Students in field

Shelby Winter

April 20, 2016

Student Rep comes for Finnish culture, leaves with incredible memories

From travel, to art, to activism, Winter embraced life at FinnU

Finlandia University 2016 Student Representative is Shelby Winter, a Springfield, Illinois native who will be graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in Studio Arts / Illustration.

As student representative Winter will speak during the 2016 Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 1 at 1:30 p.m. at the Paavo Nurmi Center.

Winter, who entered her final semester with an incredible 3.91 grade point average, came across Finlandia University because of her keen interest in contemporary Finnish culture. Bands such as HIM, The 69 Eyes and Negative turned her on to the culture, and reading the Kalevala furthered her interest in everything Finnish.

“The culture is captivating,” she said. “It’s so much different.”

It’s a culture she yearned to be a part of, and Finlandia offered her that chance.

“I saw that the art and design program at Finlandia was great, and I hoped it would provide me the chance to go to Finland,” she said.

Winter came to campus and dove right in. She joined the Young Women’s Caucus for Art, resided for two years in the Servant Leadership House, immediately became a staple in the Jutila Center’s many studio spaces and last spring she became a Paloheimo Fellow.

“Shelby really is one of these exceptional students who takes advantage of the opportunities in front of her,” International School of Art & Design Dean Denise Vandeville said. “She has the qualities I hope for with every student.”

That Paloheimo Fellows program led to her fulfilling her dream of traveling to Finland.

“It was a great experience,” she said. “We didn’t just visit art museums, but we also learned about healthcare, criminal justice and the political system.”

She was also able to travel to New York City and Chicago as a member of the Young Women’s Caucus for Art.

“The opportunity to go to New York was special,” Winter said. “It allowed us to interact with influential professional artists.”

While the traveling and student groups were an amazing part of her experience, she’s also proud of the education she received in the Finlandia University International School of Art & Design.

“We’re really lucky here, I took art classes at another school with 15 to 30 students (per course), so getting the opportunity to interact one-on-one was hard, and it was easy to get lost in the shuffle,” she said. “Here you have people who are interested in your work, who care about your work. It’s important to them.”

That extra attention led to personal growth.


Shelby Winter and the rest of the members of the Servant Leadership House in the fall of 2014.
“It’s been great to see her grow, and hear her speak about her work and defend her work,” Vandeville said.

Some of Winter’s work can currently be seen in the Finlandia University Gallery.

One of the most memorable experiences for Winter will likely be the two years she spent living in the Servant Leadership House.

“(Professor of Religion) René Johnson approached me about it,” Winter said. “She had an idea for a non-traditional house, looking into community involvement, social justice. I looked at it one, to have a non-traditional college experience, not just going for a degree, and two, I wanted to give back to the community that was so welcoming to me.”

Winter and her roommates in the house put on several educational events for the community. The first year included focusing on issues in the world surrounding water, and this year the group raised the issues caused by the current worldwide bee shortage.

Winter is the daughter of Cheryl Winter of Springfield, Illinois. She plans to stay in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula after graduation to continue focusing on her artwork, and plans to eventually move to Finland and/or attend graduate school.

Learn more about Graduation Day 2016 at finlandia.edu/graduation.

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