5 Simple Steps to a Greener Lifestyle

We live on the raddest planet in the solar system. There’s no other place that has all the things we, as humans, need to survive and thrive. But to keep the chill vibes rolling, we need to start giving back to this tiny blue dot of ours. Here’s a few easy ways to do just that:

1) Recycle


This is the first and most obvious way to help clean things up. Recycling helps the environment in a mass variety of ways. First, it keeps harmful materials like plastic, glass and aluminum out of landfills and puts them into the hands of people who can use them. Second, it lessens production costs for companies, helping them to keep their product up and running but without the constant need to make more material. Finally, recycling keeps trash away from cute little animals who’d probably end up getting stuck in them or eating them. We don’t want to hurt animals, do we?

2) Get a totally rad water bottle


Now, I’m sure that many of you already own a water bottle. It’s pretty much a staple of the college arsenal. But do you have one that is totally rad? The reason I say this is that having a cool looking water bottle, or one that you enjoy drinking out of, can push you to use it more often. You don’t want drinking water to feel like a chore. I, for one, have a steel bottle with a pinewood print on it, and I keep it filled constantly. By using your water bottle often, you minimize waste from bottled water. In addition, drinking water instead of other, less natural beverages will make you feel healthier and happier. True story.

3) Choose the bike, not the car


In Winona, everything is tightly knit together. For the most part, you can make it anywhere in town in less than 15 minutes on a bike. So, why drive a car? While the weather may make this a bit more difficult in the winter months, use alternate methods of transportation when you can. Biking or walking helps eliminate pollution for car and gas-based vehicles. Also, you get some free exercise so it’s a win-win. If biking isn’t an option, there’s a plethora of other ways to get around, from skateboards, to longboards, to roller blades, to just plain walking.

4) Buy local when possible


Supporting your local businesses should be a no-brainer, but that doesn’t just mean shopping at the comic book shop downtown or going to one of many thrift stores. There’s also a full industry of farmers that also need some attention. Local produce is able to forgo the dangerous pesticides and pollutants that many big-name produce companies use, and by buying local, we can help create a sustainable atmosphere for food. We’re lucky in that we have a few places to get local foods, so it’s a simple matter of making the switch. Try hitting up Winona’s Farmers Market on Saturday mornings in the summer or shopping around Rochester Wholesale or Bluff Country Co-op. These are just a few options!

5) Go for a hike, or just chill in nature


Trust me, I know the draws of staying in and watching a movie instead of going outside. Plopping down on the couch with the A/C blaring and the new season of Orange is the New Black sounds like a dream. But there’s no reason to do that all the time. Get outside and go explore the wondrous little area we live in. There are hundreds of trails and places to go have a little adventure in nature, so take advantage! The more you’re outside, the less energy and resources you consume in your home. Also, being outside has been linked to increased happiness and decreased stress. If you’re not a hiking person, grab a blanket and lay out in the sun for a while. Nothing is better than chilling under the bright blue sky for an afternoon. Whatever you choose to do is up to you, but just make sure to go and soak in the sweet beats of life.

For more ideas on easy ways to help the environment, take a look at WSU’s Purple Going Green Pinterest board!

-Nathaniel Nelson

5 Perks to Studying Abroad in College

Throughout the past year, I have been pondering the idea of studying abroad. Due to my love for traveling and meeting new people, my interest was sparked when I heard about how awesome Winona State’s study abroad and travel abroad programs are. However, the thought of studying in a foreign country with the likelihood of a problematic language barrier quickly put a negative spin on this idea. Therefore, just as any good Rori Gilmore imposter would do, I started to create a pro/con list of the perks and disadvantages of studying abroad in college. So far, I have found that the positives vastly outweigh the negatives. You may find it strange that I am writing about the positive aspects of studying abroad when in fact I have never actually studied abroad. However, I have traveled out of the country and have experienced what it is like to live fully submerged in an unknown culture. This leads into my first perk of studying abroad in college…

1) Experiencing a new culture

Submitted for the 2013 travel study contest by WSU student Darian Peterson who studied abroad in Mexico.

