Category Archives: News

SMU Ski trails are joint effort for community benefit

The room where skiers wax their skis and bundle up to face the cold will fill with Nordic ski enthusiasts at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 3 in Brother Leopold Hall to honor a man that put Saint Mary’s University on the map as having one of the best cross-country ski trails in southeastern Minnesota.

Brother Jerome Rademacher, an SMU physics professor, made the trails in the 1970s. However when his health declined in 2006, Rademacher put the Winona Nordic Ski Club in charge of maintenance, said Bruce Johnson, WNSC member. Since then, he said, the club’s volunteer trail maintenance has groomed the trails nearly every day during winter.

“We’ve created a monster. We groom the trails so well that people expect them to be perfect all the time,” Johnson said with a proud smile.

The SMU ski trails, located in SMU’s backyard Yonn Valley, are groomed and maintained through the joint effort of SMU staff and WNSC volunteers. Cross-country skiers travel from neighboring states to train and ski on these trails, Johnson said. The trails are also open every day for public use.

The trails are groomed for two purposes: skate skiing and classical cross-country skiing.

Similar to ice skating, skate skiing is done by alternating skis away from each other at an angle. Classical skiing is done by putting skis in two parallel tracks cut into the snow and shuffling the legs in a striding motion.

Rademacher, the trail’s first solo caretaker, used a machine known as a piston boy to groom the snow, said Johnson. Luckily, when Rademacher gave up this passion, Johnson said he was able to continue that legacy.

“When I retired, I said ‘I can help. I can volunteer’,” Johnson said. “He said ‘here’s the key to the piston boy.’”

Since then, the community has shown massive enthusiasm to help make the trails what they are today, Johnson said.

“All hell broke loose—in a positive way,” said Johnson of Winona’s ski community grabbing this chance to maintain and improve the SMU trails. “There’s a hardcore group here.”

WNSC raised funds for two specialized snowmobiles called ginzus and state of the art equipment for trail grooming to replace Rademacher’s “stone age” equipment, Johnson said.

Today the WNSC and SMU staff maintains the trails using three primary pieces of equipment, said SMU Associate Vice President of Student Services, Chris Kendall.

“It’s not just like cutting the grass with a lawn mower,” Kendall said. “There’s more of an art to it.”

The trails need maintenance for a variety of reasons: fresh snow or change in temperatures, humidity or sun, Kendall said. Weather depending, the WNSC members may work every day or not for a week, he said.

After a fresh snowfall, Kendall said WNSC groomers renew the trail’s solid surface by knocking air out of fluffy snow with the Snowcat. Next they’ll use the ginzus to soften icy snow and further pack it, making a consistent base. Kendall said proper timing is critical in this process.

If Mother Nature decides snow isn’t in the forecast, then their two snowmaking machines come in handy, Kendall said. Furthermore, parts of the trail that get more sunlight are prone to melting, so maintenance makes snow and moves it to those spots.

“That’s kind of the art of it—managing what you have to make it as nice as possible,” said Kendall.

According to Kendall, cross-country ski enthusiasts travel from Northern edges of Minnesota for SMU’s advanced trails. Although these trails are unnamed, regulars give them names of affection, such as “rattlesnake,” a name given to an advanced trail.

“I think we’re a god on the map,” he said, due to the WNSC’s ability to fine-tune the trails, make them versatile and do the proper upkeep.

Since they’re well-maintained, the trails are used by a variety of local groups including physical education classes at SMU, the WNSC, the Minnesota Youth Ski League and the Winona Senior High School Ski team, who use the trails as their home court.

Jason Mork, WSHS Ski team coach, said his team practices six days per week on the trails. They’re maintained really well, he said. In particular, the ability to practice after dusk gives his team an edge.

“With the lit trails, we don’t have to rush,” Mork said, while other teams may hurry to cram practice in before nightfall.

Although they’re well maintained, Mork said the SMU trails could improve their outreach of adult programs, since there are several nights each week devoted to Nordic ski programs for children. Mork also wishes pedestrians would be more conscientious of skiers as well as keeping off the ski trails.

“We want them to shy away from walking,” on the trails Mork said. As these trails are used for hiking in the summer, pedestrians walk them in the winter as well. However, sometimes they walk directly down the middle, he said. “We just want to say, come on, you know, get a pair of skis and go fast.”

Pedestrians aside, Mork credits the growth of WSHS’s Nordic ski team to the trail’s youth programs. Since area children begin skiing earlier, more experienced skiers join the WSHS team each year.

As for Johnson, the SMU cross-country ski trails are not only a continuation of Rademacher’s work, but also an asset that encourages community health, he said.

“This is a lifestyle,” he said. “It’s the whole idea of get off your butt and go do something. Do you really want to stare at a computer screen your whole life?”

Winona Diocese Braves Weather for March for Life

A blizzard could not keep a busload of 46 local high school teens, college students, and staff members from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Winona from attending the national March for Life in Washington D.C. over the weekend of Jan. 22.

