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Mid West Music Fest Returns

As spring blossoms and the bluffs surrounding our island city grow greener and greener each day, as the river and lakes melt back into flowing, playful waters and as the people of Winona start venturing out of winter’s hibernation, springtime in the city of Winona grows lively. For Winona, springtime means regaining its active, buzzing population, as cyclists, longboarders, strollers and runners fill the streets. Springtime in Winona not only basks in new-found warmth and sunshine, but also in music and art. For three days every April for the last five years, Winona has enthusiastically welcomed spring with its annual (and quickly growing) Mid West Music Fest.

Mid West Music Fest, which this year occurs April 24-26, is a community-wide festival, including over sixty regional performing artists strewn across thirteen different stages throughout Winona; as well as musician’s workshops, organized dances and the delicious food of community vendors. This is the festival’s fifth year to energize Winona, and it continues to grow in its scope of musicians and audiences alike.

Returning headliner, Caroline Smith is coming back to Winona, full force. Hot on the last leg of her national tour, Caroline Smith will enchant Winonans with another high-energy, deeply soulful, and unapologetically sassy musical experience. Smith, who frequently performs in Winona, is enthusiastic about returning to Mid West Music Fest, saying it has “more energy” with its “community and pride,” compared to larger festivals that she’s played at. It is by no mistake that Mid West Music Fest’s smaller venues create a more intimate and unified festival-going experience. She says Winonans have “overwhelming love and energy,” when she comes to play, which translates into a powerful, positive energy shared by all. “We like to sound good and be good energy leaders,” she says, speaking about how much she enjoys performing music from their new album.

Caroline Smith has shifted her sound from indie-rock featured on her Little Wind album (2011), to a nostalgic 90’s Neo-Ladysoul in her Half About Being a Woman album (2013). The new album channels smooth and heartfelt lyrics, with themes of self-acceptance and self-empowerment which manifest into feel-good music for both men and women. “It has kind of become an album of female empowerment, but I love seeing [that] the guys really get into it,” she says of the reception she has gotten from her enthusiastic fans. As a Minnesota native, Smith enjoys playing for her fellow Minnesotans–never disappointing–always ensuring to give them everything she’s got.

Other must-see regional acts include the bluesy folkster, Charlie Parr, hailing from Duluth, who was featured in a documentary film this past winter at Winona’s 2014 Frozen River Film Festival.  Mid West Music Fest will also be featuring student and alumni artists from Winona State University, represented in bands Gravy Train, Jaybone Bell & The Restless Light, Jake Illika & The Heavy Set (their new EP has a heartfelt, upbeat song, “Minnesota Homegrown,” about living in Winona, paying homage to the great Mississippi) The Old Fashioneds, and The Ditchrunners, to name a few. One very valued aspect about MWMF is that the festival allows WSU students an outlet to showcase their talent and perform for a large array of audience members from near and far to enjoy.

Thoroughly organized, the fest promotes local and regional community business, vendors, artists, of which students have learned to take advantage. Students at WSU have several opportunities to win tickets, as well as options to volunteer in exchange for tickets. With over sixty bands on thirteen stages around historical Winona, to polka and barn dances, to musicians’ workshops, and film showings, Mid West Music Fest ensures that there is something for everyone to enjoy. Whether it is the soulful, cool, spunky energy of Caroline Smith, the bluesy, folksy authenticity of Charlie Parr, or the twang and feverish energy of Jaybone Bell & The Restless Light, all Winonans can find some music that they can genuinely connect with.

Caroline Smith plays at the Historical Masonic Temple (5th and Main) at 9:30pm on Friday, April 25. You can check out the festival’s full schedule, sponsors, descriptions of the bands and buy tickets here​.

–Courtney McCaw

Freshman to Senior in the Blink of an Eye

College is about learning, growth and change. No one is the same person when they walk off campus for the last time, as they were when they first stepped onto it. We want to see how all of you seniors have transformed from a wide-eyed freshman to a savvy senior. Send in your side-by-side comparisons to webcomm@winona.edu or send a message on our Facebook page. Here are just 2 stories from seniors graduating this May.

Liz and her freshman roommate; Liz and her senior year roommates

Take a look at my transformation from a freshman to a senior!

On the left is a photo of my first roommate and me as freshman on the day we first moved into our res hall. I was nervous and excited to begin this new journey and to be on my own for the first time. On the right are my senior roommates and I slightly losing our minds at the start of our last year at Winona State. I’m once again nervous and excited to be starting a new chapter in my life (but admittedly less excited to be moving back in with my parents next month). Although I’m more than ready to be done with homework and exams, I’m already missing Nona and the friends I’ve met here more than I ever thought I would.