Submitted for the 2013 travel study contest by WSU student Darian Peterson who studied abroad in Mexico.

Studying abroad provides a unique opportunity for you to experience a different way of life. People all across the world engage in unique social activities, have diverse beliefs and customs, follow dissimilar daily routines, communicate differently and eat peculiar cuisine. Experiencing first-hand the different ways in which others live is a chance for you to find new interests and live a more culturally diverse life, too.

2) Seeing the world

Submitted for the 2013 travel study contest by WSU student Amanda Burgaff who studied abroad in New Zealand, along with these other students.

Submitted for the 2013 travel study contest by WSU student Amanda Burgaff who studied abroad in New Zealand, along with these other students.

When you go abroad, your eyes are opened to new ways of life, and you lose the U.S. centric mindset in which you have lived by your whole life. When you experience a different culture, see new terrains and experience the dissimilar ways people live their daily lives, you take on a new perspective of the world; a global perspective.

3) Meeting new people/make new friends

Submitted for the 2013 travel study contest by WSU student Kylee Homewood who studied abroad in Costa Rica.

Submitted for the 2013 travel study contest by WSU student Kylee Homewood who studied abroad in Costa Rica.

Typically, when you study abroad you stay with a host family. Doing so opens the doors to meeting new people and creating friendships that will last a lifetime. Also, when you choose to study in another country, verses just traveling there leisurely, you have the opportunity to sit in classes with many students your age. Having this opportunity makes it a lot easier to make friends who are the same age as you.

4) Learning a new language

Submitted for the 2013 travel study contest by WSU student Daniel Schmid who studied abroad in Shanghai, China.

Submitted for the 2013 travel study contest by WSU student Daniel Schmid who studied abroad in Shanghai, China.

I believe that everyone should, or at least attempt to, learn a second language. In fact, there are many benefits to learning a second language. A few of them are enhanced brain health, creating better job prospects, more opportunities for travel and leisure, and experiencing new cultures. Yes, it is extremely difficult to learn a new language and it requires much dedication and effort, but mastering a new language is an accomplishment to be proud of.

5) Gaining life experience (perfect to go before you get a job/career/family/etc.)

Submitted for the 2013 travel study contest by WSU student Elizabeth Murphy who studied abroad in Australia and New Zealand through the program Pacific Challenge.

Submitted for the 2013 travel study contest by WSU student Elizabeth Murphy who studied abroad in Australia and New Zealand through the program Pacific Challenge.

Overall, studying abroad in college is an opportunity to gain great life experience. Taking a semester to live abroad, away from your family and normal life, forces you to step outside of your comfort zones and really makes you grow as an individual. I have heard from many college graduates that their only regret in college is that they never studied abroad. They say they wish they had done it while they were in college because it is the perfect time in life to go. College is when you have the most freedom to go wherever you want before you get married, start your career, have a family, and so on.

Therefore, studying abroad in college has many perks and is definitely something that I would encourage you to look into for yourself. If you can, be sure to make every effort to seize this opportunity and gain life experience you will remember forever.


If you don’t follow Winona State on Snapchat yet, add winonastateu and tune in for live snaps of traveling Warriors this week as they embark on their travel study adventures in Paris, Thailand, Spain, St. Croix and many more!

-Erin Kloepping

I Just Graduated, What Next?

Photo by Ka Vang '16.

Photo by Ka Vang ’16.

As we’re nearing graduation, if you’re graduating like me, you’re probably wondering: well, what am I doing next? That’s a good question, and I know I can’t answer that for you, but I can tell you what I’ll be doing next in order to improve the community (and world) of Winona, Minnesota!

During the next academic year, I’ll be working with Minnesota Reading Corps, which is a non-profit organization that aims to help all Minnesota children become proficient readers by the end of third grade. I’ll be doing this in Winona itself to help the Winona elementary children become better, passionate readers! In addition, I’ll be volunteering in the Winona community as much as possible!

If this is something you might be interested in, but you’re not comfortable with reading and you’re better at math, there’s also the Minnesota Math Corps, too!