This year marked the 43rd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions, ones that extended women’s rights to have legalized abortions in all 50 states. The March for Life is a pro-life movement that opposes the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions with demonstrations held across the nation, with the national event held in Washington D.C. annually, according to Ben Frost, the Diocesan Director of the Office of Youth and Young Adults in Winona.

According to the March for Life website, the vision for the annual March for Life is to “bring together pro-life leaders and groups to organize and strategize around a common message, and to communicate this message to the government, the media, and the nation in a way that is powerful and life affirming.”

While an impending winter storm deterred some groups throughout the United States from making the trek, around 15,000 to 20,000 young people attended, said Frost.

The weekend consisted of attending the “Life is Very Good” conference on the eve of the march, followed by the Rally and Mass for Life the next morning, presided by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington.

“They gain a real sense of courage; a courage to be able to go into this world, that oftentimes diminishes the worth of human persons,” said Frost.

It was Frost’s third time attending the march in Washington. “This was a unique experience,” he said because the weather provided some challenges, and a blizzard was on the way. Frost said there was a special message from Pope Francis given by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano.

Carly Radke, a senior at Saint Mary’s University double-majoring in theology and psychology, and is president of Students for Life. She organizes events at SMU that align with the values of the pro-life movement, and this is one of their biggest events of the year.

This was also Radke’s third time experiencing the March for Life weekend in Washington. She says “just going and being around like-minded people to be a witness was powerful.”

On the bus ride from Winona, Radke said Father Andrew Vogel encouraged students to practice talking with each other about the power of respecting life from the time of conception, so they could educate others.

With the pro-life movement being such a hot-button issue, Radke said “it’s really encouraging” to see young people coming together as a community to serve as witnesses to life.

One of the highlights she said was after leaving the Mass for Life at the Verizon Center prior to the start of the March. Radke said she saw people looking out their windows at the demonstration and watching the group start their march towards the nation’s capitol. She said it was powerful because maybe they were able to influence some people who were on the fence about the topic of being pro-life.

Ultimately, the snowstorm forced the group from Winona to cut the trip short. Instead of participating fully in the march, they made the decision to climb back aboard the bus and head for home, but not before saying a prayer for all those who would forge ahead until reaching the nation’s capital. The risk of getting stranded on the highway was simply too high, Frost expressed.

In addition to a bus going to Washington, a bus of Saint Mary’s University seminarians, who participated in a similar rally in St. Paul over the weekend.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Winona is comprised of more than 100 parish groups. Eight of those parish groups helped raise funds to cover the transportation, hotel, and food expenses, according to Frost.

Frost said the trip cost between $275 and $300 per person.

The Diocese makes an annual trip to either Washington D.C. or Saint Paul, it depends on what day of the week Jan. 22 lands. If it happens to land in the middle of the week, Frost says it’s challenging for students to miss at least two days of school.

Though the trip got cut short because of the snowstorm, Frost was adamant when he said, “it was a beautiful witness of faith…it was a very powerful trip.”

For more information on the March for Life, find them on the Web at, or call 202-234-3300.



Addressing The Costs of WSU’s Digital Life

Since its inception 19 years ago, Winona State University’s e-Warrior Digital Life and Learning Program has become a key part of the university’s educational vision, earning Winona State the moniker of “Laptop University.”

Each full-time student at Winona State is automatically enrolled in the program and given the choice between a Mac or PC laptop computer. Since 2014, students have also been issued an Apple or Android tablet device. Students are issued new laptops and tablets every two years they remain at the university.

According to current tuition rates, each full-time student pays $485 dollars per semester to participate in the laptop program as well as a “technology fee” of approximately $100 dollars. Given these kinds of costs, some students argue they could buy a laptop for the cost of a single semester in the program. Director of User Services Robin Honken explained that it’s difficult to get students to see the full value of what they pay.

“I think things that maybe are taken for granted here wouldn’t be had you had a different experience.” Honken said her daughter attends a college where they don’t have a laptop program. When her daughter spilled on her laptop, she had to go without a computer for a period of time. In this regard, Honken said students at Winona State are lucky because they can get their laptop replaced immediately.

Kenneth Janz, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chief Information Officer at Winona State, oversees the program. Janz said it’s difficult to see why the program costs so much each semester if you only think about the program in terms of tangible items.

“There’s a lot of hidden costs that people don’t see but are there,” Janz said.

According to Winona State University’s 2013 Digital Life and Learning Board Report 65 percent of the program’s cost goes to hardware, which includes the laptops and tablets students receive every two years. 15 percent goes to paying the full-time professional staff and students who work in technical support and 10 percent goes towards maintenance of the machines, which includes warranties, repair, spare laptops, and other components. 5 percent goes towards purchasing software applications such as the Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Cloud Suites, and 5 percent goes towards other miscellaneous costs of the program like the laptop buyout program for seniors, training or administration.

In addition, Janz explained the “technology fee” covers the cost of printing, printers on campus, wireless access points and certain software not covered by the e-Warrior fee.

