Give Back for a Sustainable Future

three potted plants

These carbon-absorbing beauties are one small way I give back to the environment.

In an industrialized world, it can seem near impossible to do everything you can to save the environment—sure you recycle and you walk when your destination is close by, but there are many other ways to adapt a sustainable lifestyle. That being said, you DON’T need to do anything drastic like permanently ditching your car and biking miles from place to place or going off the grid and covering your rooftop in solar panels (Your landlord might not appreciate that too much). Leading a sustainable lifestyle, as this year’s University theme “Sustainable Futures” calls us to do,  is all about giving back in little ways.

Give Back to the Earth

For many years, humans have destroyed plants and habitats to make space for cities and farmland. By stripping the land, we have fewer plants to soak up all the carbon dioxide we put out through cars and other machines.

A simple way to combat this is to plant. This summer my roommate and I bought some pots at the Salvation Army and planted flowers in them. Not only are they good for the environment, but they also look so pretty on our stoop. You could also get vegetable seeds at Wal-Mart and plant them in a pot. At the Sustainability Fair last week, I planted a few pea seeds in a Dixie cup and recently transplanted them to a pot. They’re growing steadily next to the cactus on my windowsill.

Give Back to the Local Economy

As college students, we tend to buy anything cheap and easy–i.e. pasta, pasta and more pasta with some frozen pizza thrown in for good measure. However, buying from local food sources will help sustain the local economy as well as help you avoid all of those nasty pesticides found in grocery store produce and high-fructose corn syrup in pretty much everything else on the store shelves.

The Winona Farmer’s Market runs 7:30am – 1pm every Saturday until October. On special days, the Winona Artisan Market is there as well. I went a couple times this summer and got really great food for cheap (an ear of corn was $0.50 and four cucumbers cost $1). The Bluff County Co-Op is a great place to buy local and organic food all year round. When you buy local, you support members in your community and you get great food out of it too!

Give Back to Your Wallet

Drop your thermostat a few degrees lower. Turn off the lights when you’re not in the room. Stop using paper towels. Quit buying bottled water and use a stainless steel or glass reusable bottle instead. Wash your clothes with cold water and line-dry them (at least during the summer anyway). These little things can help you save money on your energy and grocery bills. At the same time, you’re making a positive impact on the environment.

–Kim Schnieder

How Art Improves Our World

Monet 's "La Siene a Vetheuil"

“La Siene a Vetheuil” by Monet is one of my favorite pieces at MMAM. Photo found at

Bright lights, silky oil on canvas, gilded frames intricately carved—there is something so wonderfully magical about art. Earlier this summer, I decided I wanted to get more involved in the Winona community, so I ventured to the Minnesota Marine Art Museum to sign up to be a volunteer greeter. For two hours a month, I wander around a gallery in the museum and do whatever I must to make people feel more comfortable. However, my favorite part of the gig is definitely getting to spend time with all that beautiful art for free.

Growing up in the suburbs of the Twin Cities was a godsend for me. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Walker Art Center and a few high school teachers exposed me to so much art, from the impressionist painters to Japanese pop art. Through all forms of art including music, poetry, dance and painting, I’ve learned so much about myself and about the world as well. Many people see different forms of art as self expression—and it is—but art is so much more than that.

I know it’s cliché to say but I really do believe that art dramatically improves our world.

Art has the power to cross cultural, social, racial and economical boundaries. Consider for a moment, the kinds of diversity we have here in our own homeland.  America is a melting pot and art can be a common place where our many differences disappear. Art is like it’s own language that anyone can speak. Furthermore, art provides an opportunity for authentic cultural experiences. From the traditional dances of an African tribe to impressionistic European paintings, each is a lens for a view into another culture.

Art is also a window into the past. It’s a visual record of what people in the past thought and experienced. While written and oral histories can provide a fully story, artists like Van Gogh and William Turner put a picture of the past directly into your mind. And that’s much more exciting than history textbooks, eh?