There are plenty of other organizations that are good candidates for “gap years.” People often get involved with Peace Corps to go overseas and help people in need. The Peace Corps is aimed to help the people of interested countries meet their need for trained men and women, to help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the people served, and to help promote a better understanding of other countries and people.

If you don’t want to travel overseas and want to stay in the United States, consider AmeriCorps!

Why consider organizations like this? Well, they usually offer some kind of loan forgiveness and typically put your student loans on hold while you’re serving the community you’re in! All the organizations mentioned above do offer loan forgiveness and freeze at the end of your service. Not only that, you get to serve in areas of need on both a local and global level, and improve living conditions for everyone you come across. Besides, if you’re unsure of where you want to work in the future, or if you’re considering grad school, taking a year off to serve is a good way to do extra research on your next step! Giving back is one of the many ways that we can best serve our communities. You don’t need to have money to volunteer and serve!

Photo provided by PopSugar's post "61 Creative Ways to Decorate Your Graduation Cap."

Photo provided by PopSugar’s post “61 Creative Ways to Decorate Your Graduation Cap.”

Wherever you go, Warriors, think about how you can serve the communities that you’ll be in for either a few months or even years! You will make an impact in every area you’ll be in, so make sure it’s a positive one!

-John Otis

10 Reasons Why Trees Matter: Celebrate Arbor Day

Trees are tagged around campus promoting Arbor Day and the benefits of trees. (Photo credit: Jesus Cazares '17)

Tagged trees on campus promote benefits and the celebration of Arbor Day. (Photo credit: Jesus Cazares ’17)

As the trees begin to bloom into the beauty that engulfs our campus, it’s important to realize that they do much more than stand tall and look pretty. Without trees, the world would not be in existence. Recognize Arbor Day today and learn about what our trees do for us each and every day! #WhyTreesMatter

(All of the following facts provided by the Arbor Day Foundation)

1) Trees help clean our air


  • Trees remove pollution from the atmosphere, improving air quality.
  • Roadside trees reduce nearby indoor air pollution by more than 50%.

2) Trees contribute to our health


  • In New York City, trees save an average of eight lives every year.
  • Office workers with a view of trees report significantly less stress and more satisfaction.

3) Trees provide us with oxygen


  • One large tree can provide a day’s supply of oxygen for up to four people.

4) Trees help clean our drinking water


  • Forested watersheds provide quality drinking water to more than 180 million Americans.

5) Trees provide much-needed cooling


  • Trees lower surface and air temperatures by providing shade. Shaded surfaces may be 20-45 degrees cooler than the peak temperatures of unshaded materials.

6) Trees help reduce the effects of climate change


  • Trees absorb carbon dioxide, removing and storing the carbon while releasing the oxygen back into the air.

7) Trees help us save energy


  • Trees properly places around buildings can reduce air conditions needs by 30% and can save 20-50% in energy used for heating.

8) Trees provide vital wildlife habitat


  • In British Columbia, Canada, more than 80 wildlife species depends on trees.

9) Trees help reduce crime


  • In Baltimore, a 10% increase in tree canopy corresponded to a 12% decrease in crime.
  • Among minor crimes, there is less graffiti, vandalism and littering in outdoor spaces with trees as a part of the natural landscape than in comparable plant-free spaces.

10) Trees are a good investment of our public dollars


  • Every dollar spent on planting and caring for a community tree yield benefits that include cleaner air, lower energy costs, improved water quality and storm water control and increased property values.

Arbor Day

To get involved in the Winona community, join the 2016 “Why Trees Matter” event that will be held Friday, April 29 from 9:30am – 3pm on the WSU campus.

WSU’s Arbor Day events includes learning how to plant and protect trees, and celebrating the recognition of the Landscape Arboretum at Winona State. School children are also invited to take part in numerous hands-on activities, and participants will have the chance to take home a tree or shrub!

For more information on this year’s event and about WSU’s trees on campus, read the Winona Daily News article contributed by Jim Reynolds, co-chair of the WSU Arboretum and Land Stewardship Committee and Winona State Professor Emeritus of sociology.

