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An Independence Day to Remember

an American flag against the sky

Happy Independence Day!

This Friday, we as a country celebrate our history of political independence and our desire to govern ourselves as we see fit. In a way, the 4th of July is a foreshadowing of your personal independence day that is swiftly approaching—that is, the day you move in at WSU.

Clearly, independence is a wonderful thing—I love my independence and couldn’t move back into my parents’ house (Sorry, Mom & Dad!)—but you should be careful not fall into these traps and temptations that arise when you are given your much anticipated freedom.

1. You Don’t Have a Curfew

In college, there is no one to say you must be home on school nights by a certain time. You can stay out until 2am if you want to, or even say to hell with sleep and pull an all-nighter. However, a good night’s sleep—and moreover, a consistent sleep schedule– is important for your health. Lack of sleep can negatively affect your attention span, memory, mood, physical performance and even lead to obesity, diabetes and higher susceptibility to infections. Campus life is busy and, of course, you don’t want to miss a minute of the fun but do yourself a favor and get some sleep so you can fully enjoy it.

2. You Can Eat Whatever, Whenever

Without parents around, you can decide to eat pizza for breakfast, get ice cream for dessert every night and never let anything green touch your plate. But it’s important to get good nutrition and limit portion sizes –especially if you are hoping to avoid the Freshman 15. Step out of the line for burgers and fries once in a while and head over to the salad bar for a healthy alternative.

3. You Don’t Have to Go to Class

College, unlike K-12 education, isn’t a government requirement and no one will come after you for skipping classes. Some professors may take role every day and factor attendance into your grade, but others won’t. While skipping a class offers short term benefits–an extra hour of sleep, an early start to the weekend, avoiding a boring lecture—in the long term, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage. There is a strong correlation between going to class and achieving a high grade. If you attend class regularly, you will understand the material better, can ask questions and get to know your professor which will help you make contacts and get letters of recommendation.

4. You Don’t Have to do Homework or Study

The same logic applies here: no one will make sure your homework gets done or that you study for exams. College classes may not have homework to turn in every day but they usually have hefty reading assignments and major papers or exams that can make or break your grade. And don’t think that you’ll be able to leave it all to the last minute—procrastination only leads to late night cram sessions that leave you with a half-assed attempt, a potentially passing grade and a weakened immune system. If you don’t do the required work as it is assigned, you’ll find yourself floundering in the class, a situation that definitely isn’t worth a 12 hour Netflix marathon or a weekend of partying with your friends.

5. You Don’t Have to Clean Your Room

Now that you’re out of your parents’ house, there is no one to complain if you never make your bed, drop clothes on the floor, let the trash pile up and forget what a vacuum looks like. This is especially true if you live in a single room. While cleaning and organizing you room does require some effort, it can help you feel more focused and less stressed as well as avoid any health code violations.

6. You Can Buy Whatever, Whenever

Up until now, your parents have probably had some say in how you spend your money, but once you turn 18, legally you are on your own. Your parents can’t access your bank accounts or track all your purchases. But this is not the time to get a giant tattoo or the latest Apple gadget—you should be saving your money for basic needs, school supplies and textbooks. You are also likely receiving credit card offers in the mail and all I can say is BE CAREFUL if you decide to get a credit card. It’s a good idea to start building credit early but on the other, but woe unto you if you use a line of credit irresponsibly as it can swiftly drag you down into the Pit of Despair—I mean, Debt. The WSU Financial Aid Office offers tools and information to help you manage your money.

This list may seem like a collection of juvenile excesses and since you’re adults now, you’re obviously past all that. Well, college offers you the chance to make your own choices but don’t let that freedom lead you to making poor decisions just because you don’t have any adult supervision. Yes, you are the adult now, and with that independence comes the responsibility to live with the consequences of the choices you make.

--Liz Meinders

Graduation: A Bittersweet Realization

View of campus from Garvin Heights

It might seem as though the summer is moving too slowly, but you’ll be arriving here soon enough.

