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”.
This basketball season has been unlike any before it. After March cancellations due to COVID-19, the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference announced a modified schedule in November. In this season, Winona State University basketball teams are struggling to compete, facing frequent COVID cancellations.
The Winona State University women’s team has played four of eight scheduled contests, falling to 0-4 after a 81-79 loss against Augustana University Saturday 26th, before cancellation of Sunday’s game due to COVID. Winona State men’s basketball beat Augustana Saturday 87-82 and lost a rematch Sunday 63-73 to a 3-2 record, playing five of eight games so far.
Both Winona State basketball teams faced University of Minnesota-Duluth Jan. 2 before a positive COVID test within the Winona program ended the series. The Warriors resumed last season’s schedule against the Duluth Bulldogs, with the men’s matchup in Duluth’s Romano Gymnasium and the women facing off in Winona State’s McCown Gymnasium.
The Bulldogs handily beat both Warriors teams. Men’s basketball lost 59-81, while the women’s team fell 47-68.
Winona State women’s basketball coach Scott Ballard said the team faced an old opponent with a new playstyle.
“We’re basically running a new offense and a new defense from last year and It just takes time and reps to become consistent, Ballard said. “When you play a team the quality of Duluth, they will expose your inefficiencies or inconsistencies.
After the initial matchup, a positive test in the Winona sidelined both teams before their rematch, for the following two weeks, this meant cancelling contests against Southwest Minnesota State University and the men’s game against the University of Sioux Falls.
Precautions for this season included back to back games against a single opponent per week and mandatory cancellations and quarantines, following NCAA Sports Science Institute guidelines for COVID safety. The Warriors compete in McCown Gymnasium with only players and media present.
Second-year point guard Bill Flowers described the new environment COVID brings to the court.
“Being in silence, it’s very weird.” Flowers said. “It’s like actually playing a five on five in, like, an empty gym.”
Athletes also face stringent COVID restrictions off the court.
Ballard said those restrictions include COVID testing three times a week in addition to testing on game day.
Flowers said the whole team faces restrictions beyond cancellation of games.
“If you did not test positive, we are allowed to have the coaches setup an individual workout,” Flowers said. “But each player has to be at their own separate basket, like at least 20 feet away,”
Ballard said quarantining challenges the whole team in unique ways.
“Our goal is to get better every week.” Ballard said. “Well, how difficult is it to get better every week when you have to stop and pause for two weeks and then restart again? You have to backtrack and review and relearn some things.”
Ballard described the frustration players face against the invisible opponent of COVID, including the toll on their mental health.
“The mental health and mindset of our players going through this is my biggest concern because even those who have had a positive test at sometime in the last six weeks, none of them had symptoms,” Ballard said. “Everybody feels great. They feel normal. They just have a test that says positive on it. It’s really difficult for athletes and competitors to handle.”
Flowers said the experience has brought the team together.
“It changed my opinion on how close a group of teammates and a group of players should be,” Flowers said.
Flowers also said this has changed his perspective on the season.
“We’re not guaranteed to have a season. We’re not guaranteed to even play basketball or make it to the championship or anything,” Flowers said. “But one thing is guaranteed: we’ll have one another’s backs and be together and just make the most [of this] opportunity.”
With a return to work looming for many new pet owners, the Winona Area Humane Society is doing everything they can to ensure newly adopted pets get to stay in their forever homes including support for pet owners such as free kennels, food, treats and other pet supplies.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began to shut down many facets of people’s everyday lives, people searched for something to fill their free time. For some it was day trading, for others it was trying to bake the best loaf of sourdough, and for others it was adopting a pet.
Humane Society Facilities Manager Susie Marshall said, “We had up to twelve dogs at once when we typically have five.”
“They all come in from Arkansas or Texas since Winona doesn’t have a stray problem.”
Marshall said in her ten years of experience it was extremely rare to house more than five dogs. The WAHS typically houses 50 cats at any given time, and saw that number drop as low as 19 during the peak of their pandemic adoption boom in summer of 2020.
“We previously were going to the Walmart distribution center in Tomah every quarter to six months to stock up on food for our animals, now we go every two months.” Marshall added.
The WAHS is offering free food, treats, leashes, cat litter and litter boxes to any owner who needs it and will give enough to stock for the entire winter, assuming they have the stock on hand. They offer contact-free pickup and will load a cart of whatever amenities are needed and will try to keep the same brand across all items, just call in advance and leave a voicemail.
Marshall predicts an influx of returned pets when normalcy returns. “I see people return dogs even when they are home,” Marshall said. “People aren’t as disciplined as they need to be kennel training, because ‘he looks so sad’ but then they come home to destroyed furniture.”
Some ways for owners to help the transitions for their pet is to not get to work super early, and conversely, coming straight home after, and if possible, during lunch.
Marshall said she swears by the phrase, “a tired dog is a good dog, a rested dog misbehaves” and walks her own dog for three miles every day regardless of the weather.
Winona State alumna Pam Leber, who now resides in Palatine, Illinois, with her husband, Mark, and daughter, Michala, adopted a dog during the pandemic after many phone calls, e-mails and google searches.
Michala, who recently graduated from DePaul University, was adamant having a dog would help with her anxiety, especially during quarantine.
“Michala had been asking since third grade, she did a presentation for us, but my husband didn’t want a dog because he’s allergic, so the dog needed to be hypoallergenic and it’s a lot of work and responsibility.” Pam Leber said. “But he really began to see being home during the pandemic how it affected her, and he started to get soft.”
It didn’t take much more convincing before the family drove to an Amish farm near LaPorte, Indiana, to look at a litter of five puppies, and after a short getting-to-know-you period with the dogs, one that had lurked in the back worked his way to Michala’s side, emblazoned with the name tag “Rebel.”
