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Ashton Ayres Named 2024 Outstanding Senior

Published Friday, May 10, 2024

Pictured (L-R): Janine Teske, Alumni Association; Ashton Ayres; Dr. Ross Wastvedt, Provost
Pictured (L-R): Janine Teske, Alumni Association; Ashton Ayres; Dr. Ross Wastvedt, Provost

Each year since 2003, the Southwest Minnesota State University Alumni Association presents the Outstanding Senior Award to one graduating senior at Commencement. This honor recognizes an individual who has made the most of their college experience, both in and out of the classroom.

This year’s Outstanding Senior is Ashton Ayres of Ortonville, Minn. He was named in a surprise announcement during the 56th commencement ceremony at Southwest Minnesota State University on Saturday, May 4, 2024.  Ayres was highly recommended to the selection committee for his academic accomplishments, his inquisitive nature in class, his wide-ranging campus involvement, and his enthusiastic, go-getter attitude.

Ayres is a Political Science major, with minors in Public Administration and Philosophy. He is also a member of the Honors Program. The SMSU Honors Program is a rigorous program that allows high-achieving students to customize their academic experience with more challenging courses than available in the standard general studies curriculum, MnTC (Minnesota Transfer Curriculum).

One of the nominating professors wrote of Ayres: ‘He is an absolute joy to have in class because he is engaged, isn’t afraid to ask questions, shows excellent comprehension of the material, and puts forth a tremendous effort overall.’

“Being awarded an honor like this makes you feel like all those hours you spent doing work that you felt unseen was very meaningful to those around you,” Ayres said. “This reward also helps me see that I fulfilled my promise to myself when I graduated high school. Coming from a small community, I wanted to seek out more opportunities and experiences that were not available to me in high school.”

When it comes to campus involvement, Ayres is a force to be reckoned with. He has served the Student Senate for the last three years. He is a highly active member of several student organizations including Enactus, the Residence Hall Association, and the Student Activity Fee Allocation Committee. He was also elected Student Body President in the 2022-2023 academic year.

“It was special being elected Student Body President after my first full year as a student. I never imagined I would find myself in a position like that, but I decided to go for it because of the support from those around me,” said Ayres.

“As student body president, I was able to meet with the University president, provost, and deans, and talk about issues that are important to students,” he said. “Continuing as a senator, I can honestly say I have found more joy in watching the success of those who came after me and seeing how much they have developed as leaders too.”

In addition to his involvement in active clubs, he started a new student club called the Guitar Players’ Association. Outside of his commitments to student clubs, he quickly became an invaluable asset to the GOLD College lifelong learning program serving as a resourceful and capable technology assistant to GOLD College instructors and participants.

He recently was selected as the Graduate Assistant for the Student Senate as he works toward a master’s degree in business administration beginning in the fall. He plans to enjoy the summer with family and work at the nursing home in Ortonville, Minn. 

“The most important thing I've learned at SMSU is that if you want to see a change or make a difference, it is best to work toward that change rather than let things stay the same,” he explained. “Student leadership is important to a university's community because of all the positive impact you can have when you put your thoughts and ideas into action.”

The SMSU Alumni Association and Southwest Minnesota State University congratulate 2024 Outstanding Senior, Ashton Ayres.

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