Winona State University recently announced plans to hold a majority of classes in person for the fall 2021 semester.
Dean of Students, Karen Johnson, explained the decision.
“We are hoping for 70 percent in-person classes. Which to me that just seems like a really nice mix because some students truly do like the online classes,” Johnson said.
Professor Andrea Gierok, instructor in the public health program, gave her thoughts.
Ken Janz, Winona State’s chief information officer, dean of the library and associate vice president for academic affairs said Winona State consults many sources for guidance on COVID-19 policy.
“One of our biggest guides is from both MDH [Minnesota Department of Health], and the system office on where they feel we should be,” Janz said. “And we just try and make the best plan to create the balance, to create a safe environment, but a great learning environment. And those aren’t always compatible, but we try to make them as much as possible.”
Janz, along with a group of faculty and administration lead a committee named the COVID Classroom Instruction Action Option Group, responsible for making decisions that affected the future semester, including course offerings.
Janz cited a variety of factors, including future social distancing guidelines being lowered to three feet and vaccine distribution as important to allow for fall classes in-person.
“In the latest MDH guidance fall planning, you can do three-feet social distancing.” Janz said. “So, you know what three-feet social distancing is? That’s almost a small classroom. It really is. Depending on the level of circulating virus, universal masking may still be required and depending on level and circulation of virus, assigned seating may be required.”
Gierok said the current regulations have allowed for certain spring classes to be conducted in person safely.
“I think they’re doing it now safely in some classes. I think as long as we’re vigilant about lessening the risk,” Gierok said. “So, you know, like I said, the distance, the masks, the cleaning of classrooms after students leave, all of the things they’re doing now, I think if they continue to do those things in the fall, I think the risk is pretty minimal.”
Gierok spoke highly of Winona State’s compliance and attentiveness to guidelines but noted that risk still exists in returning to in-person.
“I think Winona State has done everything they needed to get us safely back in the classrooms or as much as they can possibly do. They’re following CDC guidelines and they’re following recommendations from the Department of Health and working with Winona county emergency management,” Gierok said. “So, I feel safe going back into the classroom. But I don’t have any real health issues or pre-existing conditions.
Mackenzie Moroney, a graduate in nursing this fall semester, shared her opinion on the decision.
“I think that’s really exciting because I had like my first couple years in person and then last year was online, and I just loved the in-person,” Moroney said. “I felt like I was able to actually concentrate a little bit more and be able to really like retain the knowledge, especially being in nursing because in nursing it’s so hands-on.”
Johnson shared a similar excitement.
Ava Beal is a fourth-year student at Farmington High School attending Winona State in the fall.
Beal said all of her classes for her upcoming first year will be in person, noting her distaste of virtual classes.
“I’m not crazy about online classes,” Beal said.
Beal noted her excitement about having more freedom and concerns about staying motivated and accountable in the upcoming semester.
Article written by Christina Ojo. Poster created by Ernesto Montejano.
The air was tense and within her buzzed a sense of determination.
As she marched through the streets alongside the sea of protesters, she caught the eye of a photographer. At that moment, the photographer sensed from her a power that came from her beauty and grace. That strength would soon be seen by the rest of the world.
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, thousands of protesters–Black men, women, children, and allies alike – flooded the streets of Minneapolis. Among them was a young Nigerian woman, Akpos Eyafe, attending her first protest.
As she walked, her eyes taking in everything she was experiencing, a photographer approached her to compliment her hair, then asked if they could take a picture.
“I had just done my hair the day before. I did box braids on myself, so I was really happy that someone had noticed. I didn’t think anything was going to come from it.”
By the next day, the photographer had uploaded the picture to Instagram. It didn’t take long for the photo to make its way to an artist, Ernesto Yerena Montejano, in Los Angeles.
Moved by the force behind her eyes, her hidden smile, and beautiful box braids, Ernesto saw an opportunity to create art using Akpos’ photo. Upon seeing the final art form, she was blown away. “I had never seen myself in that light before.”