- Liz Ortiz

Kaltyn and her freshman year friends; Katlyn and her senior year friends

My freshman friends, my senior sisters-at -heart.

If there is one thing I could thank Winona State for it is introducing me to my best friends. The photo on the left is us during the spring of my freshman year and the photo on the right is us this past summer at a Beyonce concert. I have been lucky enough to have had them by my side these past four years. We’ve laughed, cried, yelled, and lived together; it’s going to be weird come the end of the semester when we each go our separate ways. However, I’m not too worried because I know our daily rants and constant snapchatting will not end. I am so proud to call them my best friends and cannot wait to be right there for next chapter of their lives!

–Katlyn Plourde

25 Things to Do Before Graduating From WSU

A girl looking out over Winona from Garvin Heights at night

My friends and I go to Garvin Heights at night all the time and every student needs to check it out at least once.

I came to Winona State not knowing what to expect out of college, and boy was I in for a surprise. Over the past four years I have experienced some of the most joyous and most difficult days of my life. I met my best friends, became involved in the WSU community and tried my best to take advantage of all that college had to offer. As the countdown to graduation steadily ticks days away, I’ve had time to sit back and reflect on all of my experiences. This is a list of things that I think each student needs to do before graduating from WSU and leaving Winona (Freshmen, take notes).

  1. Go to the lookout atop Garvin Heights at night.
  2. Thank your professors, because honestly no matter how annoyed you are of the assignments you aren’t going to make it through without them.
  3. Hike Sugar Loaf.
  4. Meet your best friends.
  5. Take (many) walks or bike rides around the lakes.
  6. Be spontaneous. Get your friends together, jump in a car and go somewhere–ANYWHERE.
  7. Pull an all-nighter just because you can (studying or not).
  8. Get 12 hours of sleep in one night.
  9. Mend your bridges; you don’t want to leave on a bad note.
  10. Take a picture with Wazoo.
  11. Check out the Astronomy Observatory in Minne. You can follow @WSUAstronomy on Twitter to see when it’s open.
  12. Get decked out in purple and attend a WSU sporting event.
  13. If you live/lived on West Campus: reminisce on the West Campus shuttle as an upperclassman.
  14. Take advantage of free food at club events. ALWAYS accept free food in college.
  15. Find what you’re good at and stick with it! That will most likely turn into your career.
  16. Eat 3 Bloedow’s donuts (a.k.a The Best Donuts in Minnesota) in one sitting.
  17. Try that “Winona Only” restaurant (Jeffersons, Betty Jo’s, The Boathouse, Mugby Junction)
  18. When you’re an upperclassman find a freshman to swipe you into the caf. This is probably the biggest all-you-can-eat buffet you’ll ever experience.
  19. Get serenaded at Mango’s for your birthday.
  20. Ask to jump in on a campus tour. Who knows, you might see WSU in a new light.
  21. Get your friends together and make a four-course meal. The more people, the more food!
  22. Write an article for the Winonan or a post for the WSU blogs. It’s not every day that you see your name published.
  23. Check out the Farmers Market down on 2nd street (opens May 3rd).
  24. Jump off the high platform at the rope swing.
  25. Go paddle-boarding, kayaking or canoeing on Lake Winona.

–Katlyn Plourde

Students...Start Your Bicycles!

The mascot Wazoo fixes a bike by the gazebo

Wazoo always participates in Bike Week too.

Bike Week is here again… the sun is shining (well…hopefully), the grass is turning green, and it’s time to get those bikes out of the garage.

So here’s the sitch: Environmental Club is hosting Bike Week from April 21- 25, every day from 11am-3pm. Whether you need old tires pumped up or that squeaky chain oiled,  come get your bike fixed up for free at the WSU campus gazebo. Not only will you get a bicycle ready for the warm weather, but you’ll be rewarded for your biking efforts throughout the week. If the Bike Phantom visits your bike on campus and leaves you a tag, head to the gazebo to be entered to win a brand new bike!

Bike Week is a time to contemplate your own habits—and just in time for Earth Day! Every day, Americans use about 365 million gallons of gasoline. You read right–million. By taking bikes to campus, you lean less on cars and fossil fuels, and help the earth and your own health at the same time! It’s a win-win.

So grab your old bike and join in!

–Leah Dobihal

Behind the Kryzsko Curtain

If you find yourself walking by the ominous black tarp that hangs over the side of the Kryzko Commons and wondering what the heck is going on back there, you’re not alone. Students at WSU have been eagerly waiting to see the debut of the newest addition to the building since this past fall.

