Since her freshman year in high school, Jessica Lavorata knew that Winona State University was where she was meant to be. Her assurance was rooted in her love for the beautiful scenery surrounding Winona and the fact that WSU has the only accredited undergraduate program in Composite Materials Engineering in the nation.

Lavorata, a native of Eau Claire, Wis., will graduate with a major in Composite Materials Engineering and minors in Polymer Chemistry and Mathematics. Despite her strong devotion to academics, she has learned that college is more than just hitting the books.

“While academics are the most important part of college, incorporating social aspects into everyday life make me more relaxed and eager to learn,” she explained.

Through WSU’s Outdoor Education and Recreation Center (OERC), Lavorata has discovered new interests, like rock climbing, hiking, and traveling. The beautiful scenery that originally drew her to Winona has now become a place for her to explore and unwind.

“The Mississippi River and bluffs are one of the biggest hidden treasures the Midwest has to offer,” she expressed. “I have loved taking advantage of them the past four years.”

During her time at WSU, Lavorata has learned the importance of stepping out of her comfort zones. In doing so, she has met new people, discovered new interests, and developed a support system.

“The community I found at WSU provided the perfect balance of support, mentorship, and competition I needed to push myself to be successful.”

She continued, “I look to my peers and professors for academic support and rivalry, to my co-workers for instruction and partnership, and to my friends for adventure and humility.”

Additionally, Lavorata expressed that she wouldn’t have been able to succeed without the financial support of several scholarships, such as the WSU Presidential Scholarship, Stanley Prosen Scholarship, Industry for the Advancement of WSU Composite Materials Engineering Scholarship, and the Presto Private Scholarship.

“My college experience would not have been so incredible without the help of scholarships. Because the scholarships helped relieve my monetary stress, I was able to focus on my studies, extracurricular activities and friendships instead of working extra hours.” She added, “I am extremely grateful for every scholarship I have received and the school for making these opportunities accessible to me every year.”

Starting in August, Lavorata will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. She hopes to eventually work as a design engineer for a major sporting goods company then become a professor after getting experience in the industry.

“As I near the end of my undergraduate career,” Lavorata explained, “I trust my experiences and relationships I have made at WSU will carry me through the next chapter of my life and beyond.”

WSU Spring Commencement Ceremonies will take place Friday, May 4, in McCown Gymnasium on the Winona campus. The 9 a.m. ceremony will feature the College of Business and College of Science and Engineering. The 12:30 p.m. ceremony will feature the College of Education and the College of Liberal Arts. The 4 p.m. ceremony will feature the College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

For more information, visit or call University Communications at 507-457-5024.

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Erin Kloepping

Erin was the Blog Manager before she graduated in 2019 with a BA in Communications and minors in Mass Communications and Training and Development. Erin is from Brodhead, WI and her interests include visiting unique coffee shops, collecting all things vintage, traveling and filmmaking.

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