However, in that same moment, the importance of the poster had not fully hit Akpos.
At least, not until it was seen projected on the Oakland City Police Department building during another protest.
The impact the poster had made finally dawned upon Akpos, and she was truly amazed by her own power.
As the poster became a well-known image within the Black Lives Matter movement, Akpos had found herself becoming even more aware of the world around her.
It can be easy to forget those who may not look exactly like you.
Knowing that the poster would be viewed by everybody, Akpos came to understand that the art would represent all identities that fell under the Black Lives Matter statement. And the hands that were accompanied in displaying the power in her heart, had helped Akpos see the allies by her side.
Yet still, there is a long way to go on the road ahead.
After the impact that was felt by the poster, Akpos realized that all must play their role.
“Now is now. Are you going to be here for it?”
Urging us to take action, Akpos reminds us that all must be present in the moment.
“Do your part in making history, just do your part no matter what it may be.”
Education is fundamental to the of development one’s life. Kay Hannahan knows this well.
Hannahan is a first-year professor in the Mass Communication department at Winona State University.
She got into teaching after graduating college at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
After graduating, she returned home to Minnesota where she later joined AmeriCorps in their welfare to work program. In this program she taught immigrants “how to write a resume and how to interview.”
She enjoyed volunteering and said made connections and taught people valuable life skills.
Hannahan then joined the Peace Corps where Hannahan “taught English in a really small village school.”
One of her memorable moments while in Peace Corps in Bulgaria, was when she was walking down the street with fellow Peace Corp members when some of her students stopped to say hello to them in English in what sounded like a Minnesota accent.
From there, Hannahan went to graduate school at Temple University in Philadelphia where she taught as an assistant in the film program.
After spending time on the east coast and outside the United States, she returned to Minnesota in 2019 to look for teaching jobs.
Then in March of 2020 a day before the declaration of the pandemic she gave birth to her son Duke.
Not only was Hannahan juggling finding a job she said, “I always joke that there’s no postpartum book that tells you how to be a mother during a pandemic.”
Shortly after her baby was born, she was officially hired on to be a part of WSU’s Mass Communication department in June 2020.
She had to deal with the pandemic and being a new mother, Hannahan choose to have an online delivery mode for her WSU classes this year.
At first, she felt online teaching was going to be inferior to teaching in person.
She said she found it could be helpful in some ways.
Natalie Tyler, a fourth-year student at WSU and current student of Hannahan.
Said her experience in Hannahan’s online course was positive, “I love that she actually goes through all of the assignments more in detail and she shows you know what students are supposed to do and how to actually edit each project,” Tyler said.
Hannahan said she liked Zoom’s capabilities because “when you’re teaching editing software, you have the ability to record to lecture.”
Alek LaShomb, a fourth-year student at WSU has had two classes with Hannahan said that the recorded lectures were helpful because he ran into an issue with Adobe Premier Software and the recorded lecture helped him figure it out.
LaShomb said, “If we’re in person, that’s something I’d have to wait until the next class session, or I’d have to email her about”
Hannahan said camera equipment tutorials would work better in person than Zoom.
So in the future she intends to have them in-person.
Next year, she looks forward to the introduction of her new course the Living History Project which will be a collaboration with WSU’s Retiree Center.
Hannahan said, “I’m excited to explore more of Winona and to see my students more often face-to-face.”
LaShomb spoke on what Hannahan adds to the Mass Communications faculty. “I think she’ll be a good face for that new guard that’s gonna be coming through the Mass Comm department” LaShomb said.
Throughout human history, mythology has tried to make sense of the world we inhabit. From Norse, Greek, Egyptian and even the modern-day comic book, mythology has sought to tell stories that revolve around the human experience. Those who have been tasked with distributing such marvelous tales understand the importance, especially when times are dire.
COVID-19 has put the planet on high alert, threatening the way of life in almost every country.
In the United States, the deadly infectious villain has forced Americans indoors, sheltering away from the chaos outside. The last bastion of civilization exists somewhere no one had anticipated: the local comic shop.
