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More than 1,300 students earned their degrees Saturday at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s 150th spring commencement ceremony. The graduates’ families and friends gathered to support them as students who finished their academic programs received associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees. These gradutes are now part of more than 100,000 in the UW Oshkosh alumni family.

Here are a few highlights from this proud day:

Ready to help

Hailey Tanem of Fond du Lac said her graduation from Fond du Lac High School was a drive-thru event. Saturday, she is walking with hundreds of other graduates in Oshkosh as she earns her associate degree from UWO Fond du Lac—the last-ever graduating class of the campus. Tanem said she’ll continue at the Oshkosh campus in fall as she seeks a degree in psychology. She eventually hopes to continue her education at UW-Madison to earn a Ph.D. in psychology. Tanem, who started in a technical school nursing program, changed her major several times, untill she landed on her chosen career path. “Ever since I was young I wanted to help people.” Tanem will be cheered in the crowd by her family and her fiance, who proposed marriage earlier this month.

Med school in his future

A beautiful decorative necklace worn by Javit Thao of Oshkosh, was made by his aunt who was not able to attend the Saturday ceremony. Thao, a biomedical science major, said he planned to take a “gap year” working as an emergency medical technician before applying to medical school. Thao graduates magna cum laude and is an Honors College graduate.

Work and breathe in a small town

West Milwaukee native Charles Kudy Jr. said he was inspired by his parents, who gave of their time on boards and commissions, to seek a career in public service. Some time after earning a bachelor’s degree in finance, he saw a job posting for a municipal position for the Village of Campbellsport, in Fond du Lac County. Kudy Jr., who earned a master of public administration degree, is village administrator in Campbellsport, where the staff of 10 full-time employees will soon increase to 14. “I love it–I love working for a small town. There is a really good sense of community and we’re close enough to Milwaukee and Madison.” Kudy Jr. took the MPA program fully online. He said he especially related to instructors Michael Ford and Jeff Sachse.

Inspiring speakers

UWO alumnus Jim VandeHei ’95, was our special Commencement speaker at both ceremonies. VandeHei is the co-founder and CEO of the news website Axios, as well as the former executive editor and co-founder of Politico. VandeHei urged students to make deliberate efforts to be the best version of themselves every day.

Frances “Frankie” Kerkhof, of Oshkosh, offered remarks at the morning ceremony. They graduate with a bachelor of arts degree from the College of Letters and Science. “Let’s be proud of what we have accomplished,” Kerkhof said in their remarks. “Wherever we are headed, we will tackle any obstacle with dignity and humility.”

Eli Tranel, of West Bend, gave a speech at the afternoon ceremony. He graduated with a bachelor of science degree in education from the College of Education and Human Services. Tranel shared reflections about his experiences in choosing a major, concluding that “it is not about what we do, but the passion we do it with.”

Next stop: Academy

Kayla Kane of New Berlin graduates Saturday with a degree in criminal justice. A community service officer for the UW Oshkosh Police during her time on campus, she has a short reprieve in her studies before starting the 18-week law enforcement academy June 5 at Fox Valley Technical College. Kayla will work in law enforcement in Outagamie County.

Tough start to great day

Munha Bhai was traveling from his mom’s house in Brookfield early Saturday morning when his car broke down and needed a tow in a rural area of Dodge County. Proving the resilience of the Class of 2024, Bhai, of Oshkosh, made it to Kolf Sports Center in time for the morning ceremony where he earned a degree in liberal studies. Bhai has big aspirations going forward, planning to attend law school in southern California.

Happy family

Makaylee Stewart of Milwaukee, had a group of four family members on hand to celebrate her earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology. The McNair Scholar had a minor in African-American Studies and was part of the campus gospel choir and National Honor Society. She doesn’t have solid plans today, but is planning to go to graduate school.

