The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh celebrated the accomplishments of more than 1,300 students Saturday at the institution’s 149th spring commencement. Two ceremonies, held inside Kolf Sports Center on the Oshkosh campus, were staged to honor the class of 2023—which includes graduates from the Oshkosh, Fox Cities and Fond du Lac campuses. The group included 60 doctoral, 170 master’s degree, 1,002 bachelor’s degree and 111 associates degree students.
Here are a few stories from newest members of UW Oshkosh’s proud alumni family:
Calm in a storm
Shelby Finnessey of Plover, who earned a nursing degree, had a job secured six months before graduation with UW Health in Madison where she’ll work as an emergency room nurse. “My mom is a nurse and I always admired her compassion and dedication to others. I followed in her footsteps and found passion in caring for others.”
Drawn to UWO for its nursing program, Finnessey was involved on campus and developed skills outside of her studies that she’ll take to her career. She was a member of the residence life conference services student staff team, working as a health advocate within the department of residence life; a manager on duty for conference services and eventually a guest reservations manager for the Oshkosh Placement Exchange and EAA AirVenture on-campus lodging office at Gruenhagen Conference Center.
She rocked her internship
Appleton native Alexis Merten turned her summer internship with the digital team at Kohl’s corporate offices into a full-time position following graduation. Merten, who got her start on the Fox Cities campus, majored in advertising and public relations in the College of Letters and Science, earned certificates in digital marketing and social media while getting retail experience at a local Target store. Merten will work remotely on e-commerce and online product description pages. She said she is “nervous and excited at the same time” as she considered commencement and starting a new chapter in her life.
UWO is right for her
It took a couple of starts elsewhere, but Hannah Lehner has definite plans to be at the Oshkosh campus this fall. The 2020 Kewaskum High School graduate started at the University of Minnesota, transferred to UW-Eau Claire and eventually landed at UWO’s Fond du Lac campus, where she earned an associate degree. She said her mental health improved when she returned home and commuted to the Fond du Lac campus—benefitting from personalized instruction and small class sizes. She’ll pursue a computer science major, geography minor and geographic information system certificate at Oshkosh.
First job already pinned down
Luc Valdez, of Tinley Park, Illinois, graduates with a degree in finance and is headed to work as a mutual fund administrator for U.S. Bank. The day before commencement he earned the Honors Medallion as a graduating member of UWO’s Honors College. He finished his Titan wrestling career with a trip to nationals, having won the WIAC 125-pound weight class. He also earned a spot on the National Wrestling Coaches Association Scholar All-America Team and was named the Max Sparger Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
A dose of health education
Lindsey Marie Czubakowski is one of 55 Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) students to graduate this spring and summer. Her capstone project involved implementing an evidence-based afterschool program aimed at increasing exercise and healthy habits related to diet and reducing screen time to help combat childhood obesity. She presented her findings at UWO’s Celebration of Scholarship and Creative Activity in April. Next, she begins work as neurology nurse practitioner in an outpatient clinic.
Smart money’s on Navis
Brady Navis of Fond du Lac will transfer from UWO’s Fond du Lac campus to the Oshkosh campus for fall as he pursues an economics degree and a career as a financial adviser. The Waupun High School graduate has experience working as a laborer with C.D. Smith Construction, but doesn’t see that as a long-term plan. Navis said he is driven to learn about finance in the College of Business and prepare for a career helping people with their investments. He considered UWO Fond du Lac a great way to start—for financial and academic reasons—as he earned his associate degree while living at home.
HR major was a great fit
Sarah Reuter, of Kenosha, who is graduating from the College of Business, said her journey at UWO started with a mailed piece from the University. “I thought it looked like a really pretty campus,” she said. “My mom and I took a trip and I liked it a lot.” A human resources (HR) major, Reuter made the most of her time at UWO. She had three internships, served two years as president of the HR student club, served on the Dean’s Student Advisory Council and is supporting the search for an executive director of a local nonprofit. Reuter started as a psychology major but quickly realized HR was a better fit. She has an HR generalist position waiting with Avidity Science. “I’m really going to miss the professors in the College of Business. Every single one of them is really amazing,” she said.