Driving through downtown Winona, one may focus their gaze upon the 19th century western-style buildings. Sandwiched between these outlaw-era structures resides Jimmy Jams, the local superhero headquarters.
Jim McCauley is the owner and gatekeeper of the Jimmy Jams sanctum.
In the early 1990’s, McCauley had graduated from college with a major in psychology and was hoping to obtain his master’s degree in businesses administration. Life, however, had different plans for this protagonist.
McCauley was introduced to comics at a young age. His mother used to bring him to bookstores that had boxes full of back issue comics. McCauley remembers his mom saying, “find 50 you want to keep, and I’ll buy them.” McCauley then discovered his love for reading books and comics.
However, McCauley explained his love for comics wavered throughout the years until he stumbled upon a DC-hero named the Sandman. DC, a major comic book publisher, includes the likes of Batman and Superman, but McCauley was enthralled with Sandman. The Sandman was a character from the 1940’s that was revived during the later half of the 20th century under DC’s more graphic brand, Vertigo. McCauley purchased volume 2 of The Sandman, which reignited his love for comics.
The Sandman was the catalyst that spurred Jimmy Jams, McCauley explained.
On November 4, 1994, McCauley opened Jimmy Jams, sacrificing his education to pursue his passion.
Inside Jimmy Jams is a plethora of pop culture. Upon entry of the store, one will notice a row of comics and graphic novels on the right wall. Starting from the far-left side, new editions are stacked on top of each other, with every issue competing to get a customer’s attention with its title hanging overhead. Towards the end of the wall by a door resides “must read” graphic novels, sourced from some of the greatest works ever written, such as X-Men: Days of Future Past.
A walk through the rest of the store reveals a back catalog of graphic novels, DVD’s, videos, board games and card games. The atmosphere of the store is that of a well-knit neighborhood, where interactions are wholesome and warm.
A woman stands alert behind the counter. Her excitement is expressed through a cheerful tone that transcends the face mask she’s wearing as she greets guests. Heather Betthauser has been the manager of Jimmy Jams for five years. Betthauser has been a comic buff her whole life, recalling early childhood memories when her dad used to bring home Batman comics.
During the pandemic, Betthauser has been on the frontlines, trying to provide a sense of normalcy for her customers during volatile times. To Betthauser, the comic shop embodies more than just another business – it’s a pillar of the community.
Jimmy Jams functions as a recreational outlet for Winona’s community, Betthauser said.
Tables situated in the back of Jimmy Jams normally welcome Magic players, a popular card game in the community. For these players, Jimmy Jams is a safe haven that allows them to commune.
COVID, however, has limited the ability for the Magic community to gather, with Jimmy Jams imposing guidelines that restrict the number of games and players in order to better protect against the unseen enemy. Betthauser says Magic players have adapted to the conditions, gathering safely for the love of the game.
While club interactions are a staple of the store, Jimmy Jams also operates as an educational component for kids learning how to read, Betthauser said.
Some kids have gravitated towards the mythical fortress to read comic books. Betthauser explained that comic books, and trading cards, trick kids into learning. Some parents have told Betthauser that their kids are unwilling to read unless it’s the newest issue of their favorite superhero.
The biggest part of the comic experience is the physical aspect. It begins with simple browsing, a process that takes some almost an hour. Then, once interest is piqued with a certain title, the reader scurries away to a corner, or sometimes the floor, to indulge in the most recent adventure. Readers carefully skim through the issue, trying to track down the epic climax to the story’s arc. The comic feels like a fresh Time magazine, with every page and seam crisp enough to easily cause a papercut. A mixture of fresh ink and paper collide to give the issue a distinct smell. Visually, the art jumps out, pulling the reader into the phantasmal story line. Text bubbles scream between your ears as you can hear every exclamation and punch.
Now, COVID has threatened this fantasy laden community. During the onset of the pandemic in the United States, Jimmy Jams was forced to close for the month of April, Betthauser said.