However, a few of us student workers in the Web Communication Office were able to get the inside scoop and see what all the hullabaloo was about. With the help of Joe Reed, the Student Union and Activities Director, we strapped on our hard hats and entered an area where no student has gone before.

interior of Kryzsko when under construction

We first entered the bottom level of the construction area through a door in the newly renovated bookstore.  From here, we were able to see the long walkway students will enter from the west side of campus.  The two levels of the new area will be split and separated by this bottom walkway. On the far side, a large TV will be projecting images and announcements regarding all the happenings on campus.

The second level of Kryzsko when under construction

We then proceeded to the middle level of the new addition.  From here, students will be able to look up over the railing and see a glass wall separating them from another study lounge area, in order to keep the area quiet for prime cramming sessions. Reed also mentioned there will be new, comfy furniture for students to enjoy while hanging out on campus.

wall of windows of interior of Kryzsko when under construction

To the right of the middle floor, there are large windows being set that will face the center of campus. Here, students can sip their coffee, watch the sunrise (or sunset) and enjoy a peaceful scene as they complete their homework. Each window-wall is set at an angle, which adds to the design of the new addition.

construction materials in the parking lot

From here, we headed to the upper area of the construction zone, where the new and improved Baldwin Lounge will be located. Along with many new features, Baldwin will have large windows as well to improve lighting and sustainability. New furniture will also be added to this area, along with fresh carpeting. (Pssst, it will match the flooring in the new bookstore; go check it out!)

the entrance to the renovated Baldwin Lounge

Last (but certainly not least) the renovated Baldwin will have many more meeting and conference rooms. Each room will hold a large table and several chairs, so students could work on group projects or hit the books in solitude. Each area will have a large glass pane on the outside, so students can easily see if the meeting room is occupied.

While we can’t give away all of the new exciting add-ons to Kryzsko Commons, we can say that students are DEFINTELY going to enjoy these additions to the building.  To the Warriors who are returning in the fall…be excited. Be very excited!

Katlyn Plourde, Melissa VanGrinsven and Leah Dobihal

I’ve got those Summertime, Summertime Classes

student sit on grass in the middle of campus

Summer sun means the courtyard is the new favorite study location

Since I graduated high school, summer just hasn’t been the same anymore. Of course, summer is still a time to relax and have fun with friends but it’s also become a critical few months to prepare for the next semester. And I know that I am not alone in this; most college students work as many hours as possible to pay for school or build up their resumes with valuable internship experience. Still others, like myself, take summer classes in order to get ahead, explore interests or catch up and graduate sooner.

This will be my third year of summer classes. After freshman year, I took two classes because I had to stay in Winona for a part-time job and wanted to get started on my English major and what was then a Mass Communication minor. During my second summer, I went on a two week travel study  to Italy, which was an amazing experience I wouldn’t have been able to have during the normal semester. Now this summer, I’ll be taking two classes in order to graduate in four years with an English and PR double major.

Every year, there are three summer sessions—May, June, and July—and each is about 4 weeks long. You can take just one session or take classes the whole summer. Each course has a pretty intense schedule of class two hours a day, four days a week but, honestly, I find this easier than juggling the content and workload of 4 or 5 classes for 16 weeks. Plus, because there are fewer people on campus, you can be pretty much guaranteed that your favorite study location will be open.

I’ve always taken traditional-style classes and stayed in Winona through the summer. Summer in Winona is way more fun than Winona in the winter as there are many festivals and outdoor recreation opportunities. However, if you really want to get out of town for a few months, many classes are actually offered online so you can take them while still living at home. Other classes are hybrids, balancing online and face-to-face class time. Depending on where your hometown is, this may mean that you can make a daytrip for those face-to-face classes.

If you are interested in taking a summer class or two (and I encourage that you do), you can go online to the “Find A Course” website and take a look at the classes being offered this summer. Once you find a class and a time that works for you, you can add it to your cart and register then and there—no access code needed. Whether you want to get ahead in your major or general education requirements, travel for class credit or graduate sooner, summer classes are an option worth considering.

–Liz Meinders

A Big Day in Dinkytown

a couple stand in front of an outdoor sculpture

It was a snowy day in the Sculpture Garden.