This weekend wraps up the last of the high school graduations and I just want to say congratulations to all you 2014 graduates. Graduation is an achievement to be proud of and it adds a final push to the behind the momentum building up as you eagerly look forward to registration, move-in day and your first year of college. As a Facebook group admin, I’ve been seeing posts recently about how you wish it was August already, how you can’t wait to meet new people and begin your college careers. I remember writing those posts myself three years ago; I couldn’t wait to leave Marshfield behind and start fresh.

But amidst all the excitement, I want you to think about the other thing your high school graduation marks—that this is the last summer you will have in your hometown with all your friends. This will be the last summer where everyone you know is in the same place at the same time and you are all on the same page. After you start college, you and your friends will go to different cities, your winter and spring breaks may not overlap, you’ll each get a whole new group of friends whom your high school friends won’t know and a new set of experiences they won’t relate to.

You may be thinking, “But that’s during the semester. We’ll still have our summers and it will be just like before we left.” Maybe it will be like that for you—I hope it is—but, in my experience, it isn’t so simple. Summers are filled with jobs and internships and summer classes. Before you even realize it, all your days will be accounted for and a fun weekend get-away with your BFFs keeps getting rescheduled and pushed back from June to July and then to August as mine has this summer.

So take it from someone who knows how you feel but has a little more perspective– don’t wish the days away too quickly. You may feel like you are stuck idling in neutral when you really just want to floor it but take the time to cruise around your hometown. Take in the sights, sounds, smells you’ve experienced these last 18 years because soon enough you won’t have their comforting familiarity. The same goes for your friends. Take time to see your friends, laugh and play and enjoy their company as much as you can because come fall, you won’t be seeing their faces every day in the hallways or across the lunch table. I admit it is a bittersweet realization, but an important one nonetheless, as you still have the time to make this a summer full of memories you will always remember.

–Liz Meinders

A Farewell to WSU

Sophie and a few of the friends she's met at WSU.

It’s not over ’til it’s over!

The last few days I’ve spent on campus have been strange. People have been stopping me in the halls and on the streets to say “Don’t worry, we’ll stay in touch!” or “I’m really gonna miss you when you go!” I respond in kind and tell them my plans, but all the while I’m thinking “I’m not really going anywhere, am I?” Though I know logically that they’re right, it just doesn’t feel real.

This coming Friday I’m going to become a college graduate.

I’ve loved my time here at Winona State. I’ve met incredible friends, traveled to some amazing places and somehow managed to do some learning in my free-time. It’s strange to think that I’m going to have to move on from this place that has been my home for four (incredibly busy) years. When I think of the next year I still picture myself here, sitting on the couches on 3rd floor Minne and looking down over the campus that has given me so much. I picture myself standing and waving frantically to my friends down below who either wave back or duck their heads in embarrassment (much to my delight.)  I picture myself waking up early so I can walk to campus in the fog and join some friends at Mugby for brunch. And I picture myself making stupid jokes to my professors who roll their eyes but secretly think I’m hilarious (seriously, I’m sure they totally do).

But I know that when the summer starts in a week there will be a flurry of activity, a lot of goodbyes that don’t feel quite real and then silence.  That silence, that unknown future is what frightens me the most. However, at the same time, I feel as though I’ve done everything I can to be ready for the future. I’ve started applying to jobs and I know that in a few years I’m going back to school to get my masters in library science.  I know I’m capable, and I’m confident in my ability to succeed, but I also know that before anything else it’s gonna be lonely.

So here’s my message to the people I love here, both the ones staying and my fellow graduates who are all heading in different directions; It ain’t over till it’s over. This isn’t goodbye; it’s just see you later. You’ll always be with me and yada yada every other cliché in the book.  But hey, even if the words are old the sentiment is real.

I’ll see you guys on the other side. And thanks WSU. It’s been a wild ride.

–Sophie Kaplan

An Adventure Abroad

A map of a bike route through northern Spain

This is the route through Spain that I will be biking in just a few weeks!


