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A Little Kindness Goes a Long Way

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Over the last year, I have noticed a false belief that many college students have. You see, many students think they are not capable of helping others in college because they are lacking financially. However, the truth is that whether you are broke or not, you possess the ability to make someone’s day. No, you may not be able to give large sums of money to someone in need, but at the end of the day, money is not what brings joy to people who are hurting. Rather, a perfect stranger, who went out of their way to make their day, just might bring a genuine smile to their face. Moreover, your financial status cannot stop you from performing random acts of kindness. Besides, as Aesop once said, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

As the beginning of a new school year is quickly approaching, it can be a stressful and scary time for incoming freshmen and new students at WSU. It is my challenge to you to consider doing some of the random acts I have listed below as you move back to Winona and begin classes. Or, you can even come up with your own ideas to brighten someone’s day! There are endless ideas when it comes to random acts of kindness. My goal in presenting this challenge to you is to ultimately create a more positive and welcoming atmosphere for each person who walks onto the Winona State campus. WSU should feel like home to all of the students and staff who walk its sidewalks each day. By simply performing random acts of kindness around our campus, I believe we can take a huge step forward in becoming a campus that is a shining example of a united and positive community.

Are you up for the challenge? If so, try doing a few of the 10 random acts of kindness I have listed below to get you started, and remember to have fun while doing them.

Acts of Kindness at NO COST

  1. Leave encouraging sticky notes on the mirrors in the bathrooms of your dorm
  2. Pick wildflowers and give them to a stranger (Only pick in appropriate areas of course – NO trespassing, people!)
  3. Say thank you to a faculty member for their hard work on campus
  4. Simply give a compliment to someone
  5. Hold the door open for someone trailing behind you

Acts of Kindness For Less Than $5

  1. Tape change to a pop machine for the next person who comes along
  2. Put change in the washing machines at the laundry mat
  3. Tape $5.00 to the gas pump for the next person
  4. Take cold water or Gatorade to city, county, or campus facility workers on a hot day
  5. Pay for the food of the person behind you in line at a drive thru restaurant

-Erin Kloepping

Improving Through Art: Becoming Cultured

Photo taken from pitchforkmusicfestival.com

Photo taken from pitchforkmusicfestival.com

We’re in the middle of one of the biggest booms in independent art and music in modern history. Small labels are taking back comic shops, hundreds of new musicians premiere their work every day, and film is seeing a new renaissance, especially in the independent scene. High-brow is now low-brow, and vice versa. It’s now becoming slowly becoming normal to be “cultured.” But what does that really mean? And why does that matter for a college student?

Last weekend I took a short road trip down to Chicago for this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival. The lineup was a crazy mixture of Jazz, Synth Pop, Rap, and a little Indie Rock to round things out. Here’s the catch, though: these bands were all playing on the same stages. Fans of an artist like Miguel or Jeremih would still be hanging around during Kamasi Washington’s Sax solos, or Neon Indian’s modern funk.

That’s what’s so cool about festivals: Everybody has a reason to be there, but it may not be the same. Even then, everyone shares a love of music and performance, regardless of genre.

And here’s where we get back to where we started. Being “cultured.” One of the failures of the education today is it’s focus on facts, diagrams and rules above all else. Even in English classes, they’ll begin by teaching you how to format a paper or how to craft a solid sentence. The thing that it’s missing is education of the arts, and not just any art: ALL art. One of the things about art and music that make them so interesting is that every person has their own unique, individual taste. The problem is many people have yet to find it. And that’s what being “cultured” is really about.

Art and culture isn’t as one-laned as we’re often led to believe. Many of us have our niches. Maybe it’s hip-hop, or superhero movies, or top 40 radio. The cool thing about today’s tech-driven society is that you don’t have to be limited by what’s on the air, or what’s popular. It’s easier than ever to explore and discover new things. When you take the time to look, you can really begin to change how you see things, and even change up your own creative works.

Photo taken from pitchforkmusicfestival.com

Photo taken from pitchforkmusicfestival.com

Now, I’m finally getting to my main point. Being “cultured” in college doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it is. Being well-versed in different areas helps in more than just one way. First of all, nothing brings people together like shared interests. If you limit yourself to just what’s popular, however, you’ll limit the experiences you’ll have and the people you’ll meet. Nothing is more fun than meeting someone who likes the same weird folk band that you do, or the same artists. The more things you can find to enjoy, the more you can connect to the people around you.

