Local Kwik Trips Lack Easy Access for all Customers

It’s five in the evening and it feels like everyone on the planet is trying to get into Kwik Trip. People brush up against you as they push their way through the doors. It’s a mission just to get into the building. As you roll your wheelchair close to the doors you realize there is not a button to power open the door. At this point getting into the building depends on the kindness of people to open the door.

Kwik Trip has seven locations in Winona area and not a single one has a handicap accessible door.

 

Front of a local Winona Kwik Trip.
Front of a local Winona Kwik Trip.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act hinged doorways need to be at least 32 inches wide. Even though automatic doors create greater accessibility they are not required by the ADA.

“Kwik Trip has made quite a few changes to make their gas stations more handicap accessible,” said Amy Schmidt, who works at a local Kwik Trip.

They have handicap parking, wide shopping aisles and customers can even flash their car lights from the pumps to receive assistance pumping gas, Schmidt explained. Kwik Trip has one handicap parking spot in most of their parking lots.

Schmidt was unsure as to why Kwik Trip hadn’t added the buttons to their doors.

Kwik Trip corporate offices were unable to set up an interview for this story.

As miniscule as this issue may seem some Winona citizens see this as a huge issue that should be addressed.

Jayda Garrison is a program director for Cardinal, a local group home, she said Kwik Trip should have handicap accessible doors.

“When handicap people struggle with these doors it takes away a sense of their pride and independence,” said Garrison.

Garrison explained more people within the Winona community should see this issue as a concern. She explained handicap individuals have the right to feel fully functional just like everyone else.

When looking at this situation money could come in as a factor.

According to a worker at Tom’s Lock in downtown Winona, many factor play into the installation of handicap buttons on building doors. A rough total estimate is 2,700 dollars per button.

With no response from the company it is hard to say why they haven’t added these buttons. They follow all other ADA regulations. The concerned Winona citizens hope that one day soon Kwik Trip will take that extra step.

Jayda Garrison, house supervisor at a local group home, talks about why it’s crucial for Kwik Trip to have handicap doors.

Winona State University Students Create an Anti-Bullying Campaign

 

Tammy Swenson-Lepper talks about bullying on Winona State University’s campus and what the University is doing to end it.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=0BCAY3oX38Uframeborder%3D0allowfullscreen

 

 

Bullying isn’t the toughest kid on the playground scenario anymore. With all the advances in technology things like cyber-bullying have become a problem in younger generations.

Cyber-bullying gives people the option to tear someone down via the Internet. This type of bullying can be seen in social media outlets and chat rooms, and has become a fast-growing issue.

According to John Otis, a member of the Project Positivity campaign, said after conducting research the group found bullying has mental and physical health issues. A few of these are: anxiety, depression, anorexia and bulimia.

Kids can now say rude things to someone without having to look at their face.

In a sense this makes bullying easier. Kids can say things to another and never give it a second thought because they never have to see that person again, said Otis.

In the past year cyber-bullying and bullying in general has been an issue at Winona State University. From nude photos leaked to rude comments on peoples’ Facebook photos.

“Sometimes the University cant do a whole lot because these issues are done over the Internet,” said Otis.

This is where Project Positivity helps. Project Positivity is a campaign put on by a group of students for their communications studies class. Otis is the person in charge of their social media. The campaign is geared towards ending all forms of bullying on Winona’s campus and among its student population.

Tammy Swenson-Lepper, the professor teaching the communication class, said the campaign is taking a new approach to health issues and is different from campaigns she has seen in the past.

Swenson-Lepper has had meetings with the university’s anti-bullying task force and asked them what they thought her students could do to help. Once her students were inspired to create this campaign by the bullying from last fall.

Swenson-Lepper described things the university is doing to do their part in the fight against bullying on campus.

She explained in addition to the anti-bullying task force WSU is working with incoming freshmen about bullying.

“I think that the school is doing a lot to help with this issue compared to other schools that have has bad cases of bullying,” said Swenson-Lepper.

Swenson-Lepper said that usually schools just punish the kids that are doing the bullying, but WSU is taking it further by creating the anti-bullying task force. The task force consists of students, faculty, and staff that want to end bullying at WSU.

The WSU students in class created a Facebook page for the campaign. On the page they encourage students to share things that make them happy and things they are doing for one another. At the end of the post students can tag the campaign, and at the end of the week certain posts win prizes.

The group of students also created an ad-like video against bullying that made it’s way around campus.

According to Otis, the group is also working with orientation leaders and classes to reach incoming freshmen since most of the incidents last fall involved freshmen.

Otis explained when coming up with the campaign idea the group wanted to look at an area of health wellness that isn’t always in the spotlight.