During the closure, comic publications were also halted, causing concern for readers worldwide. The comic industry, like Jimmy Jams, resisted the advances of the villainous virus, resuming print shortly after April. While supply is more limited than usual, Betthauser says that comics and board games have been the hot buy since their reopening.
What was feared as a death nail to the comic book industry has become a resurgence for the world’s strongest heroes.
“Anything that could be considered “collectable” has prices driven through the roof,” Betthauser said. “My guess is that people are trying to collect a piece from their childhood, which is driving people back to print comics. Having a physical copy of a comic or game brings back that nostalgia.”
Betthauser admitted that the pandemic has changed the shop’s experience. In the beginning, Betthauser said wearing masks was a change which led to an adjustment period as Winona adopted social distancing measures. Betthauser said they ask that people not touch everything, but that “if you’re interested in it, you have to see it.”
In the back of the store, Henry Leckenby is sorting through Magic trading cards.
Leckenby is a part time employee at Jimmy Jams and is also an elementary educator in Winona, Minnesota, and Lacrosse, Wisconsin. Leckenby has been visiting the store for 15 years, calling it one of his favorite places.
Leckenby was first drawn to comics when he was seven years old. His first comic experience was with Avengers issue 157, which was published on March 1, 1977 and featured a showdown between the Black Knight and the Avengers.
Leckenby, like Betthauser, believes in the community spirit that surrounds Jimmy Jams.
“It’s nice to be in an environment where the good guys can win,” Leckenby said.
From the street, Jimmy Jams may appear to be another store in a sea of small business eye candy. A closer look, however, reveals more than what meets the eye, a statement Optimus Prime would agree with.
Inside resides some of humanities highest ideals, packed into a 20-something page rollercoaster. Jimmy Jams is a store that cultivates learning, hoping to inspire the next curious customer to follow their passion despite the odds, like McCauley did in 1994.
The Winona State University women’s basketball team finished their 2020-21 campaign this weekend after a sweep of the Upper Iowa University Peacocks, a feat which head coach Scott Ballard described as difficult to accomplish during the shortened season.
“We had four separate quarantines during our season and it’s really hard to gain any momentum when you have interruptions all the time,” Ballard said, “practice is important to gain confidence in what you’re doing, when it gets taken away periodically, the confidence isn’t there.”
Ballard said winning both games of a weekend series against the same team is challenging because of the lack of opportunity to adjust due to the infrequency of practices. “You can talk but there’s no repetitions,” Ballard said. He added there is also the extra layer of motivation for the team that loses the first game.
Despite the lack of a tournament seed due to the field being cut in half from years prior, the Warriors will have much to look forward to next season.
An extra year of eligibility for their four senior starters, each of whom have continued to develop in Ballard’s program, will provide the Warriors with a combination of experienced talent to match the youth of four incoming high school recruits.
Perhaps the most decorated member of the team, three-time NSIC second team All-Conference selection and former WSU and NSIC Freshman Female Athlete of the Year Allie Pickrain, has dealt with a knee injury the entire season resulting in her playing time decrease. The injury will require surgery. The sharp-shooting wing does not expect to miss any time next season.
Video: Allie Pickrain drains a wide-open three against Upper Iowa University.
While Pickrain has seen her minutes decrease, she has stayed a threat through efficiency, shooting 51.9 percent from beyond the arc. Pickrain also achieved a career goal in reaching 1,000 points.
“At first I felt like I was doing something wrong,” Pickrain said, “but in reality, it’s because this season really, although it sucks to say, it didn’t mean that much because we’re coming back next year.”
The Warriors did not view this season as a waste of time. They implemented a new defensive scheme, switching defensive matchups, a break from their traditional man-to-man defense which relied on fighting around screens to stay with their assignment.
The style of defense requires players to be versatile in defending across all five positions and has seen its popularity increase since the recent Golden State Warriors championship seasons.
On offense, the Warriors had to find a way to combat the triple teams sent against leading scorer and former NSIC first team All-Conference selection Taylor Hustad.
