After a 2,000-mile journey, Dina Maleny Capetillo Jimenez ends up at center stage on Saturday, May 13 as UW-Green Bay’s 50,000th graduate

From Veracruz, Mexico to Green Bay, Wis., Dina Maleny Capetillo Jimenez’s journey to a college degree hasn’t been without its challenges. But the Business Administration major has placed herself in an enviable position. On Saturday, May, 13, 2023 she was the first in her family to graduate with a college degree, and she was celebrated as UW-Green Bay’s 50,000th graduate at the University’s Commencement ceremonies.

Capetillo was only six years old when she immigrated with her family to the United States. Unable to speak English, she recalls the kindness of a stranger-turned-friend—a little girl in her Chilton, Wis. classroom who found a way to communicate through non-verbal sign language and helped her with her homework. It was the start of her academic journey that will culminated in grand style, with flowers and fanfare at the Kress Events Center on Saturday.

“I am really excited about being the 50,000 graduate,” Capetillo said. “It’s kind of like winning the lottery. It is a really cool recognition.”

“Maleny” as she prefers to be called, has already lined up a job post-graduation, with Nicolet National Bank. While she says she isn’t sure how she “got so lucky” it is clear she had the fortitude to blaze her own trail, while listening closely to mentors for wisdom and guidance along the way.

A business teacher at Chilton recommended that she attend a technical college after high school. That path would allow her to live at home and save money. With an associate degree in hand from Fox Valley Technical College, Capetillo headed for a visit to UW-Green Bay.

“I fell in love with it immediately,” she said. “I loved the seclusion of campus, yet the proximity to the city. And the academic opportunities in the business program were too good to pass up. The University also had a collegiate DECA program, which I was familiar with, and I became actively involved, ending the year as vice president of leadership for the organization.”

Her junior year, she took a class with Assistant Prof. Preston Cherry, and she soon knew that like him, empowering individuals to achieve financial wellness was the direction she wanted to take her minor, and eventually a career.

She immersed herself in the program and the opportunities it presented—serving as a tour guide for UW-Green Bay’s brand-new Schwab Center for Financial Wellness; attending professional development opportunities, serving as secretary of the Personal Financial Planning Association (PFPA) student organization; and conducting some peer mentoring of her own, in the peer-to-peer mentoring program. In a nod to her heritage, she stayed active with Organización Latino Americana, as well. And her finance minor was helpful in her service on the Segregated University Fee Allocation Committee (SUFAC) —helping to make decisions as to where student tuition gets budgeted for resources and organizations at the University.

She was learning the ropes at a full-time job at a local credit union, when an internship opportunity at Nicolet National Bank to become more versed specifically in financial planning was offered to her on recommendation from Prof. Cherry. That internship will become a full-time job at the end of May as a paraplanner—working with a financial planner to prepare to sit some day for the Certified Financial Planner exam.

But first there will be a celebration; starting with a party of 50,000.

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