Graduation is coming fast, and if you’re anything like me, you’ve likely woken up in a cold sweat at 2a.m. having visions of poorly formatted résumés and a mental to-do list as tall as Mount Everest. But stay calm—here is everything you need to remember, all in one place.
Now that you’re thoroughly stressed out, take a deep breath and know that all of this means you SUCCEEDED in college. Your hard work is now all coming together, and the stress of the list above will be worth it when you walk across that stage.
Upon entering Winona State University as a freshman two and a half years ago, I never suspected that I might get involved with the Theater and Dance department. Actually, I never thought I’d be in a dance performance period (unless you count the one I did in third grade with the cute yellow tutu). But here I am, post-Dancescape after nearly six months of sweaty rehearsals and the remnants of last night’s stage makeup still under my eyes.
Although I have played guitar and sang for people many times without getting nervous, I’ll be honest, I was pretty nervous on opening night. But as the first three notes of the song “Spacedrum” went off and the hot lights went up, all the nerves faded. It was just my fellow dancers, the choreography and me. I was in the piece “Mindswarm,” choreographed by WSU Senior Pedro Lander, and “Ode to Swimme,” choreographed by faculty Jacqueline MarkevitchPaulsen.
I was also really nervous to show my friends and family what I’d been working on for the past six months. Since I haven’t been a long-term dancer, they didn’t know what to expect. Both the pieces I was in were very modern and nontraditional, but it seemed all my friends and family loved it.
To say that Dancescape was just a rewarding experience for me would be a bit of an understatement. Not only did I meet some of the most kind and welcoming people in our Dance department, but the studio also became a safe space for me where I could work out personal issues, anger or sadness through movement. I’ve heard of the healing powers of dance before but sheesh—I had no idea how effective it could be.
Working with my fellow dancers was an inspiring experience. There’s just something about looking into my friend’s eyes as we dance together that makes us feel like a true team, devoted to the piece and devoted to each other. A lot of the choreography was shaped collaboratively between choreographer and cast, so it was exciting to be a part of the whole creative process.
Over the past four days, I’ve heard the same review from everyone: this year was the best Dancescape they’ve ever seen. I feel so proud to be part of such a creative, collaborative and loving group of people and even more proud to be part of a show that left impressions on many.
I think over the coming months, I’ll miss the Memorial 300 studio, the walls of mirrors, the soreness of dancing on the black floor in bare feet and the way dance allows me to throw both my mind and body into something freeing and wonderful. Dancescape was a terrifyingly new experience that pushed me about ten paces out of my comfort zone—but it was so rewarding for the very same reasons.
I have waited for this day for four long years. The day I could fill out the graduation application because this is my final semester. In just a few months I will be saying sayonara to the student status that I’ve held for the last two decades (Wow, that’s a long time!).
Ok, so it’s not the same as actually graduating with the cap and the gown and the diploma in hand, but it’s still one step closer to that momentous day. Though I had mentally prepared and set aside some time, the application was surprisingly simple to complete. In just a few clicks, having reviewed my degree completion information and indicating the mailing address for my diploma, it was done. The whole thing took all of three minutes and then I was looking at a redirect screen with the message “Thank you for submitting your application”.
For some reason, I thought there would be more to it—perhaps because this such a big deal in my life, I expected the application to exude the same gravitas. But this was not the case. In fact, it was much more like I was announcing to WSU that I was graduating than asking for leave to do so. I guess this makes sense because as a nervous, naive freshman, I needed permission to attend the University. Now as a confident senior, I know that I’ve truly earned my degrees and I am ready to take those few steps across the stage into the next phase of my life.
While you technically have some time to apply for graduation, you have to submit the application by midterm to be eligible for provisional academic honors and get your name in the Commencement program. I advise you to get it done as soon as possible —it takes less time than ordering a cup of coffee, and who doesn’t want to see their name printed in the program?
Whenever you decide to fill out the application, don’t be fooled by its mundane appearance. It does have a special meaning to it—savor that and hold on to it through these last weeks until the big day, May 8, finally arrives.
Imagine if you will…an ordinary man– not unlike yourself– who wakes up every morning and goes to the office of the job he hates. Despite hating every minute at this job, he stays, telling himself that if he just sticks to it for 12 more years he’ll get the retirement benefits and move somewhere exotic. Although this is true, his day-to-day life is still miserable, and his work lets him down over and over again. More and more often, he contemplates quitting, but he still has ten more years to go.
This is a story true for a large sum of Americans. This could be our parents, our aunts, our uncles, our friend’s parents, sometimes even our teachers. But this will not be me and it shouldn’t be you.
