How an Earthquake in Nepal Affects Us All

Stop by Kryzsko Commons and show your support for those affected by the Nepal earthquake, like Sourab and his sister, Supriya.

Stop by Kryzsko Commons and show your support for those affected by the Nepal earthquake, like Sourab and his sister, Supriya.

On April 25, one of the most powerful earthquakes took place in Nepal. This 7.8 magnitude earthquake impacted the whole country of Nepal and it’s neighboring countries too. It claimed the lives of over 5,000 people. While this earthquake happened close to eight thousand miles away from us, it has had an impact on people all over the world, including a few students from our very own Winona State University.

My friend Sourab Bhatta, a junior, is one of those students. He is from Kathmandu, Nepal and came to WSU three years ago to pursue a business degree. After the news headlines about the tragic earthquake, I talked to him about how he personally is handling the crisis back at home. Though the news was shocking and upsetting, Sourab is working through his difficult emotions by taking steps to support his friends and family back in Nepal them even though he is far away.

What was your first reaction when you heard about the earthquake?

I was shocked at first, because I never expected the news. It totally came as a surprise. It was 6am when a friend texted me about the news.

How has the earthquake affected you even though you are Winona, MN?

It affected me because some of my relatives’ houses collapsed in the earthquake. Also, people I’d known for a while had died in this event. It’s really personal; it’s really close to my heart.

Have you been able to contact your family? How are your friends doing?

I have been able to call my family and they’ve been calling me too. The first few days were tough because they didn’t have telephone lines or electricity. But the next few days, it got better. My friends are doing okay. Most of them have been living outside in tents–even in the rain. It’s wet, and they’re all outside.

Is that the reason for the tent and the fasting?

Yes, I wanted to be able to experience what they are going through also. And along with living in tents, a lot of people don’t have food back home. There’s a scarcity and a lot of people are hungry. Fasting is my way of showing that I support them and let them know that I am praying for them.

What would you suggest for those who want to be actively involved in helping out with this?

A few ways people can be involved is by reaching out to the people in Nepal through working with an organization, donating, or even just praying about it or sending notes of support to families in Nepal.

His story also made me think about how this earthquake impacted myself. I was impacted because I knew someone who was directly affected, Sourab, but I also realized I was impacted because it affected India, the country where I was born, which received aftershocks that killed several dozen people. While it is harder for me to identify with my country of birth since I did not live there very long, it still hurt when I realized over 50 people from India died. Listening to Sourab talk about how this earthquake affected everyone in Nepal and himself personally was very moving, and made me want to support Nepal more than ever before.

Sourab and a few others will be hosting a vigil at the Winona State University gazebo on today from 6-7pm. This will be a way to remember those whose lives were claimed by the tragic event, and I encourage you all to attend. If you’d like to make a donation to relief efforts,  WSU alumnus Amit Khanal has set up the Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund to assist relief efforts in Nepal.

–Sharna Miller

Already Reduce, Reuse and Recycle? 10 More Tips for Sustainable Living at WSU

The environmental movement in the United States began, and as such most of us ’90s kids remember learning about Earth Day and recycling in schools. In fact, I’ll bet you can list off the three R’s as easily as you can name the seven titles in the Harry Potter series or the lyrics to the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song.

But what more can you do if you already reduce, reuse and recycle? The answer is lots! Here are just 10 ways you can be even more sustainable as a student at WSU:

1. Print Double-Sided

challenge accepted meme
This is a pretty obvious way to save trees and be more sustainable. All of the printers on campus have the ability to print on both sides of the paper, you just have to change the settings on your laptop whenever you print something. “I don’t know how” is not a good enough excuse because the WSU Technology Knowledge Base even provides instructions on how to do so on both a Mac and a PC.

2. Skip the Packs of Bottled Water

water bottle filling station
Plastic water bottles are wasteful, cost money, and you simply don’t need them in your life. What college student can afford to buy a pack of bottled water all the time? A better option is to have your own refillable water bottle. There are many water fountains on campus that make filling up your water bottle very easy and convenient. Some even keep track of how many plastic water bottles we have saved. How cool is that? Save money, save plastic water bottles, make life easy – you won’t regret getting a refillable water bottle!

