. This program is meant to be the anchor for authentic alumni authored content. The rest is up to you. If you would like to be a guest blogger, or have a topic idea, float your suggestion over to Abigayle Sloan, ’07 Assistant Director of Alumni Relations at

Bon Voyage!