There is nothing like a severe weather-forced cancelation of a commencement ceremony to show just how dedicated Titans really are when it comes to the major milestone that is graduation.
After the midyear commencement ceremony was canceled in mid-December, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh faculty, staff and students came together to make a new ceremony happen.
A large-scale event like commencement takes hundreds of hands to pull together. Upon a call-out to the campus community for help in pulling a new ceremony together for deserving graduates, nearly 150 volunteers quickly stepped up to the plate to offer their support for a rescheduled ceremony.
Nearly 500 UW Oshkosh graduates will have their day to officially cross the stage Saturday, Jan. 21. The ceremony begins at 9:30 a.m at Kolf Sports Center. Additionally, another 15 students will be celebrated during special recognition ceremonies Jan. 22 and 28, which were offered to students as alternatives to the ceremony.
“Our students work incredibly hard to get to this point in their lives,” UW Oshkosh Chancellor Andrew Leavitt said. “Commencement is the milestone that marks the end of this incredible accomplishment. As a community, I am proud of our campus for pulling together to give our students the experience they have earned.”
UW Oshkosh employees will be involved with various roles leading up to and on commencement day.
Laura Knaapen, director of IT user services, will serve as lower level lift usher. She will help graduates in the lower level find their way to their dressing rooms, assist guests who need to use the wheelchair lift, and direct graduates inside Kolf to their appropriate room to get ready for the march in.
“I was surprised when commencement was canceled, but it made good sense for everyone’s safety,” Knaapen said. “Commencement is a big event—not just a big event in the lives of the students who are graduating and their families—it is a big event to plan and execute. It takes a village and this campus has been my village for the last 28 years, so I want to pitch in.”
Others stepped up to volunteer to support students they have close relationships with. Joshua Ranger, University archivist at Polk Library, said he chose to volunteer in honor of a student worker of his.
“She was looking forward to commencement so much after working so hard to graduate in three and a half years. I felt so bad for her when the commencement ceremony was canceled,” Ranger said. “I want to do my part to make it happen for her.”
“Volunteering, for me, feels like a great way to show students that we’re all willing to do whatever it takes to help them reach their full potential—and to celebrate with them when they do just that,” said Jenna Graff, director of the Office of International Education at UW Oshkosh who will serve as an usher. “I can’t wait to see so many bright minds walk past me and up to the stage on Saturday.”
Beyond UW Oshkosh faculty and staff, students are among the volunteers as well.
“The commencement ceremony isn’t just an everyday event, it is an acknowledgement of the hard work and perseverance that all of those individuals put in over a course of several years,” said Jenny Faris, a communication studies major from Fond du Lac, who will help during commencement set-up in the days prior to the ceremony.
While Faris is not yet graduating, she knows the importance of commencement to her peers, she said.
“This volunteer opportunity was shared with me through a friend you who was supposed to be walking in the original commencement … as soon as she told me about it I was eager to jump on board to help in any way possible,” said Faris who is helping during commencement set-up.
Karsen Daus, a senior geology student from Suamico who works in the student affairs office at UW Oshkosh, will serve as a seating usher during the ceremony.
“Commencement gives graduates the ability to take pride in how far they have come, all in front of supportive friends and family members, inspiring professors and the most important figures on campus,” Daus said. “I know how much the ceremony means to the students and their families and there was no hesitation to volunteer.”
In total, more than 1,100 UW Oshkosh Titans will become graduates after this midyear commencement ceremony. Of the midyear commencement graduates, nearly 900 will graduate with a bachelor’s degree and more than 140 with a master’s degree–both meaningful milestones as graduates leave UW Oshkosh and head out into the world to join 90,000 other UW Oshkosh alumni.