There was a sense of anticipation on the bus. Everyone, students and community members alike, was peering out the window, wondering if we had finally arrived at our first location. Within minutes, we’d hopped off the bus, passed through the doors and wandered beneath a huge chandelier shaped like an exploding sun. We’d finally reached the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

The Minneapolis Institute of Art, or MIA, was just the first of four stops that the Art Department scheduled for this past Saturday. After we’d gotten our fill of Matisse, impressionism, and Japanese art exhibits, we swiftly moved on to the Walker Art Center and sculpture garden to experience a series of modern art exhibits. When we arrived at our next location, the Northern Clay Center, we had the opportunity to explore galleries as well as student workshops. Our final artistic stop was at the Weisman Art Museum, which is part of the University of Minnesota campus. This space hosted a plethora of photography and modern art, including a permanent piece that imitated the hallway of an apartment building. We finished up the day in Dinkytown, where we had a little over and hour to find dinner at a local restaurant. After that, we hopped back on the bus and headed back home.

Winona State University hosts this trip at least once per year and it is open to students and community members alike. This time around, it only cost ten dollars plus whatever food or souvenirs we purchased on our journey. It is an experience I would recommend to anyone, regardless of their interest in art. I learned a lot simply by participating, by exposing myself to such a variety of artistic forms and locations–and I think everyone else on the trip would agree. When the bus pulled up to Watkins Hall at the end of the day, we were all exhausted from a busy day, but thrilled to have experienced so much.

–Olivia Wulf

The Best & Worst Decisions I Made in College--and the Lessons Learned

good bad lessonsAs I count down the weekends I have left in college, I can’t help but reflect on the past four crazy years. I am very happy with and proud of many decisions I’ve made here at Winona State, but, of course, there are other choices that have not served me so well.

I’m a firm believer that everyone has to make and learn from their own mistakes, but I hope someone out there can learn a little something from my journey. There are plenty of ups and down in your college years and I hope the good always out-weighs the not-so-good.

The Good

Studying abroad
Without a doubt, this has been the best decision, possibly of my whole life. Am I being dramatic? Maybe, but probably not– the experience really was amazing. Studying in Granada, Spain for 5 months of my junior year changed how I look at the world and myself. It’s taught me more about the world, my own country and most importantly, myself. I have become a huge advocate of all students studying abroad and can’t imagine my life if I hadn’t of taken the chance to do so. I only wish I had been able to spend a full year abroad.

Plaza de España, Seville,  Spain

Plaza de España, Seville, Spain

The other best decision of my college career was getting a job that has given me meaningful experience and opened my eyes to future careers. I work in the Web Communications office working on WSU’s website and social media and I absolutely love it. I’ve learned so much and now I am headed into the workforce with real-world experience and a sense of which field I would like to enter. Don’t get me wrong, academics are very important but my job experience is just as valuable to me as my grades.


The Bad

Coming to college with my high school best friend
That seems like a dream come true, right? Umm no. Story time: Now, we didn’t choose Winona State because the other did. We both independently made the decision to come here but things didn’t unfold as ideally as I had hoped. Freshman year, we spent way too much time together and I didn’t branch out as much as one should. I didn’t make too many new, close friends and spent a lot of time with her friends.

Fast forward to junior year and this friend and I had a big falling out (big as in 15 months later, I have yet to speak to her). I knew it was time to move on from this friendship but it also meant moving on from many of the other friends I had made and I was left feeling lonely and isolated. It took a lot of resolve to start over with a clean slate but I because I did, I met amazing friends who mean the world to me. If only I had done that my first year.


The Lessons Learned

Branch out
If you already know some people when you arrive on campus that first day, great! Stay in touch with them but don’t depend on them. Don’t stop reaching out to new people because you never know who could end up becoming an irreplaceable  friend.

Take risks
I was terrified of studying abroad. I almost started crying in the airport because I wasn’t sure I could do it. But I didn’t let that stop me. I took a risk and it paid off big time. You can take risks everyday that can lead to amazing opportunities. Introduce yourself to that interesting person in your ENG 111 class. Go to a club meeting even though you don’t know anyone. Apply for a big internship even though you might not get. Remember: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”.

–Liz Ortiz

A Short History of the E-Warrior Nation

a gif of several laptop and tablets

Just look at how far technology has come in the last two decades!


Oh beloved laptop, what would I do without you?

We are all very lucky to go to a university that takes into account the ever-changing technology world. Often referred to as a “Laptop University,” WSU gives each incoming student– freshmen and transfer students– their choice of the most recent Apple or PC computer upon admittance into the university. Two years later, they are able to get the new laptop model and when they graduate they have the ability to purchase a laptop as well. Recently, Winona State University became the first public university in the Midwest to distribute both laptops and tablets to their students.

Because the laptop program has had such an impact on our university, I thought a few info-graphics would be a great way to display some fun facts regarding it. After talking with a WSU alumna, faculty members and digging around the Internet, I found some interesting information to share with you guys.