“Our last name spelled backwards; we took that as a sign” Pam Leber said.
With Michala still searching for post-graduation employment, the costs of supplies for newly renamed Bentley are split between her and her parents, who were fortunate enough to receive a hand-me-down cage and bed from a family friend.
A run to the pet store can sometimes cost more than $100. Pam Leber said she recognizes how hard the situation can become.
“We got a dog when I was 13 and we had to give it back because we were too scared at the time, now looking back, that would be heartbreaking,” Pam Leber said. “You’ve given this dog a warm place and a loving home, do you want to give that up? Do you have a friend or family member it can stay with?”
Susie Marshall is a former dog trainer and willing to answer all questions as well as share training tips via her email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Winona Area Humane Society can be reached via voicemail at 507-452-3135.
This year has been difficult no matter a student’s year here at Winona State University because it’s been filled with uncertainties and adaptations.
As a first-year college student, one of the biggest concerns is trying to make new friends and making the university feel like home, which is where campus involvement comes in to play.
Before COVID-19 it was easy to go to campus events hosted by many different organizations. Now, it’s nearly impossible.
The Phi Theta Chi sorority knows this all too well.
Entering her first year at WSU, Nicole Banicki didn’t really know what to expect as COVID was in full swing.
She decided to join Phi Theta Chi in hopes of making connections with people at WSU.
Phi Theta Chi is a sisterhood that holds fundraising and social events throughout the school year according to their website.
This allowed her to immerse herself into the university, as well as make friends “It’s hard to make friends right now, because there’s no social events” Banicki, said.
COVID has also been difficult for older students like senior Skylar Smiley.
Smiley has been in Phi Theta Chi for three years and holds four positions within the sorority which involves event planning.
One of the events she organizes is Rush Week which is where she tries to recruit new members to the sorority.
This is important for Phi Theta Chi because it’s a smaller sorority that typically has “13 to 15 members but this year, they dropped to 11” Smiley, said.
Instead of doing it in person Smiley shifted Rush Week to online by hosting multiple different nights between January 19-29 some of the nights included creating your own birth chart and distanced gaming.
Aside from Rush Week, Smiley has had difficulty trying to adjust with other events such as tabling and fundraising.
Smiley stated, “without tabling, it’s just been really weird to have to do the events without like physically being there.”
A fundraising event they can’t do is their annual bake sale, where they sell baked goods on campus.
COVID makes bake sells impossible.
They have turned to alternative ways to raise money. Phi Theta Chi is not a nationally recognized sorority, so they raise their money locally.
One alternative is virtual raffles where Phi Theta Chi used social media to raise money.
All-in-all Smiley said last semester they were able to host a couple in person events such as a chalking event to counter-protest the Warriors for Life chalk display on campus.
Smiley also said the transition was difficult at first. Now with dedication from all the women they are still about to keep that sisterhood connection Through virtual games such as Among Us, virtual meetings, etc.
Since joining Phi Theta Chi, Banicki said the social aspect of the sorority has “made life happier”.
Even though she prefers to face to face interaction, she feels that communicating online has been helpful because time isn’t wasted going back and forth places.
Banicki and Smiley said they are now ready and feel safe to return to limited on campus events and are excited for what the future on-campus holds.
Smiley said, “As long as COVID numbers are down, and we do everything on campus, the way that campus asks us to, they would be comfortable having some in person (events)”.
With COVID-19 putting a strain on in-person classes, a lot of students are suffering when it comes to learning. One such group is students who are studying to become the next generation’s teachers.
College students in the Elementary and Early Education department at Winona State University are having to do supplemental work instead of being in the classroom and working with children.
According to Daniel Kirk, Dean of the WSU College of Education, 516 students are enrolled in the Elementary and Early Education department.
Those 516 students are missing out on vital time of working in person with children, and many within the next few semesters will start their actual semester of student teaching.
Dr. Mary Anderson, a professor in the Elementary and Early Education department, said she is optimistic for her students to begin student teaching.
“I think they are going to be well prepared with their content,” Anderson said. “What I can’t replicate is the actual child or group of children.”
Dr. Anderson said while students are not able to work in the field, they are doing well with online learning.
“With the work students did last semester and are continuing to do this semester, I have not seen any signs of their academic work lacking at all,” Anderson said. “In fact, I might make a case that they might even be a little bit stronger.”
Payton Portugue an early education major for three semesters will begin student teaching this fall. Portugue selecting a school where she will student teach in the fall.
The education department offers a variety of classes to prepare students for teaching and working with children in a classroom environment.
Since COVID-19 started, these students have not been able to get into any of the local classrooms to work with kids.
“COVID-19 has severely cut down the time we get to spend working with kids in a classroom and building those classroom management skills,” Portugue said.
Portugue said instead of field experience, Winona State University has provided alternative methods like observational videos.
“I feel like I’ll never be one hundred percent prepared,” Portugue said. “I think that Winona has provided me with a lot of different skills and opportunities, so I think I’ll fit in pretty well.”
Hannah Seifert, an education major for three semesters at WSU delayed her field experience after studying abroad for a semester.
“I’ve been able to take all my classes,” Siefert said. “I haven’t been able to do any of the field experience which is a challenge.”
Siefert described the requirements all education students need in order to begin student teaching.
“Minnesota requires 100 hours of field experience in order to student teach, where 50 of those hours can be supplemental,” Siefert said.
Siefert is optimistic to begin student teaching even though she never had field experience due to COVID-19.
“I think by the time I’m done with student teaching I’ll be prepared since we’re learning all the material now,” Siefert said. “I’m hoping by next spring I’ll be able to student teach in person.”