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Older adults don’t know TikTok. Gen Z does, and they’re taking over college recruiting videos

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Three University of St. Thomas interns spent the lunch hour dashing around campus, cell phones and microphone in hand, asking fellow students: Do you want to be in a video?

They were on a mission to film a TikTok video outlining 23 reasons teenagers should enroll at the private university in St. Paul. One by one they gathered answers. “Dance team.” “Rowing team.” “The music program.” “My cousin.”

As the competition for new college students intensifies and crucial admissions deadlines loom, a growing number of Minnesota universities are handing their TikTok accounts over to their students, who understand the social media platform best. Schools still offer tours and other events on campus, but TikTok gives them a chance to catch teenagers’ attention while they’re scrolling through their phones.

“Obviously, the way students do their college search is changing always,” said Kristen Hatfield, the university’s director of admissions. “And so, it’s great to have student interns who have been through it not that long ago.”

A survey released by Pew Research Center last year found that nearly 67% of American teenagers use TikTok, an app that allows people to share short video clips — and 16% say they use it almost constantly. That surpasses their usage of other platforms like Facebook and Twitter that were favored by previous generations.

While some schools have shunned the platform over security concerns, many others are embracing it, noting that they’re not sharing sensitive information and it’s increasingly important to find students in spaces that feel comfortable to them.

College recruitment is expected to get more difficult in the coming years. The number of U.S. high school graduates is expected to begin decreasing after 2025, due in part to a drop in birth rates that began in 2008.

This stage in the recruitment process is especially crucial. Many colleges set a May 1 deadline for enrolling, though some continue to work with prospective students after that.

In earlier stages of the admissions process, students are deciding what to study, where to apply, and whether their financial aid offers are adequate. When they’ve narrowed it down to the last few schools, both admissions officers and current students say the final decision often comes down to a different question: Can they envision a life there?

The TikTok videos offer a glimpse of that life — often with a laugh thrown in.

Horses and winter shorts

A video from the University of Minnesota, Crookston, shows Ted the quarter horse ranking foods given to him by students. Apples are juicy and score 10 out of 10. Lettuce is bland and scores just five.

Another video follows a student traveling from a morning class to a carwash fundraiser and then to a lab where students are taking a blood draw for a horse.

“We feel that when the students are talking about what they’re up to, what classes they’re in, what they’re involved in, what it’s like to be a student here, that really just resonates with that age group,” said Jess Bengtson, a communications specialist at Crookston.

Carleton College launched its TikTok account last summer, with the help of eight student fellows. Among them was Stella Dennehy, a junior, who continues to run the account now.

Some of the videos are focused plainly on recruitment, highlighting the dates for admitted student events or campus tours, or announcing application deadlines.

Others are meant to be fun and light-hearted, and capture the off-beat sense of humor that permeates the campus culture. One highlights the fashion available at the campus bookstore. Another notes which dining hall has the flourless chocolate torte. Another jokes about Oscar, the taxidermy penguin that serves as an unofficial mascot.

And another shows a student explaining the decision to wear shorts when it’s 20 below: “It’s not that cold.”

“Alums can talk about the college. Staff can talk about the college. But the only person who is able to tell you what it’s truly like to attend it in this moment is the student,” Dennehy said.

The University of St. Thomas is relying on just that approach. Videos produced by its student interns tend to be some of the most popular, with many garnering thousands of views.

In one video, intern Sophia Huber asks fellow Tommies to rattle off digits in the number pi in exchange for a slice of pie. In another, intern Olivia Russell dances off into the Easter break. In another, intern Sofia Miranda asks students to guess whether lyrics were written by William Shakespeare or Taylor Swift.

The interns, all students in the business program, get a chance to work in the “future of marketing,” Huber said. The university gains from having the students’ perspective.

“It’s the perfect marriage,” Hatfield said.



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Traffic disrupted but no injuries reported after BNSF freight train derails near Big Lake, Minn.

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A train derailment near Big Lake is disrupting traffic and slowing the train company’s main line Saturday.

According to the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office, the BNSF train was carrying consumer goods when it derailed around 3:15 a.m. At least 15 rail cars were involved, blocking the crossing at 172nd Street NW. between 197th Avenue and County Rd. 14.

A BNSF representative confirmed the derailment and said crews were working “as quickly and safely as possible” to clear the wreckage.

The cause of the derailment is under investigation. No injuries have been reported, and the Sheriff’s Office said there was no threat to the public. It’s unclear what goods the train carried, or when crews expected to clear the wreckage.

A broken rail track caused a BNSF train derailment in Raymond, Minn., last year, spilling ethanol and corn syrup, which caught fire. Hundreds living nearby were forced to evacuate. Estimates at that time suggested repairing damage to railroad tracks and equipment at $1.9 million. The environmental cleanup was estimated to cost $1.6 million.