Choosing the right major is vital to your post-secondary education
success happiness. Luckily, there’s no big rush to declare if you’re a freshman or even a first semester sophomore. You’ve got some time to figure it out. However, if you are approaching your junior year the time to choose is coming quickly, and odds are you’re feeling anxious, confused and lost. So I’m here to tell you that everything is going to be okay.
A lot of people make picking your major out to be the end all decision that determines whether you succeed or fail in life, but in reality picking your major shouldn’t be stressful. In fact, picking your major should be easy. Because like it or not, we all know exactly what we want to be when we grow up.
I came to Winona four months ago with a passion for writing and a major in English Education/CALT. I told myself over and over being a teacher would be great. I would love being a teacher. There was no better career for me. And I believed this for about two weeks. But in the panic of studying for the MTLEs, trying to sharpen my public speaking skills and attempting to figure out what grade level I wanted to teach, I realized this was too much for me. So I went searching for help from the CAL adviser.
He was happy to make an appointment with me and when we sat down he asked me one important question: “Why do you want to teach?” I mulled the question over, desperate to impress the head of the CALT program, and proudly replied that I had a passion for writing and felt that I could really contribute to a classroom environment because of my knowledge.
He shot me down without hesitation, and I mean that in the best way possible. He told me that if I wasn’t passionate about teaching kids and willing to deal with the extra hours after work, the angry parents, the unwilling students and the bureaucratic red tape, that I should reconsider my major. Teaching is a noble job, but it’s not an easy path to take. Despite not impressing the head of the CAL department, I was relieved. He’d told me what I’d known all along. I wasn’t cut out to be a teacher, I didn’t have the patience or want the time commitment. I wanted to write and only write.
I was terrified, naturally, as no freshman wants to come in and lose their major right off the bat especially with no real back up plan. I tried all the different venues of finding a new major, including:
But at the end of the day it all came back to writing. It was all I could think about and all I wanted to do, but no one can deny that’s scary. No one knows the job outlook for broad majors like that. You could be employed right out of college or you could be unemployed for more than six months. It’s a scary tossup. Or so I thought. If you’re having the same feelings towards a major you’re interested in, try going in and talking to the head of the department, because you may be surprised at what they tell you.
The professors I spoke with over in the English department as well as my orientation teacher all stressed two key messages, and I think that these are the most important things to remember while choosing a major.
1. If you do what makes you happy, you’ll never work a day in your life.
2. Anyone can get a degree, it’s how you apply it that will find you your job.
So, if you know what you love and you know what makes you happy, then that’s exactly what you should pursue. Don’t worry about what other people will think and don’t worry about what your parents or friends say: worry about what makes you happy, because that’s how you’ll truly be successful in life.
Because at the end of the day, you are the one that has to live with your decisions, not them. You have the capacity to do amazing, wonderful, powerful things with your dreams. You just need to be brave enough to follow them.
On a warm night in September 2014, I found myself fumbling over my feet in the Memorial 300 dance studio at auditions for the 2015 Dancescape. How did I get here?
The last time I danced in a studio setting was in third grade. Back then, I loved performing—I loved the outfits, the music and the movement. I loved the feeling of being in a spotlight (though you can imagine, the third grade dancing probably involved a lot of jumping around and no actual elegant spinning).
I went to a Dancescape performance my freshmen year at WSU and I was so impressed. At the time, I thought maybe I’d try out for it next year. However, it wasn’t until my junior year that I decided to go for it. I wanted this year to be different, and Dancescape seemed like a perfect opportunity for something new.
I’ve always gotten compliments from people for my dancing skills but let me tell you, when I walked into the studio for tryouts in early September, I did not feel confident at all. It was obvious some of the girls trying out had had years of studio practice as they warmed up with spins that made me dizzy. I honestly can’t remember the last time I felt so out of my element.
As far as the actual process of trying out for Dancescape, here’s how it goes: There are student choreographers and a few faculty choreographers. Each choreographer gets 15 minutes to teach an eight-count of their choreography. You learn the moves as a large group and then break off to perform what you learned in smaller groups so the choreographers can get a closer look at you individually.
The great part about trying out for Dancescape is that some choreographers have dances that are ballet and some dances are more contemporary. You can pick and choose which ones you try out for. I found I was more comfortable with modern dance movements, so those were the ones I tried out for.
The tryout process takes two nights. At the end of this process, I found out I’d made it into two dances, both of which were modern/contemporary. I was excited and nervous but glad that I had stuck with it.
The Production Process
Each Dancescape piece meets for two hours once a week from September to the actual performance in February. In early November, we do a “first-showing” of our dances to everyone in Dancescape, At each showing, the choreographer receives feedback, and because of this, dances go through many revisions and often end up completely different from the original steps we’d learned.
