UW Oshkosh’s 146th Spring Commencement honored the academic achievements of students from all three campuses—Fond du Lac, Fox Cities and Oshkosh—in a virtual ceremony on May 16.
At the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, scholarly research and creative activities help hone students’ critical-thinking skills and contribute to their professional and personal development. Students who engage in this important work—work that allows them to think and create outside the walls of a classroom—can improve their information literacy, enhance their writing and communication skills and reap the benefits of collaboration.
Click the image below to view photos of UW Oshkosh students conducting and showcasing research.
Whether they’re working in the broadcast or radio studio or on the sound stage, radio TV film students at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh prepare for careers in the mass media by mastering professional procedures while training with the latest technology and professional equipment.
Click the image below to view photos of students in the radio TV film program putting the resources to good use.
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh students have shown resiliency and care for one another in the unprecedented times brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. On Monday students finished moving out of the campus residence halls. Because face-to-face instruction is suspended for the remainder of the spring semester and spring interim, students will resume classes through alternative delivery methods beginning March 30.
It also was announced Monday that vacated residence halls on the Oshkosh campus are being prepped to potentially house coronavirus patients in the event local hospitals reach capacity. More than a hundred people from the UWO community, the majority of them students, volunteered to help these efforts.
Click the image below for more photos from Monday’s move-out.
For more information on how coronavirus concerns are impacting UWO, visit uwosh.edu/coronavirus.
On commencement day, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh faculty and staff typically gather at Kolf Sports Center to celebrate with the myriad of graduates, their friends and families. Even though a global pandemic moved the ceremony online and prevented us from being together in person, we’re still bursting with pride and ready to honor all that our graduating Titans have accomplished.
In this time of uncertainty and change, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh alumni wanted to let current Titans know they are thinking of them and sending positive vibes their way.
As students, staff and faculty at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh settle into new routines, it’s important to acknowledge the shared resilience, adaptability and strength during these changing times.
The path will not be an easy one to climb, but time and time again, our community has reminded us that no matter what we face, we face it together. Because Titans Rise.
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students Art Munin will serve as interim vice chancellor for Student Affairs, beginning July 1.
Munin will take on new duties as current vice chancellor for Student Affairs, Cheryl Green, begins her new role as president at Governors State University at University Park, Illinois.
UW Oshkosh Chancellor Andrew Leavitt made the announcement this week.
Munin will assume the interim vice chancellor role for a second time since starting at UW Oshkosh in October 2016. The first occurred from December 2018 through August 2019, when Green was serving as interim chancellor at UW-Whitewater.
Leavitt said during that time, Munin’s leadership was “seamless, thoughtful and inclusive.”
He said he is confident Munin will provide a high level of leadership in the University’s Student Affairs division as the campus continues to navigate the impacts of COVID-19 and build engagement and recruitment of students.
The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh College of Letters and Science has created a new 12-credit humanities certificate program designed to provide students with a broad set of skills that indicate a well-rounded individual.
Studies have shown that while employers value technical skills among their employees, they care less about a college major and more about a worker’s ability to think critically, communicate clearly and collaborate effectively. The new humanities certificate signifies to future employers that UWO students have a varied skill set beyond the specialized skills within their area of study.
“The Humanities Certificate is designed for students who wish to learn about themselves and their world through perspectives that might be very different from those obtained in the many great STEM or pre-professional programs UWO has to offer,” said Stephen Kercher, history professor and interim director of the Office of Student Research and Creative Activity.
Larry Herzberg, philosophy department chair and Elizabeth Wade-Sirabian, professor of German, both believe the certificate will enrich students personally and professionally by providing expanded perspectives, sharpened critical thinking and increased empathy.
Starting in the fall 2020 semester, students interested in completing the certificate are able to create their own plan of study that’s tailored to their interests, choosing from over 200 courses across five areas of humanities.
Stewart Cole teaches courses in modern and contemporary literature, literary criticism, creative writing and the environmental humanities. His academic research examines representations of animals in modern British and Irish literature from an eco-critical perspective. Born, raised and educated in Canada, he is a proud first-generation college student. In 2016, he was one of the recipients of the Edward M. Penson Award, which recognizes faculty members who make significant contributions to their colleges and the University.
The following is the speech Cole delivered as part of University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s 146th spring commencement:
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Hello everyone. The first thing I’ll say to our students (our soon-to-be former students) is congratulations to all of you. Today marks the day that you cross that milestone line separating university student from university graduate. And not only that, but the conditions under which you’re watching this ceremony (the fact that I’m talking to a camera rather than seeing the faces of our graduates and their loved ones in person, as I would ideally like to be doing) attests to your having overcome more than the usual challenges that face seniors on the home stretch of their degree.
