As Mr. and Miss Dakota, Tjelmeland, of Blair, Neb., and VanMeeteren, of Yankton, S.D., reigned during the 2012 Dakota Days celebration on Saturday, Oct. 6. VanMeeteren of Yankton, S.D., is a double major in political science and economics, her activities are Kappa Alpha Theta, Students in Free Enterprise, College Republicans, the USD Honors Program and Alternative Week of Off-campus Learning (AWOL). The current president of the Student Government Association, VanMeeteren’s representing organization was SGA. Tjelmeland, a political science major from Blair, Neb., is an SGA Senator, a member of the 2011 Dakota Days Committee, involved with the College Republicans and participates in Dance Marathon. His representing organization was Pi Kappa Alpha. Download a photo of Tjelmeland and VanMeeteren with USD President James W. and Collette Abbott and Parade Marshals Meredith and Tom Brokaw.

Miss Dakota finalists included Darcy Leischner, a communication studies and psychology double major from Parkston, S.D., who has been active in Colleges Against Cancer, Kappa Alpha Theta, Dakota Days Executive Board, Mortar Board. Her representing organization was Campus Activities Board. Shari Fischbach of Mellette, S.D., an elementary education major represented by Kappa Alpha Theta, is a member of SGA, Kappa Alpha Theta, National Association for the Education of Young Children and Students Enhancing Resources for Vermillion Enrichment. Shea Smith, an anthropology major from Mitchell, S.D., represented Strollers. She has been involved with Women’s Rugby, AWOL, Pi Beta Phi, Mortar Board, Dance Marathon, Reach Out and Read, and the W.H. Over Museum. Teresa Johnson represented the Political Science League and is a political science and contemporary media and journalism major from Sioux Falls, S.D. Her activities include Alpha Phi, Order of Omega, Spanish tutor, Coyote News, International Film Series and South Dakota Public Broadcasting. Lori Hixson of Jefferson, S.D. is a psychology major active in Pi Beta Phi, Pre-Physical Therapy Club, Colleges Against Cancer and Order of Omega. Her representing organization was Dance Marathon. Rebekah Rinehart is a Bridgewater, S.D. native represented by Alpha Phi. A communication studies major, Rinehart is involved with Student Ambassadors, USD Dance Team, English tutor, Coyote Crew and Dance Marathon.

Finalists for Mr. Dakota were Tyler Gilliland, a biology major from Sioux Falls, S.D. His activities at USD include Dance Marathon and Order of Omega, and he represented Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Jerrett Kucera of Winner, S.D., is a communication studies major and has been active in the 2011 Dakota Days Committee, Tau Kappa Epsilon, Habitat for Humanity, Coyote Crew and Pi Sigma Epsilon. He represented Student Ambassadors. Collin Michels of Yankton, S.D., is a Spanish and biology double major active in Up 'Til Dawn, Student Ambassadors and Pre-Med Society. A past president of the SGA, Michels’ representing organization was SGA. Josh VanLaecken of Watertown, S.D. is an accounting major represented by Beta Theta Pi. His activities include SGA, College Republicans, Beta Alpha Psi, Why Theory, Order of Omega and Beta Gamma Sigma. Zac Sousek, a health science major from Evanston, Wyo., represented the Interfraternity Council and he’s active in Delta Tau Delta and Student Ambassadors at USD. Wade Wilkinson of Sioux Falls, S.D. is an accounting major active in Mortar Board, the Accounting Club and USD’s Financial Management Association. His representing organization was Delta Tau Delta.

USD Homecoming activities celebrated “150 Years of Legacy” and recognized USD’s Pride, Service, Community, Innovation, Inspiration and Tradition each day of the week, Oct. 1-6, throughout Dakota Days. For more information, please visit

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