-Lauren Reuteler

Inclusion at WSU: A "Project of Choice" Showcase


​In March, WSU students in SPED 425 (Inclusion in General Education Classrooms) had the opportunity to showcase their “Project of Choice.”  Students picked a topic related to inclusion and a format in which to share the information. The Inclusion Event was an opportunity for WSU students to share their projects and discuss inclusion with other WSU students, professors, community members and local educators.

A few reflection quotes from students after the event:

“I also loved sharing my work with everyone, it allows me to gain greater ownership for my research and feel as though I am truly advocating for inclusion.”

“It was worthwhile to inform others on a topic that they may or may not have known before, especially when the audience members asked questions that led to discussions.”

“I just really appreciated this opportunity to share ideas and concepts with a broad audience and to get so much positive feedback was an added bonus!”

“It was really interesting to walk around the room and see people’s passions and beliefs come alive in their project and information that they shared.” ​ 

-Amy Olson, assistant professor

YOU Can Help Earthquake Victims in Ecuador

Photo taken from Samaritan's Purse International Relief's website.

Photo taken from Samaritan’s Purse International Relief’s website.

For those of you that read my blog post earlier this semester about my most recent trip to Ecuador, you know how the country of Ecuador holds a very special place in my heart. Saturday night I was on top of Garvin Heights when I received an alert on my phone that an enormous earthquake shook Ecuador. In magnitude, the earthquake was a 7.8 at the epicenter followed by more than 100 aftershocks, landslides and collapsed buildings and bridges. Today, Thursday, CNN announced that more than 570 people have died, and, according to Ecuador’s Risk Management Office, “155 people remain missing, and 7,015 injured. It also announced that almost 25,000 people remain in shelters.”

As I read about the devastation, I could not help but think about the utter shock, pain and fear the people of Ecuador are faced, and continue to face. You see, when a natural disaster like this happens in the United States it is devastating, but it is not as extreme as it is in countries like Ecuador. For most people in Ecuador, they lost everything Saturday night. They do not have emergency savings accounts or insurance to cling to in times of despair. The only thing the people of Ecuador have now is hope, and for many Ecuadorians that hope is fading fast.

Me looking out over Quito, the capitol city of Ecuador, during my trip to this country that was recently devastated by an earthquake.

Me looking out over Quito, the capitol city of Ecuador, during my trip to this country that was recently devastated by an earthquake.

It is crucial that we act quickly to bring aid and relief to help those in desperate need. After reading about this disaster, it is my hope that you will feel compelled to help the people affected by the quake, and that you will commit to joining me in prayer for the healing and restoration of Ecuador. Furthermore, Ecuador is currently in need of food, water, blankets, clothing and so on. If you would like to help meet the physical needs in Ecuador, you can give financially to the following organizations that are providing relief efforts:

Although many of you reading this blog are most likely broke college students, you can still be of help. As many of us are starting to pack up our dorms, houses and apartments, we are going to find things that we no longer want or need. In that case, there are people in the area that may be interested in buying those unwanted items from you! There are many groups on Facebook you can find where you can sell your things. Wazoo’s List, which is run by WSU, is one of those groups where you can buy and sell unwanted items to people in the area. After you rake in some cash, you can donate that money to relief efforts in Ecuador, listed above.

Another way you can support Ecuador is by going on Amazon and buying one of their support T-shirts for only $19.99.

A profile photo Facebook made available to users to raise awareness and support for earthquake victims.

A profile photo Facebook made available to users to raise awareness and support for earthquake victims.

Thank you in advance for helping support the country that is so near and dear to my heart. You are making a difference in so many lives just by sharing the news and asking others to join us in prayer for Ecuador. My heart is broken for the people of Ecuador right now, but I believe that together, we can help bring hope and restoration to the country Ecuador. #PRAYFORECUADOR #FuerzaEcuador

-Erin Kloepping

8 Steps to Intercultural Communication

​In the university setting, we’re exposed to a lot of new people, ideas, values and beliefs. It’s ever so more important to be aware of all these and be able to respect them.  We’re lucky to have a diverse population in Winona where we can safely learn about different people. So, you may be wondering, how do I communicate with people of different culturals? Well, from my own personal experience of working with international and diverse students for the past four years, I have made up a little guide that usually helps me better communicate with other people:

1)  Make time to get acquainted with people


This goes without saying. It’s hard to communicate with someone you really don’t know. Take some time to get beyond introductions and surface-level interactions.

