By Mark A. Mone
Chancellor, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Graduating from college is an enormous accomplishment. Graduates experience considerable personal growth and transformation through their time at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The positive results don’t stop with the person, however. UWM graduates impact thousands of lives as they find ways to battle diseases, save organizations millions of dollars, teach at public and private schools, and invent new ways to solve problems.
This December, more than 2,200 UWM students were eligible for commencement, and they have so many inspiring and diverse stories. Some are from our backyard and others from half a world away. I’ll share just a few of these stories from our graduating class.
Giselle Irankunda and her family came to the United States seven years ago as refugees from the Congo. She was almost 19 years old when she enrolled at Milwaukee’s South Division High School. A college pathways program helped her arrive at UWM to study civil engineering.
With support from student scholarships, Giselle was able to research public transportation issues with Jie Yu, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering. Giselle traveled to Germany, Rwanda, Uganda and the Congo to gather data, and she will begin pursuing her master’s degree in civil engineering at UWM next semester.
Parker May described himself as an average student with no clear direction when he enrolled at UWM after graduating from high school. At the end of his second year at UWM, he hadn’t yet chosen a major when he enrolled in Chemistry 101. Parker credits Christine Carlson, a senior lecturer, with teaching him that how he was as a high school student did not define him as a college student. He got to push the reset button.
Parker went on to study in Mexico, win an award for undergraduate research and volunteer as a mentor for struggling students in Milwaukee Public Schools. He graduated with a degree in biochemistry and is headed to medical school.
Brought up on a dairy farm in northeastern Wisconsin, Alyssa Fischer said that coming to UWM “gave me an entirely new perspective.” She became captain of UWM’s women’s basketball team and a star on and off the court. She’s been active on UWM’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and involved in the Athletes in Action/Cru Christian ministry, Ignite Leadership Institute, the Athletic Board Committee as well as Nonprof-IT, which helps nonprofits in the Milwaukee area with their websites and technology issues.
Alyssa completed a double major – in psychology as well as information science and technology – in 3 1/2 years. With another 1 1/2 years of basketball eligibility remaining, she plans to keep playing for the Panthers while working on a graduate degree.
Giselle, Parker and Alyssa are just a few examples of the diverse and inspiring individuals who graduate from UWM. Combine them with all others who graduated earlier in the year, and you have more than 5,500 students who earned their degrees from UWM in 2018. They are the remarkable women and men who continue to move forward to positively impact others in our world.