17136779808_a20fceba3c_o-2For Amanda Burggraff, being diagnosed with leukemia as a teenager, suffering a debilitating stroke, and having to relearn basic skills such as memory recall, reading and writing were all just “bumps in the road.”

“We all have various challenges in our lives, but it’s what you do with those experiences that makes the greatest difference,” said Burggraff.

Burggraff chose not to let her challenges hold her back, and she will graduate this spring with a marketing degree from Winona State University and a lifetime’s worth of experiences.

As a WSU student, Burggraff traveled far from her hometown of Corcoran, Minn., spending a semester on the Pacific Challenge and a semester studying at Mahidol University in Thailand. She volunteered with Colleges Against Cancer, joined the professional business fraternity Pi Sigma Epsilon, and represented WSU in a wakeboard competition.

“Ever since my cancer experience my goal has always been to do bigger and better things with my life,” Burggraff said. “College brings so many opportunities, so it’s a great time to explore your interests.”

In addition to life-changing opportunities, Burggraff also found support and mentorship at WSU. Her junior year she received the Ruth Koutsky scholarship from the WSU Foundation and formed a close relationship with benefactor and retired WSU employee Bill Koutsky.

“It’s incredible finding positive mentors throughout our lives to help guide us along the way,” said Burggraff. “There are so many people to support your journey in life, and we truly need one other to assist us along the way.”

Through it all, Burggraff has learned to persevere.

“Looking back at the last four years, it’s incredible to see how far I have come,” said Burggraff. “For me, relearning how to read and regaining my memory retention was a continuous struggle, but through hard work and setting my goals high, I finally felt like I was myself again at Winona State. I truly felt free.”

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Samantha Stetzer

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