Dylan Willie found a passion for his chosen profession and for his community during his time at M State – Detroit Lakes.
Willie, 25, enrolled at M State in the fall of 2010 after six years in the National Guard, which included a deployment to Iraq. The Detroit Lakes native will graduate in December 2012 with his Associate of Applied Science in Accounting and plenty of experience as a leader and a volunteer.
Willie says he knew he was interested in accounting when he enrolled at M State, but his interest turned to enthusiasm after he began volunteering on campus as an income-tax preparer for low-income students and community members through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. He subsequently began tutoring first-year accounting students, he advises veterans in the campus Veterans Resource Center and this year he is the campus site coordinator for VITA.
“VITA got me really going,” Willie says. “It boosted my confidence in myself and in my ability to actually apply what I was learning.”
He stepped into leadership roles in the M State Student Senate and in the community, serving as commander of the American Legion in Detroit Lakes and representing fellow veterans at community events including Veterans Day ceremonies and the recent dedication of Detroit Lakes’ park for veterans. His role also includes visiting schools and Scout troops to teach flag etiquette.
“I’m working with my fellow veterans and fighting for veterans’ rights and entitlements,” says Willie, who was injured during his work as a mechanic in Iraq.
Willie is a single parent to his 4-year-old son, Wyatt, and he says he originally enrolled at M State in part because it was close to home and allowed him to spend more time with Wyatt.
“I like the smaller class sizes at M State, and I appreciate the approach of the instructors – the fact that they have real life experience that they can share with us,” he says. “The staff members I’ve worked with at M State have been fantastic. It’s not a huge campus where you’re just a number.”
Following graduation in December, he plans to attend Minnesota State University Moorhead and earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting and certification in several accounting specialties. Eventually, he says, he hopes to combine his interest in accounting and serving his country into a job with a government agency.
“M State has given me a lot of self-confidence not only in accounting but in my personal life,” Willie says. “I have full custody of my son, so there’s a lot of balancing school and family. My time here makes me feel more prepared as a parent financially, too, so I can get a good job and support my son.”