Winona State hosts “The Big Day”

Winona State hosts “The Big Day”

Hannah Hippensteel, Features Reporter

On Oct. 9, Winona State University students, alumni, friends and donors came together to make a difference for the second-annual giving day, also known as “The Big Day.”

Throughout the week, university-wide initiatives were highlighted on their personal GiveCampus pages, the online crowdfunding website used to increase awareness.

The campus’s multimedia content manager Alex Courrier, as well as the MarComm department, worked with each department to shoot footage and create a personalized representation of each initiative.

Having the crowdfunding online also reduced the need for people to be physically present on campus to participate in the event, according to Kayleen Berwick, Winona State’s annual giving coordinator.

The featured initiatives this year included experiential learning in the College of Liberal Arts, international perspectives with the College of Business, student research opportunities in the College of Science and Engineering, WSU Foundation initiatives and scholarships for student athletes.

Berwick worked with Matthew Ohs, the assistant director of annual giving, to create this idea in the summer of 2018 with the first giving day happening that fall.

One of the main concepts for this day is the “Power of Experience.”

Within the “Power of Experience” campaign, there are three areas of focus for fundraising: Laird Norton Center for Art and Design, College of Business Engaged Learning Endowment and the Stadium Renovation.

“The campaign will provide resources and state-of-the-art space to cultivate impactful student experiences,” Berwick said.

To her, the three projects also embody opportunity for transformation that is supplemental to what goes on in the classroom, which will impact all Winona State students and faculty.

For Charla Miertschin, dean of the college of science and engineering, “the Big Day” was important to help establish a fund for student travel and research, which is a large part of the college’s curriculum.

“[Research] projects are expensive, so this fundraising day is an opportunity for us to see how we can better support our students,” Miertschin said.

There is also a hope that the fund would allow grant-sponsored work where students would get paid for their research over the summer.

Students helped by this fund would be able to participate in research presentations at national and international meetings.

Miertschin described the flow of donations from alumni to students as synergistic.

“We hope [the alumni] understand their funds will be an investment in the futures of those students who are on the receiving end, so that one day, the students will pay it forward also.” Miertschin said.

Eric Schoh, the director of athletics, said he sees student-athlete scholarships as a great reason for people to give.

Schoh also said that “engaging our alumni” in donations is important because those funds are becoming a vital part of what they are doing in athletics.

With 14 Divison II sports, nine womens’ and five mens’ programs, the goal is to “graduate champions.”

“We hope every student’s experience is a positive one as we’re able to give outstanding people a degree in something they’re passionate about and providing them with an opportunity to compete for a championship,” Schoh said.

Rita Rahoi-Gilchrest, the associate dean for the college of liberal arts, said their goal for the giving day funds is to promote civic engagement and learning.

Because this is the first time the giving day was made university-wide, Rahoi-Gilchrest expressed her excitement with the campaign.

“Being able to put out information about what the college is doing has brought out people who say they miss WSU. Giving day has helped increase responses and let us know we are on the right path.” Rahoi-Gilchrest said.

Funds for the college will be put toward internships and other events to benefit the students.

As a last word from Berwick, she shared the importance of giving days for the university.

“At the end of the day, knowing you and so many other members of the WSU community pitched in to make a difference for students and education is a powerful sensation.” Rahoi-Gilchrest said.