2)  Do your research


If you don’t know about the cultural norms of a country, use your resources to learn about them! We have Google for a reason, right? Take advantage of our plethora of online information!

3)  Communicate


The first step of talking to someone is actually to talk to them. Say “hi,” ask them how they are doing, and ask specific questions about their country. When I was an international student, when people tried speaking my language it made me really happy. Try learning how to say “hello” and repeat it back to them. Even if you mess up, trying is greatly appreciated!

4)  Practice patience


I think with any encounter with another human being, especially initially, patience is crucial. Patience goes a long way, and it shows a lot about your character if you can wait and try to invest in someone.

5)  Writing helps mediate communication


If you can’t understand what someone is saying, try have them write out what they are intending to say. You may also do the same too!

6)  Don’t be worried about making mistakes


College is the perfect time to make mistakes. As long as you’re making an attempt at fixing mistakes and reflecting on them, then you’re doing it right in the aspects of intercultural communication.

7)  Include them in activities


People come to America to experience American culture. What if you wanted to go to Spain, but no one ever reached out to you to include you in what people in Spain did? You’d feel really left out and lost. Don’t be that person to someone else! If you’re doing something that can include another person, feel free to invite them!

8)  Learn from each other 


As mentioned, college is the perfect time to make mistakes. We’re interacting daily with people from around the world. For example, we don’t have to go to China to experience China! We can learn from the Chinese students here!

-John Otis

The Month of April: Call Your Siblings and Recognize Autism

​ggpril is a fantastic month for a variety of reasons, including that it finally feels like spring in Winona. Another reason to look forward to April is the celebration of National Sibling Day. National Sibling Day falls on April 10, so make sure to call your brother or sister if you’re lucky enough to have a sibling. In addition to National Sibling Day, April is also Autism Awareness Month. Autism may not impact you personally, but it’s becoming more prevalent in society. My brother has a form of autism called Asperger’s Syndrome, and he’s also the coolest person I know.

My brother is someone I miss the most when I'm at school.

My brother is someone I miss the most when I’m at school.

My brother was diagnosed with asperger’s before he entered kindergarden. He struggles with socializing including giving eye contact. However, he also knows how to intelligently debate about politics, religion and social rights. He may use filler words frequently, but he has the biggest heart. My brother is so much more than the disorder he has been diagnosed with. When my brother is stressed sometimes he can get angry and blame himself. He also happens to know every rule in every board game we have ever played. He’s the Snoopy to my Woodstock and he’s someone who has taught me a lot about maintaining friendships.

Christmas is a great time to catch up with my brother.

Christmas is a great time to catch up with my brother.

The biggest lesson I have learned with my brother is patience. My brother can aggravate me sometimes like any other sibling, but I have to realize that he has his own struggles. He can be unorganized at times and sometimes he forgets things that you tell him. Patience allows me to be the best sister I can be, but also to help him when he needs it. I have also realized tolerance goes a long way. I have witnessed bullying first hand to kids with Aspergers and it’s terrible. Tolerance and having a non judgemental attitude is crucial for interacting with someone that falls on the autism spectrum. The stereotypes of autisitic kids as stupid or mentally ill are old and inaccurate. Also, banishing that infamous R word that I won’t mention because I don’t want to say it is really important. I’m sure all of you know what this word is and please don’t use it. It’s incredibly offensive and it shouldn’t be used in daily speech. Patience, tolerance and banishing the R word are necessary when interacting socially with someone on the autism spectrum.

So don’t forget about National Sibling Day! Take a break from studying at the library and snap, call or text your sibling. They will surely appreciate it, because it’s great to have someone who will stick by your side throughout your college experience. Also, take this time to become aware of the people around you. Autism is something we should all be aware of, because autistic kids are the sweetest people I know. They will brighten your day and teach you a thing or two about living and enjoying life.