Next, It opens up the door for new understandings of people and cultures around the world. I, for one, am a huge Jazz fan. While I know the classics pretty well, my personal favorite jazz artists are modern groups working out of Japan and the West Coast, like Jizue and Kamasi Washington. In both art and music, people bring their culture and their experiences to what they create in a unique way, and examining it allows you to get a better understanding of who they are as an individual.

Finally, art can be reused. Everything you see, everything you read, everything you listen to: Take something from it. Maybe a melody, or a color palette, or maybe a style of linework. Remember it for later. When the time comes, you can use that in your own pieces to create something wholly unique. For me, as a filmmaker and a writer, inspiration is one of the most important things for me to have before I begin a piece. When I’m writing a new script, I’ll sit on the floor in the middle of my house and surround myself with short stories, comic books, visual art, and even a playlist of sounds that remind me of how I want the film to feel.

So why is being “cultured” in college so important?

College is the beginning of your adult life, and as such, it’s where you begin to really fine tune who you are as a person. Art and music, and just culture in general, are a gateway to this self-discovery. When you read a book, or watch a film, or listen to an album, you’re gaining knowledge and experience that can’t be taught in a class. Art is unique in that it’s not a concrete fact, but something that conforms to the artist’s own perception. Through the arts, we can begin to connect with the people around us in new ways and truly understand who they are and what makes them tick. But more than anything, art can give you a new look into who you are as an individual, and nothing improves the world more than improving yourself.

-Nathaniel Nelson

8 Alternate Activities for a Greener Summer

We all have our favorite summer activities, but why not make those activities more eco-friendly!? Here are 8 examples of how to have fun and enjoy the weather all while lessening your ecological footprint:

1) Bike instead of drive

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From going to grab your favorite ice cream treat or meeting friends at the beach, nice weather calls for being outside as much as possible! So save money and gas by biking to your summer destinations. It may take a little longer, but think about the tan and workout you’ll get!

2) Canoe or kayak instead of boat

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We all want to spend a beautiful summer afternoon lounging on the boat. But instead, grab a couple friends, pack a lunch and paddle out to your favorite sandbar where you can enjoy both the water and relaxation you’re looking for!

3) Build a birdbath

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If you want to spend your day in the water, I’m sure other outdoor creatures want to as well! Help them out in your spare summer time by building a birdbath in your yard. Not only does it give the birds a way to cool down on those hot summer days, but it also adds to your curb appeal and makes a fun project!

4) Farmers’ Market

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Save money and support your local farmers by heading out to the Winona Farmers Market this summer! You’ll find lots of great fresh foods that are healthy and delicious…and try to bike or walk there of course!

5) Use a gas grill

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This may sounds odd…use a gas grill instead of coal? It turns out that grilling with gas is better for the environment. A Huffington Post article explains gas-powered grills produce less carbon emissions than coal and is overall more efficient.

6) Conserve water – bathe in the lake!

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To some, this may seem weird, but it can truly be a fun experience if you give it a try. After spending a day on the water, why go inside to wash up when all the water you could want is right in front of you? Lather up in the lake and feel fresh right away. Be sure to use chemical-free soaps that are environment-friendly to keep the lake-life healthy!!

7) Exercise outside

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No need to waste energy running on a treadmill when you could be outside enjoying the nice weather. Not to mention you will sweat more in the heat, giving you a better workout. And, just like biking, running gives you the best summer tan! Don’t forget to use sunscreen and stay hydrated!

8) Camp in a tent, not a camper

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We all have a different version of camping, depending on how we grew up. Don’t get me wrong I LOVE camping in a camper, but put yourself out there, save the energy and gas, and get to know your surroundings! Learn to build that tent and make that fire so that you can enjoy a toasted marshmallow under the stars!