They also wanted a more positive vibe on campus. They thought a campaign against bullying was the perfect fit for both areas.

“We all understand that students can get stressed out and start feeling negative, said Otis, we aren’t our campaign to help work against that.”

The campaign will run until May 1. Otis said they already have had 500 posts since launching their Facebook page and hope the steady involvement continues.

John Otis a member of the Project Positivity Campaign talks about why he and his group started the project in the first place.

 

 

Winona State’s international services helps international students transition; students share their experiences

By Kayle Paul and Kayla Langmaid

 Two international students Aaron Khaw of Malaysia, a cell and molecular biology major, and has been at WSU for two years; and Wee Leen Chin of Malaysia, an advertising major, and has been at WSU for one year, prepared for a club event in the international services office on Monday.
Two international students Aaron Khaw of Malaysia, a cell and molecular biology major, and has been at WSU for two years; and Wee Leen Chin of Malaysia, an advertising major, and has been at WSU for one year, prepared for a club event in the international services office on Monday.

When international students choose to study at Winona State University, the International Services-Cultural Outreach office on campus provides services to help foreign students transition to Winona.

According to Kemale Pinar, WSU’s Director of International Services-Cultural Outreach, there are more than 280 degree-seeking students from other countries at WSU this year.

Pinar said she believes there are a group of international students who stick together but not all international students only hangout with international students.

“When I see international students stick to one another, they are forming their own family,” Pinar said.

“When you are in a total new place, you are trying to cling on to the only thing that is familiar to you,” she said.

Pinar said she doesn’t see this as a problem but as a cultural phenomena.

The international services office mission statement board for international students at WSU.
The international services office mission statement board for international students at WSU.

“Rather than saying there is something wrong, I look at it and say this is correct, this is normal,” Pinar said. “When I see students stick to one another, they are forming their own family,” she said.

Pinar said her office does offer cultural and language exchange matching where an American student is matched with an international student.

An American student chooses a culture they are interested in learning more about.

“The students have lunch or go to the movies to encourage that relationship, but we recognize the international student will choose a comfort friend from their own culture,” Pinar said.

Pinar asked, “Do international students have to have an American friend while they’re here? I think more importantly they have to have the acquired skills to interact with them and to become successful and make the contribution that is expected of them,” she said.

 

 

 

Rasoga Samarasinghe is an exchange student from Sri Lanka. She is now attending grad school through WSU.
Rasoga Samarasinghe is an exchange student from Sri Lanka. She is now attending grad school through WSU.

Rasoga Samarasinghe is a graduate student in the leadership program at WSU. She is from Sri Lanka and has been a student at WSU since her freshman year of college.

“Being an international student is a great experience that really builds your character,” Samarasinghe said. She wishes there were more opportunities for international students to communicate and create a network of friends with American students.

Samarasinghe said she learned from personal experience. International students meet people from outside their comfortable clique by putting them themselves out there, Samarasinghe said.

“I was very depressed my first year here,” Samarasinghe said. “I was homesick and nothing was familiar to me. Eventually I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and started joining clubs. Because of that, I got over being depressed and met great people,” she said.

Samarasinghe said she wished more students got out of their comfort zones and stopped clinging to what’s easy and natural to them.

Hyunji Lee is an exchange student from South Korea. Lee is studying Mass Communication at WSU. Submitted photo.
Hyunji Lee is an exchange student from South Korea. Lee is studying mass communication at WSU. Submitted photo.

Hyunji Lee, an exchange student studying Mass Communication from South Korea at WSU, said she attended an International Student Orientation Week before spring semester. The services also provided car shuttles to buy necessities.

“It could be better if the international office provided some opportunities to hang around Americans.”

Lee said most of the people in Winona really welcomed her.

Lee said the bigger problem is the exchange program could be better organized.

“All I do in here is just take class. That’s not bad, but it is better if the exchange program provide some other activities also,” Lee said.

 

Niklas Meyer is an exchange student from Germany. He is a senior at WSU and will graduate with an recreation and tourism mayor.
Niklas Meyer is an exchange student from Germany. He is a senior at WSU and will graduate with an recreation and tourism mayor.

Niklas Meyer, a senior international student studying political science and recreation tourism and therapeutic recreation at WSU, said he learned English at a young age.

“Unlike many international students who come to Winona, I had been in America for one year,”

Especially in a smaller community like Winona, Americans shouldn’t be afraid to get in contact with international students, Meyer said.

“Once you break the language barrier, it isn’t hard to get to know them,” Meyer said.

Meyer said international students might need some extra help. He said to acknowledge international students and he encouraged talking to international students after class.

