Bethany StavranWhen Bethany Stavran enrolled at Winona State University, she did so with goals that reached far beyond simply earning a degree.

“I didn’t want to be ‘just another face in the crowd’ going to school—I wanted to make a difference.”

Stavran, a native of Rice Lake, Wis., set about taking advantage of as many social and leadership opportunities as she could. She took on leadership roles in the National Residence Hall Honorary and Residence Housing Association. She joined Lambda Pi Eta and coordinated the BlackSheep Slam Poetry event for three straight years. She served as a Freshmen Admissions Counselor, a Housing Tour Guide and performed twice in The Vagina Monologues.

Stavran took on so much that it began impacting her academic career. After a particularly challenging semester, her Introduction to Sociology professor, Craig Upright, pulled her aside and asked what was happening.

“Rather than punishing me (for not doing my homework), Professor Upright simply invited me to have a conversation, and helped me to see that maybe there was a reason I was passionately dedicating so much time to my campus involvements—that maybe that said something about how I should align my educational goals,” Stavran explained. “I ended up changing my major towards those interests the next semester, and it changed my whole trajectory!”

“I’ll always be grateful to Professor Upright,” Stavran continued, “for understanding that students are more than what the grades say we are and for his mentorship.”

This experience also led Stavran to another important revelation during her time at Winona State: Do not be afraid to ask for help. Stavran spent a lot of time thinking she had to face life’s challenges on her own before realizing all the resources available on campus.

“Professors, librarians, counselors, friends… The network and community here really is special, and the people will amaze you,” she said.

Now graduating with a degree in Organizational Communications and a double minor in Professional Selling and Film Studies, Stavran is sad to leave her “diamond in the bluffs” but excited for all that awaits her at her next stop in Seattle, Wash.

“(At WSU) I feel like I make a difference every single day, on my campus, in my leadership opportunities, in my community. That inspiration and confidence started here.” Stavran will be the speaker at the Fall Commencement ceremony on Dec. 11.