Celebrating Winona State’s shining stars


Mercedes Johnson

President Olson standing with award-winners: Jennifer Prigge, Nora Kraemer, Madalyn Peterson, and Ashley Lenarz.

Reanne Weil, News Editor

The students and faculty members at Winona State University have proven time and time again to be some of the strongest in the Midwest. The most recent recognition of these members occurred on Tuesday, March 28 at the President’s Civic Engagement Award Ceremony.

Seven awards were given out to celebrate the committed civic engagement work of people in the community. The awards included the Joan Francioni Steward Award, the Community Partner Award (2), the Student Leadership Award (3) and the Newman Civic Fellow.

The Joan Francioni Steward Award, by definition, was given to engaged faculty, staff or administrators who have significantly advanced the distinctive civic mission by forming strong partnerships, supporting others’ civic engagement and working to institutionalize a culture and practice of engagement.

This year’s recipient was Nora Kraemer, associate professor in the Health, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences (HERS) department at Winona State and volunteer at Bridges Health. The dedication Kraemer has to her students in and outside of the classroom made her an exceptional candidate for the award.

Kraemer, a former student at Winona State, has been teaching full-time since 2009 and began with Bridges when it opened about five and a half years ago.

“I was working on my dissertation for my PhD,” Kraemer said. “I had finished that and then I heard about the clinic, and I thought, ‘I have to get involved with that.’”

Kraemer touched on the importance of this kind of experience for the students who work at Bridges.

“There’s so much that students don’t learn in the classroom that they learn out in the community,” Kraemer said. “With athletic training, our students’ clinicals are primarily with athletes, but here, we work with so much more.”

Kraemer teaches masters classes and undergrad classes at Winona State during most of her week but helps out on Thursdays at Bridges.

Though Bridges is strictly volunteer for her, Kraemer showed complete gratitude towards her time with them.

“Even though it’s not something that I’m getting paid for, it’s a priority for our students and a priority for our community,” Kraemer said. “If our community didn’t have this, a lot of people wouldn’t have any access to healthcare.”

Another award, the Student Leadership Award, was given to three students who model a deep commitment to civic responsibility and leadership, evidenced by initiative, passion, collaboration and integration of civic engagement into the college experience. One of the recipients was Tova Strange, a fourth-year student at Winona State majoring in psychology and double-minoring in communications and criminal justice.

At Winona State, Strange is a part of KEAP and is the Council President, an organization made up of representatives from different diversity groups on campus. Off campus, Strange is also a part of Community Not Cages, an abolitionist organization made up of folks in Winona and surrounding areas that seek to defund investments in police and reinvest that money into resources that keep the community safe like housing, food security, mental health services, addiction services, healthcare, etc.

Strange grew up in Winona and addressed her motivation behind becoming a strong member in her community.

“Being a community member and a college student really showed me the disconnect between the two,” Strange said. “At WSU, I have had the opportunity to see how different parts of a community can be siloed away from each other and it has allowed me to grow in my ability to connect people and allowed me to see my community in a way I hadn’t before.”

Strange further mentioned how she promotes awareness of community issues on campus.

“On campus I try to focus on getting students access to what is going on in Winona and encouraging them to participate in supporting their neighbors to create a better community,” Strange said. “Access to information allows for action, and most of what I try to do is get people the information they need so they can use their voices to stop harmful plans or push for helpful ones.”

Kraemer further expressed her gratitude towards her team, especially when she received her nomination.

“Sure, they nominated me for the award, but we have a huge team,” Kraemer said. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Karissa, Jen, Amy, Mary-Anne, Ann and all these other people. I’ve learned so much from them and their professions.”

While accepting the award at the banquet, Kraemer said she felt out of her comfort zone.

“For me, it was awkward walking in because I’m not a person that’s like ‘Hey, look at me,’” Kraemer said.

When Strange was receiving her award, she reflected on the important people in her life who helped make it happen.

“The nomination came from Dr. Mary Jo Klinker, a scholar and activist I deeply admire,” Strange said.  “It feels good to be recognized as making an impact, however nothing I have been involved in has happened because of me alone. I would be nowhere without the support of my comrades in Community Not Cages.”

Kraemer’s biggest piece of advice to all students, not just those involved in the HERS department, was to put themselves out there.

“Jump in, get involved,” Kraemer said. “They can always look at the website to connect with any one of us.”

Along the same lines, Strange advised people to take part and help the community in a positive manner.

“It is all of our responsibility to be accountable to our communities,” Strange said. “If we are not a part of creating the kind of world we want to live in, we will be stuck with one we don’t want to live in.”

*Edited on 4.16.23 to remove a quote