Janz explained one of his department’s biggest costs is managing the sheer amount of internet traffic from every device on campus. Janz elaborated with a recent example.

“None of the other CIOs in MnSCU have the problems we have. There was a day last week where we had 15,000 leased IP addresses on campus.” Janz explained that each device whether it’s a cellphone, tablet or computer has its own unique IP address.

“Not all of the students are here at the same time taking classes, which gives you an idea of how many devices each student carries. We have way more devices than people actually on the network and we have to manage all of that.”

The fees students pay each semester go into paying for all that bandwidth and the hardware to manage it.

Despite the advantages it provides, some students would like to see changes in the program, particularly in the ability to choose different price points.

Jason Carpenter, a senior at Winona State, said more options for him would be beneficial.

“I’d love it if students could get reduced fees if they didn’t take tablets or additional electronics. Since I didn’t take one, I’m not a liability for the university leasing them out.

Nathaniel Nelson, a junior, said he prefers to use his own devices, even though he’s still required to participate in the program.

“The MacBook Airs and the PCs themselves, they’re not exactly up to snuff with most industry standards,” Nelson said.

Nelson said he built his own computer to ensure he has the most powerful hardware.

“I’m paying the fee but I just don’t use it as much,” Nelson said.

Since his personal computer can’t have university software on it, he also subscribes to the software he needs separately as well. Nelson said he’d like to see more options within the program.

“You can’t just have one laptop for every individual…everybody’s different…I’d rather see more choices.”

Like Carpenter, Nelson also said he’d be interested in seeing more variations in price. Despite his criticism of the program, Nelson commented on the value of the program as a whole saying each student having a computer is a good thing.

“When you have standardized hardware, it makes it easier to teach,” Janz said. Janz also acknowledged that not every major’s needs are met by the program. Janz said the Graphic Design department in particular is one major they’re working with faculty to improve, as they require devices with more computing power than many other majors.

Janz said his department brought up the idea of a “Bring Your Own Device” option for the program in 2013 based on student surveys, but it didn’t gain any traction. This would mean students would purchase their own devices and the cost of the program would drop to $200 or $300 dollars a semester. Janz said many students questioned why they would still have to pay that much if they brought their own devices. Janz cited the costs for bandwidth, campus technology like access points, projectors and printers. Janz said they will most likely float the idea to the board of trustees again in the year 2019 when their current leasing contract expires and the program must be renewed. Janz said they will keep proposing it in the hopes of offering more options for students.

“We’re constantly trying to find the middle ground to make the program as useful and as valuable to the students as possible,” Janz said.


*For more detailed info on the e-Warrior Program check out the most recent program assessment.*

Winona State Laptop Program Falls Short Of Expectations for Some Students

by Tobias Mann & Tom Wick

The Winona State University Digital Life and Learning program, known around campus simply as the laptop program, started in 1997, when it began putting laptops in the hands of every full time student on campus.

In 2002 the program was made a mandatory part of attending WSU.

Today, students are offered their choice of a Mac or PC. As of summer 2014, WSU offered Apple’s Macbook Air and HP’s Elitebook 840.

These notebooks while sufficient for most university tasks fail to meet the needs of a subset of students and faculty.

Many departments such as graphic design require students to use a Mac. For many this means trying to get their computationally intense work done with the rather anemic Macbook Air.

For much of the work done in the graphic design department the laptops simply cannot cope with the workloads associated with 3D modeling.

Because of this, many students must spend long hours in computer labs sharing a limited number of machines just to get their course work done on time due to the computationally intense nature of encoding video or rendering 3D models.

This is true for many students in departments across campus including students in the Mass Communications and Engineering colleges.

Many electronic media students in the Mass Communications department are asked on a weekly basis to shoot and render high-definition video, a process that is painfully slow for the Macbook Air; it can take as long as fifteen minutes to render a 90 second video clip.

Senior broadcasting student Lina Tawfik said, she was glad the University offered laptops to students but was disappointed by how slow they are for working with video.

“It takes me longer, I feel like, on my Mac, than it did on my older PC, to finish rendering and exporting my videos,” Tawfik said. “And a couple of times it would just crash.”

Some students such as senior graphic design student Andrew Massat say they’d be better off using the money spend on the laptop program on a computer that met his needs.

“Winona State’s laptop program leaves something to be desired,” Massat said. “It’s very limiting in terms of how often it crashes because of a lack of resources.”

Winona State however, doesn’t plan on allowing students to opt-out anytime soon, according to Robin Honken, director of user services for IT.

“The faculty know exactly what hardware and software students have available to them and 90-95 percent of students are satisfied with what we do provide,” said Honken. Limiting possibilities has economic as well as pedagogical reasoning.

By limiting the number of machines offered it is easier to provide support, and it ensures replacement parts or even entire laptops are on hand so students don’t get behind if their laptop breaks, Honken said.

This economy of scale means that the first time a student breaks their laptop they are only assessed a $100 fine instead of the full cost of a replacement. Additionally, much of that nearly $500 per-semester fee goes to support infrastructure like campus Wi-Fi and email systems.

Even with only two different models of laptop available to students at any given time, there are at least seven different laptops in service.

“For every machine we add the support costs increase exponentially,” said Honken.

The university saves money by buying in bulk, but that isn’t possible when buying in small quantities, Honken said.

WSU IT is working with academic departments to provide labs with more specific hardware, but the costs are significant. The engineering department has a lab full of high-end PCs and the mass communication department is currently designing a trans-media lab to teach interactive media.

However, according to Honken at this time there are no plans to provide lab type machines for the trans-media lab.

The graphic design department took the issue into their own hands last year, when they received a grant to purchase two base-model Mac Pros, each valued at more than $3000 apiece.

According to Massat, the Mac Pros are in use pretty much 24/7 for tasks like rendering and encoding.
The new Mac Pros join a handful of aging Mac Pros already there, but the 6-8 machines are still spread thin by the sheer number of students in need of them.

Winona State University’s Mystery Words

In front of the Winona State University Darrell Krueger Library, there is a large stainless steel square with the words from four different quotes of founding fathers of the city of Winona.

They were installed in 1999, during President Darrell Krueger’s term from 1989-2005. Since then, thousands of students and faculty have passed them by without notice or acknowledgement.

“All I wanted to do was make sure that those forefathers’ words that were so inspirational and set a standard for the university would be preserved,” Krueger said. Krueger repeated the four quotes in his inauguration speech.

Over the course of 16 years, do students still know what the words say?

Senior Allison Bergsbaken said she did not know what the words said.

“I once tried looking at them but it was super sunny outside and the metal was too bright to read them,” Bergsbaken said.

Krueger agreed.

“That was a very unusual thing. They’re very hard to read in the stainless steel plaque that’s on the ground, so I had them put the words up on each of the pillars around them so people could read them more easily,” he said.

Looking down on the words from the third floor of Minne, English major Katie Kelly said she used to know what the words said, but does not recall them.

Adrienne Rische, another English major, said she did not know what the words said.

“And the students started using the bench designs for skateboards to jump on,” Krueger said. “I think they’ve done something about that now. They were getting all scratched up because of the skateboards jumping on them.”

The first quote engraved in the steel platform in front of the library.
The first quote engraved in the steel platform in front of the library.

The first quote is from 1859 Minnesota Lieutenant Governor William Holcombe’s speech and says the establishment of Winona State University is “an improvement in education” that will “increase the prosperity, elevate the character and promote the happiness of the nation.”

The second quote is from WSU’s first president John Ogden’s inaugural address in 1860.
The second quote is from WSU’s first president John Ogden’s inaugural address in 1860.

The second quote is from WSU’s first president John Ogden’s inaugural address in 1860 and says if the school succeeds, students will leave this institution with physical, intellectual and moral improvements that will help them succeed in society.

The third quote in the series repeat's E.S. Youman's want of a [normal] school.
The third quote in the series repeat’s E.S. Youman’s want of a [normal] school.
The third quote is from E.S. Youmans, a Winona County lumber baron in 1864 who said “the state needs a [normal] school.” He said he would be ashamed to live in a state that does not value education.

The fourth quote highlights the benefit of a college culture.
The fourth quote highlights the benefit of a college culture.

The fourth and final quote is from 1879-80 Minnesota Superintendent of Public Instruction, D.S. Burt’s First Biennial Report, which said the benefit of a college culture is good and those who receive a college education will receive those benefits.
Burt compared the university to an “engineer who plans our bridges,” “pilots who guides the steamer into port,” a “chemist who assays our ores” and a “linguist who translates foreign literature into our language” and concludes with the state benefitting from supporting the school.

“Well I think it set the standard for the university and I have a sense of what the forefathers, the founding fathers of Winona thought what the university of Winona would be,” Krueger said.

Krueger said Winona State is holding up to the quotes’ meaning.

“It’s starting to be recognized as a quality institution and it’s maintained itself through the years. It’s certainly has produced a lot of wonderful leaders and a lot of professional people and a lot of wonderful teachers, mothers and fathers and wonderful educators,” he said.

Krueger said he hopes students are reading, internalizing and remembering them.

“I think they need to be brought back to life,” Krueger said. “When they were just in books, I don’t think many people would have seen them or appreciated them. They merited being prominently shown on our campus and I think they are.”

Krueger compared the quotes to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

“That needs to be remembered and those words need to be implanted in the minds of our students and faculty at the university and the community,” Krueger said.

WSU students ‘Take Back the Night’

Students and professors peacefully protested and marched at Winona State University on Thursday, April 23, at the annual “Take Back the Night” event to give victims of sexual assault a safe place to speak out and be supported.

The event started at 6 p.m. in the WSU Student Union with survivor and victim stories of sexual assault. Many participants told their stories. They were given a flower and received hugs from people in the audience afterward.

After the speakers, Women and Gender Studies (WAGS) professor Tamara Berg thanked them for telling their stories.

“I can see the victim and blame culture coming out in the survivor’s stories,” Berg said. “It’s not your fault and by telling your story, you’re starting to change the culture.”

Many of the victims said they were blamed for the assault and many said they felt it was their fault after it happened.

“It’s unbelievable that survivors tell their stories because they are painful to retell,” Berg continued. “It doesn’t matter how much you drank or what you wore, it’s not your fault.”

Winona County Attorney Kevin O’Laughlin attended the event and listened to the stories. He spoke to the victims and thanked them for having the strength to tell their stories.

“We’ve come a long way, we have a long way yet to go,” O’Laughlin said. “As a representative of the criminal justice system, thank you. Please share your stories with law enforcement. If you have the courage and strength to tell your story, you help me hold offenders accountable. Sexual assault is not the victim’s fault.”

The second part of the night was a march through campus, to Broadway, over to Main Street and then back to campus. Winona State students Bobbi Jo Wrona and Emily Homan led the march and chants. As the group passed by the Quad residence hall, students yelled at them. The group marched on.

Social work senior Allison Bergsbaken, FORGE member Michael Krug and Women’s Resource Center director Diana Miller celebrate “Take Back the Night.”
Social work senior Allison Bergsbaken, FORGE member Michael Krug and Women’s Resource Center director Diana Miller celebrate “Take Back the Night.”

The Winona Women’s Resource Center director, Diana Miller, said “Take Back the Night” was organized by the center more than 30 years ago. Miller said the attendance wasn’t very large and it got more attention when Winona State took it over. The average attendance is about 80 to 100 people. Last year’s attendance numbered 200 people, Miller said.

“It’s the most important event for the Women’s Resource Center. It’s an opportunity for everyone who is interested in advocating to get involved,” Miller said. “We honor survivors and have a spirited march at the end. It’s meaningful and emotional for everyone.”

Miller said she loves this event because it raises awareness and gets advocates motivated to get the hard work done.

“We just keep going and advocate on,” Miller said. “Advocating is hard work.”

Many students attended the event because they themselves were survivors of sexual assault.

Child Advocacy Studies minor Ashley Murphy said she attended because she was assaulted and is an advocate.

“It’s important to give people a voice and have a safe place to talk,” Murphy said.

Two students are making a poster with pictures for the event to get more people to come next year.

Social work junior Andrea White said FORGE (Fighting for Our Rights and Gender Equality) funds the event for the food, flowers and the clothesline project outside of Minne Hall.

“I loved the turn-out. I’ve been attending since freshman year, but this is the first year I spoke out,” White said. “You can see the victim blaming culture is really pervasive in our society, there were people yelling from the Quad.”

White said the goal is to get more people to come and create a community where we support each other.

“It’s a unique opportunity and there’s so much more to it when you sit in that space and listen to their story,” White said. “I think next week it will be on everyone’s mind at one point.”

Junior social work major Madeline Mowery said she attended this event her freshman year because it was required for a class. Later, she made WAGS her minor and is the FORGE secretary.

“This year’s event went really well, I think it was the best one so far because I was involved with the planning and appreciated it more,” Mowery said. “I really liked it and made it my minor.”

Community Health junior Leah Peterson said she loves the empowerment the event gives.

“I came because I spoke last year and I have a friend who has been a victim of domestic violence,” Peterson said. “I know a lot of victims and I came to support them.”

Minnesota artist’s exhibit about family violence sparks controversy at Winona State University

By Kayla Langmaid

A Minnesota multi-award winning visual artist’s exhibit has brought controversy to Winona.

Shirl Chouinard of Cambridge, Minnesota, designed “Unspeakable,” an exhibit to promote awareness of family violence and sexual assault.

The exhibit featuring 10 life-sized fabric dolls was placed in the lobby of Winona State University’s Maxwell Hall from March 23 to April 10.

The dolls represented abused women and families, according to Chouinard.

Chouinard’s dolls in the exhibit had black patches of fabric, which represented bruises.

Emily Meskan, Winona State junior, said she overheard students who said the exhibit was creepy.

She said it took her “away” that the exhibit was placed in Maxwell’s lobby.

During a university tour, a family was brought through the lobby, according to Meskan.

Meskan said she saw a look of sheer terror on a little girl’s face while she passed by the dolls.

“That doesn’t seem fair to have people who are unsuspecting of it,” Meskan said.

Ruth Charles, a WSU social work professor, said she saw Chouinards’s artwork exhibited at a conference last June.

Charles said Chouinard was the only art exhibit at the conference and it stood out.

“I wanted to bring her here,” Charles said.

Charles explained the 10 pieces could represent one day in a social worker’s life.

“In life experiences you might not have experienced this or seen this,” Charles said.

“Other majors, they might not know what actually happens behind closed doors and this is the chance to open those doors to know what happens,” she said.

Charles said she tried to have the exhibit featured in Winona State’s Watkins Art Gallery but there wasn’t space for it.

Abigail Eucker, a freshman at Winona State, sat in the lobby to study. Eucker said she thought the dolls were creepy at first.

She saw why the exhibit might upset people.

When Eucker read the information about the exhibit, she didn’t think it was so bad.

Chouinard spoke at Winona State on Wednesday, April 8, about why she made the dolls.

As a part of the lecture series, Consortium of Liberal Arts and Science Promotion, Chouinard explained she was abused as a child.

Shirl Chouinard an artist from Cambridge, Minnesota spoke at Winona State on April 8 about her exhibit “Unspeakable.” The exhibit was displayed in the lobby of Maxwell from March 23 to April 10.
Shirl Chouinard an artist from Cambridge, Minnesota spoke at Winona State on April 8 about her exhibit “Unspeakable.” The exhibit was displayed in the lobby of Maxwell from March 23 to April 10.

“Many – many years horribly abused as a little girl,” Chouinard explained. “I was raped three times before I was 13.” Chouinard said.

Chouinard said the doll named “Monica” was made in honor of one of her sisters.

“I earned the right to make this work,” Chouinard said.

Chouinard said she knew there was controversy because of her exhibit.

She said she knew there was a post on a

WSU Confession Facebook page from an anonymous student.

A part of the confession said, “As a rape and assault survivor, it really haunts me to walk in there. It makes me feel sick. The way to end rape culture isn’t to put up traumatic art exhibits, it’s to educate our young men. I can’t even walk into Maxwell right now.”

For Chouinard, if at least one person talked with her after her lectures, then it would make a difference.

“This will reach a person,” she said.

Winona Catholic Worker House makes strides to house overnight guests

By Kayla Langmaid and Kayle Paul

A two-story white house with an eye-catching maroon door with no signs could be the most welcoming house on Broadway Street in Winona.

For over 22 years, the Winona Catholic Worker houses on West Broadway Street have been the only services in Winona County for those in need.

In Winona County in 2013 there was about a 15 percent poverty rate, according to the United States Census Bureau.

The Bethany House has provided a safe space to go for free meals, warm showers and a washer and dryer.

There is an initiative within the Winona Catholic Worker movement to promote action within the Winona community to help those in need, Rachel Stoll, a current live-in volunteer said.

The house relies solely on volunteers to maintain open hospitality.

Stoll said 5 to 10 volunteers hang out during open hospitality hours to make people feel welcome.

Most meals are provided by families and churches in the community.

“There are so many families who are willing to do that and that makes it easy to be a live-in volunteer,” Stoll said.

The meal was served at 5:30 p.m., in the bright yellow kitchen just as it is every Wednesday.

As eight men entered the house for open hospitality, a cat purred nearby, and volunteers carried on conversations with them as though they had just arrived home to their family from a busy day.
After the meal, two men played chess.

It was routine and relationships were being built.

“What we try to do here is make it as non institutional as possible,” Stoll said.

A vital helping hand for homelessness in Winona

Winona Volunteer Services is the main hub of communication for individuals seeking information about where to go to deal with homelessness issues.

Kay Peterson who has worked for Winona Volunteer Services as a client services coordinator for 10 years connects with people who battle homelessness and poverty on a daily basis.

These people contact Winona Volunteer Services looking for information about where to stay or where to go to receive free services.

“I talk to three to five people or families a week about services in the Winona area,” Peterson said.

As of right now, there are no places to stay overnight in the Winona area.

Volunteer services provide bus passes for to shelters in Rochester or La Crosse due to this lack of overnight beds.

“I don’t like sending family to shelters because then they have to pull their kids out of school, that’s why it’s so important to provide places to stay in Winona,” said Peterson.

From Peterson’s perspective, there is homelessness in Winona due to a lack of affordable housing or a place for people in transition who just need a few weeks to get back on their feet.

Overnight housing underway

The Dan Corcoran House – a few houses down from the Bethany House – is currently closed due to renovations.

In October there was only one live-in volunteer and providing overnight housing wasn’t an option.

Stoll and five other live-in volunteers moved into the Bethany House this month, which divided the workload.

Stoll said once the Dan Corcoran House reopens, women and children could stay as overnight guests.

There are at least ten unused beds available at the houses, Kay Peterson, service coordinator at Winona Volunteer Services said.

“Once we get our overnight houses up to snuff, we are very excited to be open again for overnight guests,” she said.

Homelessness – it can happen to anyone

Dale Hadler of Minneapolis said he has regularly attended open hospitality almost every day.

Hadler said he had been unemployed for quite awhile and was briefly homeless in Minneapolis.

He temporary worked in Kentucky before he moved to Winona.

Hadler previously attended the University of Wisconsin – LaCrosse where he received two master degrees.

For Hadler, he said it’s not that hard to be in the position to need assistance.

Hadler recalled having coffee with the vice president of the United States in 1996 in Minneapolis.

“That’s where I was at one point,” Hadler said.

People believe if they save money, plan and do the right thing then they won’t become homeless, according to Hadler.

“Due to the wrong set of circumstances, homelessness could happen to anyone,” he said.

With white hair and weary eyes, Hadler said, “People who come here have no place to stay – literally begging for a place to stay and it’s not here.”

Hadler said he enjoys going to open hospitality because he likes to be around other people.

“It’s socialization and it’s a good place to be around and I’m a sociable person,” Hadler said.

Hadler expressed his concernment about people not understanding why homelessness occurs.

“You have to say ‘this could be me’ and I think that’s what everyone has to understand,” he said.

Kay Peterson, a client services coordinator at Winona Volunteer Services, talks about why she thinks there is homelessness in the Winona area.


MN DNR Makes Changes to Aquatic Invasive Species Law

Boaters on Minnesota waters are supposed to take measures to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. A new law might have boaters staying off Minnesota water and roadways altogether.

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Statute 86B.13 will require boaters to take an educational training course about aquatic invasive species and pass an online test to legalize the transportation of watercrafts to and from different bodies of water.

Common aquatic invasive species include the zebra mussel. Image created by Jordan Gerard.
Common aquatic invasive species include the zebra mussel. Image created by Jordan Gerard.

April Rust, an invasive species training coordinator for the DNR, said a lot of aquatic invasive species laws were changed in 2011 and 2012. In the legislation package, one of them was a required boat sticker, four inches wide and eight inches tall, which stated the aquatic invasive species laws.

“What the law stated was anyone that was using any watercraft in Minnesota would have to put the sticker somewhere on their boat, just so they would have the laws with them,” Rust said. “People did not like it and it was less than a year in the next legislative session, that thing was repealed. We had printed some and already had gotten them out and so there was a lot of confusion about it and there was no training or education requirement. All it said was that you need one of these stickers that are free at a DNR office. Call or stop by and get one and put it on your boat.”

Rust said it was very unpopular and the legislature repealed it, but there was “incredible pressure” by groups, lake associations and citizen groups who wanted make sure people knew and followed aquatic invasive species laws.

The new 2015 program, originally set to launch in January and officially required on July 1, 2015, would have boaters take an online course for $5 to learn about aquatic invasive species and then to pass a ten-point quiz at the end, which can be taken as many times as people need. They would receive a decal to be display on their trailers and renew it once every three years, Rust said. If owners have more than one watercraft, they can receive extra stickers.

There was also a paper version ready to be printed for those who do not have Internet, which would cost $11. The $5 online fee would cover the vendor’s costs to manage and host the online content, Rust said.

“Anyone transporting water related equipment in Minnesota would need to take the short course,” Rust said. “And the course in the statute says that the course will instruct people about aquatic invasive species and aquatic invasive species laws in Minnesota.”

Rust said she isn’t sure where the idea came from, be it legislation, citizen groups or staff, but the DNR did not start it.

“This wasn’t ours necessarily, other than we got pulled into it because of our jurisdiction,” Rust said. “So the purpose was to just to make sure that people knew aquatic invasive species laws and to follow it to lower the risk of spreading aquatic invasive species.”

Aquatic invasive species are not native to specific bodies of water and cause environmental or human harm. Zebra mussels, specific types of carp, and weeds are the most invasive species, which can suffocate native plants and disrupt natural habitats, according to the DNR. A full list is available at

The DNR said aquatic invasive species are spread by not washing off aquatic plants from trailers and watercraft, not draining live wells or water tanks before leaving boat landings, not removing drain plugs and releasing live bait into the water.

Rust said there was mixed opposition and support of the law, but most people wanted to comply with the law.

“They got a lot of phone calls and I would say just from talking to them and from the calls I got, the majority of people calling just wanted to ask questions or get registered to take the course,” Rust said.

Rust said she teaches aquatic invasive species training for businesses that require permits, such as lake associations, boat haulers and irrigators, which take a three-hour training, every three years, and pay $50 for a permit.

“At least 20 percent of them were gung-ho about it, and then a bunch in the middle who just had logistical questions or just wanted to get it and didn’t express an opinion either way,” Rust said.

She estimated about 10 percent of boaters were upset about the law, and those are the ones who have been active and gotten legislators involved. There’s a Facebook group, “Repeal MN Statute 86B.13,” which has 3,450 likes and posts updates about the law’s progress in the legislature. Rust added there is “a lot of misinformation about the program out there.”

“It’s not to dismiss it. They are some of the loudest voices,” Rust said. “I’d say the majority are either supportive or neutral about it.”

Competitive bass angler Cade Laufenberg said he takes the necessary precautions by law to prevent invasive species spreading.

“I do not go through great lengths or above and beyond my call of duty to do such. I do not have time to wash and dry my boat thoroughly after each use when I fish as often as five days per week,” Laufenberg said. “I drain my live wells, remove any weeds from the trailer and boat and wipe down the boat with a water-based solution.”

On Jan. 28, the DNR said in a news release the training course would be “postponed while legislators consider changes to the program.” They also said there were “concerns with the way the law was written.” One concern was boaters traveling through Minnesota but not launching in Minnesota waters, would still need the required training and sticker.

The decals must be obtained through the training course and once received, “must be displayed on the tongue of the trailer near the hitch and does not interfere with any other sticker regulations,” according to the DNR.

If boaters are found without the decal after July 1, they will be ordered by conservation officers to take the training course before continuing to operate or transport watercraft, according to the DNR.

Laufenberg agrees “we should be doing something to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species” and said “the AIS program has good intentions, but the methods used to try and implement this are a burden on the public who use the waterways and bring so much to Minnesota’s economy.”

“Why should boaters be required to pay additional fees on top of the fees we already pay just to continue using the waterways?” Laufenberg said. “I think the law passing will make virtually no difference whatsoever in the number of invasive species.”

Rust said fewer than five percent of Minnesota’s lakes, numbering 12,000 and about 6,500 rivers and streams, are infected with aquatic invasive species and are listed on the infested waters list.

“It’s not as horrific a picture as I think the public perception is,” Rust said. “Not to dismiss it at all, but it’s not like it’s a done deal where every water body is going to be infested with all of these things.”

Education is the main tool the DNR uses to prevent aquatic invasive species from spreading. The basics of the education programs help boaters know about aquatic invasive species and what they should be doing and the basic laws and how to lower the risk of spreading them, Rust said.

“Prevention is definitely the first priority because if you can keep species out, that’s the most cost-effective easiest way to do it,” Rust said. “There’s a whole bunch of methods, out reach and communication, watercraft inspectors, official DNR ones that have pressure wash stations and will do decontaminations on boats for people for free.”

They also use campaigns, grants and volunteer inspectors trained by DNR staff. The inspectors do not have legal authority, but Rust said the DNR has extended their authority to require inspections and have that force of law.

“We can give that authority to county or city or local unit of government and their employees can be trained and have the equivalent of DNR inspector,” Rust said.

Rust said that a new zebra mussel researcher at the University of Minnesota Research Center said “zebra mussels in Minnesota have spread a decade slower than they have in other Great Lakes states.”

“We don’t know if it’s an effect of geography or our programming or what, but it’s been slower here,” Rust said. “That being said, once a water body is infested, eradication is almost impossible.”

Rust said she thought the new training program would contribute to fewer violations at the check stations and collection points. Compliance rates are compared every year and the rates are going down each year, Rust said.

“Last summer it was 16 or 17 percent at our random check stations of violation rates,” Rust said. “When you’re talking about a few people it would take to spread to a different water body, that’s still too high a percentage.”

Unexpected reassignment for WSU’s Advancement Vice President

Winona State University announced a reassignment to new duties for the Vice President for University Advancement on Thursday, Jan. 22.

Ernie Troy Hughes Profile Photo
Former Vice President for University Advancement Ernie Troy Hughes

According to an email sent to all university accounts, the direction Ernie Hughes introduced did not align with President Scott Olson’s vision for advancing Winona State.

His new duties will focus on “enrollment strategies that will benefit the university,” the email read.

Previous Vice President Gary Evans will return and serve as an interim until a new vice president can be found. The university’s search will “begin immediately,” according to the email.

Gary Evans Profile Photo
Gary Evans returns to his former position as Vice President for University Advancement in an interim position.

Hughes was an “at-will” employee of the university, which means an employee can be fired without a just cause for termination.

Olson hired Hughes in June 2014 and his term started Aug. 11, 2014 with a salary of $155,000.

The job description included planning, coordinating, managing and implementing all fundraisers for Winona State and the WSU Foundation, which provides scholarships for students and funding for university programs.

Hughes was also a senior member on the president’s Council of Administrators and served on the President’s Cabinet.

Other duties included reaching out to business and community leaders as well as supervising advancement, communications, alumni services, creative services, government relations, Foundation finance and communicates with the Foundation Board of Trustees.

Hughes’s resume showed several degrees in leadership and advancement positions. He holds a doctor of philosophy degree in human resource development from Louisiana State University, a master of business administration degree in marketing and a bachelor of business administration degree in finance and logistics from Mississippi State University.

Before his position at Winona State, Hughes held similar positions. From August 2010 to October 2013, he was the vice president for advancement and executive director of the System Foundation at Southern University System in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which is a network of five universities in Louisiana.

According to his resume, during his term at Southern University System, he increased donations by 34 percent, increased unrestricted gifts by 37 percent with the creation of a leadership giving society. He was also responsible for soliciting gifts of $5,000 and higher from alumni and non-alumni friends. Notably, he secured a $2.4 million gift for the University system.

Alex Hines, inclusion and diversity director at WSU, was acquainted with Hughes during his time at WSU.

“I think he’s a dynamic African-American male,” Hines said. “He’s genuine, sincere, honest. We enjoyed each other’s company.”

Hughes and Olson were unavailable for comment. Olson was off-campus at the MnSCU Board Meeting and deferred to Cristeen Custer, assistant vice president for marketing and communications, who said in an email that the statement sent on Jan. 22, “is the only information we will be providing on this topic.”


Photos courtesy of Winona State University.