After four years, three majors, two minors, and countless projects, conferences and competitions, Jimmy Hickey has an important bit of advice to share with his peers. The key to success in college? Get involved in the community.

“Even if you’re awkward,” he added. “I’m really awkward, it’ll be fine.”

Close community involvement wasn’t necessarily something Hickey was interested in when he first started looking at colleges. The Arlington Heights, Ill., native was looking at bigger schools and was skeptical about the size of Winona State and the surrounding community.

“I initially desired to attend a large school,” Hickey said. “However, after experiencing the small class sizes and getting to know the faculty, I became a proud Warrior.”

Hickey, who will be graduating with majors in Computer Science, Mathematics, and Physics and minors in Data Science and Statistics, described the faculty and staff as one of the most positive attributes of Winona State.

“There are employees at this university that care so much about the students,” he said. “They go out of their way to help the students learn and dedicate time to interacting and socializing with their students, even with their busy professional and personal schedules.”

That level of dedication is extremely valuable, said Hickey, because it not only helps students with their coursework, it helps them with communication and presentation skills and prepares them for the professional world beyond graduation.

“One of the most important things I learned at WSU is that you can be both awkward and social,” said Hickey.

Hickey’s list of mentors is even longer than his list of majors and minors, and includes Dr. Andrew Ferstl, Dr. Nathan Moore, Dr. Jeremy Armstrong, Dr. Gerald Cichanowski, Dr. Silas Bergen, Dr. Todd Iverson, Dr. Brant Deppa, Dr. Eric Errthum and Eric Wright.

“These faculty and staff are an inspiration,” said Hickey. “I want to make them proud and learn from them.”

Hickey also found inspiration in the community that provided him financial support.

“I am very fortunate to have so many generous benefactors to make my final year here so fantastic and educational,” said Hickey. “My junior year I worked around 30 hours a week on top of taking 22 credits per semester. (But with financial help from scholarships my senior year), I was able to work on more projects, attend conferences, and participate in competitions. These have been the best experiences in my academic career.”

After graduation, Hickey eventually plans to attend graduate school for a Ph.D. in Computer Science or Data Science, inspired by the many mentors he amassed during his time at WSU.

“I hope to improve the world as much as my professors improved me,” he said.

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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Cassandra Douglas

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