Not only that, but art is great for the local economy. Just like buying local food at the farmers market, supporting local arts is healthy for the community. Events like Winona’s monthly Downtown Art Project  bring a lot of people to local businesses. It’s also a great opportunity for people in the community to get to know each other. During orientation week my freshmen year, I went to a music night at Some Sum Studio and ended up chatting with the artist and the owner of the studio. As a result of that night, I decided to volunteer for Midwest Music Fest in the Spring and I’ve met so many wonderful people through that event.

Art fosters community and, while one person can make a difference, an active and engaged community can really change the world.

–Kim Schneider

The Importance of Preserving Artifacts

16th Baptist Church,

We visited the 16th Baptist Church, rebuilt after the 1963 bombing.

When I was young, I used to think that museums were boring and I suppose a lot of other kids my age did too. But as I got older, I started to appreciate the preservation of artifacts that were part of history.

We visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the its on-site museum. The exhibits were very realistic instead of just using pictures or only one or two actual pieces from the time period. It was like immersing yourself into a 1950s classroom. I think this is a good way to bring history to life. They also had the piece of brick that embedded itself into church-goer Denise McNair’s head during the bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church.

Museums can be really interactive. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute was limited on interaction but right next to the museum was Kelly Ingram Park and the 16th Street Baptist Church, which are essentially museums themselves even though the church is still in use today and people use the park for various activities. I think those provided enough interaction just because of the history that happened there.

The 16th Street Baptist Church was the site of a bombing in 1963 and killed four young ladies and one boy and injured another boy and girl. Kelly Ingram Park is the sight of many protests, the largest and most notable one being on the 5th day of the Children’s March in Birmingham. Eugene “Bull” Connor ordered police to spray high-pressure water hoses on people, including children, and to make dogs attack people.

It’s also hard to believe that we were walking in the same places  as Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and every important person in the movement, including the children who marched there (well, they didn’t walk in the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute of course since it was built in 1992).

We visited Meridian, Miss. and went to the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) and the Freedom School, but all we had to look at was the overgrown grass lots where the buildings once stood. COFO was a coalition of organizations that encouraged blacks to vote and ensured that no one stopped them from voting. The city of Meridian decided to take the buildings down because they were not well kept and stood empty.

Our tour guide, Roscoe Jones, said that a few a people tried to save the buildings by registering them on the National Historical Society list but they were too late. Jones was a civil rights worker during the movement and still is for issues in the Meridian school system. Meridian schools are placing young kids under arrest for insignificant things like the wrong color socks with their uniforms.

It’s important that we preserve artifacts from history so that future generations learn how movements, laws and social change affect them and how they can go about changing things.

–Jordan Gerard

What Makes Social Change Happen? Courage!

two buttons showing support for the SNCC

Members of SNCC wore buttons like these to show their support for civil rights equality.  Image credit:

Throughout the course of this trip, we’ve met some pretty amazing people with amazing stories of what it was like living in the 1960s. The Civil Rights Movement was a hard time to live through for black and white people. The violence was staggering and it’s a good thing that Martin Luther King, Jr. and the other leaders told people to be nonviolent.

It must take a lot of courage to be able not to defend yourself when someone is hurting you. Self-defense is a natural reaction to any situation. We either decide to fight or flight. The veterans we’ve talked to said that some of the situations they were in were terrifying, but in the end it was worth it.

So how can today’s youth and young adults get involved to make social change? It’s actually not that difficult. All you have to do is find something that you’re passionate about, join the corresponding organization, participate and then spread the word about your cause.

A lot of the Civil Rights veterans worked for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Roscoe Jones, our tour guide in Meridian, Miss. said that adults were not present for most of the committee’s activities. Adults helped guide them, but the teenagers were the driving force.

I think that goes to show that any group of people can have power and make social change. If people stand their ground and keep fighting for they want, eventually it will come.

–Jordan Gerard

Mass Communication: Then and Now

people march down the street to show support for civil rights in 1964

Just like today, people used mass communication to organize their rallies and protests. Photo credit:

One of the things that made the Civil Rights Movement operate well was the media and it’s still effective for today’s movements.

They had newspapers, photographers, and the radio, all of which were good at motivating people. The newspapers provided full stories and accounts of nearly every event that happened in the civil rights era. They added a layer of realism to the printed word by interviewing the people that were present at the events.