3. Live in Kirkland or New Center

water-efficient toilets
Did you know that the toilets in Kirkland and New Center are energy efficient? They have two flush-types that use different amounts of water, so if conserving energy and water with a toilet is important to you, living here is a good option!

4. Avoid Plastic Bags

plastic bag blown by wind
Plastic bags are not a sustainable option, but unfortunately it’s what most stores use to package your purchases. However, there are other options. Winona’s own Midtown Foods bags all of your groceries in paper bags. This is definitely better than using plastics bags, but there is an even better option–reusable bags! Often made of canvas, cloth or heavy plastic, reusable bags are easy to find and once you pick up a few all you have to do after that is remember to bring them with you whenever you go grocery shopping.

5. Walk or Ride a Bike to Class

dog riding bike

Depending on how far away you live or what the weather is doing, it is a brilliant idea to just walk or ride bike to campus. There a many bike racks dispersed throughout campus, so it makes it very convenient to just park your bike close to where your class is. Not only is this good for the environment, it also obviously saves you money for gas and car repairs, not to mention it’s an easy way to add some extra exercise into your daily life.

6. Use Cloth Towels instead of Paper Towels

paper towels v. rags

It’s as simple as trading out those paper towel rolls on the counter for a drawer of cloth towels. Paper towels are wasteful and they cost money to purchase over and over but cloth towels can just as easily get the job done. You don’t even have to purchase special towels either; an old t-shirt can be re-purposed as a kitchen rag!

7. Take Advantage of Recycling Bins on Campus

recycling containers
Ever notice how awesome our recycling bins on campus are? They even have open spaces made for recycling paper and for recycling bottles to make it super easy to decide what item goes where. Both of these are next to every trash can, so there is no excuse for throwing your paper or bottles into the trash.

8. Dispose of Pizza Boxes Properly

cat with pizza
Finals are coming up fast and this means one important thing: PIZZA! Most people assume that pizza boxes are recyclable. While the boxes in and of themselves are recyclable, once it is contaminated by all of that delicious grease and cheese, the box is no longer recyclable. A good option for this is to remove the contaminated portions of it and then recycle the rest.

9.  Sell or Donate Your Stuff at the End of the Year

first world problem meme

Just as finals are quickly approaching, so is the end of the school year. Often students want to get rid of a lot of their belongings so there is less to pack up and schlepp home. While the residence halls provide huge dumpsters for garbage we don’t need, if your stuff is still in decent condition it’s a better option is to sell it or give it away. Just because you don’t want it anymore doesn’t mean someone else won’t. Post your stuff for sale on Wazoo’s List and see if someone else wants what you don’t anymore.

10. Decorate Your Room

aluminum cans recycled into lanterns

Photo credit: Star Online

Now I know most of you are not thinking about next year yet, but if you are, there are many ways that you can turn recyclable items into decorations for your room. For instance, you can create lanterns and tea light holders out of aluminum cans. But those are just a few ideas, and there are many more tutorials out there on the web–as if you needed an excuse to peruse Pinterest, amiright?

–Cassandra Peterson

WSU is Taking Back the Night

Take Back the Night poster

Ever since I’ve been a student here at WSU, I have made it a point to attend Take Back the Night every spring. It’s an event put together by the women’s rights/feminist clubs and groups in order to raise awareness about gender-based violence and to shatter the silence around it.

Part of Take Back the Night is a speak-out where survivors can share their stories about sexual and domestic violence so that people can understand their experiences and become more aware of the severity of the issues. This can also be a time of self-discovery and healing for many people and I’ve experiences a lot of community building as an attendee. After the speak out portion of the event, attendees march around Winona to serve as both a walk for empowerment and a way to raise more awareness in the larger Winona community.

As I said, I’ve attended the event for the last few years and I plan to attend again this year! The event is this Thursday and I know this year will be just as powerful as the last. As someone who knows many survivors of gender based violence, this event is something that really hits me emotionally. I love that I can go and show the people who bravely share their stories that I am there to support them, even if it is as a stranger in the audience, standing in solidarity is something I don’t take for granted as I help my peers overcome their struggles.

As this event rolls around, I am also reminded of my experience getting trained as a certified PACTivist through the REinitiative program at WSU, and I think that having that new knowledge will bring a new light as I attend the event this year. I think that Take Back the Night is something that people of all backgrounds because whether you have experiences gender based violence, know someone who has, or are completely unfamiliar with the issue, it’s an important night to be a part of. You learn, not only about others, but also sometimes even about yourself.