-Mariah Kaercher

Chi Alpha Takes on Mexico City

Eight Chi Alpha students served people in Mexico City.

Eight Chi Alpha students served people in Mexico City during spring break.

Like many Winona State students, eight Chi Alpha students went on a trip over spring break. However, on March 5, they embarked on a mission that has set their trip apart from many others. Instead of lying on a beach over spring break, these eight students chose to spend their “break” serving and enjoying the people of Mexico City. Having wished I had gone on the trip myself, I decided to interview one of my friends who went to get an inside scoop of what his personal experience was like. Travis Salo, a sophomore at WSU, described his experience in Mexico so well that I could not have worded it better myself. Here is a Q & A with Travis…

Travis and a child he worked with in Mexico City.

Travis and a child he worked with in Mexico City.

Q: What did you do in Mexico?

A: We went on a missions trip and got to help the local church. That included putting on a VBS for the younger kids as well as playing street hockey, soccer, and football with the kids. We also did puppet shows, arts and crafts, and songs with the kids.

Q: What was your favorite memory?

A: My favorite memory of the trip was definitely meeting Jesus. He was a young kid who had a ton of energy, but he had the best attitude and always enjoyed playing street hockey.

Q: What was a shock to you (culture wise)?

A: One of the biggest shocks to me was how polite everybody was. People would listen to what you had to say and then tell you to have a good day. Here [in the United States], most people will just ignore you if you do not know them.

Q: What challenged you the most?

A: The most challenging thing for me was the language barrier. I wanted to communicate with the people, but there was not always a translator nearby.

Q: How was the food?

A: The food was amazing! We had a family in the church make us home cooked meals for dinner each meal. You cannot get more authentic than that. It is amazing how they do not waste any part of the animal as they do in the United States. They made us a different meal each night that reflected what a typical family would eat. Random side note, I ‘out spiced’ some of the Mexicans. [In other words] I could eat hotter food than some of them were comfortable with.

Q: What impacted you the most on this trip?

A: The thing that impacted me the most was probably the relationships we were able to form with the kids even though there was a language barrier between us. We still keep in contact with many of them over Facebook!

By sharing this interview between Travis and I, it is my hope that you, the readers, realize and appreciate the sacrifice these WSU students made over spring break to improve our world. It is inspiring to hear about the difference they made in many lives in Mexico City, as well as the change it brought to their own lives. It is certain that the students who went on this trip will never be the same again. Their eyes were opened and their hearts were broken as they experienced a different and new way of life. Thanks, Travis Salo, for sharing your experience in Mexico City with the WSU community.

 -Erin Kloepping

Celebrate National Common Courtesy Day!

Image from David Lous Harter's blog post "National Common Courtesy Day, In the News, and Enjoy."

Image from David Lous Harter’s blog post “National Common Courtesy Day, In the News, and Enjoy.”


National Common Courtesy Day is observed annually on March 21st. This day brings awareness to how important common courtesy is in our lives. In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, courtesy is defined as “behavior marked by polished manners or respect for others.” On a related note, common courtesy is defined as “politeness that people can usually be expected to show.” Common courtesy can be as simple as saying “please” and “thank you” when asking for and receiving a service, gift or assistance.

Kindness and courtesy really do go a long way and are noticed by others even if you do not realize it.  It is easy to let someone in front of you in the line for the cafeteria. Hold open a door for someone or give a random person a high-five.  Give up your seat on the west campus/East Lake shuttle to someone who might need it. These are just a few examples of small things that make a difference to someone else. They are momentary deeds of being courteous! It doesn’t have to be anything big, either! In my previous blog on the power of recognition, the same concepts and theories can be applied to this blog too. Being able to recognize when someone has done something out of their way for you is an awesome skill to have, and that skill will serve you well in the future.

Now, I’m not saying that we should only be courteous just on this day, but it’s an important reminder that we should be respectful and appreciative for what others do for us!

How are you observing this day? Try doing a few small things like the suggestions above. Not only will the other person appreciate it, you will feel good about it also. Use the hashtag #CommonCourtesyDay and post your acts of courtesy today! Be sure to tag @WinonaStateU as well.

-John Otis