On a normal day last semester, I was sitting next to my friend in Spanish class. But then my professor came in to the room and told us about an incredible travel study opportunity he was offering called the Camino De Santiago, a bike trip across the northern region of Spain. As avid bikers, my friend and I were blown away. We were dumbfounded by even the possibility of participating in an opportunity like this. Moments after the professor finished his presentation and began class, she looked over to me and said “Do you want to bike across Spain with me?”  I responded with the only words that could come to someone’s mind after hearing a question like that, “Oh, hell yeah!”

I would be lying, however, if I said I had no anxieties. I made every dreaded “yeah, but” excuse in the books about why I should not go on this trip

  • Yeah, but…can I afford it?
  • Yeah, but…what will my boss say?
  • Yeah, but…what will my parents think?

Watch out for the “yeah, but” excuses; they have an incredible power to consume you. These kinds of excuses continued to run through my head until one day it hit me: SO WHAT?

Folks, we are young! We’re in college, a time of independence and freedom. It is now when we have this freedom and independence that we should go out and explore the world. We have a golden opportunity to go and expand our horizons, experience new cultures, make new friends and have an adventure. If I kept making excuses and had not chosen to go on the trip, the only “yeah, but” that would have remained with me would be “Yeah, but what if I had gone?”

Winona State has an incredible study abroad program for those of you who are interested in getting out and seeing the world. You can choose to spend a summer abroad, a semester abroad, or even an entire year out of the country. These experiences are open to a wide variety of majors and are always willing to accommodate for students. For those of you who cannot commit the time for a full study abroad experience, the school also offers travel study trips. These programs are typically shorter trips that range from a week up to a whole month, and they are usually offered during winter and summer breaks. In addition, these travel studies count for course credit and are a great way to cover an unfilled general education goal.

Ok, now I may call them excuses, but many questions of finances and time commitments are strong and very valid concerns. The International Programs Office is located on the first floor of Maxwell, and they are open and always willing to answer questions for worried students.

Stop in and say hello–you won’t regret it.

–Caleb Bednarski

25 More Things to Do Before You Graduate

graduates listen to the commencement speaker

Don’t regret a single moment as you walk across the stage to receive your diploma

Building on my post last week, here are 25 more things that I believe students should do before graduating from WSU.

  1. Eat out at the Lakeview Drive Inn and Penguin Zesto
  2. Have a bo​nfire at Latsch Beach
  3. Jump in the Windom Park fountain. A must do on your graduation day!
  4. Go stargazing in the bluffs.
  5. Become involved and run for a leadership position within a club or organization that interests you
  6. Take a walk down to Levee Park
  7. Go tubing down Root River in Lanesboro, MN
  8. Eat a Bubs Burger
  9. Sit down with a professor and REALLY get to know them
  10. Go to Goodview beach for the day
  11. Take a class that is irrelevant to your major
  12. Attend a THAD performance
  13. Go on at least one spring break trip. You and your friend’s future work schedules will never probably line up making a weeklong trip next to impossible.
  14. Explore Winona’s surrounding areas (Wabasha, Lanesboro, La Crosse, etc.) Check out the blog posts 30 Minutes to Adventure and 60 Minutes to Adventure for some ideas.
  15. Get a picture with the “Winona State University” sign outside Sheehan
  16. Go to one Midwest Music Fest performance
  17. Go to Wing Night at ZaZa’s
  18. Attend the $3 movie night (ONLY $3!) I promise you will NEVER find $3 movie tickets ever again.
  19. Take a nap in the Kryzsko Solarium
  20. Study abroad or participate in a travel study. Not only will you get to see the world but also you will make friends and memories that will last a lifetime.
  21. Pull a team together and take part in a university sponsored charity event such as Relay for Life or Up Till Dawn
  22. Really get to know an international student. You can learn so much about a different culture by just talking with them.
  23. Get coffee with the one person you keep meaning to get in touch with
  24. Volunteer with a Winona non-profit organization
  25. Now, once you have completed around 95% of this list, graduate :)

Most of the items on these to-do lists come down to a few key pieces of advice: take advantage of everything Winona State University has to offer, become involved, step outside your comfort zone, do something out of the ordinary and, most importantly, don’t regret a single minute of it. I hope you all embrace every moment of your college experience. I know I did, and I wouldn’t change a thing!​

–Katlyn Plourde

(Study) Location, Location, Location

a collage of study locations on WSU campus

WSU has a variety of locations for all your studying needs!

