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When Working in College, Balance is Key

a college student balances on a slack line

This isn’t exactly the type of balance I had in mind…

Most college students go to school full time–meaning they take at least 12 credits each semester–and fill their time with homework, projects and classes. Others, however, decide to get a job or more than one job. The reasons people get jobs vary: needing to pay for college, wanting personal spending money, getting job experience or for some other reason. Now, balancing college and a job can quite challenging and takes some planning. But I’m here to tell you that it can be done.

If you are considering get a job while taking a full course load of classes, the first thing you need to understand is that school should always come before work. And then you need to make sure that your employer understands that and that they respect that. On-campus jobs will accommodate your class schedule but off-campus jobs can be a bit trickier. However, most businesses in college towns are pretty flexible with the college students who for them.

Another thing you need to think about is your time management. You should not let your grades slip because you are working too many hours. What’s the point in making a lot of money while in college, failing your classes and not getting a degree? Try to limit yourself to working 10-15 hours per weeks to give yourself time to go to class and do your homework. When you get up to 25 hours per week or more, you’ll have to really push yourself to get your school work done.

I personally work two jobs, as a receptionist at the WSU Admissions Office and as a CNA at Lake Winona Manor with Winona Health. They are both flexible with my classes, allowing me to create my own work schedule rather getting assigned certain shifts, which is a pretty sweet deal. Both of my employers understand that my school work comes before my work for them. School is more important, but I’ll readily admit that it is nice to work to get some spending cash. Everyone deserves to splurge every once in a while.

Working during college is not for everyone, but it is a good way to get some extra money. You can always get a job with only a couple of hours a week to start with and then increase your hours from there if you find you have extra time in your week.  But if you discover working in college isn’t for you, then you just explain that to your boss. It is hard work balancing school and a part-time job, but worth it in the end.

–Liz Peterson

The Fresh-ness Fades

College students pose together in their res hall

Here are a few of my current residents–my how they all grown over these last few months!

The college freshmen in Sheehan Hall are no longer so fresh. Let me explain that statement–I mean, their first semester is coming to an end and it has gone by way too fast. As a first year RA, it feels like just yesterday I was prepping my floor for my incoming residents. I was so nervous, but also excited to meet my residents. I just wanted to see what this year had in store. And now that the semester is almost over, I can look fondly back on the experiences my residents have had.

Being a freshmen RA this semester has reminded me so much of my own freshman year. In fact, it’s as if I just arrived. I will never forget my first time living with a roommate, my first community bathroom experience and my first college class. These moments flashed before me so quickly and it is so hard to believe it is already my third year here.

Those first few weeks are always a bit awkward and scary for incoming freshmen. Most of my girls were experiencing those same feelings of fear and anxiety that I and all other freshman in history struggled with too. After those feelings wore off a little, they begin going anywhere and everywhere with their roommates to start their friendship, learning about each other and learning about their interests through classes, clubs and events.

But now, here we are almost at the end of their first semester and I cannot believe how much they’ve grown. The once shy, lost, and scared girls are now much more confident in their surroundings.  They have established their friends, study habits and extra curricular activities. They have made WSU their home.

With the semester ending, my girls have grown into the women that I knew–even back in the first weeks of classes– that they could be. And that is all that this RA can ask for.​

–Emily McCaleb

How I Chose (and Changed) My Major

two college students make heart shapes with their hands

My Spanish major and Global Studies minor let me study abroad in Spain and follow my passion for travel.

A marine biologist. That’s all my fifth grade self wanted to be. I loved dolphins and killer whales and just knew I was born to be a marine biologist. But then I took my first “real” science class in tenth grade. To say I struggled would be a vast understatement. As hard as I tried, I didn’t understand the anatomy of an atom let alone the entire periodic table. Science just wasn’t (and still isn’t) for me.

