The Center for Interdisciplinary Collaboration, Engagement and Learning

Winona State has a new project in the works – the Center for Interdisciplinary Collaboration, Engagement and Learning, or CICEL. The building, which is up for capital bonding project consideration through the Minnesota Legislature, would provide flexible classroom and lab spaces that support active and creative learning, innovation and experimentation for WSU students. It is envisioned as a campus center for academic collaboration and partnerships with local and regional businesses and organizations.

Of the project, WSU President Scott Olson said “It is our hope that this groundbreaking new facility will foster collaborative experiences and spark meaningful interactions. CICEL will be home to the Departments of Computer Science, Math and Statistics, and Art and Design, all of which interact with each other, and with other programs on campus, in ways that we believe empower students to build Minnesota’s future. By physically breaking down the barriers between different disciplines, we can support creative problem solving and encourage students to share their diverse strengths and perspectives – across the campus and the community.”

Additionally, CICEL will be the first Net Zero Energy (NZE) and carbon neutral building in the Minnesota State system. The project calls for demolition of two older buildings, Watkins and Gildemeister Halls (circa 1964), and the construction of a new, 73,000-square-foot building. In addition to eliminating $9.2 million in deferred maintenance costs, the project is intended to reduce overall operating costs due to its sustainability features.

The request in front of the state legislature is for phase one of the project, an initial amount of $3.2 million to support the design and planning phase of the project. The second phase of the project, for construction costs, is estimated at $43.4 million.

$1 Million Raised for COB Engaged Learning Endowment

Winona State announced in January that it had reached the $1 million fundraising goal for the College of Business (COB) Engaged Learning Endowment, which provides support and inspiration to students, faculty, alumni and business partners to collaborate and connect the classroom to the business world. With the full dollar amount raised, the endowment will now be able to offer such support in perpetuity.

Experiences offered through the endowment will give students the ability to partner with faculty, alumni and external businesses to engage in authentic and practical learning opportunities, which will help them build the skills, confidence and relationships needed to succeed in the business world. WSU’s business partners will also gain benefits from such engagement opportunities, with the ability to utilize the expertise of university faculty and students’ fresh perspectives in working on special projects to generate innovative solutions to their organization’s challenges.

“This fund is the first of its kind at WSU, with a goal of providing financial support to help transform the student experience,” said WSU Director of Development Debbie Block. “Our sincere thanks go out to everyone who made a gift to invest in the future of WSU’s College of Business students.”

WSU Black Katts Win USA Rugby DII Fall Championship

The WSU Women’s Rugby team, the Black Katts, won the USA Rugby DII College Fall Championship with a 19-10 win over the Colorado School of Mines in December 2019. Their success this year marks their third national championship in nine years, and ninth consecutive appearance in the National Final Four.

The fall season also resulted in the team’s first year competing with D1 status during the regular season. Taking on teams that have university wide D1 rugby programs in place, such as the University of Minnesota, the Black Katts finished the season undefeated. As part of the Black Katts’ proposal to be given D1 status, they competed in the D1 Midwest conference during regular season but returned to D11 for the post-season playoffs.

As a result of their stellar season, the team was honored by Winona Mayor Mark Peterson when he declared January 21, 2020 Winona State Women’s Rugby Day. Congratulations Black Katts!

30 Years of Dancescape

This February, WSU’s Department of Theatre and Dance presented Dancescape 2020. A Winona tradition since 1990, this year marked the event’s 30th year.

This year’s program included a performance of “Deja Trois” choreographed by artistic director, Gretchen Cohenour, who also celebrates her retirement after creating and leading the one-of-a-kind experience since its inception.

Other performances included the premiere of “Seeing Difference,” an improvisational dance score created in collaboration between WSU dancers and guest choreographer brooke smiley, an Advancing Indigenous

Performer Fellow 2019/2020 from Western Arts Alliance with lead support from the National Endowment of the Arts, and Doris Duke Foundation; and a work entitled “Recocoilcuir (queer),” created for WSU students by Minneapolis-based WSU dance alum and Jerome Hill Artist Fellow, Pedro Pablo Lander, during his time in residence at WSU.

Expanding Perspectives at WSU

Winona State University’s Inclusion and Diversity Office is growing its outreach and offerings to serve all students, the campus community, as well as the greater community at large.

New this year was the inception of a weeklong program series, Expanding Perspectives, that takes place each semester and was open to the public. The spring semester installment occurred in February this year, welcoming a series of speakers who shared personal empowerment stories. Guests included including an individual from the Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association who arrived in America as an immigrant from Southeast Asia, two artists “telling radical truths” about art, struggle and victory, a local professor who has lived through what it means to be adopted from Korea, and speaker Sonnie Hereford, the first black child to enter Alabama’s historically segregated schools. Hereford’s presentation set forth the question, “Yes, we know schools are integrated now, but has the terminology, the wording, the rhetoric changed since the first black child entered Alabama schools?”

The week concluded with a workshop on activism, presented by Inclusion and Diversity staff. Dr. Jonathan Locust, AVP of Inclusion and Diversity at WSU, explained the goal of the workshop was to “explore back to the roots of the KEAP (Knowledge, Empowerment, Advocacy, and Pluralism) Center and share different, positive ways for students to engage in protests and activism.”

New Nursing Simulation Lab

WSU’s Department of Nursing is building a new simulation and procedural laboratory in Rochester. This new lab, which began construction in November and is set to be completed this spring, will allow the Rochester nursing program to provide hands-on learning opportunities for nursing students. Students will use the lab to experience high-fidelity simulations of medical procedures and enhanced objective structured clinical examination scenarios.

“We are continually evolving our preparation of our advanced practice nursing students so that the program provides all the information and experiences our students need to pass their certification examinations and to be leaders in their practice settings,” says College of Nursing & Health Sciences Dean Julie Anderson.

Shelley Wolfe, the Simulation Coordinator and an Assistant Professor at WSU-Rochester, explains why this new experiential classroom space is important. “In creating a safe environment for our nursing students to get hands-on experience with procedures and patient care, our students are better prepared to enter the clinical setting,” she says. “That is what a simulation lab is all about.”

Diversifying Online & Hybrid Programs

WSU’s Department of Business Administration within the College of Business has been busy. This year marked the start of their new Business Administration Online Degree Completion Program for individuals looking to complete their Bachelor of Science degree in business administration. Simultaneously, the department is preparing for the launch of a similarly structured Human Resource Management Online Degree Completion Program in fall 2020. Both programs are geared towards students who have already completed the first two years of general education requirements.

Likewise, the University’s College of Education is diversifying its offerings as well, introducing a new hybrid-format Alternative Licensure Special Education Program for teachers looking to obtain their Academic and Behavioral Strategist License. The program is a collaborative effort between local school districts and WSU to address the chronic teacher shortage in special education.

For more information on these new program offerings, visit


In October 2019, WSU hosted a mini session of the Minnesota House of Representatives, welcoming more than 100 legislators and their staff to the campus and community. The event marked the 30-year anniversary of the 1989 mini-session also held in Winona, which helped establish WSU’s Composite Materials Engineering program. To commemorate the anniversary, junior CME student Casey Cooper designed a special souvenir which was 3D printed and given out to all attending legislators.

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