You have made it through your last semester of college amid the greatest global health crisis in a century—learning from home, kept away from the campus that no doubt came to feel like a second home in recent years, your work suddenly happening in the virtual spaces of video screens and discussion forums and dropboxes, your classroom communities fragmented and scattered to the winds seemingly at random. This last loss has affected me, as a professor, very deeply—the loss of meeting in the classroom and seeing the ideas that emerge, as if organically, out of the generative dialogue of students and professors who come together in a shared learning community. So much of the knowledge we create seems to depend on our being there, collectively, in that powerful space. I have missed that very much, and I know from speaking with students over the past two months that many of you have too.
It would be easy to be negative about these circumstances, especially given that they extend so far into our lives and around the world, bringing economic hardship, uncertainty, fear, and yes tragedy to so many. I wouldn’t normally bring these things up at such a celebratory occasion, but it would be dishonest and even neglectful not to acknowledge them—because I’m sure that the lives of many of you and your families have been touched in some of these ways.
But I am not here to dwell in negativity. I am here instead to urge you to think about how the adverse circumstance of having a world-historic emergency serve as the backdrop of your final semester here at UW Oshkosh marks you out for special significance. The Class of 2020 has experienced something that future histories will single out as a turning point in the 21st century—a time when whole societies were forced into social isolation, their citizens kept apart from one another, from their workplaces, from their places of learning, from all the places where people gather to produce the material of life (not just goods and services, but knowledge and conversation and something as simple and essential as laughter). Of all the 145 prior classes to graduate at spring commencement in the history of UW Oshkosh, the Class of 2020 came through this. You will be able to point to the pages of those future histories and say, “Not only was I there, but I did the work to graduate from college in the middle of that. That was me.”
This is the end of my seventh academic year teaching at UWO, and during that time, I have had many conversations with students on the verge of graduation, many of whom have expressed the same anxiety: “I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life.” Many of them have known what they wanted to do, but in the world out there, we can’t always get what we want, and that can be scary. Of course I understand this. It wasn’t that long ago that I felt exactly the same way. But there are two things I’ve come to always say to those students, and I’ll say them to you now, because I suspect that many of you need to hear them, too. First, it’s not a matter of “doing something with your life” because you have already been living your life. Indeed, that fact that you’re graduating with a degree today is evidence that not only have you been living your life, you’ve been living a good life—building a store of knowledge and ideas and relationships and creative, critical, problem-solving skills that will help you achieve not just material prosperity for yourselves (otherwise known as jobs and money) but real fulfillment. And I say this as a first-generation college student who worked some post-graduation jobs ranging from not bad to truly awful before landing in what I now consider to be my dream job: I worked at a bookstore (not bad); I worked as a dishwasher in the kitchen of a very busy restaurant (demoralizing—I fell in the dumpster once at 2 a.m. while cleaning up at the end of my shift); and I worked at a call center for a company that I later learned was defrauding its clients (truly awful—and a long story, too long to get into here!). But even these experiences count as me doing something with my life—not necessarily what I ideally wanted to be doing, but something without which I very well might not be here today. So graduates: this is your life. It is now, not just off in the distance. Live in it. Learn from it! Don’t rush through it on your way to the future.
So that’s the first thing. The second thing I’ll say is this: you are prepared, much more prepared than you may think you are. By my count, I have taught 34 of you, and let me tell you, it has often struck me how much more prepared you are than I was. I have seen UW Oshkosh students on a mountainside in Ireland, with rain lashing in off the Atlantic Ocean, working together as a community and for a community for hours, rebuilding stone walls for a local farmer, drenched and laughing. I have seen students enter into creative writing classes never having written a poem before and become published authors within a matter of years. Semester after semester, I see students who think “I don’t understand this” or say “this just isn’t my strong suit” put in the work and not only understand but produce brilliant, insightful research. A colleague told me when I interviewed for this job that one thing about UW Oshkosh students is that they are so determinedly modest that they often don’t know how smart they are, and one of the best things about teaching them is that you get to watch them realize it, to come to own their abilities. Now modesty is often a virtue (it’s certainly better than the opposite), but today is not a day for modesty. Graduates: you need to own how smart you are, how much you’ve grown, and how prepared you are to cross this milestone line today.
