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Eli Tranel, of West Bend, graduated from the College of Education and Human Services with a bachelor’s degree in education and a minor in history. Here are his prepared remarks from Saturday’s commencement ceremony:

🟨 ⬛️ 🟨

Eli Tranel

Good afternoon, allow me to extend a warm welcome, and perhaps some of you may recall me as the guy with long blonde hair, exploring the campus like a blonde Tarzan, or for my eccentric activities in the back corner of Kolf, from pole vaulting to climbing ropes.

If these don’t ring a bell, I am also famous… infamous for my viral pole-vaulting fail video. More notably, I will be graduating from the college of education. Today, however, we stand united, not as individuals defined by differences, but as a collective force that has conquered barriers, embraced lessons, and transformed challenges into triumphs.

As we collectively reflect on our journey, it is easy to let accolades and statistics take the spotlight. Be it Dean’s List or Honor Roll accolades, All-American Awards or extracurricular leadership roles, these achievements do boast our collegiate success.
However, the true essence of our celebration goes beyond these accolades. Today, we stand together remembering the relentless pursuit of knowledge, the sacrifices made, and the challenges we overcame. They represent the early mornings waking up for 8 a.m. classes, sleep deprivation, and all-day study sessions at Polk library. They also represent scary situations. Maybe for you it was overcoming anxiety or depression, mental health breakdowns, and saying no toxic relationships. For others it could have been moving away from our parents and the comforts of our hometown. Still, others might have experienced unending academic struggles, facing the judgment of others. There is no telling what challenges we faced during our collegiate years.

One challenge that we can all relate to was choosing our majors. Some may have known their calling since birth, and for those who did, kudos to you!

For others, like me, the journey involved wrestling with uncertainty and the pressure to conform. I changed my major multiple times, exploring different fields such as kinesiology and the medical field before finally settling on education. It took time to realize that college is not a rigid path but a time of skill acquisition. During my time at UWO, Dr. Slagter suggested that instead of viewing college as a funnel, guiding us into a narrow career, we should instead view our academic experience as a reverse funnel, providing us with a diverse set of professional skills. These skills are what will allow us to find success in whatever career path we

In this process, I have come to a profound realization: it is not about what we do, but the passion we do it with. This paradigm shift occurred when I understood that regardless of our career choices, we can make a significant impact. While we celebrate our journey in our own respective majors, I believe many of us could have graduated from any other program that this University has to offer. Whichever path we choose, we possess the ability to change lives and create a more diverse and sustainable community. Herein lies exactly what UWO has prepared us for.

As we conclude this chapter, I would like to share a personal moment of reflection.
After my grandfather, a very wise man, passed away last spring, I helped clean out some of his belongings. I stumbled upon a quote by Teddy Roosevelt: “The joy of living is his who has the heart to demand it.” This means pursuing our dreams, even if it is an unpopular path. It involves having the courage to say no to others and advocate for our beliefs, even when it is uncomfortable. It means that life is for the living, even in the most broken circumstances. To take a chance and give our best effort in life, no matter what, so that we can walk away with no regrets, just as we have done so well here at UWO.

Class of 2024, my fellow Titans, let us leave this institution not just as graduates but as ambassadors of change. The challenges we faced in college were not mere obstacles; they were steppingstones that have prepared us for the journey ahead. Now equipped with the lessons of resilience, determination, and passion, we are not just ready to change momentum of a game, fix our GPA, or navigate Titan Web — we, Titans, are ready to go out and change the world.

Thank you all and Go Titans!