Winona State shows love to donors

Allison Mueller

Volunteers hand out ice cream in the lower hyphen of Kryzsko Commons as students write thank you cards to donors of Winona State University as part of the university’s “Get the Scoop on Philanthropy” on Wednesday, Feb. 15 for I Love WSU Week. Winona State Foundation hosts the week annually to raise awareness about the donors who give to the university. (Photo by Nikko Aries)
Volunteers hand out ice cream in the lower hyphen of Kryzsko Commons as students write thank you cards to donors of Winona State University as part of the university’s “Get the Scoop on Philanthropy” on Wednesday, Feb. 15 for I Love WSU Week. Winona State Foundation hosts the week annually to raise awareness about the donors who give to the university. (Photo by Nikko Aries)

Olivia Volkman-Johnson

Twenty two percent of Winona State University funding comes from the Minnesota state government, according to the Winona State Foundation. The other 88 percent comes from donors supporting Winona State students.

The foundation, along with Winona State Alumni Relations and the Student Organization of Alumni Relations (SOAR), honored these donors during the second annual I Love WSU Week—a four-day celebration that took place from Tuesday, Feb. 13 to Thursday, Feb. 16 primarily in Kryzsko Commons.

Each of the four days served to bring awareness to the contributions made by donors, while a crowd funding page and student penny wars were hosted all week to raise money for future and ongoing scholarships and projects.

As phonathon coordinator with the university’s Alumni Relations and a Winona State graduate, Katie Gottstein assisted the foundation and SOAR with each of these events.

“We’re incorporating alumni, staff and faculty, and students to all share their love for Winona State as well as bring awareness to philanthropy and giving,” Gottstein said.

Monday was “Tag Day” where tags saying, “I am here because of donors” were placed on every piece of campus that was donated, including buildings, sculptures and trees.

One of the largest contributions honored that day, according to Gottstein, was Haake Hall—a posthumous donation from the late Paul Haake, who grew up in Winona and attended Winona Senior High School.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, Tuesday was “I Love WSU Day,” and students took photos and shared what they love about Winona State for a chance to win prizes.

On Wednesday, students wrote thank you postcards to donors and got a free scoop of ice cream as part of “Get the Scoop on Philanthropy.”

The week culminated in the “All-U Campaign Kick-Off” event held in the Student Activity Center on Thursday, Feb. 16, which hosted numerous donors, alumni, faculty and current Winona State students with food, music and prizes.

The final event included an introduction from Winona State President Scott Olson, who explained the importance of philanthropy, as well as testimonies from Winona State students who have benefitted from donors and the work of the foundation.

The foundation utilizes approximately $1 million in donations for over 900 scholarships annually, according to Cindy Jokela, a director of development for Winona State’s University Advancement.

“Funding student scholarships is an area of great need and importance—making college

accessible, providing educational opportunities, easing students’ financial burden,” Jokela said.

Though there is a large amount of monetary donations received by the foundation each year, gifts and donations can come in many different forms, according to Tracy Hale, associate director of the university’s Alumni Relations.

Alumni Relations staff, according to Hale, hosts 60 to 65 events nationally each year to connect with Winona State alumni, keep them updated about campus events and give information about how they can help the university.

“We engage our alumni and find out ways that they want to give back,” Hale said. “Giving back can be a lot of different things, and that’s what we encourage our alumni to do.”

Hale and Gottstein said there are a variety of ways Winona State alumni and donors can give gifts to the university, including donating money to specific departments or clubs or taking the time to speak with current students.

“Once we see alumni want to be active, whether it’s coming to events or being a mentor or coming to campus and speaking in a class, we’ll kind of seek out that interest,” Gottstein said.

According to Hale, for most alumni, an experience at Winona State is usually what motivates them to give back to the university.

“There was either a professor, a moment, a class that they took, [or] a coach that impacted them so meaningfully that they want to be able to give back to somebody in that same way,” Hale said.

By hosting I Love WSU week each year, both the foundation and alumni relations hope to reach out to Winona State alumni and donors to help them give back, while honoring their contributions, according to Gottstein.

“Winona State wouldn’t be where it is today without donors. Everything you see on campus wouldn’t be here. We would have no trees, no benches, no places to sit,” Gottstein said. “People who gave to those funds didn’t get to experience it, but you did because of them.”

By Olivia Volkman-Johnson