The Warriors also faced the backed-off approach teams took toward senior point guard Emily Kieck, who was coming off a season that saw her three-point shooting percentage fall almost 15 points from 32.2 percent to 17.8 percent.
Center Emma Fee, who has seen her role increase each year on the squad, made the most of this season benefitting from the new system and increased opportunities.
“Emma had to wait her turn and pay her dues behind some all-conference players,” Ballard said, “had to be patient and keep working hard, and she didn’t get bitter she got better and now she’s an all-conference caliber player.”
Fee has transitioned from a five minute-per-game player to starter averaging 10.8 points per game with a 30-point outing against Sioux Falls on January 17.
Video: Emma Fee sinks a shot to beat the buzzer and secure the win against Concordia St. Paul.
“Emma’s scary to go against, she’s a big body, she’s in your face, there’s not a whole lot you can do.” Pickrain said.
Next season the Warriors will look to get to the regional tournament for the first time since the 2015-16 campaign, and the team hopes there will be fans in the stands to take the journey with them.
The Frozen River Film Festival is a year-round program in Winona that showcases the art of documentary film, which happens every February of the year. The festival’s mission is to engage, educate, and activate the community to become involved in the world. Some films may not be available through other media, making them special for providing a unique perspective on environmental issues, sustainable communities, sports, adventure travel, and diverse cultures.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the FRFF happened face-to-face with workshops and forums. This year it was all virtual via on-demand streaming. The FRFF group believes their filmmaking workshops and forums inspire local filmmakers to improve their craft. These types of events often feature world-class filmmakers who share skills and inspiration to the public, providing a learning opportunity from each other.
The documentary films feature exciting stories, interviews, and various perspectives on current affairs. The films encourage the public to learn more about an issue, volunteer with an organization, and help financially support a cause they believe.
Eileen Moeller, managing director of the FRFF, explained the festival was created by members of Theatre du Mississippi as an annual event where volunteers brought sets from Mountainfilm Festival in Telluride to Winona.
“There was an interest in documentary films and by collaborating with an existing film festival, volunteers were able to bring exceptional documentary film programming to Winona,” said Moeller.
The event was popular and eventually took on a life of its own and was able to become a separate entity from Theatre du Mississippi.
This was the Festival’s 16th year. Over recent years, the organization has worked to expand beyond the usual one-week festival and offer more throughout the year.
Moeller said the virtual festival was a success and a great way to reach people in a way that felt comfortable, safe and accessible. For her, the big difference this year, besides being online, was that people were able to see far more films than they typically would on a weekend, as there was more time to watch them.
The FRFF partners with Winona State University and its students. “We had great engagement from students this year, but we always hope for more, especially since this event happens on the WSU campus and students can get in for free” said Moeller
According to Moeller, the process for the 2022 festival has already begun. The film submissions opened on Feb. 15. Already, seven films have been submitted. Those will be reviewed and as more films get submitted, they will continue to review them and start to brainstorm.
J Paul Johnson, a film studies professor at Winona State University, attended the FRFF regularly since its beginning and partnered with the festival for years. Besides introducing films and supervising internships, Johnson served as a jury member both this year and others.
Johnson said he thinks the Frozen River Film Festival is a boon to the artistic, creative and social community of Southeast Minnesota and Winona State students. According to him, WSU film studies majors and minors volunteer at and intern with the festival, and this year, seven students had their work featured in the festival.
Johnson’s advice to students is to take a chance and enjoy the films.
“Let the films show you what they do,” said Johnson. “Every one of them will have its own charm and purpose, whether short or feature-length, local or global, small-scale or epic. You won’t be disappointed!”
The FRFF group misses gathering together with the public, but as Moeller says, the “warmth of Winona” is not always about being in the same space together.
The Winona County Historical Society held a week-long event to celebrate Valentine’s Day by showing its love of Winona’s local history.
The event included free admission to see WCHS exhibits all week, games at the center including artifact bingo and a heart scavenger hunt, plus kits to take home and make vintage Valentine’s Day cards.
