Junior Tyra Banks is a well-known student who has made a profound impact at Gustavus.
“If you see [Banks] out and about, there’s a one hundred percent guarantee that she will be a light brightening other people’s day. Her ability to serve her community and build connections is admirable to say the least. I wouldn’t say she embodies the Gustie spirit as much as I would say she sets a new standard for what it means to be a Gustie,” Senior Jeanet Hinds said.
Banks chose to come here after realizing it was a small campus that had quality academics with the chance to make new friends and provided an affordable education with great financial aid.
During the first 13 years of her life, Banks lived in Liberia. While she was born in the busy city of Monrovia, she primarily grew up in the countryside of Margibi County.
She went to an all-girls catholic school from kindergarten up until freshman year.
When she and her family moved to the United States, she lived and attended high school Brooklyn Center, but finished off her senior year in Rhode Island.
As a student, she was part of the spelling bee, Debate, Academic Decathlon, National Honors Society, Student Council, Video Production Club and was class president.
Drawing from her experiences of being heavily involved in grade school, Banks carried that passion with her when she came to college.
“Gustavus has so many opportunities, and I would say start taking advantage of them at a very early start in your college career…if you see anything, try to get that exposure and put those experiences in your back pocket. By the time you leave this school, you’ll be a sharpened individual who’s ready to take on the world,” Banks said.
One of the first organizations she joined was Colleges Against Cancer as the philanthropy resonated with her on a personal level.
She also got involved with the Pan-Afrikan Student Orga- nization (PASO), serving as the as one of the co-chairs for Africa night her sophomore year.
She is now on the executive board as one of the social media coordinators, and has the job to convey the group’s message and promote their events to the wider campus.
As the former culture and diversity executive of the Campus Activities Board, she planned enjoyable events that exposed students to different cultures outside of Minnesota.
Banks was also on the St. Lucia Court and was chosen by the student body as last year’s St. Lucia.
“Something I value about [Banks] is her work ethic. She always gives her best. I also value her high energy. She has the power of making people smile and laugh,” Senior Adonya Gray said.
As a Biology and Classics major, she was also inducted into the Classics Honors Society, Eta Sigma Phi.
She enjoys being a classics tutor for students who are studying Latin, and also works as a science lab assistant in the stockroom.
She has also been a member of the track and field team where she participates in long- jump and sprinting events.
Banks also participates in Pre-Health Club because of her dream of attending medical school after Gustavus.
One of the major leadership roles she has taken on this year is being the co-president of the Diversity Education Exploration Project (DEEP).
It is an organization that prioritizes itself on exposing underrepresented students to other cultures through an immersive spring break trip.
“We have three pillars: education, service, and excellence. This year, we’re taking our members to Denver, Colorado, and we’re exploring the Chicano culture. We’re going to visit some universities rooted in [this] culture. Our service projects include giving back to the community. We are also hosting a Silent Auction to fundraise for the trip, and visiting grad schools that expose our members to the better opportunities,” Banks said.
Banks values how this will be an educational experience that will give her a taste of another lifestyle.
Banks also hopes to develop a strong sense of sisterhood as new member of the Alpha Sigma Tau Sorority.
Although she joined primarily for the service aspect, she also wanted to broaden her social circle, reaching out to people she does not normally talk to or see all the time.
“My sense of community is forming those ties and networks with other people that are not part of the discipline I study like Biology or Classics…that’s why I’m really grateful for the small community of Gustavus because although it’s small, everyone has some type of relationship with everyone else,” Banks said.
This year, she is also a collegiate Fellow (CF) in Norelius where she adores her residents and loves spending time with them.
The reason why she specifically wanted to work with First-years was to assist in their personal development during their transition to college.
She can relate to the feelings they have about not being able to find your place here, and feels compelled to serve as a listening ear with the expertise to point them to several resources
“Just being there for them and establishing your position as a CF, but also being their friend too, by saying ‘if you want to talk about anything, I am here.’ Going to people and forming those ties with them has sharpened me as a leader. The most important part for me is being a listener and observer first because then I can look at what needs to be done, and then use my leadership position to implement those [steps for change],” Banks said.