Pinar said speaking out of firsthand experience, there are two things people need to have to make the possible adjustment to another country. “One is yourself and how confident you are and the other is your culture,” Pinar said.

“Jumping into a conversation is probably a much bigger problem,” Pinar said. Language is one of the most difficult things to overcome.”

Kemale Pinar talks about what it is like for international students to come to America, and Niklas Meyer talks about what most international students struggle with once they get to school.

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.

It’s Time, My Fellow Warriors

van grinsven_graduates article image

As the sun sets beneath the blossoming bluffs in Winona, it suddenly dawns on me that we are one day closer to the big day.

Saying goodbye to all-night study sessions, going out on the weekdays and tiptoeing between the line of adulthood and adolescence. It’s the moment all college seniors must face – walking across the stage to grab that well-deserved diploma, while fighting mixed feelings of excitement, exhilaration and downright panic.

As I count down the days until my small world in Winona becomes only a memory, I realize there has never been a moment like this before, which holds so many assorted emotions.

While I can’t wait to make my mark on the world and show off my sparkling certificate of a Bachelor’s degree, I cling to my familiar surroundings and dread the changes that are about to occur.

In order to fully understand my plethora of sentiments, it was comforting to find other soon-to-be graduates balancing these same feelings.

Elizabeth Meinders, an English and mass communication senior at WSU, said the moment she stepped on campus, she knew she was where she belonged.

“I chose Winona State because of the environment and atmosphere,” Meinders said. “It really did – and it’s strange to say – but I felt like I was home and I could feel this emotional connection.”

Meinders said she isn’t too worried about finding a job after graduation, but she is nervous about immersing herself in a new work environment and making a long-term commitment. She is currently sorting through several offers to begin her career, in hopes of doing something she loves.

“I have a lot of options and opportunities,” Meinders said. “It’s simply making that choice. That’s the most terrifying part – cause I’m going to be there for a long time.”

Dan Gitto, a graduating senior with a psychology major, said he was going through the same uncertainty when faced with the unknown beyond graduation. Gitto plans on moving to his Australia in January for a yearlong missions trip for Campus Crusade for Christ. He will also be getting married four months before departing.

“There is going to be a lot going on,” Gitto said. “There are a lot of new things that are going to be happening, but ultimately good stuff.”

During his time at WSU, Gitto said being a resident assistant on campus has prepared him the most for life after graduation.

“I think it was a job that gave well-rounded skills,” Gitto said. “There are a lot of opportunities in it to use in the business world. But I also had a lot of fun with my residents and staff.”

Liz Dingbaum, a senior graduating with a degree in chemistry, said she has been well into the post-graduation planning for quite some time.

“I chose my major because I knew I wanted to be in the medical field, but I didn’t know what I specifically wanted to do,” Dingbaum said. “In high school, I looked up the requirements for pre-pharmacy and pre-med and I picked the one that was more difficult, which was pre-pharmacy.”

Dingbaum said she plans on attending University of California – Davis to get her masters in public health and will also be applying to medical school this summer.

Despite her excitement about jumping into furthering her education, Dingbaum said she was sad to leave behind all of the connections she made during her time at WSU.

“I’m moving, obviously, really far across the country,” Dingbaum said. “I can’t just walk across the street and hang out with all of my friends, so that will be difficult to adjust to, along with leaving the mentorship I’ve had here.”

While it was comforting to see my fellow graduating seniors were going through the same feelings of ambiguity, there was a common connection between them all. Even though the future seemed like a daunting apprehension, each graduating senior I met with donned a feeling of readiness.

They were eager to hone the skills they’ve been practicing for the past four years and make a difference in the new places they will belong to.   In the words of WSU’s mission statement, it’s easy to see the graduating class of 2015 has never been more prepared to become “a community of learners improving our world.”

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.

 

Anglers Storm Lake Onalaska

KIP KOVAR

It was a perfect day this past weekend for anglers in southwest Wisconsin to take to the lake and try their luck in the 6th annual Atomic Ice Derby.

Almost 800 anglers gathered on Lake Onalaska for a chance at prizes and enjoy an afternoon of fishing.

Scott Gartner, owner of Bob’s Bait and Tackle in La Crosse, started this tournament six years ago with a buddy to generate greater interest in the outdoors and support local businesses.

“We just decided we want to have an ice derby,” Gartner said. “It started out with just around 200 people and grew from there.”

This ice fishing contest is unique. Instead of the only prize being for the biggest fish, and only going after one type of fish, anglers have multiple chances to claim bragging rights.

The contest allows anglers to go after five species that have to be at least a certain length: Bluegills (7 ½ inches or more), perch (9 ½ inches or more), crappie (10 inches or more), bass (17 inches or more), and northern (30 inches or more).