-Lauren Reuteler

Beyond Textbooks: My St. Croix Travel Study Experience

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May 11-28

I had the amazing opportunity to be one of 24 students on the Winona State University travel study to the US Virgin Island of St. Croix. This trip focused on Caribbean culture and history, and how race, class, and gender continue to play integral roles within our society. We studied past and present acts of resistance in the face of colonialism and had the privilege to learn from local professors, businesspeople, environmentalists, and social activists about current issues happening on the island.

Before going to St. Croix, we were required to do readings and a workbook revolving around Caribbean culture, history, environment and tourism. We also explored ideas like privilege, intersectionality, and service-learning. While on the island we wrote daily journals about our experiences, interviewed local people for insight on current events, met with government and educational leaders, and connected our experiences back to the readings.

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In addition to classroom time and excursions, all students volunteered at one of four worksites: Queen Louise Home for Children, The Village (an addiction rehabilitation center), The Nature Conservancy, and Women’s Coalition of St. Croix. I worked at The Nature Conservancy on projects like planting native trees for habitat restoration, beach clean-ups, painting the visitor’s center and laying the foundation for a children’s garden. We worked Monday-Friday and had nights and weekends to explore the island. Some of the excursions included in this travel study were: snorkeling at Buck Island, a catamaran boat tour, sea kayaking, a baobab tree tour, a day-long jeep tour of the island, relaxing at the beach, scuba-diving, shopping, trying local cuisine, plantation tours, botanical gardens, swimming in tide pools, going on turtle watches and enjoying the nightlife of downtown Christiansted.

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Overall, this trip truly changed my outlook on life. I not only learned about the culture and history of St. Croix, but learned life lessons regarding privilege, intersectionality, travel and volunteer etiquette, and the importance of creating and maintaining lasting relationships with people who want to make a difference in their community. St. Croix taught me a lot about myself and allowed me to gain knowledge I could never get from a textbook or lecture. I truly believe that traveling is the best way to learn about our diverse and changing world. I highly recommend doing a travel study/studying abroad to any student looking to get the most out of their educational experience.

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-Danny Young

Put Down the Hot Dog and Lend a Hand!

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Many think of Independence Day or the Fourth of July as a summer day filled with parades, hot dog eating competitions, parties with family and friends, and magnificent fireworks that light up the night sky.

Believe it or not, Independence Day actually has a lot of meaning and history behind it, beyond the consumption of ridiculous amounts of packaged meat each year. I mean, that’s essentially what a hot dog is, right? That is, aside from the fact that it might not actually be real meat. Ew. Nasty. Okay, hot dog rant over.

As I was saying, since July 4, 1776, when the colonies voiced their separation from Great Britain by adopting the Declaration of Independence, we have been a nation declaring, “All Men are created equal.”

Today “All Men are created equal” seems like just a famous saying or memorable quote from history. But really, it is more than just a phrase. Rather, it is the way in which we should be living our lives each and every day as American citizens.

However, somewhere along the line, this phrase gained a lesser meaning than it was originally intended to have, and we forgot about how crucial it is to carry out our civic duties as American citizens.

I think that we should join together this Independence Day and work to rekindle the flame that has since burned out. Let’s join together to lend a helping hand to those in need of one so we can all stand and take pride in this great nation. We live in a society of equal opportunity and I believe it is our civic duty to care for those in need to ensure they are given the opportunity to experience equality. Let’s ensure that is the case.

So this Independence Day, let’s remember those less fortunate. Let’s remember the poor and the needy. Let’s remember the widows and orphans, the sick and the oppressed, the lonely and the brokenhearted, the accused and the abused. However, let us not just sit in remembrance; let’s act!

Whether it is simply inviting your neighbor to your backyard BBQ party, or mowing a lawn for an elderly couple, take some time to step outside of your comfort zone to do something nice for someone else. In return, your actions just might make this holiday a little more special for that one person and will set an example of what everyone can do for their communities. Going through all of the work to make the world a little brighter for even one person is worth it. So worth it.

Therefore, this Independence Day let us remember what it means to be a good American citizen. Let us join together to celebrate the pride we take in this great nation; the land of the free and home of the brave.

-Erin Kloepping

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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

4) Trees help clean our drinking water

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

5) Trees provide much-needed cooling

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  • 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

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

7) Trees help us save energy

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  • 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

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

9) Trees help reduce crime

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  • 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

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  • 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

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​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