As a tour guide for the admissions office, Elise Stepka is an expert in all things Gustavus.
When prospective students ask about her favorite aspects of college life, Elise is proud to always have an answer ready due to her love of the campus feel and the programs Gustavus has to offer.
“The community aspect is really nice,” Elise said. “Gustavus is the perfect size because class sizes are so small but there are always new faces popping up on campus and there are always more people to meet.”
“She is known [in the Gustavus Wind Orchestra] as the ‘band nurse’ and helps every Bandie with anything they need.” — Dr. James Miller
While her high school alma mater, Eastview, is similar in size to Gustavus, Elise is continuously impressed by the tight-knit community that exists on the hill even with over 2,000 students.
Another part of campus that Elise holds in high esteem is the nursing program. “What Gustavus does best is really show us that we are actually more than a number,” Elise said.
“Because we’re not a number, we’re people. Getting into the nursing program was more than a test. There was an essay and an interview as well. They really get to know you beyond your grades.
“The nursing program also really prepares you to make sure you’re ready for the real world. Because of the CNA component they really make sure you’re ready to do the dirty work and are okay with getting close and personal with people before you make nursing your career for life. A lot of schools wouldn’t care quite as much as Gustavus does.”
Elise’s nursing abilities and care for other people have bled into other corners of her life outside of the nursing program.
“She is known in [the Gustavus Wind Orchestra] as the ‘band nurse’” director Professor James Miller said, “and helps every Bandie with anything they need.”
Junior Bailey Van Den Heuvel is quick to agree.
“Elise was so thoughtful and helpful on tour for students that got the ‘tour bug’—the flu, food poisoning, colds, weird blood blisters—Her empathy made me want to be a better person that helps as many people as I can,” Van Den Heuvel said.
Not only does Elise utilize her nursing abilities to help others, but she has spent many hours in the community volunteering through Language Buddies and Monday Friends.
Originally roped into volunteering at the Elementary School for Language Buddies through a Spanish class, Elise fell in love with helping children, particularly those learning English as a second language.
Always looking for a way to interact and learn more about others, Monday Friends also gave her a way to interact with disabled members of the St. Peter community and break down stigmas surrounding mental and physical health.
“With all of the organizations, work, and bands that [Elise] is involved in she finds a way to manage it all well and still finds time to have fun with her roommates.
“She is a good example of how much Gustavus has to offer and how students can be involved in many different ways to get connected on this campus.
“Along with that she can be a role model on how to juggle each of these different organizations and things she is involved in,” Senior Olivia Rosenow said.
“The best advice I have for any First-years,” Elise said, “is go to the involvement fair to find out about things. But go there and learn so much more and orgs. Don’t be afraid to get involved or of being overcommitted because there no such thing. Just be open to new things and new people.”
Besides playing the clarinet, performing in GWO, volunteering through Language Buddies and Monday Friends, Elise also participates in Stress Busters and Running Club.
All about student health and happiness, Stress Busters works to combat studying stress and frequently hosts massages and de-stressing activities.
While the wellbeing of others is near and dear to her heart, Elise also acknowledges the importance of self-love, which she practices through Running Club.
Being a runner lets her set goals for herself, like the recent marathon she recently took part in.
When pondering her upcoming graduation, Elise said, “Gustavus made me ready to be an adult. Liberal arts is such an important part of my education because I got to do a little bit of everything which will help me relate to people when I’m out in the workforce.
“It is scary but I feel like I am ready for it. It’s not about the slip of paper you get when you graduate but how prepared you are.”
Inspired by her Scandinavian J-Term with the Gustavus Wind Orchestra, Elise plans on touring France and Germany for two weeks before returning to Minnesota and finding the nursing job of her dreams.
But don’t worry if you haven’t gotten a chance to take one of Elise’s tours or hear her play her clarinet. “You always see people coming back for homecoming and other events,” Elise said, “Being a Gustie is a life-long event.”