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commencementKolf Sports Center was brimming with proud family and friends as nearly 500 graduates of University of Wisconsin Oshkosh took part in the 2017 midyear commencement ceremony.

The Jan. 21 ceremony was rescheduled–and made possible with the help of many campus community member volunteers–after severe winter weather forced the cancelation of the original Dec. 17 ceremony.

Ronald and Alice Gillis traveled more than an hour from Casco, Wis., to attend their granddaughter Hope Gregorich’s graduation. Gregorich graduated with degrees in Spanish and anthropology.

Ronald Gillis said he had not been on the campus of UW Oshkosh since he graduated in 1968 with a degree in elementary education. He is now retired after a long teaching career, mostly with the Luxemburg-Casco School District.

“She (granddaughter, Hope) is pretty pleased to be graduating from the same place I did,” Ronald Gillis said. “She’s our first grandchild to graduate college. It’s a nice feeling.”

The grandparents said in coming months their granddaughter intends to leave for a two-year commitment with the Peace Corps.


Many other graduates have grand plans for their futures, as well.

Luke Sohns, 33, of Green Bay graduated with a bachelor’s degree of applied studies in aviation management. Sohns, who graduated with a summa cum laude designation, is the first in his family to graduate from college–and he completed his degree at UW Oshkosh entirely online.

Sohns noted that he is married with four young children and works full time as an air traffic controller for the Federal Aviation Administration at Austin Straubel Airport. He planned to be at work at 4 p.m. following the commencement day festivities.

grad1“Thankfully my classes were all online,” he said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it any other way.”

Sohns served in the Marine Corps, specializing in air traffic control, and spent time in the workforce before seeking his degree. He intends to apply for the public administration graduate program at UW Oshkosh.

Other UW Oshkosh graduates were, of course, focused on their future careers.

“Currently, I work for the Cerebral Palsy of Mideast Wisconsin, Inc. and find this work extremely rewarding,” said Megan Koscher, of Berlin, a human service leadership graduate. “I liked UWO because it was close to home and has a great environment.”

Koscher said she next plans to move to the Twin Cities to continue working with individuals with disabilities.

Like Koscher, Jenna Waskow, of Two Rivers, also a human services leadership major and criminal justice minor, has a passion for working with and helping people. She wants to pursue a career that will allow her to work with children from low-income families or work with children in juvenile delinquency programs.

“UWO provided me the flexibility to find my true calling. I explored several different avenues and through the help of my advisers I was able to narrow my focus,” Waskow said.

Waskow will continue working with CESA 7 as a family support worker.

Likewise, Rebecca Bollant, of Hortonville, a human services leadership major, is also prepared for her future.

“The wonderful people I met here at UWO have become an extended part of my family and are an important part of my personal support system,” Bollant said.

Bollant will continue working with the Fox Valley Autism Treatment Program as a line therapist but hopes to continue working her way up to someday become a senior therapist.

A nontraditional student in the College of Nursing, Amie Stoffel, 27, of Appleton, who received a bachelor’s degree in nursing, was relishing her remaining time at UW Oshkosh. Stoffel, who was adjusting her honors cord prior to the start of the ceremony, is employed at St. Elizabeth Hospital, along with a couple of her fellow graduates.

Interestingly, Stoffel’s path to a nursing degree became clear after she needed a surgery.

“I was inspired by the nurses in the hospital,” she said. “I realized that is what I wanted to do.”

Stoffel said her advice to new students is to “focus on studies and it will pay off.”

“It’s a long road, but it’s worth it,” she said.

Stoffel’s parents and godparents were attending the commencement ceremony to support her. Her father, Chris Stoffel, is a UW Oshkosh alumnus.

capsAmong the diverse college colors and cords, many decorated caps made graduates stand out from the crowd.

Randi Murray, a criminal justice major who hails from McHenry, Ill., could not be missed with a yellow police tape bow and fingerprint designs on her mortarboard.

“My time at UW Oshkosh was filled with wonderful experiences,” she said. “There are so many options and opportunities.”

Murray is attending the Police Academy at Fox Valley Technical College and was hired by the UW Oshkosh University Police before graduation.

Murray said no one in her family is in police work, but she is passionate about the career choice and giving back to society.

Rachel Biertzer, of Appleton, who graduated with a master’s degree in education with a principal licensure, felt a sense of pride to be graduating with her classmates.

“It was great to receive an affordable education taught by wonderful professors,” said Biertzer, who teaches English at Oshkosh North High School.

In total, of the more than 1,100 midyear commencement graduates, nearly 900 graduated 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.

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