It probably doesn’t come as surprise that most of you, approximately 70%, chose an Apple laptop over a PC. The growing popularity of Apple computers and Apple in general is a relatively new trend. An alumna told me that seeing a Mac computer on campus back in 2000 when she enrolled was very rare, and the only students who used them were the art students. Weird, right? It seems just the opposite these days. In recent years Apple has taken over the technology world and I’m sure we will see that 70% rise as younger generations begin attending WSU.

Graph 2

Surprise, surprise! The same trend can be said for the tablets. The Samsung Galaxy Tablet and the iPad Mini. Tablets at WSU were just introduced last spring, which accounts for why only 50% of students own one. I don’t have one ( :( ), as I only had one year left before graduating when they were introduced. For those of you who do have them, consider yourself very lucky! I really think our society is going to start pulling away from the laptop and using only tablets. My roommate is student teaching for her degree in special education and she says she uses her iPad mini with students daily! The really are becoming a part of the lives of individuals.

Graph 3

When the laptop program was first implemented 17 years ago, most of us were at home watching Disney movies. Most individuals were limited to large desktop computers and those in business programs were the only ones to use laptops. Three short years later, the program was in full effect, and Winona State students had the choice between an IBM ThinkPad and an iBook. If you’ve ever seen an IBM ThinkPad you would probably wonder how students ever carried something like that around campus. They are massive laptops around 1” thick, and only carried around 6GB of storage! Now days, most iPhones and Droids have more storage than that.

The University went on further to see what it’s students wanted and they responded, “Bigger and better.” Since then WSU has brought in brands such as Gateway Toshiba and HP, and most recently tablets. Of the 8,408 students enrolled in WSU, around half of those have a tablet but soon enough it that will be at 100%.

Soon IT will announce it’s newest additions to the Winona state laptop family. New versions will be available for students this upcoming year. In February, there was showcase event where students could preview the devices being considered for the next hardware update.  Although the final decision about new devices is a mystery, we know that WSU will be sure to impress like it has done for the past 17 years.

This is just a short history of how we became the e-Warrior nation and you can find more information about the history of the Laptop Program on the Information Technology Services webpage.

I also want to issue a special thank you to Maureen Dolezal Anderson (’05) and Ken Janz, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chief Information Officer, for their help with this post.

–Katlyn Plourde

60 Minutes to Adventure

Olivia poses next to a giant statue of a bicyclist

Chilling out with “Ben Bikin,” the World’s Largest Bicyclist,  in Sparta, WI.

Last week, I provided a few options for thirty-minute adventures. Though these types of travels are perfect for a brief study break or Winona escape, what if you’re looking to put just a little more distance between yourself and that enormous final paper?

That’s where this post comes in. I’ll be exploring areas just a little further away, about fifty minutes or an hour past Winona’s city limits, and giving you a few ideas of fun activities you may find there. So, grab your maps or smartphones and follow along as we venture further into southern Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Rochester, MN

Though most people know Rochester for the Mayo Clinic, there are a number of fun activities awaiting you within this city. Not only is it home to one of the most delightful Barnes and Noble’s around, which looks like a castle and is adapted from an old theatre, Rochester also has a variety of music and performance venues in which to see a show. There are also a number of fun restaurants and food stores, including a Trader Joe’s and the People’s Food Co-op for all you foodies out there. To top off your organic snacks, be sure to swing by Flapdoodles on your way out of town. Their homemade ice cream is as delightful as their name.

Lanesboro, MN

Lanesboro, Minnesota is known as the bed and breakfast capital of our fair state. This makes the town especially charismatic with natural parks and picturesque walking bridges scattered around the downtown. The downtown is also populated with restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and even a professional theatre company. The Commonweal Theatre is home to about five performances each year, which are reasonably priced and charmingly nestled alongside the main street. For all you theatre enthusiasts out there, Lanesboro is the perfect distance for an evening of fine dining and performance.

Sparta, WI

Traveling on four wheels, the bicycling capital of the United States is approximately one hour from your front door. Most travelers in Sparta, however, travel with two wheels on the Elroy-Sparta bike trail. For you active adventurers out there, this railroad-track-turned-bike-trail offers thirty-two miles of fun. When you’ve finished your travels, be sure to stop by the Deke Slayton Memorial Space & Bicycle Museum. Where else but Sparta, Wisconsin can you find a museum that explores both space and spokes?

So if you’re looking to travel outside of Winona, avoid those term papers, and discover adventure, hop in your car and give yourself a day full of fun.

–Olivia Wulf