So, my dream of becoming a marine biologist was crushed. What was I going to do now? I didn’t feel anything else pull me in particular, and while everyone was choosing what college they were going to, I was still stumped as to what I would study when I actually did choose a school.

As an incoming freshman, I was the dreaded “UNDECIDED” major. I signed up for some general classes…I think one of them had to do with the extinction of dinosaurs. As the end of the semester neared, I knew I had to make a decision sooner or later. So I decided. Mass Communications. Seemed like an all right major at the time and I was in a panic about my future. I felt good. But then a nagging feeling came. Mass communications wasn’t exactly what I was passionate about. I knew I had to figure out what was really right for me. So here’s what I did.

I thought about what I liked. It sounds so simple, I know, but sometimes it’s just that–simple. I think our passions are so inherent in us that sometimes we can’t even put our fingers on what they really are. I thought to myself, “What are you passionate about?” and let me tell you, it wasn’t an easy process to find out. I wrote down a list. Culture, traveling, grammar, writing papers, dancing….these were a few things on my list. I remember looking up and down the piece of paper and thinking, “Great. Let me just major in grammar and traveling. I can be one of the traveling, dancing grammar police.” That sounds ridiculous, but when you pick apart your interests, you really find areas of study. I like traveling and culture, so I decided on Global Studies and Spanish. I like writing and grammar, so I added an English Writing major.

Here is my advice to those people who still have the “UNDECIDED” cloud hanging above their heads: think about what excites you, what intrigues you, what you see yourself doing twenty years down the road when you close your eyes. What parts of classes have inspired you? And when you start to choose what major is for you, don’t listen much to the people who say, “Oh, you’re not going to get a job in that field” or “Well, you’re not going to make enough money doing that.” Pick a major that you’re going to enjoy for the next few years, and make sure that the major you choose gives you the opportunity for a career you’ll continue to be passionate about.

I’ve learned a lot from changing, switching, upgrading, downgrading, dropping and adding majors. I’ve learned not to let others judge your passions and interests. I’ve learned that the best part of a college education is that you have the power to decide what you learn. And I’ve learned that truly enjoying your education is important. And the biggest lesson of all has been to…(prepare yourself)…follow your heart.

–Leah Dobihal

Coding– What is it Good For?

a corgi wearing glasses sitting at a computer

This corgi knows what’s up with coding! Photo Credit

You don’t see it, but this blog is built with computer code. So is Facebook and Hulu and D2L. Every day you are using hypertext markup language (HTML) and cascading style sheets (CSS) but do you have any idea how they work?

Steve Jobs once said that “I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.” I, for one, never thought that I would find myself in a coding class yet here I am in Computer Science 116: Intro to Web Technology. And I have to say, it’s been such an eye-opening experience that I’m with Steve Jobs: learning to code will benefit you even if you are not a planning a career in computer science.

Coding Builds Your Digital Literacy

Digital literacy is generally defined as the having ability to use a range of digital technologies “to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information” as well as participating in online communities and understanding the social issues that digital technologies cause. In our tech-dependent world, digital literacy is an essential skill to have simply so you can be a competent digital consumer and creator. That’s where know how to code comes in good skill to have in a tech-heavy world—part of digital literacy is knowing how to make sense of cyberspace and use it effectively for your purposes. “If you don’t know the basics of computer technology, you are at the mercy of those who do,” says WSU computer science professor Dr. Joan Francioni, “and not everyone is working in your best interests.”

Coding Gives You Creative Independence

Say you wanted to make a website or a build your own blog—where would you start? Sure, WordPress, Weebly and Wix are excellent web-authoring services that provide you with the basic tools and hundreds of templates to get started, but what if you wanted your site to look truly unique? Learning HTML and CSS gives you full creative control over your web project. You want a three column layout that floats over a background image? You can do that! It’s amazing to see the code you write appear in a browser window.

Take the resume page I just built in CS 116 for example. I started with a blank page in my Notepad++ program and then went to this:

html code

The pure code looks quite intimidating, but when viewed in a browser it turns into this:

an online resume coded by hand

Pretty cool, huh? Now just imagine what you could do!