–Garrett Bowling

DIY Earth Day Crafts

aluminum cans recycled into lanterns

Photo credit: Star Online

With Earth Day right around the corner and spring weather among us, the memory of those winter months might still be putting you in a dreary mood… Don’t worry though! With a few recycled materials and a little craftiness, you can put any residence hall or bedroom into the mood of spring! Instead of tossing your bottles or cans, why not turn them into cute decorations to spruce up your room? Here are a couple great ways you can recycle your pop cans and water bottles by turning them into something fun!

Aluminum Can Lantern and Tea Light Holder (found on Star Online)

What you need:

  • 2 aluminum soda cans
  • Wire – 30cm
  • Cutter and small pliers
  • Screwdriver
  • Piercing tool
  • Black marker
  • Dish cloth
  • Basin
  • Tea lights

To Make a Lantern:

  1. Pull the tab to open the can, taking care to leave the tab intact. Rinse the can and fill it with tap water. Freeze it for six to eight hours.
  2. Lay the frozen can on a piece of folded dish cloth and keep wiping it as you work on it. If the tab was detached when you opened the can, pierce two holes on opposite side of the top of the can.
  3. Use the black marker to draw 12 equally spaced dots around the can, 2cm from the top edge. Draw another set of 12 dots corresponding to the top dots on the lower part of the can, also 2cm from the bottom.
  4. Lightly mark a cutting line to join a top dot to the bottom dot, which is on the right of the one directly beneath it. Draw it in a slight S-curve. Join all the top dots to the bottom ones in the same way. Follow the lines to cut through the can with the cutter. Take care to hold the can firmly with your left hand.
  5. Leave the can inside a basin for the ice to melt. Wipe it dry.
diagram to construct lantern

Photo credit: Star Online

  1. Light press the top of the can downwards to open the cuts. As you do that, slip the screwdriver inside a slit to press onto the bottom of a strip of the can to shape it outwards. Repeat for all the strips to shape the can into a lantern.
  2. Turn the can upside down and press onto the strips in the same way, to obtain an equally balanced lantern shape.
  3. Place the lantern in both hands and twist it slightly, pressing inwards a little.
  4. Pass the wire through the set of holes at the top of the lantern. Bring the ends together to form a loop before twisting into a hook for hanging. If the tab is intact, use it to hang the lantern.

To Make a Tea Light Holder:

Follow the same steps for making the lantern but do not pierce the set of holes at the top of the can. (Note: The body of the orange can is cut in straight lines unlike the lanterns, which has lines cut in S-curves.)

diagram to construct tea light holder

Photo credit: Star Online

  1. Cut out two strips from the can to make a wide opening. Use the pliers to bend the cut sharp edges of the top and bottom of the opening inwards.
  2. Use the top of the can as the base instead since it is flatter than the base. Place a tea light in the upside down can.

Remember, never leave the light unattended. If you live in the residence halls, you can still use these in your rooms! Just use a flame-less tea light candle.

Plastic Water Bottle Art Spirals (found on Washington Post)

What you need:

  • 1 plastic water bottle
  • Paint
  • Glitter, stickers, etc.

To Make the Water Bottle Spirals:

  1. Take your water bottle and take any paper that is wrapped around it and take it off.
  2. Cut the bottom off the end of your water bottle. Paint your entire water bottle before starting to cut. Let the paint dry completely.
  3. To make a spiral design, start at the bottom and cut on a slight diagonal. This can be tricky and take some practice. Decorate your spiral design, using different color paints, glitter and even stickers can help create cool designs.
  4. Tie a string around the top of your bottle and hang for decoration
Kids making plastic water bottle spirals

Photo credit: Washington Post

With the dreary weather coming to an end, here’s hoping that these recycled decorations will help boost your spirit, Warriors!

–Allison White

The Humane Thing To Do

woman and a dog

We’ve all seen the Sarah McLachlan commercials on TV about hurt and abandoned animals. We all want to help, but don’t know how. Well, my Speech class had to figure that out on our own.

At the beginning of the semester, our professor, Dr. Susan Hatfield, gave us a challenge: double the money I give you. She gave the 6 groups each $20 to raise money for the Humane Society here in Winona. She did this with the other two public speaking classes the same challenge and actually does this project every year, just with different causes.