Sarah Collins Rudolph, a survivor of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and sister to Addie Mae Collins who did not survive the bombing, she was quoted in the newspaper, “Right after the explosion I called my sister…I said—I called about three times—‘Addie, Addie, Addie.’ Addie didn’t answer.”

Journalists were also in a dangerous situation when they went into the field to get the stories and witness the events. One thing I have found interesting on this trip is that the addresses of people were included with people’s names. It seems like a dangerous thing to write in the paper because many places were bombed during the movement by the Ku Klux Klan. Actually, they included addresses to let people know where to join up with the person and organization. Often, it would be a place of business so that homes would be safer from the KKK. To me, it seems like a big risk to take, but it was necessary so that the movements could gain more people.

And even more powerful than the printed word is the photograph. Photographs evoke a reaction and put many layers of realism into one medium that is viewable by the mass audience. The great things about photography in the 1950s and 60s were the inexpensive cameras and processing that made it possible for the average person to take photographs. The end result was a massive collection of iconic photos. The content of the photos ranged from lynchings to water hoses to important people. It’s enough to bring tears to your eyes and after looking at the entire Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, you understand how people felt during the movement.

Radio was very popular as a form of communication, news, and entertainment. It could be argued that the voice is even more powerful than the photograph. It was the widest used medium of mass communication. DJs during the movement appealed to kids because of their choice of music and because they were able to connect with the kids who listened. DJs also spoke in codes that told kids where and when they were meeting for marches and rallies.

Today’s mass communication includes a few new technologies such as computers and social media. Social media like Facebook and Twitter is the new way to organize and motivate people. Events and movements get thousands of followers and even attention from people in other countries. It’s a way to share ideas among a large group of people and it’s very effective. Imagine if the Civil Rights Movement had Facebook and Twitter.​

–Jordan Gerard

The Makings of a Grassroot Organization

hands form a circle in the grass

Photo credit:

We hear the term “grassroots movement” or “grassroots organization” thrown around a lot but have you ever wondered what it takes to get the grassroots growing? Well, when we visited the Highlander Research and Education Center, we learned how people make these types of movements come together. Susan Williams and Kira Sims, the wonderful education team at Highlander, told us about five methods that are very effective for solving problems and moving people.

The cool thing is that people use these methods subconsciously and they never knew that there was a name and definition to match what they are doing.

The first and most popular method was popular education–that is, educating the general population about social injustices and ways that they can improve society. Popular education combines people’s experiences to develop action strategies for positive social change, according to Highlander. Everyone is a teacher, a learner, and “everyone contains within them the seed to make change.” People use this method all the time to talk about issues affecting them and then someone else responds about how they handled it and soon the issue in question has a solution.

The second method was cultural organizing, which is the practices of individual cultures that “help move them forward, work together with others, build bridges, celebrate and inspire action.” I think this is key to solving cultural differences in communities; we need to understand that two cultures can work together for the greater good.

A third methodology is language justice. Language is how we communicate with others, but we do not all speak the same language or even a common language. “Multilingual spaces allow language to be used democratically and it’s a tool of empowerment” so that ideas can be moved forward.

The fourth method was intergenerational organizing. People of all ages have different experiences but similar ones so this method takes advantage of what each generation has to offer. In this way, it “unites the lessons from the past, the power of the present and dreams for the future.”

The final method is participatory action research (PAR). This method challenges the belief that only research professionals or those with a higher education can have knowledge and accurate information to overcome problems. But actually, if you have knowledge of any kind, it can be used for anyone’s benefit to solve problems.

And that is how grassroots organizations begin their movements, by methods of organizations and idea sharing.​

–Jordan Gerard

And So Our March Begins

A group of college students and faculty pose together in front of a bus

This is our group who will taking this journey down South but also back in time to learn about the Civil Rights Movement.

Today was our first day on the bus for the “Tracking the Civil Rights Movement” travel study. Our goal is to spend two weeks in the South (Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi) and enhance our knowledge about the movement by visiting places like Jackson, Mississippi and Birmingham, Alabama, and to speak to veterans of the Freedom Summer of 1964. A good part of the day was spent sleeping and chatting with new acquaintances. However, our time was not wasted and we got to learning right away.