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The VA wants your help picking a name for a new clinic for female veterans

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Blueprints for the new Women’s Clinic at the Minneapolis VA have almost everything.

The new clinic space will be airy and accessible, with room for a dizzying array of veteran health services, from lactation consultation to cancer screenings. After years of planning, the groundbreaking is set for September at the Veterans Affairs Health Center.

All the clinic needs now is a name.

The VA is hoping for the public’s help on that one.

If you know a veteran, living or deceased, who served her country and her community, the VA is accepting nominations until Oct. 30.

The naming committee will be looking for veterans who were honorably discharged and who had a connection to the Minneapolis VA or the Midwest region it serves.

Maybe the honor will go to a towering figure from state history. Maybe it will go to a living legend like 101-year-old World War II veteran Marion Peck of Le Sueur, a finalist for the 2024 SilverSneakers Member of the Year award. We’ll find out if she wins on July 22.

“She did squats for me, the first time I met her,” said Dr. Alisa Duran, VA women’s health medical director. “With our aging veterans, you always do sort of a ‘get up and go’ evaluation and look at how they walk and ask about falls. And she’s like, ‘Watch this!’… We see a lot of our veterans out in the community doing really cool things.”

Women are the fastest-growing group within the VA — the number of women veterans has tripled since 2001. The Minneapolis VA Health Care System served more than 7,000 women veterans last year alone. But the clinic space that greeted them was less than they deserved.

The current Women’s Clinic sits in an old ICU deep inside the sprawling Minneapolis campus. Veterans had to thread through a series of corridors, waiting rooms and unrelated departments to reach the clinic.

Beyond an inconvenience, not having direct access to care could be a painful barrier for patients dealing with service-related trauma. One out of every three women veterans reports that they experienced sexual harassment or assault during their time in the military. The new facility will allow them to walk in directly from the parking lot, without facing the crowds inside the larger complex.

A great deal of thought will go into the new facility. The new mammogram suites will allow veterans to control the compression of a procedure that can trigger anxiety. The Women’s Clinic treats women still in their childbearing years, women going through menopause, all the way up to the Greatest Generation, still going strong at 101 like Marion Peck.

“I loved the Navy,” Peck said during a recent VA interview about her SilverSneakers competition. “If they’d take a 101-year-old I’d be on an aircraft carrier tomorrow.”

For veterans who were exposed to toxic environments like burn pits during their service, the clinic is expanding cancer screenings for at-risk groups. The new clinic space will have room for classrooms and support groups to meet. There will be social workers and specialists and counselors on hand to help new mothers — veterans can be at higher risk of postpartum depression — through the first year.

A clinic this good is going to need a good name.

“We wanted this new clinic space to represent our women veterans,” Duran said. “I think one of the best ways to do that is to name it in honor of one of our female veterans.”

The name that goes above the clinic door won’t necessarily be the veteran with the highest rank or highest profile. The committee that chooses the name will include a number of women veterans, and they know the qualities they’re looking for.

The woman whose name goes on the building will be someone whose life is an example of “service beyond their years of military service,” said Emma O’Brien, women veterans program manager. “Of course they’ll want to know about what accolades they had while they were on military duty, but also how they’ve continued to serve their community beyond that.”

Anyone who follows the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s annual snowplow naming contest knows how much Minnesotans enjoy naming things.

Last year, the St. Cloud VA Healthcare system set out to rename a hallway in honor of one of central Minnesota’s women veterans. They received two dozen nominations. The honor went to the late Paynesville native Winnifred “Winnie” Galbraith, who served in the Women’s Army Corps during WWII and went on to long years of service with American Legion posts in Little Falls and Waite Park.

The first nomination came in hours after the VA put out the call.

“This went out yesterday and I received one yesterday afternoon. They were ready,” O’Brien said. “I’m not surprised. I’ve had several people, male and female veterans, tell me, ‘You should name the new clinic after so-and-so.’ Everyone has someone they think it should be named after.”

Construction is expected to begin in September and the new clinic should open in 2026. If you know a good name for the new clinic, you can download the nomination form at va.gov/minneapolis-health-care/health-services/women-veteran-care.

If Marion Peck’s name doesn’t end up on the building, maybe we can get a statue of her out front, in silver sneakers.



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SWAT standoff in Edina ends peacefully

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A four-hour standoff Saturday morning between a suspect and a SWAT team in a residential area in Edina ended peacefully, authorities said.

According to a news release from the Edina Police Department, officers were sent to a disturbance on the 5100 block of Schaefer Road at about 8 a.m. After learning the suspect could be armed and dangerous, they shut down the area and called in the SWAT team and negotiators “out of abundance of caution.”

After negotiations with Edina police, the subject peacefully surrendered at 12:30 p.m. Several agencies assisted in the incident, which remains under investigation.



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