College project aims to get students involved in communities

By Elliot Mann

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Take Winona State University students, add a Minneapolis puppet and mask theater, and the result is a yearlong project to promote water quality. Admittedly, the equation doesn’t make sense at first glance.

Still, it’s one that civic leaders say provides students with a quality education and cities with engaged residents.

Minnesota Campus Compact, a group of 50 colleges and universities, is sponsoring several "civic engagement forums" statewide to showcase community-student partnerships and how to do them successfully. Campus Compact will host one Wednesday in Rochester.


The Winona State University water project is one of six that will be discussed at the forum. Six other organizations, including the city of Winona and St. Mary’s University, have participated in trying to increase water quality awareness around Winona. The effort includes a lecture series on water quality, intertwining drinking water texts into classroom work and an "adopt-a-water fountain" campaign.

Winona State President Judith Ramaley said working with the greater community opens up several possibilities for students. No college alone can offer everything to learners compared to school-community partnerships, she said.

"It’s a win-win," said Ramaley, who is also chairwoman of Minnesota Campus Compact.

An example project

The Winona State water project started in January through a partnership with the Minneapolis-based In the Heart of the Beast theater. The troupe staged a residency with WSU and created a drinking water-related performance. Through that, the students learned about a grant opportunity with Campus Compact.

Joan Francioni, director of Winona State’s Center for Engaged Research, Teaching and Scholarship, has worked with the water project and said she hopes those involved are able to take a local focus and also see the nationwide impacts, too. She also teaches computer science classes at WSU.

"It’s really been wonderful," Francioni said. "The beauty of this kind of project to me is that there are a lot of ways for everybody to connect in."

Another project to be discussed came from Rochester Community and Technical College. Students and faculty worked together to help the library at Rochester charter school Adam Abdulle Academy.


Forum organizers said area lawmakers will attend, including state Sens. Ann Lynch, David Senjem, Dan Sparks and Sharon Erickson-Ropes and state Rep. Kim Norton.

"It is really to create a dialogue and create an understanding of the value of campus/community partnerships," said Jenny Hegland, WSU-Rochester career development/outreach counselor.

For more information, go to

The Winona Water Project online:

If you go

What: Minnesota Campus Compact is hosting a forum about civic engagement, attended by state legislators and several representatives of area universities.

When: 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Where: Heintz Center student commons, Rochester Community and Technical College, 1926 College View Road S.E., Rochester.

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