We watched two videos, one of which was about middle and high school students marching to jail in Birmingham, Ala. The title was “The Children’s March” and for those who do not know the history well, it has great detail about school-aged children leaving school and marching to Birmingham to protest segregation. Adult supporters of the Civil Rights Movement called the children the “secret weapon” because the adults were nearly out of options to claim their civil rights. Over 1,000 kids marched to Birmingham to talk to the mayor about segregation and most of those kids were arrested and spent up to two weeks in jail.

What really mind-boggles me is how adults sent innocent children to jail and also sprayed a powerful jet stream of water and let loose dogs to bite those in the groups gathered in Birmingham. I give credit to those protesters that showed restraint and were non-violent during the protests. I think that was the turning point of the movement. If nothing had been done in the ’50s and ’60s for civil rights, those same children– who would be adults themselves today– would probably be experiencing the same kind of unfairness today. When children start to get involved in serious and dangerous matters such as the path that the Civil Rights Movement took, that’s when you know things are very, very complicated and situations have gone terribly wrong.

For the rest of the trip, the sites, videos and veterans looks to be very insightful and hitting us “in the feels.” We have our own veteran of the Freedom Summer of 1964 traveling with us. Joe Morse, is a Winona native, and traveled down south when he was a college student at St. Mary’s University. He has already provided us with many stories of his experiences and taught us a few freedom songs, which are songs that African Americans and Freedom Summer volunteers would sing when protesting.

We are taking the same path that many college students and young people took in 1964 and our purpose is to remember the veterans and those who fought for civil rights and to make sure that those civil rights standards are still in place for today’s generation.

–Jordan Gerard

Women’s Books to Prison Project

A quote by Angela Davis: "We have to talk about liberating minds as well as linerating society"

Photo borrowed from:

This semester in our Women and Gender Studies class: Power, Privilege and Gender Studies, we learned about the prison industrial complex, the increase in the U.S. prison population over the last twenty years across the United States and the disproportionate incarceration of people of lower socio-economic status and people of color. The United States is about 5% of the worlds’ total population and yet we have 25% of the world’s prison population.

During the semester, a supervisor of the Books to Prisoners Project “spoke” to our class via Skype teach us about the efforts that her organization is making to send high quality, educational and empowering books to prisoners who may not otherwise have access to the reading material due to cuts in prison library budgets. The Seattle-based project inspired our small group to get into contact with the Women’s Prison Book Project in Minneapolis, an organization that has worked to donate books to women and transgender individuals in prisons in Minnesota since 1994.

According to the Women’s Prison Book Project’s website, of the 2 million people in prison in America, 150 thousand of them are women. Of those 150 thousand, 80 percent of women are locked up for non-violent crimes like prostitution, shoplifting, fraud and drug-related convictions. The majority of women that are in prison for violent crimes, were convicted for defending themselves or their children against abuse.

This week we are working to collect high quality books for the Women’s Prison Book Project to send to prisoners who need them. We have collected books with an educational purpose– specifically dictionaries, technical skills books, self-help and women’s health books. The Women’s Prison Book Project spends roughly $300 to $400 per week on postage to send books to the prisons where they will be used. Our group will have a table from 11am-4pm on Tuesday, May 6 in the Kryzsko Lower Hyphen if you would like to donate your textbooks or any money for postage.

–Lauren Koch

Be a Student Supporting Students

a student sits at a table

Judith Ohochukwu, one of the creators or Students Supporting Students, ready to take your donations!

My name is Danielle Lombardo and I am the president of TRIO Student Leaders. This past Monday was the kick off of our new service project, Students Supporting Students. After three months of planning, we are excited to finally implement this service project and plan on making it an annual event at the end of every spring semester. We are collecting new and used books as well as new and slightly used school supplies. The books will be used to start an textbook loan system in the TRIO Student Support Services office while the school supplies will be donated to Kids First.