Coding Helps You Find a Job

Obviously, you need to know how to code if you want to be a programmer, but you may find knowing how to code useful in other professions as well. If you are going into a communications field, you might find yourself in charge of your employer’s website. Or if you want to run your own business someday, you are going to need a website to market your products or services.

Even if you don’t end up using actual HTML/CSS in your career, learning to code teaches you other valuable skills  such as understanding big data and managing databases. It can also teach you problem solving skills and logical methods of testing out ideas.

If you are interested in learning the basics of HTML and CSS, definitely register for CS 116 next semester. Or, you can teach yourself to code through free, online resources such as Code Academy and or inexpensive apps.

And if you still don’t believe me that coding is a useful skill to have in the 21st century, maybe these famous and successful people will change your mind.

–Elizabeth Meinders

The City of Winona: It’s Not All About WSU

an aerial view of WSU and Winona

While WSU students are a big part of Winona, we’re not the only ones who live in this town.

Sometimes it seems like Winona State is its own mini-city. We’re all part of WSU in some way, whether we just go to class, visit the gym regularly or are super involved in campus organizations. It’s quite the little community we’ve got growing between Mark and Wabasha streets. But as busy students, we often forget that we’re also part of a larger community—the Winona community. And guess what? That community is pretty frickin’ cool.

Even though most of us are here for a few years at most while we finish our degrees, I think it’s important to make Winona your home away from home. Here are few ways you can start getting more involved in the Winona community outside of WSU.

When you need to study, give your boyfriend (a.k.a. the Darrell Krueger Library) a little space for a bit. Don’t worry, he’ll understand. Hey, maybe the space will even strengthen your relationship.

There are plenty of other places to study that are both college-student friendly and involve members of the community outside of Winona State. The Acoustic Café, the Blue Heron and Blooming Grounds are all great places to study. If you’re the type that needs somewhere really quiet to study, you can always use the Winona Public Library. Plus the public library is actually a beautiful, historic building, so if you haven’t been there I recommend you check it out.

Another way to be more involved in the Winona community is to volunteer. I volunteer at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum once a month and the last time I was there, one of the docents (that is, people who give tours of the art) remarked to me that it was so nice to see a younger face volunteering at the museum. To me, this says that Winona residents are excited about students from WSU being more involved in the community. Especially since campus is smack dab in the middle of town, I think we should really work to foster a stronger relationship between the students and the Winona community.

You could also search for jobs outside of campus. I have two jobs, one on-campus and one off-campus. I am the editor of the Wellzine with a shared office in the IWC, and I also write for the Winona Post. While jobs on campus are really convenient and flexible, I’ve met a lot of cool people of the Winona community through my job with the Winona Post. For instance, I was at the last Live at the Levee music night and saw one of the artists I’d interviewed this summer. He remembered me and we ended up having a nice conversation about his art.

Just because most of us are in Winona temporarily for school doesn’t mean that we can’t make it as much of a home as the towns we grew up in. By getting outside of our little campus community, we have greater opportunities to meet new people and make connections. Even if it’s just someone you share a passing wave with, becoming more connected in this beautiful community we live in is really fulfilling.

–Kim Schneider

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore: My Weekend at MACURH

I first learned about the Midwestern Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls conference at the Residence Housing Association training session this fall. It is an affiliate of NACURH, which is the largest run student corporation. This year, the MACURH conference was held at Kansas State University in Lawrence, Kansas, and because this was my first conference I didn’t know really what to expect. I applied to attend because it sounded like an amazing opportunity and I was really enjoying being on Hall Council (you need to be involved in residence housing to attend any of these conferences). Though I was accepted as an alternate delegate, meaning that I would be allowed to go only if another university didn’t fill all their spots, I made to Kansas anyway!

