For a Tennessee native, southeastern Minnesota can seem like a different world. And spending four years of college far away from family and friends was difficult, but Winona State University student Katya Hoffman has never been one to shy away from a challenge.

“WSU played a big role in teaching me independence,” said Hoffman, a first-generation college student from Cookeville, Tenn. “I have learned how to take care of myself, how to meet new people and make new friends, how to live on my own, and how to ask for help when I need it.”

Hoffman received an athletic scholarship to play on the varsity women’s golf team, and even served as the team captain her final year of play.

“Being on a college athletic team is an experience like no other,” said Hoffman. “I met and grew close with an amazing group of women and was able to compete and succeed at the sport I love. Being a Warrior is now in my blood.”

Hoffman also excelled in the engineering program, receiving the Industry for the Advancement of WSU Composite Materials Engineering Scholarship through the WSU Foundation.

“In addition to the financial benefits a scholarship can give, I also felt valued every time I received a scholarship,” said Hoffman. “I means a lot when you know there are people out there that don’t even know you personally who are willing to financially support your goals.”

The WSU community was vital to her success, said Hoffman, from the supportive relationships with faculty in the engineering department to working one-on-one doing independent study work to obtaining an internship in the industry.

“I do not believe I could have achieved my goal of working in the aerospace industry without these opportunities,” said Hoffman.

After graduation, Hoffman will travel on to Colorado, where she has accepted a job with Lockheed Martin as a Satellite Systems Engineer. But no matter where she goes, Winona will always be home.

“I am proud to graduate from a university that has somehow managed to feel like a second home,” said Hoffman. “I know I will always feel welcome whenever I come back to visit WSU.”

WSU Spring Commencement Ceremonies will be at 9 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. Friday, May 5, in McCown Gymnasium. The 9 a.m. ceremony will feature the College of Education and the College of Liberal Arts. The 12:30 p.m. ceremony will feature the College of Business and the College of Science and Engineering. The 4 p.m. ceremony will feature the College of Nursing and Health Sciences. For more information visit or contact University Communications at 507-457-5024.