What Chelsea Hanson will remember most about her time at Winona State University is the people she met and the community that helped her grow and discover her true self.

“I came here not knowing anybody,” she said, “and I’m leaving with a great group of friends that I was lucky to have met. They truly became my family.”

The Lanesboro, Minn., native enrolled at WSU because she wanted to be somewhere close to home, but she had no idea just how different from home Winona State would be.

Taking classes like Sociology, Race and Ethnicity in America, and Intro to LGBTQ Studies, Hanson said she learned new and different perspectives that weren’t covered in her high school curriculum.

“I come from a very small town with little diversity,” she said. “(At WSU) I have learned so much not only relating to Criminal Justice, but also to deeper societal issues that we were never taught in high school.”

What Hanson learned, both in and out of the classroom at WSU, is that diversity can serve to unite people as much as it can be seen to divide them.

“WSU showed me that there are all types of people out there,” said Hanson. “The climate of acceptance on this campus is amazing and heart-warming. It doesn’t matter if you are black, white, gay, or straight, a Democrat or a Republican. I have close friends here that fit all of these molds. WSU has shown me a type of love and acceptance that I plan to carry forward in my life.”

Hanson, a first-generation student, will graduate with a Criminal Justice major and a minor. After she completes her semester-long internship with La Crosse County, she plans to stay in the area and work as a probation/parole officer.

Finding a job will be no problem, added Hanson, because WSU’s Criminal Justice program is well-connected and highly regarded, and the curriculum and internship requirement prepare graduates to step right into the professional world with confidence.

“Employers like hiring from WSU because they know they are getting quality employees,” she said. “I know that when employers see that I received my education from WSU, I have a leg-up on other candidates. It’s significant to be a Warrior.”

An additional reason Hanson is a proud alumna of WSU’s Criminal Justice program is the program’s emphasis on diversity.

“(Diversity) is very important in today’s climate for both police officers and correctional officers,” she said. “I am proud of WSU for recognizing this.”

As Hanson reflects on her four years at WSU, she’s grateful for the accepting faculty and students, the diverse campus, and the wide array of classes that broadened her perspective and welcomed her as her authentic self.

“College may feel like the end of a long career in education, but it is just the beginning in terms of the rest of your life,” she said. “Get the most out of these four years, because college is a lot more than four years of classes. College is meeting others, finding yourself, and discovering your passions.”

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 https://www.winona.edu/graduation/commencement.asp or call University Communications at 507-457-5024.