With the $20, we could do anything! Well, nothing illegal, of course, so people sold puppy chow, went door-to-door asking for change, did trash for cash, sold cupcakes and even snow cones. My group put on a movie night for friends. We sat around, ate puppy chow, drank soda and watched movies about animals.

My friends at movie night

We didn’t have a huge turn out but we had fun anyway!

It was a great time, and my group doubled our money and then some! We plan on buying some toys with the extra money and bring them to the Humane Society on Friday.

But stuff like this shouldn’t just be done for a letter grade. The Humane Society is always looking for volunteers, always looking for donations and always looking for help.

I have always wanted to help out at a shelter, and because of this project I am finally going to go through with that plan. I suggest the rest of you don’t wait.

–Rachel Adam

Get Pumped for PRIDE Week!

Pride Week banner

Next week, Full Spectrum: Winona State University’s Gender & Sexuality Alliance will be hosting its 3rdannual PRIDE Week surrounding the national Day of Silence. Before I jump in to tell you about all the exciting events Full Spectrum has planned from April 13-18, I’m sure you want to know a little more about the Day of Silence, which is the inspiration for PRIDE Week.

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) started the Day of Silence in 1996. This group stated that the “Day of Silence is a national day of action in which students across the country vow to take a form of silence to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools.” Now 19 years later, we here on the WSU campus are an active part of the movement!

Full Spectrum’s PRIDE Week not only brings attention to the silencing effects of anti-LGBTQIA+ bullying, but celebrates being a part of, or being an ally to, the LGBTQIA+ community. In addition to tabling all week in the entrance to Kryszko from 11am-2pm, the week is jam packed with events that are both educational and fun!

Here’s a run-down of the schedule:

  • Monday, April 13– SEX-O
    Come to Kryszko Dining Room C at 4pm to learn about sex in a fun new way and win prizes including prom tickets, raffle tickets and candy.
  • Tuesday, April 14– Safe Space Training
    This is an open question workshop will be held from 3-5pm in Minne 241 where you can learn about the LGBTQIA+ community and about how to become an active ally!
  • Wednesday, April 15 – Avenues Speaker: Rocki Simoes
    At 6pm in the New Center Conference Room, a representative from Avenues will tell us how the organization aids and benefits LGBTQIA+ homeless youth. Additionally, Full Spectrum has decided to donate a portion of their fundraising this semester to Avenues.
  • Thursday, April 16 – Speaker Ray Rhea
    Join Full Spectrum at 7pm in the Harriet Johnson Auditorium to listen to this speaker hosted by the GLBTA Issues Committee.
  • Friday April 17 – National Day of Silence
    From 11am-2pm, Full Spectrum will be in the entrance to Kryszko handing out information about the Day of Silence. They will also be handing out duct tape to those who wish to participate as well as condoms and candy! Stop by and take a “Selfie for Silence” to show your support for the movement and the LGBTQIA+ community!
  • Saturday, April 18 – Night of Noise Masquerade
    Join Full Spectrum at Bub’s Brewing Company downtown from 8pm-12am for a night of masks, music and dancing! Tickets are $10 and the event is sponsored in part by F.O.R.G.E. and MSUSA.

As you can tell, the week is sure to be an exciting and educational one! Please feel free to stop by any or all of the events and enjoy WSU PRIDE Week with Full Spectrum! Also, check out Full Spectrum on Facebook and Twitter (@WSUFullSpectrum) for more information about events.

I am Full Spectrum’s Public Outreach Co-Chair so if you have any further questions, feel free to contact me at or contact Full Spectrum directly at

–Garrett Bowling

Black Trans Lives Matter

Cece McDonald

“Don’t ever feel like what someone else says you are trumps who you are” – Cece McDonald.

On Tuesday, March 17, I had the opportunity to attend Cece McDonald’s presentation “Black Trans Lives Matter” in the Harriet Johnson Auditorium. Cece McDonald is a black trans woman and social activist from Minneapolis, MN. She came into the public eye after an incident in June 2012 where she was a victim of a violent hate crime while walking to the grocery store with some of her friends. She was verbally and physically abused and, while defending herself, ended up killing her attacker.