This semester we’ve been having lots of all-cast rehearsals. So instead of rehearsing as separate dances, we have become more of a cohesive show. I actually really like this because it’s so inspiring to see what other choreographers have come up with.
Although I’d done a little bit of choreographing myself for High School Pops concerts, I learned so much about the creative process of making a dance through involvement in Dancescape. A lot of what I learned in the first couple rehearsals didn’t make it into the final dance. Plus in one dance, we got to be an active participant in the creative process, creating our own movements from time to time.
I also learned the choreographer always has a specific meaning and vision behind their dance. One dance I’m in takes all its inspiration from ocean creatures (you’ll just have to go see Dancescape Feb. 12-14 to see what I mean!).
Dancescape 2015 Sneak Peek
I might be a little biased, but this years Dancescape is going to be off the chain (literally—one of the pieces has the dancers dancing with chains. I’m not kidding–it’s super cool). This years Dancescape includes exciting tribal-inspired movement, fun lights, playing with beautiful fabrics and even a piece with a live choir accompanying them.
It’s going to be seriously wonderful and I highly recommend that everyone come!
The second semester of my freshman year has started, and after a month away from Winona, I can honestly say I missed this campus. Connecticut was great and all, but nothing beats the feeling of freedom I get when here at WSU. I am sure many of you felt a similar sigh of relief to back too.
In my last post, I mulled over what home would be like since I’d been away for a long semester. Would my friends still be my friends? Would I be able to fit back in with my family?
The answers to these questions—yes!
After being in airports for over 12 hours, I journeyed another hour to go see my several of my friends perform in The Nutcracker Ballet staged by my town. I surprised them backstage–last time they saw me my hair was bright red, not black!–and caught up on everything while helping them through costume changes.
Right after the performance, I picked up another friend and headed to the mall to meet up with a groups of many other friends who, apparently, had been missing me terribly. They rushed me as soon as they saw me and I felt surrounded by memories and old friendships once again. I didn’t even get to put a word in as they greeted me and told me all about their post-high school lives.
My first day back was fantastic, but the rest of my break was less exciting. The fact of the matter is no one would hire me for a month and I didn’t have any means of getting around. So, like I’m guessing many of you did, I spent my days on the couch! I caught up on my TV shows and played some video games which was still a nice break from the hectic pace of school.
Another thing that dampened the excitement of break a bit was that my friends were either still at school during my break or working so I couldn’t hang out with them as often as I would have liked. I also didn’t have a car, having left mine in Minnesota, so I had to share with my brother who was away at school for half of my break.
By the end of break, I had exhausted my Netflix queue and was so bored that I actually cleaned my house for FUN! Yeah………I did not see that coming.
Break had some ups and downs, as I’m sure most of yours did too. We all enjoyed being with family and friends, but after four weeks, you know you started missing what Winona has to offer even though the homework nearly killed us and we barely had sleep most nights. I know I sure did. The feeling of community and belonging had me wishing I had been back here.
Finals are almost over and I know most of us are antsy to get home. For me, I don’t get to leave this tundra till Saturday when I board my flight and fly into La Guardia.
This time in the semester is not only stressful because of exams for me but also because of the hassle of flying. Most of you students live close by, and by close by I mean under 6 hours away. You get to pack up as much luggage as you want and drive back. I have to pack only the necessities and watch the weight limit on my suitcase. But nonetheless, I am excited to get home.
I don’t know what to expect when I get back, though. It’s been 5 months since I left for college. A lot can change in 5 months. My friends have all been at college, on their own, making new friends, getting used to not having me around and I them.
My family hasn’t seen me in a while either, and if Thanksgiving is anything to go off of, I can tell they’re not used to the new, more independent me.
We’ve all changed, whether we know it or not. I’m not the naïve, new college student I once was. I’ve learned in and out of the classroom. And if I’ve learned some new things about myself and about life, then I’m sure everyone has else too. In learning, we adapt to the knowledge we gain, and this means that the friends I knew are not the same anymore.
I’ve thought about what it’ll be like when I get back—hugs and tears from my best friend, dinners at my favorite restaurants, trips into NYC, lazy days at the mall being basic white girls. I don’t have a job waiting for me back home and trying to find one so late into the holiday season is going to be tough.
I’ve come to the realization that those dreams of how it’ll be like when I get home are just that—dreams. My friends all have jobs and I won’t even have my car to go visit them. Now, I’m sure I’ll get to spend some time with them. I’ll get to hear all about what’s been going on since I left and watch movies with them and see a glimpse of what once was. And maybe everything will be like it was. I have been in contact with them throughout the semester and everything seems fine with our friendships, so who knows?