In memory of grandpa

UW Oshkosh basketball standout Kennedy Osterman of Pewaukee was wearing an ornamental scarf embellished with jasmine flowers and paper money that is considered a Filipino tradition. It was made by her mom in honor of and in memory of Osterman’s late grandfather. The radio TV film graduate said she plans to move back to Pewaukee and seek a job in the Milwaukee area.

Nurse is advancing care

Among the graduates earning a prestigious Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from the College of Nursing, was Yang Mee Chang of Manitowoc, who had a large contingent of family present for her academic hooding denoting achievement beyond the associates and bachelor’s degrees.​ Chang wore an intricate stole specially made by her mom. She earned her undergraduate degree at UWO and returned for her advanced degree. Currently working as a registered nurse in Manitowoc, she hopes to work in a family practice role in the future.​

It’s the law

Chicago native Kyndra Straughter graduated with an associate degree after starting her education at the UWO Fond du Lac campus. She continued this semester at the Oshkosh campus and plans to continues studies in law school to eventually become a criminal defense attorney. Straughter’s boyfriend, mom, sister, brother and his girlfriend, all watched her walk across the stage Saturday.

Internship helps secure job

Marilee Williamson of Appleton has spent the past two years as an accounting intern and co-op student at Miller Electric in Appleton and it’s paid off as she was hired before Commencement. She was interested in the career since she took an accounting course at Appleton North High School. Williamson’s mom and her boyfriend, Jonathan Stoeger ’22, were on hand to watch her accept her diploma. Williamson and Stoeger met while studying on the UWO Fox Cities campus.

Online program just right

West Bend resident Grace Taylor graduates with a Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree from the College of Online and Continuing Education. Her program was 100% online and she couldn’t be happier. “I was working 7-3 and I’d do homework until 6 or 6:30 (p.m.). I worked full-time, and I really liked online studies and the set-up at UW Oshkosh where the semester is broken into (two) seven weeks.” Taylor is director of people and culture at 1-800-got-junk in West Allis and oversees hiring and human resources for six franchises.

New elementary teacher in Oshkosh

Education major Willem Flaugher, a New Berlin native, graduated magna cum laude and wore two stoles signed by his students at Roosevelt Elementary School, where he was a student teacher. He also had a stole awarded for his time with Titan Thunder, the school’s new marching band, where he served as band manager. Flaugher is excited to have his own classroom at Jefferson Elementary in Oshkosh. “… I’m as ready as I’ll ever be,” he said about starting his new career.

Her time to teach

Ferber Elementary in Appleton will have a new special education teacher focused on Grade 1 students. Grace Peterson, a Rockton, Illinois native who received her diploma Saturday with summa cum laude honors, said it “hasn’t fully sunk in yet” that she was finishing her time at UW Oshkosh. “It feels really good to have ‘my own kids,’ she said about her position at Ferber that fulfills her last clinical.

Easing the mental health crisis

A mental health rotation in Appleton turned nursing student Aaliyah Murray of Menomonee Falls, onto a career working in behaviorial health. “I just loved it. I found I was able to help, but not in a traditional way, in such a needed field, that I didn’t know was possible.” With her stethescope around her neck as she crossed the stage, Murray earned her bachelor of science in nursing degree.

Chose UWO for nursing

Hunter Vogel, a Hollandtown, Wisconsin, native who now lives in Oshkosh, earned a bachelor of science in nursing degree and starts a job June 4 on the medical floor at ThedaCare in Neenah. He’ll be working in recovery, working with patients that are getting ready for discharge from the hospital. “A big inspiration to get into nursing was when my grandpa was in the hospital, and seeing how the nurses treated him.” Vogel said he chose UWO solely for its top-rated nursing program.

Coach has new degree

UWO assistant football coach Max Schoening of Algoma earned a master of business administration degree, following on the heels of his finance degree in December of 2022. Schoening came to UWO after being recruited to play football and be part of the track team. He said he also was considering UW-La Crosse, but said he liked UWO better. He did his classes online, with two synchronous.