She accepted a plea bargain of 41 months for second-degree manslaughter. Even though she is a trans woman, she was housed in male prisons against her gender identity. This attracted the attention of many advocate groups and individuals, including actress and activist Laverne Cox who is currently producing a documentary called “Free Cece.” Today, Cece works towards education and equality for all people.

Cece discussed a plethora of information in her presentation, from the very real issue of violence towards women to the issues with the prison industrial complex and the goals of the prison abolition movement. One of the biggest things that stuck out to me from the discussions was the quote that acts as the title to this post. “Don’t ever feel like what someone says you are, trumps who you are.” I think that this is such a powerful message. Absolutely no one can tell you who you are other than yourself. You define your truth and no one has the right to change that. As Cece said, “You’re here. You’re existing. And you can’t let anyone take that away from you [even though] they will try.”

To share everything I learned would result in a blog post that kept scrolling forever, so I will share what I believe to be the main points that really stuck out to me:

  • There is a lack of people actually getting involved. Many people want to say that they are allies to the LGBT– specifically trans– community, but they don’t actually do anything. To be an ally means to be actively fighting for equality. You can’t just throw the “ally” label on yourself to seem progressive.
  • Violence towards women is a serious issue. Physical, verbal and sexual violence all occur in greater numbers against women, and this includes trans* women. This fact is something people often forget when they are fighting against this violence.
  • Racism exists in every community. This includes the LGBTQIA community. Too often people have the idea that because they are a marginalized group that they cannot be oppressive of other marginalized groups, and quite frankly that is an idiotic notion. Failure to recognize this will result in no real change.
  • The community of people of color isn’t just black people. To ignore all the other communities of color creates a divide, which will only make the struggle towards equality harder.
  • GET INVOLVED. In the words of CeCe McDonald: “If you claim to be an ally, be a true ally. If you stand in solidarity, stand with us longer and stronger.” Enough said.
  • We need to take a critical look at the prison industry. The prison ideal was built upon inequality, and it is too corrupt and broken to be fixed. It needs to be abolished and evaluated.
  • You exist as a whole and not as parts of yourself. “People either see me as Black or as Trans, and people never really see me as both…I am a Trans Woman of Color and I can’t separate those things.” – Cece McDonald.

Inequality, racism, transphobia and marginalization: these are all very real realities and it is our job as communities of people to work towards eradicating these ideals. Cece noted, “I’m always seen as the angry black woman and you know what? I have the right to be angry.” We all do. We shouldn’t be bystanders in this struggle. We all need to get angry and use that anger to work towards true equality for everyone in all aspects of who they are. Just because I’m am able-bodied cisgender white man doesn’t mean I can’t fight for the rights of my fellow people who don’t receive the privileges I do from being of that status. We all need to work together to make sure that people can go about their lives being true to themselves and not receive any discrimination for doing so.

–Garrett Bowling

The MBLGTA College Conference and A New Normal

logo for the 2015 Midwest Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Ally College Conference

MLBCTACC is a mouthful of an acronym, but it is also a life changing experience!

I’ve done a lot in my journey toward being the best social justice activist I can be and I strive to make the world a better place for everyone, regardless of their identity. This past weekend, this journey took me once again with Full Spectrum: Winona State University’s Gender & Sexuality Alliance as we ventured to Normal, Illinois for yet another year at The Midwest Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Ally College Conference (MBLGTACC).

This year, the conference was titled “Narrating a New Normal.” Throughout the weekend attendees went to a variety of workshops, keynote speakers and networking events to expand their knowledge, professional circles and viewpoints on many issues surrounding the LGBTQIA community from intersectionalities (referring to social categorizations such as race, class, and gender that overlap for an individual or group and can lead to interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage) to acceptance in the dominant culture. There was also a discussion about how to navigate the workplace as a LGBTQIA person or as someone who stands in solidarity with the LGBTQIA community. If you are interested in learning more about the LGBTQIA community and their issues, It’s Pronounced Metrosexual is an excellent resource that is fun and engaging without being preachy.

The weekend started on Friday evening with a welcome and keynote speaker who was none other than Laverne Cox, a black transgender woman, whom you probably recognize from her role on the Netflix Original series, Orange is the New Black. She spoke about her experiences growing up and how they shaped the women she is today. Being able to see a person who continues to inspire me so much in my work speak was a life-changing experience.

