Eleven successful University of Wisconsin Oshkosh graduates have been chosen to receive top honors for 2023 by the Alumni Association Board of Directors. In the months leading up to Homecoming—during which they’ll be honored at an on-campus ceremony—we will introduce you to these outstanding alumni. The full list of award winners is available here.
A second generation Ukrainian-American, Christiana (Gorchynsky) Trapani ’16, of Egg Harbor, wanted to find a way to help Ukrainians after Russia invaded their country. With an initial goal of raising $5,000, the communication studies graduate who became owner of Door County Candle Co. in 2021, has raised $1 million for Ukraine. Her accomplishments have earned her an Outstanding Young Alumni award from UW Oshkosh. She will be recognized by the UWO Alumni Association at Homecoming next month.
“None of us at UWO are surprised by Christiana’s success as a business owner and philanthropist,” said Jennifer Considine, communication studies professor and department chair. “She started our program as a shy student, reluctant to speak her brilliant thoughts, but by graduation, she was a class leader challenging other students to speak up for causes that mattered to them.”
Trapani earned a bachelor’s degree in communications studies, with a minor in radio TV film in 2016. In 2018, she earned a master’s degree in digital communication strategies from Marquette University.
She previously worked as the marketing team lead for Amla Commerce, Milwaukee. She oversaw and executed all B2B marketing strategies for Amla and sister products Znode and Artifi; and she created marketing strategies to amplify sales, leads and company engagement.
Considine, who nominated Trapani for “her amazing dedication to her community,” said her former student continues to share her time and talents with UWO students—whether speaking on an alumni panel or creating internship opportunities.
“She is always ready to share advice and encourage other students to find their voice and use it to make a difference in the world,” Considine said.
In addition to her efforts for Ukraine, Door County Candle has sold candles for relief efforts for California flooding, Turkey earthquake, Hurricane Ian, Door County YMCA, Third Avenue PlayWorks, Operation Not Alone, Hawaii fires and Morocco earthquake.
Tom Beerntsen, a retired small business owner, who, with his wife, volunteered more than 100 days at Door County Candle, said Trepani has a tremendous work ethic and her generosity over the first years of owning the business is “unusual and extraordinary.”
Michael Felhofer, former owner of the candle business, said he met Trapani and her husband when they started their first business venture, Door County Delivered.
He had been “on the lookout” for someone to take over his longtime business. Trapani, he said was ideal—with intellectual skills and “a level of charisma and confidence far beyond her years.”
Her skills shined as her idea to help the people of her grandparents’ homeland went “viral” and the effort took on enormous proportions with hundreds of volunteers, dozens of suppliers and national media attention.
“I am most proud of our Ukraine candle fundraiser and the fundraising initiatives that came after it,” Trapani said. “I am so proud that I am building a company that roots itself in giving and making a positive difference in the world.”
She credits UWO professor Anthony Palmeri, who on one of her papers, wrote that she needed to use her voice and if she didn’t, how would she expect people to hear her?
Trapani said, “UWO and the communication department helped me understand that finding your voice and using it are critical to making a positive difference in the world.”
The 2023 Alumni Awards Celebration will be held Oct. 27 at the Culver Family Welcome Center, with a reception at 5 p.m. followed by the dinner and program beginning at 6 p.m. The cost of the event is $40 per person. For more information, contact UWO’s Alumni Relations Office at (920) 424-3449 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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