When the day of the conference came along on Oct. 31,  we all woke up at 6:30am to pile into a van for the 9 hour ride down to Kansas. I was initially dreading this because it was such a long drive, but it ended up being one of the best parts of the trip! We passed the time by chatting, playing games and just having a really enjoyable time.

WSU students posing in front of the Kansas University mascot, the jayhawk.

The WSU delegation paused for a photo with the Kansas University mascot, the Jayhawk.

Once we arrived at Kansas University, I surprised at how beautiful the campus was. We took lots of pictures by the Jayhawk statue outside and then went inside to the Opening Ceremonies. Each university had decorated these really beautiful clothespins that fit in with the theme of “Piecing Together the Bigger Picture” and traded them with other schools as a way to connect with other students and see what other universities from the Midwest were attending. We then watched each university’s Roll Call video –our video is now on YouTube–which was hilarious because everyone was so creative and funny.

All of the MACURH advisors spoke and presented, and the room had such a positive and excited vibe. After the opening ceremonies were over, there were a variety of socials that night including a professional drag show sponsored by the LGBTQ community at KU. We all decided to go to the drag show which was so much fun and everybody raved about it throughout the rest of the trip.

WSU students talk to a drag queen

Roxie French, one of the drag queens that performed at the drag show.

The next day we woke up early and headed back to KU to attend program sessions about res hall events that other students put on at their campuses. I attended some really interesting ones on Spring Break safety, how to plan events using Pinterest, how to de-stress your life and, my absolute favorite, a Harry Potter event. I presented with two other WSU students about a diversity event called Cookie Mixer where people would decorate cookies with various frosting and toppings each representing something different about themselves. For example, blue sprinkles means an only child while M&Ms mean they’ve traveled to Europe. I was really nervous to help present, but we were picked as a Top 10 program. Because we made the Top 10, we presented again, and actually won an award at the banquet later that night. It was an amazing experience! Our other delegate who presented also got a Top 10 award.

award for their diversity Cookie Mixer program.

We won a Top 10 Programs Award!

At the awards ceremony and banquet, we all got dressed in our formal attire, and got ready for a fun night and a delicious dinner. As we ate, speakers talked and one of the most interesting speeches was from a KU alumna who had won Survivor: Guatemala. We sat through all of the awards and Of The Month (OTM) winners and went up to receive the awards that we had been given.

WSU actually took home 9 OTMs, which are short, informal recognitions written by and for any individual, group or organization that is part of the WSU community. There are over 400 universities who submit OTMs across the globe, and our Winona State University is currently ranked #7 as far as OTM submissions and winners. It was incredible, and you could tell that everyone was so proud of them and the work that everybody was doing for university residence housing.

The night ended with Swap Shop, where universities brought t-shirts, bags, Frisbees and water bottles and everyone swapped with their gear and took home something from another school. Since it was Halloween weekend, there was also a dance and a costume contest, but after the long day of presentations and ceremonies I was far too tired to go.

All in all, I’m so incredibly proud to say that I represented Winona State at MACURH and that I got to have such an amazing experience. I learned so much about how to be a leader and how to work with other people to create something truly great. It was such a short weekend, but so eventful and beneficial. I feel like I came back closer to so many new people, and also filled with so much knowledge about residence housing. It was a fantastic weekend– definitely my favorite experience of college so far– and I hope to go again in the future.

–Liz Doyle

Improving the World One Stitch at a Time

yarn and knitting needles


The practice of knitting has been around for thousands of years and knitting used to be a skill handed down from mothers to daughters. Then in the 80s and 90s, people started pulling away from knitting as a symbol of old-fashioned domesticity. Now in the 21st century, more and more people are picking knitting up as a hobby. I myself knit and so do many of my friends. In fact, there are enough knitters on campus that we’ve formed our own club, is also a Knitting Club on campus now.