A legacy of learning
Fond du Lac High School graduate Nicholas Vang plans to work toward a bachelor’s degree on the Oshkosh campus. He’ll have his associate degree from UWO’s Fond du Lac campus in hand, but needs to take time this summer to narrow down what he’ll major in. Vang said his older brother, Sebastian, is at Oshkosh, as well as a cousin. He said his father went to college and he considers pursuit of an education a “family tradition.”
A recognized leader
Ene Priscilla Idoko graduates with a degree in economics. A native of Abuja, Nigeri, Idoko was president of the African American Studies Club at UWO and in 2022 earned the Oshkosh 94 Leadership Award. Her involvements include the Economics Student Association, the Black Student Union and the International Students Association, and she was an intern at UWO’s Whitburn Center for Governance and Policy Research. She recently traveled with a group of fellow UWO scholars to the University of Florida to present research at the National Council for Black Studies Conference.
A happy ending
After an educational journey with twists and turns, Madison Edinger graduates with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies and a sustainability communication certificate. The Kaukauna native is a first-gen college student who transferred to UWO after struggling through one year at another university. Often feeling unsupported, she marched forward amid an array of challenges—including the pandemic, a surgery, a breakup and other obstacles. More recently she balanced two internships, running a small business and a new puppy on top of working full time and being a full-time student.
“I am beyond excited to have made it to graduation,” she said. “Thinking back to all of the hardships and remember that I got through them on my own is incredibly encouraging.”
An English major from Neenah, Ally Poss has law school in her plans after graduation. While she enjoyed her time studying at UW Oshkosh, two of her favorite college experiences involved traveling opportunities presented by on-campus involvements: In spring 2022, she visited England and Scotland as part of the three-week Honors College study abroad trip and last month, as a member of the Model United Nations team, she went to New York City to participate in the week-long National Model UN conference.
Anna Murphy-Pociask graduates with a public relations degree. Before coming to Oshkosh, the Appleton native earned an associate degree from UWO’s Fox Cities campus. She’s president of UWO’s chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America, a member of the Kappa Tau Alpha honors society chapter and earned the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence. Next up? A cross-country journey in the famous Oscar Mayer Wienermobile representing the brand by pitching media, creating content for social media and more.
“I cherished my time at UWO and recommend students be their authentic selves and get involved in any passion they may have,” she said. “Now is the time to learn and grow!”
Grad school bound
Greta Hanthorn graduates with a criminal justice degree and will continue her education at UW-Milwaukee, where she’ll pursue a master’s degree in criminal justice/criminology and social work. The Janesville native played soccer for the Titans and said it was one of the most impactful experiences of her life. She spent time as a Whitburn Center for Governance and Policy Research student researcher, learning about social vulnerability in east-central Wisconsin—work that paved the way for her future career path.
“I am looking forward to applying my experiences from UWO to help those who are socially vulnerable and have been victimized by crime get the resources they need to improve their lives,” she said.
Ready to teach
Benjamin Demo graduates with a social science education degree. The Waukesha native first came to Oshkosh for the recording and music industry program, but changed course—knowing regardless of his major, he wanted to stay at UWO where he felt at home. As a senior Demo played sousaphone in the Titan Thunder Marching Band. He also studied abroad in Germany and the Czech Republic. Next, he’ll teach summer school in Kimberly and is on the lookout for a full-time teaching job.
“I want to give a shout-out to my family for being overwhelmingly supportive of my University experience, especially through all of the uncertainty and major changes,” he said. “I could not have done it without them.”
Neenah native and first-gen college student Maddy Hall transferred to Oshkosh after a year in Milwaukee, opting to be closer to her father and join UWO’s acclaimed education program. She studied elementary education and, because some of her minor credits couldn’t transfer, took on a class load that included 18 credits during the summer of 2022 to maintain her target graduation date. “I have wanted to be an educator since I was in third grade and I was so close to reaching my dream, which meant giving up most of my summer to make sure I had everything I needed in order to graduate,” she said.