Phil, Teri and Brenna Lesnar grew up in a close-knit family in a small town in central Minnesota. The three siblings are just four years apart, oldest to youngest, so they're used to following in each other's footsteps.
Still, not even they would have predicted they'd wind up at the same college, University of Wisconsin-Stout, some 110 miles from their hometown of Zimmerman, Minn.
They didn't plan the Lesnar family migration to UW-Stout, especially not Phil, the leader of the pack who initially didn't relish having one sister and then another follow him to college.
"Of course I wasn't happy they were coming here," he said, with a wry smile. "It was my college. But it turned out OK. I told them the first two weeks that they had to make their own friends."
Contrary to what he expected, Phil said he's actually enjoying having his sisters close by and watching them adjust to college life, although he sees them only on occasion.
Even in college, he's taking his big brother role seriously. "My freshman year, Phil came and got me and took me to his house so I knew how to get there in case I needed him. I did the same thing with Brenna," Teri said.
"Phil paved the way," Brenna said. "If we needed him he'd be there for us."
Same school, different paths
The siblings' decisions to attend UW-Stout had to do more with finding the best academic fit — they're all in art programs — than their strong family bond.
Phil is a senior in game design and development with an art concentration. He expects to graduate in about a year. Teri is a junior in art education, planning to become an art teacher. Brenna is a freshman in entertainment design.
Phil chose UW-Stout because of the hard-to-find game design program, one of the few in the Midwest. He also likes that the university isn't too far from home and is affordable.
Teri's decision was an easy one. When she was a senior in high school and heard from Phil that UW-Stout's art education program was strong, "I sort of knew Stout was for me," she said. "After being here for two months I knew it was the right choice."
With Phil and Teri already at UW-Stout, Brenna initially wanted to go her own way last year. Brenna didn't pick UW-Stout until she finally realized that it also was the best place for her to pursue entertainment design.
She is leaning toward concentrations in animation and in comics and sequential art, two of the three available in entertainment design.
Teri and Brenna said they didn't even take a formal tour of UW-Stout because they already were familiar with it through family visits.
The right choice
The Lesnars give UW-Stout high marks in several areas. At the top of their list, they say the professors are knowledgeable and helpful, part of a friendly campus atmosphere.
"There's feedback everyday from professors. I haven't met a professor I haven't gotten something from," Phil said. "My program has not slowed down. It has changed dramatically, and that's why I love it, and of course the people."
All three also like the polytechnic aspect of UW-Stout. They cited the opportunity to take core courses in their major in their first two years and the hands-on learning approach. "We don't just get a degree; we get experience," Brenna said.
"Stout is up-and-coming with very good majors," Teri said.
Also, they love that all students are given a laptop computer, creating the digital learning environment, and that textbook rental is included with tuition.
All three are involved in extracurricular activities. Phil is in video and game student organizations; Teri in the academic honor society and art education association; and Brenna in the Honors College and a comics club.
With their busy schedules they don't often run into each other and haven't had any classes together. Phil and Teri live off campus and Brenna in a residence hall.
"If we didn't want to see each other, we wouldn't," Teri said, noting the size of the school, with more than 9,200 students and 24 major buildings on 131 acres.
Teri and Brenna, who shared a bedroom while growing up, try to exercise together and meet up on weekends.
"I'm really enjoying the environment. I've met so many different people around campus," Brenna said.
Going to college together has been pleasantly surprising and has its benefits, they say, not the least of which is they use each other's success as motivation. "We really push each other," Brenna said.
Brenna's decision last year to attend UW-Stout made happy parents out of Phil and Sue Lesnar, who have bought plenty of UW-Stout apparel for themselves.
"It's a great advantage that they're all in one spot and they can help each other if they need to," father Phil Lesnar said.
Sue is equally pleased. "Our mom won't stop talking about Stout," Brenna said with a laugh.
The elder Phil Lesnar, who owns a contracting business, is impressed with UW-Stout's polytechnic mission and career-oriented majors that meet the needs of business and industry.
"Polytechnic is a very smart way to go from a business standpoint.I'm very impressed with that. Stout has an absolutely amazing placement figure," he said, he said of the 97 percent job placement rate for recent graduates.
Sue Lesnar is a special education teacher in the Anoka-Hennepin school district and recently completed a master's degree.
"It worked out by chance," Phil Lesnar said of his three children winding up at the same university. "They're all very much happy with what they've chosen and seem to have flourished."