The cool thing about the Knitting Club is that the members don’t just knit for themselves, they knit for others. Knitting needles and yarn are provided by the group and whatever they make–often hats, scarves and gloves–they donate to children or people in need. To them, knitting is fun so why not do something you really enjoy and then donate it to someone else.

The Knitting Club meets up with another local club called Knitting for Others at Yarnology on the first Saturday of the month. For several hours, they happily knit away and at the end they donate all of the completed items to Kids First, area hospitals, nursing homes, homeless shelters and sometimes to other countries such as  Tanzania and Morocco. Unfortunately, I usually have to work on Saturdays, but one of these months I would love to be able to go with them just to watch how it all happens to see what everyone else has made.

It really is an amazing thing to do.  These people in these clubs are going above and beyond what is expected of them.  The items that they make can help so many people and provide warmth for those who do not have it.  You can get involved with this effort as well, by joining the Knitting Club Facebook page. Here, they post when the meetings are going to take place and you can also message anyone on that page to ask for details!

–Liz Peterson

The Pros & Cons of Online Classes

a college student in pajamas using a laptop

This is probably what you imagine when you think of online classes.

When I registered for classes back in June, I was pretty pleased with my schedule for my first semester. After Orientation Week, however,  I realized that I wasn’t ready for my Intro to Public Speaking class. Even though it interested me (and is required), I have a pretty big fear of giving speeches. So, instead of adding more anxiety on top of the inevitable stress of transitioning to college life,  I dropped that class in order to have a more manageable start to my year. But that meant I needed to find a replacement course, and as I scrolled the course options I found an English 111 course taught online. I was so happy because this seemed to fit my needs and my schedule so much better.

As soon as I was enrolled, I bought my books and was excited at the thought of doing my classwork at home in my pajamas. The class started with a video introduction. Everything seemed good. The next step was to begin an online forum, which I found very confusing. And this is where my string of problems began.

The instructions provided on how to set up this forum were not clear at all. In an online class, it is up to you to figure out all the material on your own so you really need to be self-sufficient. But this is hard when it doesn’t make any sense. As a freshman in my first semester, I found this aspect of my online class extremely overwhelming.

I seemed to be having a lot of technical issues as well. I emailed my professor about my issues and questions, but the issues were never really resolved or I would never get an email response back. To be fair, this turned out to be problems with my email and, in fact, some of my professor’s emails were actually hiding in my inbox. There was also an instance where the professor marked me down for the wrong assignment. This just made things a lot more confusing and reiterated the fact that technological issues play a large part into online classes. Overall, instructions and assignments were just not made clear to me and I couldn’t communicate well with my professor.

Technical issues, aside, having a professor online felt like having a mysterious and unreachable resource for guidance. I didn’t seem to be really learning anything, except the fact that I wasn’t doing well in an online class. I came to the conclusion pretty quickly that I prefer that face-to-face interaction with my professor and also my classmates. Many courses include group projects and that is really tricky in an online class. For instance, there was a debate assignment that involved forming team and when I tried to find partners through emailing, I never got responses from any other people in the class. This is when I just decided to withdraw from the class to save my GPA and my sanity.

My experience with taking online class was not a very good one, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be successful in one. If you enjoy learning at a fast pace and are able to work through any technical difficulties that may arise, an online class may be perfect for you. There are some definite pros to online classes, including:

  • Comfort
    You get to take the class in the comfort of your own home or a coffee shop or wherever you can get an internet connection.
  • Flexibility
    While there are due dates in an online class, you get to decide when you complete your coursework depending on the free time you have.

I’m glad I went through the experience because now I know to not take an online class when I register for next semester. Overall, I think online classes have great potential but I caution you to be aware of the downfalls of online education. If you think you can stay on top your homework, figure out assignment instructions and be persistent in communicating with professors and classmates, then an online class might be worth it for you.