This is not to deny that the University does feel like a kind of haven, or that the world beyond the campus walls can seem much less certain. But one of the things you should have learned—especially you, Class of 2020, with all you’ve overcome these recent months—is that certainty is not something we have a right to expect. Nothing is certain. This can make us anxious, of course—and in such times of anxiety, we should often turn to the poets. In this case, the poet John Keats offers one of the great theories of consciousness, a little idea that we should all carry around like a smooth stone or a seashell in our pockets if we want to live better, less anxious lives. This is Keats’s idea of “negative capability,” a forbidding-sounding term, but it’s really quite simple. Keats elaborated negative capability in a letter to his brothers in December 1817, singling it out as the distinguishing trait of great writers, Shakespeare most of all. He says that negative capability is when a person is “capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable grasping after fact or reason.” Now much ink has been spilled in interpreting precisely what Keats means here, but we can say that most basically, to possess negative capability is to be able to dwell in uncertainty without grasping after certainty that is impossible to attain. In other words, the “negative” in negative capability designates what we don’t know, what we can’t control, what we will not ever be sure of—and the “capability” is the capacity and willingness to accept that: to not allow the fundamental uncertainties of life to render us anxious, to paralyze us, or to lead us grasping after false truths. The world’s uncertainties demand negative capability of us now more than ever—and luckily, I know you have it in you, even if you’re not sure you do. Think about the most challenging and rewarding problems in your fields of study: medical problems, market problems, artistic problems, problems of experimental design, of historical evidence, of interpretation. There comes a moment in confronting such problems when you reach the limits of what you can be sure of, when you’re faced with a choice whose consequences you can’t fully predict, when you just need to choose a direction and see what happens. At the best of times, presto: the treatment works, the stock rises, the composition locks into a harmonious whole, the results accord with the hypothesis, the narrative flows convincingly. Or, less ideally, the opposite happens, and hopefully you get to try again.
In a way, we are all products of the most basic and yet most momentous act of negative capability—one without which none of us would be here. Think of your parents. They had you without knowing anything about what you would become. No one paid them to have you. They didn’t say, we want a nurse or an English major or a saxophone player or a math teacher or an expert in supply-chain management, or we’re not having a kid. They couldn’t know what you’d become. If they had all “grasped after fact and reason” in the face of this uncertainty (as Keats warns us not to), we wouldn’t have a Class of 2020. But they didn’t. They made the choice in the absence of full knowledge, they faced up to the mystery, and they are being rewarded for it today, as the proud parents of college graduates. (So, graduates, you should all probably take a moment to turn to your parents and say, “Thank you, parents, for exercising negative capability”—and your parents should turn to your grandparents and say the same thing, all the way back through time…). Okay. Did you all do that? What I want to point out to you here is first, that many of the best, most life-changing and rewarding decisions are made in the face of uncertainty; and second, a major part of what your education has prepared you with is the capacity to confront that uncertainty with acceptance, and to make genuinely good, successful lives for yourselves in the face of it.
To close, I would like to take another turn into the world of literature, this time to the visionary African American science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler and her novel Parable of the Sower, which I studied online this semester with a group of upper-year English and environmental studies students. Published in 1993, Butler’s novel is set in a California three decades in the future, a world afflicted by global warming, drought and violent social disintegration. It focuses on a young woman, Lauren Olamina, as she travels up the coast after losing her family, gathering friends along her journey. Lauren’s father had been a preacher, and though she is respectful of his Christian teachings, in her extreme circumstances she comes to feel the need to reconceive of God in terms that fit her terrifying world. She does this reconceiving in small poems, and this is the first of these:
All that you touch You Change.
All that you Change, Changes you.
The only lasting truth Is Change.
Faced with a world wracked by environmental destruction, racism and rampant patriarchy, the tearing apart of families, and rising poverty and insecurity, Lauren affirms change as the only constant. Lest this sound too hopeless, I should add that later, Lauren adds another poem that attests to humanity’s power in such a situation. She writes: “God is Trickster, Teacher, Chaos, Clay. God exists to be shaped.” Lauren’s fellow travelers eventually become followers, and the novel ends with the founding of a community called Earthseed—a community rooted in mutual respect and love, a binding promise to help one another, and a shared acceptance both of change as the guiding force of the universe and of our power to shape that change with our choices. No matter our faith, we can learn from Butler’s vision of a young woman facing a terrifying world— a world much more terrifying than our own still much brighter world—and forging out of the chaos and destruction around her a vision of togetherness and empowerment and hope. This touches keenly on the key thing I want to affirm for you today: graduates, you are prepared with the wisdom to accept that change is inevitable and with the skills and capacities to adapt and flourish in the face of change. You are negatively, beautifully capable.
