Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

We may have skipped class at NDSU, but… June 21, 2012

The main entrance to North Dakota State University in Fargo.

OLIVIA FROM THE NORTH DAKOTA STATE UNIVERSITY Conference, Orientation and Recruitment Team promised not to tattle on us, because, on our first day back at school, my husband and I skipped our afternoon classes.

We’re not setting a very good example for our 18-year-old son, who was also in class on the same day at NDSU. He didn’t skip.

But we were tired due to the noisy Fargo Holiday Inn guests who practically shouted their way past our room around 2 a.m. Friday. My husband struggled to stay awake during the first Friday afternoon orientation session. And I admit my eyelids were weighing heavy, too. We needed a break.

I mean no disrespect to NDSU as the university did an excellent job in programming at the orientation and registrations sessions my husband, son and I attended. But our youngest marks the third child we’ve sent off to college so we kind of know this basic college stuff already.

I wish I could spin some dramatic tale about the reasons for our truancy. But I cannot. It is what it was and Olivia promised not to report us.

Perhaps I can redeem our bad behavior by telling you that we pursued only educational opportunities during our time away from class.

A Bison t-shirt in the NDSU Bookstore.

We started by stopping at the college bookstore to inquire about textbooks and to look at the Bison apparel. The bison is the university’s mascot.

Inside the NDSU Memorial Union, I photographed this sculpture of a bison, the university’s mascot.

The NDSU Technology Incubator.

Next we weaved our way over to the NDSU Research & Technology Park, where, according to a pamphlet I picked up, “…university researchers combine their talents with private industry to create new technologies, methods and systems.” Our son was awarded an NDSU Entrepreneurial Scholarship which requires him to work and volunteer in the Technology Incubator during his four years at NDSU. We’re thrilled that he will have the opportunity to gain hands-on research experience and network with private industry as he prepares for a career in computer engineering.

We weren’t able to meet with any of the incubator clients, but at least we got inside the building and learned basics about the facility.

The Plains Art Museum in downtown Fargo.

From the technology park, we headed to the Plains Art Museum, an art center housed in a lovely, historic brick building along First Avenue North in downtown Fargo. Inside, we perused an outstanding/phenomenal/incredible collection of wood carvings by Willmar, Minnesota, artist Fred Cogelow. We also enjoyed the works of Luis Jimenez, whose notable “Sodbuster” sculpture is temporarily on exhibit. The works of Fargo abstract expressionist artist Marjorie Schlossman were also on display. Since neither my husband or I especially like abstract art, we breezed through those galleries.

The North Dakota Mural by James Rosenquist installed in 2010 inside the Plains Art Museum.

I, of course, was quite disappointed that I couldn’t photograph any of the art except the North Dakota Mural on the first floor. It kills me to pack away my camera when I see so much I want to share with you.

The Plains Art Museum building was built in 1904 by International Harvester Company and originally served as a shipping, receiving and showroom space for farm implements. It’s a beautiful place with wooden floors, exposed support posts, rough brick walls and more.

An informational display outside the research rooms of the NDSU “Germans from Russia” Heritage Collection.

After a short walk around the block and a stop at a gas station, we headed back to the NDSU campus and hung out at the library. Or, more specifically, my husband holed himself up in the “Germans from Russia” Heritage Collection rooms while I sat on a retaining wall outside because our cell phones did not work in the library and we were awaiting a call or text message from the son as to when he would finish registering for classes. (NDSU, please add some benches to your campus; the parents would appreciate resting spots.)

Eventually the husband extracted himself from digging into the history of the Helbling family whose roots run deep in North Dakota. His forefathers were among the “Germans from Russia” who settled in the Mandan/Bismarck area, home to the largest group of such immigrants in the U.S. My spouse’s parents relocated from North Dakota to central Minnesota in the 1960s.

Now, some 50 years later, our son is coming full circle back to North Dakota, to the place where his paternal ancestors settled upon arriving in America so many, many years ago.

So, you see, my husband and I may have skipped our afternoon college classes. But we never stopped learning.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling