A documentary film by Alek LaShomb
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.
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)”.
Here is a link to Phi Theta Chi’s website
Everyone always talks about what communities do for universities but not what the universities do for communities.
Winona is no stranger to that. It is a thriving community with plenty of support for the three colleges and universities in the area.
At Winona State University there are at least 180 cubs and student organizations on campus. These range from sports clubs, Greek life, academic clubs, honorary societies, faith-based clubs and diversity organizations.
For most of these clubs and organizations, community service and philanthropy work is a significant part of how those clubs run.
The president of the university, Scott Olson, said, “First and foremost, community engagement is a great way for students to learn. It allows us to put theory into practice and allows students to try out different settings and professions to see how they might dedicate their lives.”
One subset of campus organizations where community service is an important aspect to is Greek life.
Lindsay Marosi-Kramer, an activities director on campus, said, “Our seven organizations all have both national and local philanthropies, many groups require students to host volunteer hours while not many have actual relationships with outside places like Greek groups do.”
According to Marosi-Kramer, during the 2018-2019 school year, the Greek community volunteered more than 800 hours in community services.
Some community members have opposing opinions when it comes to living in a town with three colleges.
A Winona man who lives nine blocks east of campus, who wished to remain anonymous, said he didn’t appreciate having college students as neighbors.
He has lived in Winona his whole life and only left when he went to college.
“It’s not that I hate college students,” the man said. “I just don’t like living with around them.”
He brought up how high school and college students would leave garbage on his lawn or how loud college student neighbors are.
He said it was extremely difficult to find housing since “20 percent of each block” was rented to students or would only be rented to students.
“I do appreciate there are students and groups who will go around and clean up the garbage, especially after big events,” he said.
Kendra Weber, WSU’s director of Student and Community Engagement, arranged the clean and sweep after homecoming.
“If we know a certain amount of this is going to happen, what can we do?” Weber said.
The first year she held this event, around 30 people showed up and they ended with around 40 bags of garbage.
In 2018, the event had about 90 people sign up to pick up trash and more than 100 participants showed up.
An event like this has both community and university involvement. Weber directs the event and buys pizza for students who volunteer. The American Legion has allowed the group to use their space for free and the city allocates certain stop signs for the group to set the bags of garbage.
Olson has had community members reach out to him regarding students.
“Most of the comments I get from members of the community are very complimentary to WSU students, Olson said. “Probably the largest volume of negative comments I hear are about students walking across Main or Huff without looking up at the traffic, but I only hear this a dozen times a year or less. There are often concerns around Homecoming, but lately students have really been careful to be safe and respectful while having fun.”
In 2013, the university applied to get the Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the advancement of teaching.
To be considered for this classification, the university had to have proof of engagement and co-existing with the community.
In 2015, Winona State University was awarded the Community Engagement Classification.
After more than a decade of planning, and more than a year of construction, two pedestrian tunnels under the railroad tracks adjacent to the Winona State University campus are open.
The tunnels opened in time for WSU’s Homecoming football game on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017.
WSU received a federal funds grant in 2006 to assist with the cost of construction of two pedestrian tunnels under the Canadian Pacific rail lines that run east-west through the campus, separating the main part of campus from athletic fields.
Students, faculty, staff and community members now can safely cross the tracks by using the tunnels which also include ramps that follow Americans With Disabilities Act guidelines.
The tunnels were built after many years of research and planning, and cooperation between the university, city, county and state agencies and railroad company planners.
WSU Mass Communication Professor Tom Grier used the department’s unnamed aerial vehicle to shoot video of pedestrians using the tunnel while a train passes prior to the WSU Homecoming football game.
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.