Winona State University welcomes back students with first “I Heart WSU Day” ever


McKenna Scherer

Winona State University held its first event of September and its first-ever ‘I Heart WSU Day’ event outdoors on its main campus on Wednesday, Sept. 1. From 1-3:30 p.m., hundreds of students attended the event and its various offered activities, including tie-dying, a dunk tank, ski-ball and a coinciding club fair, among others. The WSU-lettered sign outside of Phelps Hall was decorated with a brightly colored balloon arc which many students used as a photo op.

McKenna Scherer, Editor-in-Chief

Winona State University hosted its first event of September and first-ever “I Heart WSU Day” event on Wednesday, Sept. 1.
The event began at 1 p.m. and was scheduled to end at 3:30 p.m., activities stretching across main campus’ courtyard with the Gazebo at its center. Club tables wrapped around the Gazebo and throughout the courtyard pathways with various other activities like tie-dying, a dunk tank, ski-ball and claw machine games, a disc golf competition and a COVID-19 vaccine clinic.
Associate Director of Student Activities and Leadership at Winona State, Tracy Rahim, was credited with putting together the “I Heart WSU Day” event along with help from many departments and programs across the university, as well as further help from the Student Union.
“Not knowing how large [the first “I Heart WSU Day”] would be from the idea inception, my goal was to have 250-300 students attend,” Rahim said. “We had that many–at least–in the first 20 minutes!”
Rahim said the idea for the event developed this past June with a goal of wanting all Winona State students to feel truly welcomed back and appreciated after many students were not living on campus or in Winona last school year, due to COVID.
Rahim also said she wanted to give students experiences and activities that would make them think, “Wow! They had that for me to do! I’ve not seen that on
campus before!” With the weather clear and sunny, hundreds of students walked through the main campus event and sat along the edges of the courtyard under shaded areas.
Joseph Eichele, a third-year student double majoring in film studies and creative digital media, said he went to the event with friends and realized how much he missed being on campus.

“I came out with some friends because we wanted to enjoy the I Heart WSU Day, club fair and see a bunch of people. The vibes are immaculate,” Eichele said.
Eichele took shots at Greek Life’s dunk tank near the edge of the courtyard and spent time at the tie-dying table and ski-ball machine before heading off to class in Minné Hall.

Student interacting with Greek Life's Dunk Tank.
One of the highlighted events of Winona State University’s first-ever ‘I Heart WSU Day’ event was Greek Life’s dunk tank. Joseph Eichele, a third-year student majoring in both film studies and creative digital media, is pictured taking his shot. (McKenna Scherer)

Free Winona State t-shirts were given to the first 100 students and 600 free face masks to those who arrived quick enough to snag them, along with free popcorn and snacks for all.
Annika Herwig, a fourth-year movement science major, was manning the Student Union club fair table behind the Gazebo.
The Student Union table was decked out with the free Winona State face masks, event buttons, free sunglasses and more, which students were quick to pick up.
“There are going to be plenty [“I Heart WSU Day” events] scattered throughout fall semester,” Herwig said. “[For] dates, check out the Student Union website. We’ll have free things for students at our table.”
Rahim was instrumental in connecting programs across campus together with only four planned meetings between all of the individuals and departments involved.
“I started reaching out to departments and programs I thought would like to participate and could help achieve the vision and then it blossomed from there with other departments and programs coming to the table as the word spread of what we were doing,” Rahim said.
George Micalone, director of the Student Union and Activities, also was part of and attended the event and said it made the campus feel “vibrant” again.
“I thought the I Heart WSU Day was awesome,” Micalone said. “It was great to see all the students out enjoying themselves and the campus vibrant. The event on Wednesday felt good because it wasn’t crazy crowded, but everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.”
Rahim said she hopes I Heart WSU Day continues to be a way to welcome students back to campus each year and to collaborate with campus partners.
“It was incredible and made my heart sing,” Rahim said. “Seeing smiles on student’s faces as they were having fun, participating in our activities and giveaways and connecting with groups at the club fair, made every single ounce of effort worth it.”
Rahim also said she received “great feedback” from students, as well as faculty and staff, who participated in the event. She said many spoke of how they have not seen so much activity on campus for so long.

Students tie-dying outside of Winona State's courtyard.
On the outskirts of Winona State University’s main campus courtyard, Housing and Residence Life table offered free tie-dye supplies and 100 t-shirts for students to douse in color. Pictured are a group of Winona State students using blue and red dye, wearing gloves as to not stain their hands as they color their free Winona State t-shirts. The university’s first-ever ‘I Heart WSU Day’ event on Sept. 1 was a hit with hundreds of students attending. (McKenna Scherer)

Kaitlyn Mercier, Student Senate president and fourth-year student double majoring in political science and public relations, was also at the event at the Student Senate table.
“Oh my gosh, it is so exciting [to be back on campus]. I love to see everyone so happy and excited,” Mercier said. “It’s just awesome to be back.”
Mercier is part of the Winona State classes who were sent home mid-spring semester in 2020 due to COVID. Then, she was a second-year. Now, not only is she back on campus in time for her fourth year, but it is also her first semester as Student Senate president.
“I think being a freshman who came into a “normal” year, and then during sophomore year all getting sent home, but now being back for senior year, is really surreal,” Mercier said.
Mercier said she has especially enjoyed meeting many of this year’s first-year class and has already led several Student Senate meetings, which occur all semester long on Tuesdays at 5 p.m.
Especially with last year’s dormant-feeling campus life, Wednesday’s I Heart WSU Day is the first of a hopeful line up of fall events for the university, including upcoming Homecoming events like the Homecoming Concert and parade, as well as other events in September like appearances from comedian Charlie Berens and
magician Reza.