Thinking he wasn’t cut out for college, Appleton resident William Wasielewski dropped out of his undergraduate program at UW Oshkosh.
But after two years driving semi, he grew tired of living and working on the road. He took a couple of local jobs, driving a taxi and delivering pizzas.
“When I dropped out of the undergrad program in 2009, I didn’t expect to ever return to finish my education,” Wasielewski said. “I believed truck driving to be a far better and far more entertaining use of my time. At least I thought so. Over the course of the six years I spent in the workforce, I began to realize how valuable an education actually could be as I saw what life was like for people without one.”
Wasielewski said the lack of a college education limited options available to him.
“In my time back at UW Oshkosh, I’ve managed a 3.97 GPA and made the Dean’s List (in the three most recent semesters),” he said.
His 2.2 cumulative GPA (compiled from his earlier years at UW Oshkosh) has risen to the 3.1 level. Last year, he presented research he had done on activist Adolph Germer, at the UW System Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity held at UW-Stevens Point.
“My mom was ‘over the moon’ about that,” Wasielewski said.
He will be the second in his family with a college degree—an older sister, Rose, has a master’s degree and is assistant dean of students for Campus Life at Lawrence University. She says some students need more time to find their way.
“Some are just not ready (to make a commitment)–and that’s okay,” Rose Wasielewski said.
She believes their father’s death in 2014 made her brother realize that life is short and that he needed to figure out what he wanted to do with his future.
Sherry Wasielewski, said she was “ecstatic” when her son William—or “Beej” as the family fondly calls him—announced he would return to school.
She wishes his father, Bill, were alive to see his youngest child become focused on school and graduate from college
Wasielewski will be among more than 1,700 to graduate this spring from UW Oshkosh and he’s got some exciting plans for fall. He’s been accepted to UW-Madison’s School of Library and Information Studies to pursue a master’s degree.
“I couldn’t be more proud of him,” Sherry Wasielewski said.
UW Oshkosh history professor Stephen Kercher said Wasielewski has been a student in two of his classes over the past several years. He said Wasielewski was always well-prepared and ready to discuss the topics of the day.
“William is a great example of the kind of non-traditional student at UW Oshkosh who inspires fellow students and faculty alike with their dedication to succeed and their love of learning,” Kercher said.
On campus, Wasielewski is the Oshkosh Student Association Assembly representative for the Geography Club and the Student Technology Fee Committee chair. He has an on-campus job with IT as student lead in the student technology center in the basement of Polk Library.
Wasielewski’s desire is to someday become a public librarian, archivist or work in a college library. He doesn’t discount the idea of being a librarian in a foreign country and says his dream job would be working for Major League Baseball at Cooperstown, N.Y., or for another large sport, taking care of its documents.
“He’s really passionate about what he’s doing,” Sherry Wasielewski said. “I’m so proud of him—he found his way.”
Eight years ago, he thought he found it.
Wasielewski, 28, laughs when he explains how he took a Greyhound bus to Indiana on his 21st birthday to begin truck driver training. He said he loves driving and thought it would be a way to get paid while seeing the country. He was an over-the-road trucker, hauling a 53-foot reefer (refrigerated) trailer with 80,000 pounds loaded. He recalled hauling a lot of Arby’s curly fries from Idaho to Maine.
Eventually the long hours on the road wore on him.
“I was burned out and started missing my friends and home,” he said, adding that he decided to contact UW Oshkosh about resuming his education. The former radio TV film major chose to pursue a degree in history. He had 50 credits to complete.
Wasielewski recounted how his late father had regrets about leaving UW-Milwaukee in the fall of 1971, one semester before graduating with a history degree. His father went to work at a north side steel factory before opening his own business.
“I don’t want that (regret) to happen again (with me),” he said.