But whatever the differences in friendships and home life, I will be happy to be back in Connecticut and with people I love. I am sure that you all have friends and family you’re looking forward to seeing,and we should make the most of our winter breaks with them while we can.
For all that it’s a month of relief from stressful classes, exams and papers, Winter Break can be hard–especially when you’re a college senior. It’s because family members ask you the same questions over and over, and you feel the same panic every time you don’t know the answers…or don’t want to admit them. Here are 10 questions you dread but can expect to be asked in the next few weeks.
1. How’d you do on your finals?
2. Are you going to graduate on time?
3. What do you plan on doing with your major?
4. Have you applied for jobs yet?
5. Are you going to have to move back in with your parents?
6. What do you plan on doing with your LAST winter break?
7. How’s your GPA?
8. How long will it take to pay off your school loans?
9. You’re going to work really hard your last semester, right? Finish strong!
10. Are you excited to graduate and leave WSU?
1. A Mugby Junction cup is in everyone’s hands
2. People you’ve never seen before appear in class
3. Everyone’s default outfit is sweatpants
4. Your favorite study spot in the library is now gone
5. Your backpack is so big that one slip on the ice and you’re going down
6. People look like zombies from lack of sleep
7. Baldwin Lounge is full of students alternately studying and sleeping
8. There are always lines in the Smaug for food no matter the time
9. Students are rushing to finish projects and papers
10. But once the finals are over, we celebrate!
When coming into college, you hear a lot fears about moving from a small town to a city. There are plenty stories in pop culture of scared Stewart Littles coming from a friendly, small town to the mean and nasty big city. What you don’t normally think about, however, are the kids coming in from a big city to Winona. It may not sound strange to some of you, but to me, Winona is small town living. Making my way from Milwaukee, a city of 600,000 people, to the comparatively tiny Winona, population of 28,000, was actually more of a transition than I would have ever thought when coming into college three years ago.
One thing to know about me is that I am not what you would call a “country guy.” I don’t really think a dirt road is a good place to chill and I cannot bait a hook to save my soul. I’ve lived in an urban bubble my whole life, completely oblivious to how the world worked outside of the metropolitan area. Then I moved out to Winona and I saw more jacked-up pickup trucks with NRA bumper stickers and blaring country music than I have seen in my entire life. All of a sudden, I was thrown into a situation where I was becoming friends with people who actively lived the small-town lifestyle. And then there’s me, the from hippie Milwaukee who’s out there trying figure out why I can’t pay for my coffee with a song (just kidding, I know how money works).
While I like to joke around about small towns and I am looking forward to living in a city again, the transition has helped me realize a lot about myself and how the world works. Thanksgiving is right around the corner and I would like to say how thankful I am for the years I spent here in a smaller city. I am heading into my last year in Winona, and looking back, here are a few things I was able learn from the small town life.
I Made Friends with People of Different Backgrounds and Mindsets
I’ll admit, Winona isn’t the teeming melting pot that a lot of cities are, but I have been surprised at how many amazing friends I have made who come from vastly different lifestyles. Winona has a very interesting combination of students from large cities to students from the most rural parts of the upper Midwest. Getting the chance to become good friends with people from both of these backgrounds and getting to know how they think is a great opportunity that is lost in the city.
I Learned to Make My Own Fun
This is going to sound like I’m bragging, but I have always been spoiled when it came having things to do. I lived 5 minutes away from Miller Park and 10 minutes from downtown Milwaukee so any band I wanted to see would basically come to me. Giving up that convenience really forces you to new outlets for fun. I’ve rafted down the Mississippi River, raced chairs through the SLC, picked up weird hobbies and threw a dance party in my residence hall elevator. The places you will go when you are bored are incredible, and most of the time, these places are where the best stories come from.
I Enjoyed Peace and Quiet in Nature
I have always loved nature and the outdoors. However, it’s hard to get out and explore nature when you can hear cars zooming past. Living in Winona, we have the convenience of being surrounded by natural beauty. Having bluffs, rivers, lakes, and natural beauty is something special to Winona, and getting out into the peace and quiet is something that isn’t easy when you live in a city.
I Created a Sense of Community
Possibly the thing I love most about Winona is the sense of community the campus can build. What is really cool here is that everyone is connected on our compact campus, and this has gotten more and more relevant as I’ve meet new people throughout my 3 ½ years here. Looking at bigger schools like UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, or the University of Minnesota, I noticed that the campus is pretty much a city itself and there isn’t much sense of unity. There is a lot of life on our campus, and every one is connected with one another. Smaller towns have this sense of connectedness that big cities fail to create.
I hope my little spiel has inspired you to take a second and think about where you are from and how wonderful it is to have this unique background. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!