I hate to bring it up guys, but the end of the semester is quickly approaching. For some of us (myself included) this means graduation is just on the horizon, and for others it means that you’re on the cusp of surviving another semester. Either way, go you! Unfortunately, whether you’re a freshman or final-semester senior we all have to jump that notorious final hurdle before we’re home free to frolic in the summer air.

You guessed it–finals.

As exams are next week, now is the perfect time to perfect your study techniques. Speaking from experience, it’s endlessly helpful to know in advance what works best for you. And by techniques I’m not just talking about flash cards vs. mnemonic devices. It’s a great idea to figure out where you study the best and what environment works best for your studying style. When everyone is buckling down this week you don’t want to scramble for a quiet nook only to discover that the scratch of pencils on paper or clack of keyboards echoing in the silence is actually more distracting than your roommate’s dog’s barking. It’s hard to know what works best for you unless you actually try a few options; luckily for us, WSU offers a lot of possible locations. Here are a few suggestions for those of you that are figuring out your favorites for the first time, or for people just looking for some alternate ideas.

Option 1: Your Room

Okay this one doesn’t seem all that creative, but sometimes the familiarity and comfort inherent in your own space lends itself to a great study atmosphere. You can curl up in your comforter with a cup of tea and review your notes in bed or read aloud without getting dirty looks. In fact, feel free to read in a funny accent. No one’s listening, anyway! However, one drawback here is that it can be easy to let yourself get distracted. As long as you know you can resist the urge to give in and nap then this is a great option.

Option 2: Designated Quiet Spaces

This include the second and third floors of the library specifically. This is for those of you that need it quiet and appreciate some good old fashioned stress-empathy.  Nearly everyone in these spaces is there to get their work done and get it done well. It’s easy to stay on task when everyone around you is working equally hard and the upper library floors have a sense of camaraderie that’s difficult to emulate in other spaces. A word to the wise: if you have a persistent cough you may want to shy away.  You’ve never experienced true malice until a senior nursing student stares you down across the room with flashcards in her hands and a gaze that could refreeze the bluffs.

Option 3: Semi-Social Study Sites

This includes the first floor of the library, reserved study rooms and low-traffic parts of Kryzsko. These areas are generally filled with people studying, but for the most part include a social aspect that is lacking from the first two options in this list. These semi-social study areas are great for group study, discussion and general woe-sharing. If you know that you get burned out just studying non-stop for hours then set yourself up in a place where you might bump into people. Give yourself a little reprieve or study with friends. For some, the low buzz of conversation is often comforting static that helps with anxieties. These areas are a great way to be productive while staying connected.

Option 4: The Social Butterfly’s Study Nests

This would include areas like Mugby Junction, the Smaug or the Jack Kane Dining Center. This is for the social studiers who like lively conversation about their class topics or debates over essay questions. The noise level at all of these places is generally higher than the other categories, and they all feature the additional bonus of providing food! If you know that talking out your final presentation or trying to explain a difficult problem to a friend is the most effective way for you to remember things then these locations might be for you.  Also at Mugby, you actually have the opportunity to step off campus for a little bit. While it’s still close by, that bit of distance may be enough to clear your head.

Wherever you choose to study, maybe you’ll discover a new atmosphere that helps you retain information and compose prose like never before!

–Sophie Kaplan

Mid West Music Fest Returns

banner for Mid West Music Fest 2014

If you are looking for something fun to do this weekend, check out Mid West Music Fest!

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

Caroline Smith sings on stage

This photo of Caroline Smith was borrowed from her Facebook page, which you should totally go check out :)

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