Erik Muckey

Erik Muckey

CEO/Executive Director, Lost & Found
Saint Paul, MN
Economics, 2014

"Never stop investing in yourself and your passions. What drives you may be something right in front of you, but at times, pursuing your passions may require hard work and commitment to things that are entirely unclear or unrelated to what you love. Stay grounded in what you know, who you are and where you came from by maintaining relationships with your family, friends and mentors."

Q&A with Erik:

Describe your current educational or professional pursuits.

I’m currently in my second year of a three-year, dual Master of Business Administration and Master of Public Policy program at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and Humphrey School of Public Affairs. My studies focus on entrepreneurial management, finance and rural economic development policy. Alongside the dual program, I’m also earning my Certificate in Nonprofit Management from the Humphrey School. In June, I’ll start my MBA internship with Sunrise Banks as a summer associate, assessing digital, fintech and prepaid products and partnership strategy for the bank.

Outside of my studies, I have the privilege to lead an organization founded by USD graduates—Lost & Found—as its CEO. Lost & Found connects students with the skills and community to develop lifelong resilience, and today we serve four campuses in eastern South Dakota, including USD. I’ve been able to manage leadership in a part-time capacity, as well as continuing my rural development work with fellow USD graduates in our firm, PASQ. PASQ provides rural economic development consulting services to communities in South Dakota and Minnesota.

My pursuits are wide, varied and sometimes completely unrelated, but all of them fit into one commitment I’ve made: being the most effective and engaging leader and advocate possible on issues that impact the places I’ve called home.

How did your USD experience influence your career path?

Through SGA and my Honors thesis, I was able to discover my passion for policymaking and creating real, meaningful impact for rural communities like my hometown of Corsica, South Dakota. Those experiences led me to the graduate program I’m in today, but also gave me a “North Star” for my professional goals, no matter what sector I find myself in. I will always be called to serve places like Corsica and the communities like it in South Dakota and around the country.

Through my experience with Lost & Found, I was able to see how a simple campus organization led by USD students could turn into an emerging force for improving campus mental health in the region. I wasn’t planning on serving as its president and CEO over the past five years, but it’s given me an opportunity to grow personally and as a leader in ways I couldn’t have foreseen.

Ultimately, the friendships, mentors and connection to my family at USD have been the greatest influence on my career path. There are many things I can get involved with and will get involved with, but it’s those around me that keeps me grounded. The best gift USD gave me was the relationships I carry with me, and it’s how I’ve been able to navigate every step since I walked off the stage in the DakotaDome with my diploma.

Tell us about your proudest achievement.

My proudest achievement is shaping the vision for Lost & Found into something that none of us could have foreseen almost 10 years ago. It’s been a labor of love, an opportunity to build a leadership team and an organization from the ground up and grow to serve four college campuses in South Dakota with more to come. I’m proud of the impact we’re creating for campus mental health systems and reaching students with needed tools for resilience.

It’s also been an important journey for me, personally, to learn what it means to be human. Through an organization committed to student mental health, I’ve been able to share my own journey with depression and anxiety and demonstrate that even when we are at our best, there is a short distance between success and struggle. My hope is that my example will help others share their story and understand how important it is to care for your mental health, no matter where you are in life.

What was your USD experience like? Were you involved in any campus organizations or activities?

While at USD, I was incredibly involved. Before I even got to campus, I joined the founding team of a nonprofit called Lost & Found at the request of my friend and fellow Coyote, DJ Smith, and I helped found and lead the USD chapter. I was also in leadership with Coyote Capital Management for all four years, a critical aspect of my time in the Beacom School of Business. My jobs and involvement from there touched nearly every aspect of campus, from Student Ambassadors to academic tutoring to intramural athletics to Residence Hall Association to Honors Director’s Council.

Through the Honors Program, I was able to use my undergraduate thesis to impact South Dakota’s K-12 education funding policy, interview for the Truman Scholarship, serve as an intern on Capitol Hill and discover my passion for rural economic development. Most importantly, I credit the Honors Program for helping me find many of my closest friends.

Ultimately, my experience at USD was defined by my time serving as Student Government Association (SGA) president, which meant serving as the leading advocate on behalf of all USD students on campus and to local, state and federal units of government. I still pinch myself that I had the opportunity to serve. Nothing singlehandedly impacted my time at USD like serving as SGA president, and it’s fun to come back to campus to see how our administration’s actions still leave a mark on campus life. Most importantly, serving as SGA president helped me build relationships with campus leaders in ways that would have never been possible otherwise—and I still carry those relationships with me today.

© 2017 University of South Dakota | 1110 North Dakota Street, Vermillion, SD 57069 | 800-521-3575 | alumni@usdalumni.org