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It was the end of a chapter in the lives of more than 1,000 graduates—and a cap on the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s sesquicentennial year. 

Saturday welcomed the University’s 57th midyear commencement, a festive occasion spread over two ceremonies and honoring the academic achievements of students from the Oshkosh, Fox Cities and Fond du Lac campuses. The event also marked the conclusion of the fall semester, which began with a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the institutions first day of classes back in 1871. 

The two ceremonies in Kolf Sports Center included the conferring of nearly 100 associate, more than 750 bachelor’s, about 180 master’s and five doctoral degrees.

Learn more about some of the proud graduates whose achievements were recognized:

Next up: master’s degree

After a decade of courses from multiple schools, non-traditional student Shelby Rae of Appleton is earning a degree in human services leadership from the College of Education and Human Services. Rae said her boyfriend encouraged her to finally finish her degree and it “all happened so fast.” An information technology professional at Lawrence University, she completed an advanced internship and did coursework asynchronously and entirely online. Rae’s 15-year-old son attended UWO commencement to cheer on his mom. Rae said she’s now thinking about going back for a master’s degree.

It's all business

Nicole Schmidt of Brandon, who earned a degree in finance and management from UWO’s College of Business, said she’ll miss her classes and all the people she’s been around the past few years. Graduating a semester early, Schmidt has accepted a position with SECURA Insurance in Neenah, where she will begin an associate underwriter training program. The new graduate credited the COB’s required internship—hers was with Oshkosh Corp.—as helping in her career path.

No more teachers, no more books

Halle Davis, of Wausau, a communications studies major, had a lot of coursework remaining ahead of commencement. “It hasn’t sunk in yet,” she said of her graduation from UWO. She recalled how she toured several colleges before choosing Oshkosh. “It stuck out—it was so beautiful and closer to home,” she said. A position in Minnesota awaits Davis, who will start work in January as an event and marketing coordinator. “I’ll miss my friends and the people (at UWO) and just kind of being a student.”

Baseball and business

Finance and economics major (and baseball co-captain) Kameron Dransfeldt of Morris, Illinois, said UWO was “on his radar” because of baseball, but when he got to the campus and he realized “this is the kind of place I wanted to be.” He said he’ll miss UWO. He’ll be working as a credit analyst for Busey Bank in Champaign, Illinois. “I interned with two separate banks … and I would come to accounting class and see how I can use it in a real-life setting.”

Fox Cities campus provided start

After graduating from UWO, Kaelin Thibodeau of Brillion will work for a certified public accounting (CPA) firm in Green Bay. “Oshkosh had a really good business program,” she said about her decision to commute to UWO to complete her bachelor’s degree in accounting after earning an associate degree at the Fox Cities campus. Graduation hasn’t quite sunk in yet.  She will spend the next few weeks studying for her second (in a series of four) CPA tests. The four-hour test takes place Dec. 31.

Check that grammar, punctuation

Kira Moericke, of Marion, recalls taking a class trip to UWO and falling in love with the campus during the tour. The multimedia journalism major and former Advance-Titan staffer said she’d like to be a copy editor with a publishing company. She’s particularly skilled in grammar and punctuation. “I’m going to miss some of my professors, the A-T and some of the courses,” she said, noting she met a lot of people at UWO—especially during her time in Evans and Donner halls.

Real world starts now

Sarah Trachte, of Winneconne, said commencement marks the start of “real life.” The English major said she’s going to start her post-college life freelancing, writing technical manuals and teaching piano. She laughed, realizing she’ll be dog-sitting the day of commencement. For Trachte, UWO was close to home, inexpensive and allowed her to graduate in 3.5 years—with no debt. Trachte’s parents and brother will watch her accept her diploma.

Starting career in Madison

Come January, Michael Haag of Appleton will start a security position with UW Health in Madison. The criminal justice (CJ) major said he toured a few campuses before deciding on UWO. He changed his major—he had been in electrical engineering—after some soul-searching on what he wanted to do with his life. “I had some friends in CJ and liked what it had to offer,” he said.

