16545139024_624920156e_z (1)For statistics major Brian Barbeln, numbers are a way of life. But when he enrolled at Winona State University, he did so because he didn’t want to be just a number. He wanted to be part of a true community, in which students could form lasting relationships with faculty members and classmates.

Those close relationships became important for Barbeln, originally from Zimmerman, Minn., right away his freshman year at Winona State, when he was diagnosed with subdermal hematoma midway through his first semester.

Barbeln went through three surgeries attempting to stop the bleeding on his brain, then slipped into a coma for four days. Upon awakening, he experienced semi-paralysis on the left side of his body and spent days regaining feeling and movement.

But Barbeln was committed to his studies and returned to WSU the last week before finals. He was able to finish some of his classes on time, and wrapped up a few incompletes over winter break and the following spring semester. Ultimately he finished that semester with a 4.0 GPA thanks to the support and understanding of his professors and freshman year advisor.

“I am proud to graduate from WSU because this is a place where people care,” said Barbeln. “Every statistics professor that I have had has been great, and always there for me if I ever needed them. WSU is a place where people are willing to give of their time to help someone else.”

Despite a rough start to his college career, Barbeln was able to persevere and spend four great years at WSU, studying hard, traveling across the country with the Ultimate Frisbee team, and making friendships that will last a lifetime.

“You just don’t realize how fast four years can go by, so I am trying to live for the moment as much as I can.”