–Liz Doyle

Major Reasons to Join a Club for Your Major

As students, we are pushed to join clubs and, let’s be honest, we’re all probably sick of hearing about them. But I’m begging you—just listen up for a second. This is valuable information! Most majors and minors on campus have a club specifically for that major and if you’re not all ready a part of that club, make a point to attend a meeting this semester. In addition to resume building, you’ll find many valuable experiences buried like little hidden treasures when you are involved with your major’s club.

As a Journalism major, I joined the Society for Collegiate Journalists (SCJ) almost two years ago when it was just getting started on campus. Now I am both a regular member and the Projects chair, which makes me sound like a glorified crafts-maker, but actually entails quite a bit of work. I’m also an administrator of our Facebook page.

For me, the most rewarding part about my journalism club is how well I’ve come to know some of my classmates. Many of the other people in my club are also in my classes or have taken the classes I’m taking so if I ever need help on an assignment, I can lean on them. It’s also great to spend time with people who share my passion for journalism even though we only meet for an hour once a week.

Through SCJ I’ve met two people who’ve become my best friends, Kayle and Kayla. Since the three of us have been so involved in organizing club activities, it was almost impossible for us not to become friends. Not only are they helpful when I have questions about class, but we also have so much fun together. If we hadn’t been in SCJ, I don’t know if the three of us would be as close as we are.

three women pose together

Kayla, Kayle and I attended the SCJ Spring Initiation in the Winona Daily Newsroom last year.

It sounds cliché, but as a student, you should be involved in as many campus activities as you can. Besides the fact that most campus events are either a great opportunity to expand your knowledge or are just plain fun, campus club activities are also a good opportunity to hang out with your fellow club members outside of a meeting or classroom setting. SCJ did a Walking Waffle fundraiser earlier this semester so I got to hang out with the club and make waffles for people. When your majors club does an event, it’s a fun opportunity to tell other people about your major and share your passions with others.

two college girls make waffles

Kayla and I getting all domestic making waffles for our fundraiser this fall.

Being in your major club comes with benefits outside of campus too. Many times, clubs have opportunities for members to create personal ties with other professionals in the business. For example, last year SCJ went to the Minnesota Newspaper Convention. We sat in on panel talks, one of which included the editor of the Winona Post. I went up to her afterward, introduced myself and she gave me her card. At the end of last semester, I contacted her and have been writing for them ever since. This is an opportunity I probably wouldn’t have gotten if I hadn’t gone to this convention with my club.

Aside from all the benefits of simply being in your major’s club, it is also a prime opportunity to have a leadership role. I am the Projects Chair for SCJ, which sounds like some sort of obscure title for someone who does a lot of crafts, but it is so much more than making posters for events. With the election this November, I decided I wanted to do something to educate voters. Through discussions with our club advisor, Professor John Vivian, I decided to host a Sheriff’s Forum in which I would invite both Sheriff candidates in and grill them on how they plan to cooperate with the press if they are elected sheriff. I contacted the candidates, came up with questions, reserved a space, did the PR and moderated the event. Although doing all of that on my own was kind of stressful, the end result was really rewarding.

As you can see, there are so many benefits–both socially and professionally–to being involved in your major’s club, so stop making excuses for not joining!

–Kim Schneider

Halloween in Sheehan Hall

If you had walked through campus from 6-8pm last week Friday, you would have seen a myriad of children in costumes. There were little girls dressed as Anna and Elsa and little boys dressed as ninja turtles or superheroes–but they were all on their way to the residence halls to go trick-or-treating.  To make the event even more special, residents from all 13 floors of Sheehan hall decided to decorate for Halloween with everything from light covers to spiders on the wall to fake blood. The kids were definitely in for a treat!

Once the doors opened the kids flooded in greeted by goody bags and a map to find their way to the treats scattered throughout the building. The night was very successful, all the rooms were completely out of candy by the end of the night!

Halloween in the residence halls is a great way to relive childhood memories and help create new ones for the Winona community. If you plan on living in a res hall next year, I definitely suggest getting involved in it!​

–Emily McCaleb