Helping people

Graduate school is in the plans for Kaylin Kostuchowski of Stevens Point, a UWO kinesiology major focused on rehabilitation science. “I want to be working in a hospital or nursing home with residents,” she said of her future career. “My goal is to be an occupational therapist (OT), providing care where needed.”  Before she digs into grad school, she hopes to intern in OT.

Distance learning? That's an understatement

Joe Pavelsek, of Burlington, graduates with degrees in history and international studies. As a member of the Army Reserve, Pavelsek’s journey to graduation day included two overseas deployments as a student. In 2017 and 2018, he took online classes while serving as a camp guard at Guantanamo Bay. Then in 2019 and 2020, he took two advanced independent study courses while working in a protective service detail (PSD) in Afghanistan. He plans to look for government employment or contract work similar to PSD. Another deployment and the continuation of his education also remain possibilities.

“To any professor that I’ve had, an incredibly deep and appreciative thank you for making my time at UWO such a great experience,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot, grown a lot and am looking forward to whatever my next chapter is.”

Accounting plus criminal justice

Fond du Lac native Ashley Rieder came to UWO to study accounting after an on-duty injury disrupted her policing career. She realized her skills could easily transfer to accounting—auditing in particular. She hopes to someday use her prior criminal justice degree and her newly earned accounting degree and become a fraud investigator.

Her list of accomplishments include the 2020 Accounting Student Excellence Award from the Wisconsin Institute of Certified Public Accountants and serving two terms as president of the Accounting Club. Goals ahead for the Honors College grad including earning a CPA license, becoming a certified fraud examiner and a certified management accountant, and more education. “Attending UW Oshkosh was a life-changing experience for me,” she said.

Making the family proud

Oscar Morales is a Sheboygan native who graduates with a degree in finance and a Spanish certificate. A first-generation college student, he said he’s happy to make his family proud.

“My parents have worked so hard for me to be in this position and without their endless support I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this without them,” he said. “They are the ones I do it for and I am beyond filled with joy to be able to walk and have my parents see me graduate!”

In January, he’ll start work as a finance analyst at Kohler Co., where he completed a summer internship this year.

One degree down, one to go

Nallely Galindo, of Berlin, started her college career at the Fox Cities campus and ultimately transferred to Oshkosh to graduate with an associate degree in psychology. After graduation, she will be returning to the Oshkosh campus to begin working toward her bachelor’s degree in psychology.

As a first-generation college graduate, Galindo strives to be a role model for her younger family members. She hopes that her achievements will demonstrate that “no matter the cards life has dealt you, you can always strive for bigger and better things.”

Ready to be a nurse

For nursing major Karla Sanchez of Beldivere, Illinois, graduating feels surreal after putting in so much effort throughout her college career. “I can’t believe it. I am so excited and emotional for making it through after working so hard,” she said. “My hard work paid off and I am so happy to be the first nurse in my whole family.”

Sanchez said while she’s excited to apply the skills she’s learned from the nursing program in her new position as a labor and delivery nurse at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center in Neenah, she will miss the amazing people and leaders she’s met during her time at UWO. These connections have pushed her to grow as an individual into a strong leader and a great future nurse.

Scholarship winner earns degree

Kathleen Fisher, of Jackson, graduates with a degree in leadership and organization studies. As a returning student, she was slightly nervous about being an online learner. “I wasn’t sure how successful I would be as an online learner,” Fisher said. “The instructors were so supportive and took the time to reach out and offer assistance when it was clear I needed a little guidance.”

Fisher was one of UWO’s 70 for 70 winners, receiving a $7,000 scholarship through the UW System COVID-19 vaccination program.

“Getting a call from the UWO Chancellor to let me know I was one of the 70 for 70 winners was such a surprise for me,” she said. “The personal touch by the leadership team to take the time to connect with the winners tells me that the University truly cares about every student.”

Spirit of public service

Jack Malloy of Fond du Lac has been on a fast-track to his career as a police officer. The criminal justice major was hired by Fond du Lac City Police in March, and he completed the 16-week Wisconsin Department of Justice recruit academy during the summer. He is in the middle of the police department’s field training program and was slated to work a shift Saturday night. Malloy graduates cum laude, and he previously worked as a CSO for UW Oshkosh Police.