You also have a community here. I know I can speak for my fellow faculty when I say that the fact that you are graduating only means that now, you are alumni. We care about you and your success. Please don’t think of UWO as behind you, but rather at the foundation of your future. Please don’t hesitate to be in touch. We are here to support you and to celebrate you, and we, your professors, want to hear from you. But that is the future. In the here and now, the most important thing is that you enjoy this day. You have earned it.
Jim Ransom’s 35-year career spanned finance and advisory services as well as senior leadership roles in private and public companies. He leveraged 10 years with Arthur Andersen and Accenture to earn roles at Everbrite Inc., as executive vice president and later at Menasha Corp. as division chief executive officer. He spent the next 15 years at Bemis, starting as division president and retiring in 2017 as executive officer and president of Bemis North America. He built his career around servant leadership, a strategic agenda and delivering results. Since his “retirement,” Ransom has enjoyed the role of instructor in UWO’s MBA program.
The following is the speech Ransom delivered as part of University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s 146th spring commencement:
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I graduated 37 years ago, and you might wonder why would the University pick somebody as old as me to chat with you today.
- Well I prepared for this so I watched 20 hours of TikTok,
- I listened to 13 hours of the Tiger King, I’m having Carol Baskin flashbacks… all you cool cats and kittens,
- and I’ve had two Bud Lights for every day that I’ve been in, well three Bud Light’s for every day I’ve been in quarantine
- and my daughter cut my hair.
I am prepared.
But on a serious note, congratulations, to all of you, this is a wonderful opportunity. Even though we need to do it in this virtual format, it doesn’t take anything away from what a great experience this should be. I’m really proud and I congratulate all of you. And it isn’t the end of anything really, it’s just the beginning of a lifelong learning experience, a lifelong opportunity to explore and a lifelong adventure. It’s a real journey. And I know it’s a little chaotic right now. You’re probably anxious, but I would turn that energy into being curious, not anxious.
The world is changing, obviously, but with that change comes opportunity and if I think of some of the big huge industries that are gonna shift – think of healthcare and what tele-medicine is gonna do to that changing environment. Think of the investment into the sciences, probably more than any point in my lifetime. I also think about the world of education, which I’m now partially working in, and we’re gonna learn and teach differently than we ever have before.
And obviously the business community is a bit flipped upside down but the last time we went through a crisis, not as bad as this, but back in ’08, companies emerged prior to that you never even heard of: Hulu and Netflix and Amazon and Venmo and Uber, and I could keep going on. That’s going to happen again. Supply chains that took 20 years, 30 years to build are gonna get upended.
All of that is gonna be an opportunity, an opportunity for you to be curious, an opportunity for you to explore your adventure. How can I help you think through that? What are the kinds of things you might want to keep in mind as you go through this adventure?
First and foremost, think about your dream job in the dream company, in the dream city. It might be two weeks, two months…several. What are you gonna do with your time? Between now and then? That’s an incredible question I think employers are gonna ask.
You can differentiate by just what you do over the next two, three, four months. Use that time to explore what that next opportunity might look like.
Whether it’s volunteering, whether it’s reading, whether it’s some sort of online class, don’t sit and waste time. It’s the one thing you can’t get back and it’ll help you differentiate when you search for that first big job.
Think about networking, it might be counterintuitive right now because the world’s somewhat shut down. Don’t let that stop you from continuing to network. Think about your alumni friends, your student friends, your professors, your parents’ friends, people you know that might now somebody…that might know somebody, that works in the city that might know the company that you’re going after.
I think you’re gonna find that people are very very aware of the need to continue to meet and chat. And they’re gonna be there for you, so use your time wisely. You can’t get it back.
Continue to network and think about a couple other things, lessons I think I’ve learned, hopefully they’ll make a difference for you.
You can’t control much–right now, obviously. But there’s one thing you can control, and that’s what you think about when you get up every morning and I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met, they wake up on Monday hoping it’s Friday and they string a whole bunch of those together.
OR – you can wake up and make it the most magnificent day of your life. I know that sounds a little corny, but it really really is true.
So you can decide to be anxious, you can decide to be average, or you can dare to be great, but you actually truly get to make that choice. You can’t control much else but you really can control that.
Another piece of advice I would give to newer students going into their first job, even if you’ve been out in the work world for a long time, so many people make it about themselves, it’s all about me. I gotta tell you, if you really want to differentiate, make it about everybody else. Make it about the people that you work with, make the people around you better. Don’t make it all about you, you will differentiate right out of the box if you think that way.
There’s a famous quote from Pat Summitt. She died a few years ago. She was the basketball coach at the University of Tennessee and she said, “nobody cares how much you know “until they know how much you care.”
Think about that.
It works every single time.