An angler can weigh in up to five of each species for a total of 25 for the tournament. Any fish weighed in that reaches the slot limit, is given an entry into the raffle for a chance to win $10,000 and series of other prizes, which included rod and reel combos, and cash prizes. Unfortunately for anglers in this years derby, no one took home the $10,000 grand prize.

Anglers from all across the area came out to test their luck. Ed Slimen of Taylor, Wisconsin, has fished in all six derbies that have been put on that have been put on by this group.

“If I didn’t have to work, I probably would fish all day long,” Slimen said about being on the ice.

Ed Slimen of Taylor, Wis. caught this 18-inch largemouth bass during the Atomic Ice Derby
Ed Slimen of Taylor, Wis. caught this 18-inch largemouth bass during the Atomic Ice Derby. (Photo by Kip Kovar)

Slimen found luck in six feet of water, landing a 18-inch largemouth bass on a tip up rigged with a shiner. Slimen was enjoying the time on the ice with his daughter who also partakes in the derby almost every year.

Jared Albitz of Onalaska is also a regular at the derby. Albitz found success in the northern category, catching a 37-inch northern shortly before the weigh in.

Jared Albitz of Onalaska caught this 37-inch northern in the Atomic Ice Derby. (Photo by Kip Kovar)
Jared Albitz of Onalaska caught this 37-inch northern in the Atomic Ice Derby. (Photo by Kip Kovar)

This event is a test for serious anglers trying to prove their skills, and for families with young kids. Beth Zimmerman of Onalaska brought her kids, Remi and Braeden, out to enjoy the beautiful day on the ice.

“The newness of it, for them, is great,” Zimmerman said. “It’s our first time with them out here.”

Braeden said he loved to be able to spend some time on the ice with family.

“You get to catch big fish,” Braeden said about his favorite about being on the ice.

At the end of the day, the Atomic Ice Derby is a great way for area anglers all to gather and enjoy the outdoors with friends and family. A portion of the proceeds made from the tournament is donated to the St. Jude’s Children Hospital.

 

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 http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/index.html.

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.

Stolen Painting Was Part of Winona State History

The blank space in Somsen Hall where the stolen piece used to hang.
The blank space in Somsen Hall where the stolen piece used to hang. (photo by Tom Wick)

On January 21 a painting was reported stolen from the Winona State University campus. It had been missing for at least a few weeks or as long as two months, according to the report filed by WSU with the Winona police.

That painting, by Robert Pearson, had hung in the stairwell of Somsen Hall since 1986. The stolen painting is one of nine original oil paintings in a collection of artwork donated by the Watkins family in the 1920s and ‘30s known colloquially as the Watkins collection. Of those nine original oil paintings, all were accounted for until January 21.

The painting was appraised for $15,000 in 1986 (adjusted for inflation, about $31,000 in today’s dollars), but at the time of the theft the university was seeking funds to have the painting and other parts of the collection restored.

To Winona State officials like Ralph Townsend, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and one of the collections unofficial curators, the painting is worth far more and tells an interesting story as part of WSU’s Watkins Art collection.

“The collection is more than the sum of its parts,” said Townsend, “it’s an important part of WSU’s history and example of philanthropy in the 1920s.”

The roughly 600-piece collection was donated over a 10-year period during the 1920s and ’30s by Paul Watkins, the second CEO of Watkins Incorporated. Though the collection was never officially inventoried upon receipt, most accounts agree on the relative number of donated items.

Of the original 600 pieces, Winona State can now only account for about 300. According to Townsend and historical records, most of the pieces are what Townsend refers to as “paper pieces” which include prints, engravings, lithographs and photos, many of which Paul Watkins collected while traveling the world.

Most of these remaining “paper pieces” have been removed from their frames and stored in a filing cabinet based on the recommendations of conservators until they can be properly re-framed. There are plans to display some of them in 2016 if funding is available. While Townsend considers the Watkins collection to be important, spending thousands of dollars per-painting for restorations or even a few hundred to have a piece properly re-framed is difficult politically and monetarily.

Townsend said WSU has also gained a source of advice from the staff at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona, particularly MMAM Executive Director Andrew Maus. Maus has been advising the university on how to maintain the collection in a fiscally responsible way.

Maus’ first piece of advice was to create a dedicated art storage facility, so the pieces not on display were moved from the library basement where they were kept for decades to what used to be the map storage room for WSU’s geography department.

“It’s good to see Winona State taking a very proactive role in the collection,” said Maus.

Anyone with information about the stolen painting should contact the Winona police at 507-457-6368 or Winona State Security at 507-457-5555 .

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