I have been impressed -- very impressed -- during the News Cut on Campus tour of colleges and universities in Minnesota with the resourcefulness of students to identify a goal and then figure out a way to pursue it. It's why the "we are not quitters" quote from the young woman cited in Barack Obama's speech the other night struck a chord. Judging by the newscasts, the country seems to have thrown up its hands and packed it in. The impression is incorrect.
James Munsch, 21, of Brainerd wants to be an art professor. When I saw him walking around the student union at Minnesota State University Moorhead with that piece of art, I had to encourage him to sit down and talk. "We're doing 3D forms and 3D sculptures and one of the elements we can use is volume," he said.
He was taking calculus and engineering courses at North Dakota State University, "and I discovered it wasn't very much fun. I could do the practical thing and become an engineer and make some money. Or I could do the not-so-practical thing and go into art. So I made a compromise and I figured I'd just become an art teacher, because I'm fairly sure I can get a job doing that," he said during my News Cut on Campus stop on Wednesday.
He'd like to "do experimenting" on high school kids and then "move on up."
How does he plan to pay for an extensive network of education? "I submit my body to medical studies in the Fargo Moorhead area." A local research firm, Pracs Institute, conducts research on genetic drugs, and pays people -- including many college students -- to participate in research studies. He's trying to get into a study on nitroglycerin. He says students can make anywhere from "$300 to $5,000." He also donates plasma twice a week for another $260 a month.
"So many college kids are doing that; they're selling themselves so they can pay for school," he reports.
Between colleges and software companies, the Fargo-Moorhead region is doing very well economically, according to Munsch. "It's kind of secluded up here on the barren tundra," but even if it wasn't, Munsch doesn't appear to be the type to let rumors of a collapsing economy get to him. "We intentionally don't purchase cable or listen to the mass media," he says. "We have a subscription to the Economist but they're slanted and neo-liberal. They've had a huge transition in the rhetoric. It was 'free markets, free markets, free markets' and now it's 'Oh, nooooo!'"
Munsch says he subscribes to the theory of the blue-collar economy. "Go to work, make your money, and don't be one of those corrupt elites," he says.
And maybe buy a little art once in awhile.