Carrie Johnson, WCHS executive director, said in the past the center offered behind-the-scenes tours, crafts for children, treats, and music.
Due to COVID-19 limitations, the event had to be changed to follow safety guidelines.
“The event was a modification to what has been previously held,” Johnson said. “Traditionally we hold a Valentine’s Day weekend open house with free admission on a larger scale.”
Johnson said WCHS still wanted to hold the event since it gave people something to do and possibly bring new visitors to the center.
“The event helps increase our visibility to people who might not normally come in,” Johnson said. “Offering things to the public makes you relevant and it would be a shame to keep all this history locked up in a vault.”
Jennifer Weaver, WCHS’s museum educator, said attendance for the event was good with several hundred people showing up throughout the week.
“Typically, we see anywhere from 300 to 600 people come for the open house day,” Weaver said. “I definitely think we reached that number throughout the week.”
Weaver also said the exhibits on display were special to the staff since they all picked some favorite artifacts from the vault to showcase.
A couple from Winona State University, Rickey Marshally and Sulaiman Bada visited the WCHS and explored the exhibits.
“My roommate told me about the event,” Marshally said. “As an international student, I’m always looking to learn more about Winona and Minnesota.”
Marshally said she brought Bada along so she would have company and a ride.
Bada admitted he did not know a museum actually existed in town but was glad to know about it and visit.
“My favorite exhibit would have to be up at the top with the Native American equipment and the dolls,” Bada said. “I would also say the different fire equipment and carts since the firefighters actually had to pull those huge things on their own.”
The couple said it took them about an hour and a half to explore both floors of the museum, and along the way, they searched for hidden hearts that were part of the seasonal promotion.
“My favorite exhibit would have to be the pharmacy and the bank,” Marshally said. “They were small sets where you could actually see what the inside really looked like.”
The couple said they had fun and would go back next year if things are safe again.
“Hopefully, by next February we’ll mostly be vaccinated, and it will be safer to do the event in person again,” Weaver said.
For decades America has had a problem with mass incarceration.
The Winona County jail is dealing with multiple violations which is why the community is pushing to build a new one.
Chris Meyer the District One Commissioner for Winona County is in favor of building a new jail.
Meyer said, “the jail was condemned, and we’re replacing it. She also said the current jail, “it is simply not safe for anyone, not for the community, not the individuals arrested and certainly not our jail staff”.
Meyer also said the jail has failed state inspections due to narrow doorways, no sprinkler systems, only one intake stall, pod structure and other safety and health concerns.
When comparing Winona County’s current jail and the plan for the new jail, especially in concerns with COVID-19, Meyer said, “It will have a negative airflow system, and it will also have the ability to separate folks in a way that is simply not possible now.”
A local coalition Community not Cages opposes the new jail.
Tova Strange, a member of Community not Cages, and Winona State University student, said the group is composed of current and past Winona residents who disagree with the jail expansion.
Strange, is a lifelong Winona resident which is why this issue is important to her.
She joined the group because she is anti-incarceration and supports the Black Lives Matter movement.
When she heard about the new jail in Winona, she disagreed with it.
Strange said, “the idea of expanding a jail to 80-90 beds, and possibly adding a juvenile detention center really frightened me and frustrated me”.
Kara Eggers, a fellow WSU student and member of Community not Cages, said Winona County should redistribute funds for a new jail or juvenile facility to other causes.
“I think, putting finances and resources into preventative methods, helping people actually get into the doctor in a timely manner,” Eggers said.
Strange, said she is continuously seeing the same individuals in and out of jail for drug addiction.
“The solution to addiction is providing rehab facilities locally that are accessible and cheap enough for people to go and good enough that it works,” Strange said.
Chris Meyer said that delaying the new jail is not possible but if they had come to the community board sooner, Community not Cages could’ve been involved in the discussion about the new jail.
Meyer said she disagrees with Community not Cages on the new jail she said the “truth of the matter is I actually share many of their concerns”.