Heather Gerdes will graduate from Winona State University this month with her degree in communication studies, but has no plans to stop her education there.  She hopes to continue contributing to her knowledge and her community while pursuing a graduate education at WSU.

This is no small task given that Gerdes is not your typical college student. Gerdes has worked hard over the past four years to balance her roles of mother of two, employee, and student – a job that was made a little easier with achievements like being awarded the Erika K. Scholarship and Communication Studies Outstanding Student in Fall 2012.

“WSU helped me achieve my goals through the continued support and encouragement from my professors,” she said. “There was always someone to help with any questions or struggles I had along the way.”

For her senior project, Gerdes helped Home and Community Options, a local organization dedicated to provide support and housing to those with developmental disabilities, by writing a grant proposal and providing them the know-how to pursue future grants.

After graduation, Gerdes plans to work full-time until next fall, when she will attend graduate school at WSU. Professor Susan Hatfield said she is sure Gerdes will do good things for the area.

“Heather is a Winona native and deeply connected to this community,” Hatfield said. “She really loves interacting with people and has a strong instinct to help others. She’ll put her degree to great use and positively impact Winona.”

Gerdes said her favorite aspect of her four years at WSU was the wonderful people she met along the way, from her travel study experience in the Virgin Islands to insights shared by her professors in the classroom.

“When you find your passion in life, great things happen and you can achieve so much,” she said. “I am proud to have attended and graduated from WSU.”

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Eric Hawkins

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