On to grad school

Asia Won of Stratford, who is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, said graduate school is in her future. She planned to start applying and hopes to begin classes in fall. Her mom, brother, sister and husband were on hand to watch Won cross the stage. “I’m nervous,” she said before the ceremony.

Grad degree equals proud family

Shane Gassaway of De Pere had several family members in town celebrating his master’s in mathematics education. He is working full-time teaching math at Northwest Technical Institution in Green Bay. Gassaway earned his bachelor’s degree from University of California-Los Angeles.

Legal matters

Mackenna Priebek of De Pere earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She recently finished an internship with Winnebago County District Attorney Christian Gossett. That experience inspired her to continue her plans to go to law school after graduating from UWO. Priebek said she hopes to become a prosecuting attorney.

Celebrating what matters

A stole proclaiming “Black Grads Matter, Class of 2021” was worn by Adriana Dupree of Milwaukee who graduated with a degree in kinesiology. She said she was always into sports, playing basketball and soccer, which inspired her to learn about the human body. Dupree said she just learned she was accepted into the master’s program at UWO.

Finding success online

Jaime Krueger of Appleton brought along some transfer credits on her UWO journey and was able to earn her degree online in organizational administration in 2.5 years. Krueger, an e-commerce manager with VF Corporation in Appleton, will welcome more free time. She had been doing coursework during nights and weekends

Ready to make a difference

Donny Yang of Random Lake was proud to earn his master’s in social work. “It feels great,” he said, adding that he is eager to have a break from classes after six years of school. Yang is hoping to find an agency where he will do his 4,500 clinical hours. He ultimately hopes to work as a therapist in an outpatient or inpatient setting.

The future is hers

Riley Loveless of Trevor, Wisconsin, who earned a bachelor’s degree Saturday, has been student teaching at South Park Middle School in Oshkosh. The education major is working with intellectually disabled and will seek a position in elementary education or special education. “I’m really excited and I’m super nervous–now it’s time to figure things out.”

Remembering a friend

The letters LJC were attached with angel wings on the cap of Sabra Morton, an education major from Elk Grove Village, Illinois. The letters were in memory and to keep near, her good friend Logan James Collison, who died by suicide in January. Morton is student teaching at Oshkosh West High School and has a job secured at Oaklawn Elementary School in Oshkosh.

She’s the light for others

Amanda Peterson of Appleton was sporting a graduation cap with an inspirational message. The nursing major is working at a long-term care facility in Appleton and said she likes that setting because of the ability to get to know her patients who become like family. “My grandmother was a nurse, and it was always in my mind,” she said.

A trip to remember

Ryan Mullikan of Onalaska made his first trip to the UWO campus Saturday to receive his bachelor’s degree diploma. Mullikan had an associate degree and he built on it with UWO’s BSN@Home program with all online classes. The new graduate works at Gunderson Hospital in La Crosse in the catheter lab. Mullikan’s mom, two children and his girlfriend watched him cross the stage.

Ready for business

Kaitlynn Near of Howards Grove earned her degree in supply chain management during an unprecedented time in logistics. In early 2022, Near will start a position at Amcor in purchasing. She said she had an internship in supply chain, she liked it and that convinced her to make it her major.

A pair of professionals

Twin brothers Nathan Handel and Dylan Handel of Sussex both walked across the stage as they received bachelor’s degrees in business management with an emphasis in international business. The brothers are starting to search for their future careers and hope to work for a company with a global presence. Nathan’s and Dylan’s parents were on hand to watch the proud family moment. Their mom earned her master’s degree at UWO.

Friendships forged

Che Martinson of Madison and fellow college of business graduate Shahaque Rahim of Karachi, Pakistan, were basking in their final moments together as they lined up for their commencement ceremony. Martinson, who is a member of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, plans to return to Madison where he hopes to work in state or city government. Rahim, like Martinson, studied accounting and information systems, will begin a job as an auditor for Deloitte, a business management consulting firm in Milwaukee. Rahim’s parents traveled from Pakistan for the afternoon commencement ceremony. “I’m happy for everyone,” Rahim said of fellow COB graduates. “We have a bond that will go on.”