Other speakers I got to see throughout the weekend included the self-identified “deliciously disabled” Andrew Morrison-Gurza, a Disability Awareness Consultant who works to highlight the lived experiences of people with disabilities to show that it is a universal experience that we should all embrace, and J Mase III, a black/trans/queer spoken word poet and educator, as well as many other people who work toward improving the world for all people no matter their differences. Each brought something to the conference and lent their expertise and stories to help those of us in attendance better understand intersectionality and the lives that are different from our own.

Trying to summarize everything I learned this past weekend is near impossible. So I’ve decided to pull together some of the main points:

  • You can’t talk about one marginalized group without talking about the others. Intersectionalities are important to address, because only together do they give you a picture of a person’s identity and therefore a picture of the lived experiences of those individuals.
  • To those who like to refer to themselves as “allies” – know that you can’t just be present at the protest. “Ally” isn’t a label you hang around yourself; it’s a verb, as in “I am being an ally”. Being an ally means actually working towards equality for all people, and it’s is something that you have to constantly be doing as you stand in solidarity with minority groups.
  • Education is the key to change – and we should always be open to that education.
  • It’s okay to make mistakes. As social justice advocates, we aren’t always going to know everything and we are definitely going to make mistakes. The way to deal with those mistakes is to be open to being corrected!

These points merely scratch the surface of what my second MBLGTACC taught me and the experiences and memories it left me with. I can’t even begin to describe how incredible it feels to learn so much and be surrounded by people who genuinely want the world to be a better place. Imagine if everyone took the time to get active and take a stance against structural and social inequalities in our society – the positive impact it would have would be absolutely incredible.

If you would like to hear more about my experiences at MBLGTACC or get involved with Full Spectrum, please contact me! My email is

–Garrett Bowling

Become a PACTivist and Make a Difference

a flyer saying "You can make a difference"

Whether you want to be a PACTivist, a peer advocate or a peer educator, you can make a huge difference in preventing gender-based violence.

Have you ever had a time when you’re really pumped to talk about something, but no one even knows what you’re talking about? For you, it might be your favorite TV show or a good book you’ve just read. For me, my current passion is the RE Initiative. It appears that despite having a successful PSA on WSU’s homepage, as well as a very well thought out and informative blog post on gender-based violence, few students know about the RE Initiative.

At least, this was is the feeling I get because I recently started working for the RE Initiative and every time I told someone about my “totally new and exciting” job, they would simply ask “What is the RE Initiative?” And I guess that is the million dollar question–but I am tired of answering it. So I’m taking the opportunity of exposure that the Internet provides to briefly inform you about what the RE Initiative is, why you should care and how you can get involved.

Overall, the RE Initiative has high hopes of achieving an array of goals by the end of this second semester, but for the sake of time I’ll sum up the organization’s objectives into four major points:

  1. Reduce the amount of gender-based violence and help its victims
  2. Educate the campus on consent and GBV
  3. Create a safe community where people help one another
  4. Certify as many people as possible as active bystanders

No one can argue against protecting people from physical and sexual violence. Helping and respecting others is simply the right thing to do. Not only do you personally benefit from a safer campus environment, but so do all your friends and the people in your classes, and your professors and other WSU staff members.

With such noble and ambitious cause, the RE Initiative needs lots of help to reach out to the entire campus, and this is where you come in. You can make a huge difference in cutting down the number of gender-based violence occurrences on campus for as much or as little commitment as you like. I decided to really devote my time so I am going through training and a semester long course to become a certified peer educator and peer advocate. If you’re really interested in getting involved with GBV prevention, you should apply for a part-time position over at Warrior Jobs.

Even if you don’t have the room in your schedule to be fully trained advocate, or just want something with a little less commitment, you can still help in a really important way. By just attending a two and a half hour training session you can become a certified PACTivist. PACT stands for Prevent, Act, Challenge and Teach, and represents the core steps to ending gender-based violence. The training is fun and engaging, but also intense. The peer educators are incredibly talented. They challenge you to look at a bigger picture and appreciate what it is you have while realizing how big of a difference you can make. This is done through a variety of participation activities. I won’t give too much away, but I will say that these activities are serious and humbling. By the end of the training you’ll not only be glad you attended, but you’ll also want to go out and change the world with your new-found knowledge and insight.

