The recipient of this year’s Outstanding Student Award, Emily Ahrens, thinks of the students and faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay as an extended family; one that has helped her learn and grow throughout her college career, but also one that has been there as her support through some rough personal times.
Ahrens, a Roscoe, Ill. native, will graduate this year with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Musical Theatre and English Literature. An accomplished actress and singer, Ahrens has not only appeared in UW-Green Bay productions of musicals like “Legally Blonde,” where she played the lead role of Elle Woods, and other productions like “Silent Sky,” “The Importance of Being Earnest,” “Play Nice!,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Children of Eden,” “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Lake Pawtuckaway,” “Months on End” and “Uncommon Women and Others.” Ahrens has also been nominated for roles in the Irene Ryan Acting Competition, part of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, and twice been a semi-finalist in the competition. She has also participated in the Musical Theatre Intensive Dance competition and the Musical Theatre Intensive Vocals competition at the festival where she was a finalist in both events. She won a Certificate of Merit for Ensemble Work for her work in “Uncommon Women and Others” at the American College Theatre Festival. And at UW-Green Bay, she has been awarded the Excellence in Performance Award twice, and received the Outstanding Theatre Student Award.
But her talents extend beyond acting and singing into academics. Ahrens has been named to the Dean’s List three times and earned semester honors or high honors four times. During her time at UW-Green Bay, she has been the recipient of 12 scholarships including the University Academic Excellence Scholarship.
In addition to her academic and arts endeavors, Ahrens was also the vice president of the Alternate Theatre group, and group leader for the Late Night Play Reading group. While attending school, she worked as a student ambassador, an office assistant, a brand ambassador for Pepsi and a babysitter, among others. She also volunteered her time to the ZooBoo Spooktacular, the National Railroad Museum and other area non-profits. Ahrens served as a mentor to other students both as a teaching assistant and as a tutor at West High School as part of the Phuture Phoenix program.
Ahrens credits her time as a UW-Green Bay ambassador, and as a tutor with the Phuture Phoenix program, as two experiences that helped her grow as a person. As an ambassador, she says, she was able to watch students she had known and mentored since freshman year grow into leaders themselves. As a Phuture Phoenix tutor, she was able to see things from a new perspective and it allowed her to literally walk in someone else’s shoes.
Additionally, during a rough period in her family life, she said, the faculty, co-workers and classmates she had during that time came to her aid to do everything from checking in on her to delivering homemade meals to her room. “The people at this university, my support system, they are the reason I didn’t quit. They were my family (and still are) when I didn’t have one to rely on back home,” she said.
For Ahrens, her time at UW-Green Bay has been transformational. “My time here… has given me confidence while also instilling a deep drive and passion within myself as I reach for my goals,” she said. “I came to this University not knowing for sure if I was going to stick with my Musical Theatre major because of a lack of success in performing during high school. UW-Green Bay has taught me how to push myself beyond what I thought were my own boundaries, and helped me to learn what I am truly capable of doing.”