Originally from Peru
Current City: Winneconne, Wis.
Substitute teacher at Head Start in Menasha, Wis.
Applying for professional counseling graduate program
Esther Dimaggio, is a self-described lifelong learner. Dimaggio grew up in Peru, before moving to California and working at an army base where she met her husband Benjamin. Together they have travelled throughout the U.S. for Benjamin’s job, and continuing her education has always been a priority.
With an undergraduate degree in socio-psychology already under her belt, Dimaggio is taking classes at UW Oshkosh and has set her sights on applying for the graduate program in professional counseling.
“I have been taking classes since my kids were very little, and they are all very proud,” Dimaggio said. “I have always told my kids how important their education is."
Sherri Mahmoud, 52
In January 2012 Sherri Mahmoud, 52, lost her job working in supply chain logistics, which she said gave her an opportunity to go back to college for a bachelor’s degree.
Determined to go to college, Mahmoud drove to campus one day, walked in to Dempsey Hall and asked for information on coming to UW Oshkosh. That same day she left with all the information she needed to start classes during the summer of 2012.
“I chose UWO because I really like the school, I love the campus and I just felt like it was the right place for me,” Mahmoud said.
Elaine Thompson, 58
Bachelor of Liberal Studies
Hometown: Belgrade, Serbia
When Gordana Oehmen fled her hometown of Belgrade, Serbia in July 1999 during the Kosovo war, she and her family were armed with only a few necessities.
Along with her daughter, son-in-law and newborn grandson, Gordana escaped north, to neighboring Hungary, for five months while they waited for their clearance to come to the United States.
“I told my daughter and son-in-law, ‘Let’s see what God gives us’, and we were assigned to Oshkosh, Wis.,” Gordana said. “I thought, ‘Oshkosh. Where’s Oshkosh?’ I saw that there was a lake and a river, so I thought it must be pretty.”
When Gordana and her family arrived to Wisconsin, a Catholic church helped them adjust to life in the United States by providing them with food and a place to stay.
“We stayed with a family in Oshkosh for one month, and then we found our own apartment. My son-in-law and I went to a staffing agency to find jobs,” Gordana said.
“Even though I had gone to college and had a good job in Serbia, I had to forget who I used to be. I had to start from scratch, and I knew I needed to go to college.”
Bachelor of Liberal Studies
Hometown: Omro, Wis.
When Lisa Baltes was considering her return to college, she said she felt as though she was standing on the edge of a cliff wondering thinking about taking a big jump. She knew there would be challenges, and she knew there would be rewards.
Spanish and Business Administration, 1993
Rhonda Lindstrom, 41
Accelerated Nursing Program Candidate
Hometown: Aurora, Wis.
Rhonda Lindstrom has always been passionate about helping others. She has traveled around the globe — from Mexico, to India, to Africa — following her calling to assist those who are less fortunate.
When the 2010 earthquake hit just west of Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince, Rhonda Lindstrom wanted to serve. But despite her six years of experience as a full-time humanitarian, she was denied access to Haiti because only doctors and nurses were allowed.That’s when Lindstrom decided to return to UW Oshkosh and earn a degree in nursing. Read more about Rhonda...
Eric Balkman, 32
Graduated: December 2011
Majors: Radio/TV/Film and Journalism
Hometown: Appleton, Wis.
Two things have always been true for Eric Balkman — he is passionate about sports, and he enjoys doing research on his favorite teams. With a stroke of luck and a lot of determination, Balkman has focused these activities into his academics at UW Oshkosh.Read more about Eric...
John Hren, 48
Graduated: May 2011
Major: Computer Science
Hometown: Appleton, Wis.
When John Hren was laid off in 2008 and still found himself unemployed in 2009, he decided he needed to make a change. After two years and a lot of hard work, Hren graduated with not one, but two job offers. He now puts his education to work at UW Oshkosh, where he works in Administrative Computing.
Tim Thiede, 47
Radio/TV/Film major, Journalism minor
Hometown: Richland Center, Wis.
Six years ago nontraditional student Tim Thiede was coming home at night feeling unsatisfied with his factory job. He felt he had more potential, and he knew that there were bigger and better opportunities waiting for him. That’s when his urge to attend school, combined with rumor that his employer might build another plant, pushed Thiede to go back to college.
After graduating high school in 1983, Thiede worked a variety of jobs. He started at a Country Kitchen as a cook, moved on to bartending and ended up working in a factory. Read more about Tim...
Received her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish
and International Studies in 2007
Education Leadership master's student
Spanish translator, substitute teacher
Silvia Campazzo calls herself an eternal student. She said the decision to come back to school was easy for her to make. However, she had to overcome a few obstacles to get there.
Before moving to the United States in 1990, Silvia lived and attended medical school in Argentina. When she moved, she had to set her education goals aside. Read more about Silvia...
Bachelor's of Liberal Studies
When Christine Martin-Schraa decided to return to school after 20 years, she had a lot to think about. She was afraid that it would be too difficult to make the return, she was nervous about fitting in and was worried she didn’t have the skills to succeed.
"I knew it was going to be a significant commitment, and I wondered if I could do it. I just decided it was important to me," she said. "It was the one thing that I really never finished."