TRIO Student Support Services serves WSU students who are first generation in their families to attend college, students who are classified as low income and students who have a documented disability. Through the donations we receive from the Students Helping Students initiative, we will be starting a system to allow these students to rent out textbooks from our office for the semester. This will help to reduce the overall cost of textbooks for these students. If we receive textbooks that are no longer being used by professors we will sell these books and use the money earned to purchase the updated versions.

Kids First is a non-profit after-school program in the community center of the Maplewood Townhomes. Residents of the Maplewood Townhomes must be either be classified as low-income, a veteran, or have a documented disability. Thus the children who attend Kids First often struggle to afford school supplies at the beginning of every year. The supplies we donate will be given to those children who are struggling and used to help stock the shelves at Kids First.

It was a no-brainer to give back to WSU students since we all understand the expenses associated with being in college. TRIO is a diverse group of students and with our unique perspectives we recognized need within the Winona community as well. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we live in a community bigger than Winona State so we wanted to give back to the community that continuously welcomes us college students for the brief time we are here. As an education major, I also think it’s important to support our youth and their education and one simple way to do that is to help provide the school supplies they need on a day to day basis. Most TRIO club members have donated items or are planning on it. I have textbooks, binders, and folders that I plan on donating as well.

Students can bring their donations to a designated table outside the cafeteria in Kryzsko on Monday, May 5 from 11-2pm. There are also donation bins in most of the dorms around Main and West Campuses. You also can bring your donations to the TRIO SSS Office, located in the Library Room 219, from 8am-4:30pm any day of the week.

I encourage everyone to consider donating both school supplies and textbooks. The children who receive the school supplies will know that it came from college students who care about their education and hopefully will promote their learning and future success. Textbooks are expensive but their resale value is minuscule, especially when compared to the reward of helping fellow and future WSU students.

Thank you for your support!

–Danielle Lombardo

Winona State Universitree: Celebrating Arbor Day

a collage of small picture so trees that make an large picture of the gazebo

If you look closely, you’ll see all the different trees on our campus represented here!

Maybe you heard the slogan “Campus of Trees” when you first toured Winona. Maybe you noticed that it was difficult to find two autumnal leaves that were exactly alike. Or maybe you visibly cringed when you walked past the Gingko and asked no one in particular, “What is that smell?” Regardless of your introduction to the foliage here at Winona State University, one thing is certain; the natural elements of this campus are impossible to miss.

a collage of three trees

These are just a few of the beauties you’ll see around campus.

Most of our trees date back Bill Meyer, the Winona State groundskeeper during the 1980s. Meyer took it upon himself to, quite literally, spruce up Winona State, and in doing so, he accumulated at least one specimen of each local, Minnesota tree. That accounted for about sixty new species. And then, to further diversify our campus, Meyer also obtained numerous non-local trees, some of which may still be peppered around our grounds today. You can get a full listing of the trees on our campus, and take a tour, by downloading the WSU Arboretum app.

tree blossoms and berries

Blossoms and berries like these are part of the campus’s springtime charm.

This year, Winona State has taken the first steps toward becoming an official Tree Campus USA with the Arbor Day Foundation. This program recognizes colleges that do an exceptional job managing their campus trees and encourages student and community engagement. Only 192 colleges in the country have the “Tree Campus USA” title, and Winona State University is hoping to be the next. Tree projects continue all around Winona, planting more beauty and nature than ever before.

Though some specimens have gone or been replaced in the past thirty years, Meyer’s goal to infuse Winona State’s campus with varying types of trees remains the same, and it seems like a goal that also applies to our students. Just like us, the trees of Winona State University come from different backgrounds and each have different needs. We have trees with thick bark, thin bark, needles, leaves, sap, and stink, but in spite of these differences, or perhaps because of them, our university has a unique, diverse beauty.

So this week, whether you attend the a few of the Arbor Day activities planned for Friday or just take a moment to hug one of the many saplings around Winona State, think of what our trees represent. Certainly, trees do wonders for our ecosystem, but they also serve as an example for us to follow. No matter how different we may be from one another, those differences can create a beautiful landscape. Even though it may not always smell that way.

Olivia Wulf and Leah Dobihal

a collage of three trees' leaves

There are so many varieties of trees across campus!