And finally I would say if you think about what really truly brings peace and happiness into your life, yeah it’s not the new job, it’s not the new check, it’s not the first car it’s not any of those really. True peace and happiness comes from the quality of your relationships, starting with yourself. And I know that might not resonate with a 22 year old or someone just getting out of college, but it really really is true when you think about what’s most important in your life, particularly right now.
So, you know the light’s gonna go back on, the sun’s coming out, America will be just fine and so will you. And I think what’s kind of cool, you’re gonna be at the heart of what this new normal’s going to look like. You’re gonna have a front row seat at helping kind of create it, and I think you gotta look at that as an adventure, and look at that with the curiosity it takes to win in that kind of environment.
So again congratulations, please remember… be positive, be kind, be curious and most importantly dare to be great.
You can do it, I know you can. I’m so happy for all of you and your families.
Congratulations again and go celebrate tonight and have some fun,
Ally Chard credits the four months she spend abroad in Spain for broadening her friendships and igniting a desire to explore cultures beyond the U.S. Outside the classroom, she served as treasurer for the UWO chapter of Society of Human Resources Management and worked as a Titan Gold Corps campus ambassador, giving tours to prospective students and their families.
The following is the speech Chard delivered as a student speaker during UW Oshkosh’s 146th spring commencement:
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Students, parents, siblings, extended family, friends, faculty, staff, and fellow graduates–welcome.
Today marks an important day in our journey. It reflects the late nights. The heavy credit loads. The delicate balance of work, school and a social life. It signifies the beginning of a life post-graduation. However, it looks different than many of us expected. Rather than standing in a room surrounded by our peers, we are cheering each other on from afar. Despite the distance, it does not diminish our accomplishment.
We earned this day. And nothing will take that away from us.
We each took unique paths to arrive here today. Some of us are graduate students receiving an MBA. Others are transfer students, adult learners or those who received an online education. Some of us took the traditional four years, others five, and some…. well….what matters is we made it 😉
However you got here today, congratulations on a job well done. Despite our seemingly different paths, we all have this shared experience.
Our college education unites us and draws a connecting line between us and others. It has taught us the importance of thinking critically, welcoming diverse perspectives and striving for inclusivity in all facets of life. This evolution is a reflection of our gift as humans to continuously grow and change.
I think back to my freshman year. For someone with indecision as her trademark, college felt daunting. At UW Oshkosh, there are 67 majors, 40 minors and 63 certificates and emphases. I was overwhelmed by the options and so terrified to make the “wrong” decision that it took me three years to make any decision at all–analysis paralysis at its finest.
I can’t possibly be the only one who has ever experienced this crossroad. At the beginning of college, we are tasked with answering the question: What do you want to be when you grow up? Honestly, when it comes to a career, I still don’t know. Many people around us are still figuring it out themselves. However, what I have learned after changing my major four times over the course of five years, is that who you want to be is far more important than what you want to do.
Consider yourself–the person you were on the first day of school is drastically different than the one receiving a diploma today. Let’s give ourselves permission to be a work-in-progress. We are allowed to dabble. We can pick up a new hobby just to put it right back down. We can pilot a new career path and make u-turns at any time. No one has it all figured out…. literally, no one. We are not the exception.
Our paths up until this point have been relatively linear. We progressed from elementary school to junior high, later transitioning to high school and finally, making the leap to college. Now, our paths diverge. Some of us will begin our career. Others may take time to travel, volunteer or apply for graduate school.
Regardless of our chosen next step, we must not lose sight of our shared humanity. It is not enough that we look admiringly at the education obtained throughout our college career. We must commit to carrying this knowledge with us and applying what we’ve learned in our workplaces, neighborhoods, churches and homes.
If we desire inviting offices, we must be inviting. If we want kind schools, we need to exude kindness. If we hope for more informed future generations, we should encourage exploration and the freedom to ask questions.
This is what our college education has taught us–we must create the world we want to live in. Let us seek to do life with people that do not vote, speak, look, believe or act the same as we do. We are better, not despite our differences, but because of them.
So, Class of 2020, I ask: Who do you want to be when you grow up? I hope you’re perplexed. I hope you’re unsure. And I hope you spend the rest of your life constantly revising your answer.
I am humbled to stand with you today and proud to have this shared experience that forever bonds us. Although our graduation day is not the one we expected, I hope we can each find some small way to retain its meaning. Our accomplishment deserves to be celebrated. I am choosing to believe that the future is full of opportunity. Stay curious. Color outside all the lines. Together, we’ll create the world we want to live in.
Wisconsin Public Radio, May 25
Door County Pulse, May 22
Urban Milwaukee, May 22
Wisconsin State Journal, May 22
Daily Citizen, May 21