PACTivist training sessions will be held every Tuesday at 6pm throughout February. The exact location is still being determined, and will be announced at a later date. I know that two and a half hours may seem like a lot, especially on a week night, but stopping gender-based violence is crucial and this is how it starts. With one person. Every day women and men of every race, age and sexuality are suffering themselves or from the larger effects of gender-based violence. The harder we work at creating a healthy and safe community, the better chance we have of really helping those in need.

I hope after reading this you consider popping into a PACTivist training session. The world needs more people to step in and help one another, why not be one yourself?

–Hannah Carmack


Ending Gender Based Violence: It's on You, It's on Me, It's on Us

GBV RE Initiative logo

Join the RE Initiative in changing campus culture to end GBV

One in every five women will experience gender-based violence (GBV) while in college. This statistic is seen in every university across the country including Winona State University. But the good news is that instead of sweeping this problem under the rug, we’ve chosen to expose GBV at Winona State. Exposure of GBV is necessary for creating change and transforming our campus culture into one of mutual respect and compassion for people of all genders is something to be proud of.

As compellingly stated in the recent “It’s On Us” campaign, it takes the support of everyone to make a movement sustainable. From our president Dr. Scott Olson all the way down to our incoming undergraduate freshman, we are working towards a cohesive movement of exposing and eliminating GBV at WSU. We’ve also had unwavering support and guidance through a grant provided by the US Department of Justice. This grant has enabled us to not only employ faculty, but also gives students the opportunity to make meaningful changes through student-help positions at the RE Initiative.

Now, you might be asking, “How can I help?” This is a question we love to hear at the RE Initiative. RE stand for recognizing equality since most acts of GBV occur because of the perceived inequalities between genders. The RE Initiative program seeks to spread awareness about GBV to all sorts of audiences on campus as well as training people–mostly students–to become active bystanders both on campus and within the Winona community.

A bystander is an individual who witnesses emergencies, criminal events or situations that could lead to a negative outcome, and by their presence may have the opportunity to provide assistance, do nothing or contribute to the negative behavior. When we use the term active bystander, we are referring to a person who makes a positive contribution to the situation. Active bystanders can help in many ways, from correcting someone who is using offensive language to physically stepping in to protect someone who needs help.

By delivering peer-to-peer PACTivism trainings, we are creating and fostering a new culture here at Winona State University aimed at ending acts of GBV. PACT stands for Prevent, Act, Challenge and Teach, and these trainings focus on teaching people how to become active bystanders in situations that could lead to acts of GBV. There are currently three versions of PACT training:

  • the 50 minute “Don’t Cancel That Class Training”
  • the 2.5 hour training
  • the 5.5 hour training

Currently 11 students are trained to give the PACT trainings, and about 2,000 WSU students have been to a PACT training, including people in athletics, the TKE and Sigma Tau Gamma fraternities, Tri Sigma Sorority, WSU Security, Residence Life, and numerous other groups. Of these students, around 280 became certified PACTivists. Bystander intervention is key to our peer education efforts because it works. By taking a wider community approach rather than targeting individuals as potential victims or perpetrators, the RE Initiative is creating a more effective and cohesive stance against GBV.

In addition to wanting to protect students, WSU needs the RE Initiative to comply with Title IX and The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (SaVE). Title IX was passed in 1972 and was originally formed to prohibit sex discrimination on college campuses. It was the campus SaVE Act, signed by President Obama in March of 2013, which brought about the mandated reporting of GBV by college campuses. The campus SaVE Act requires that any incident of GBV be disclosed in an annual campus crime report. One way the Re Initiative here at Winona State University complies with the Campus SaVE act is by providing information on our schools reporting system & disciplinary proceedings. This information can be attained by contacting the RE Initiative through the confidential helpline 507.457.5610.

Through the implementation of the RE Initiative, WSU has taken many steps toward making our campus a safer place for everyone while also addressing and complying with federal mandates of addressing GBV. We hope to eliminate the disturbing statistic of 1 in 5 women experiencing GBV in their young adult lives. Combating GBV is not an issue to be tackled by a small group of individuals. it takes us as an entire community to make the positive change we need.

Are YOU ready to take on that responsibility to end GBV?

–MaryAnn Brannerman-Thompson, Michael Krug and Andrea White