‘Fearless dreamers and resilient problem-solvers’ received their degree at two UW-Green Bay ceremonies today

Spring 2024 Commencement in the Kress Events Center and UW-Green Bay.

Photos from Dan Moore, UW-Green Bay Photographer

Bright green grass, the fragrance of newly flowered trees and warm sunshine perfected the backdrop for the 2024 Spring Commencement ceremony today at the Kress Events Center on the UW-Green Bay campus. More than 900 graduates were presented associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees at the 109th ceremony on Saturday, May 11, flanked by thousands of cheering family and friends.A group celebrates after the UW-Green Bay commencement ceremony.

Check out these photos from the ceremonies! View the album on Flickr.

Morning ceremony student speaker Blai Yang (Democracy and Justice Studies) began her journey with UW-Green Bay as a member of the Rising Phoenix program, and as a First Generation student. Her remarks both inspired and resonated with her peers; as someone who was extremely nervous beginning as a college student, she credits her family, friends and UW-Green Bay professors for helping her rise to the role of Class of 2024 speaker. In true Phoenix fashion, her words to her fellow graduates are both transformational and enduring. “As you move on, continue to make a positive and inclusive impact in your communities. You all are a remarkable group of graduates and I know you all will do amazing things…you are safe, you are present, you are loved, and you are a graduate. Congratulations Class of 2024!” 

Highlights at the morning ceremony included 144 Rising Phoenix high school seniors earning their associate degrees before their upcoming high school graduation. Green Bay Preble High School senior Vanessa Abella-Martinez was one of them, and plans to pursue a Finance degree in the Fall.

Morning ceremony community speaker Dr. Rachel Patzer is transforming the landscape of public health in the nation and as a fellow graduate of a Wisconsin public university (UW-Madison) Patzer models what it means to be a Phoenix: to push boundaries, spread innovation and never stop listening and learning. She challenged those in the Class of 2024 by asking how they will continue to learn. “I’m deeply appreciative for life’s experiences and the invaluable lessons I learn from others.  I’ve learned that I need to be willing to challenge systems and structures and unlearn things, too. In 2023, the number of female CEOs finally surpassed CEOs named “John,” highlighting the need to confront long-standing barriers faced by marginalized groups. We must challenge norms and seek solutions within our community, often through dialogue with fellow community members. Embracing change and unlearning ingrained behaviors is sometimes uncomfortable, but essential for progress. After today, how will you continue to learn about the world?”

In the afternoon ceremony, student commencement speaker, Adan Cordova (Human Biology) spoke from the heart about what it meant for him to have the opportunity to purse his dream. Originally from Honduras, and as a first generation college student, Cordova’s journey was not without its challenges. But with a leap of faith and relying on his inner strength, he persevered. “I confidently identified my inner strength and moved toward my objective, such as changing my program of study three times at NWTC and ultimately transferring to UW-Green Bay and changing my major once. Through every obstacle I faced, I grew more resilient and relentless. Confidence in myself was the most surprising thing I discovered on this journey. I belonged among my fellow students despite the fears and uncertainties that had previously dogged me. We are all worthy of success, happiness, and accomplished goals.” 

The afternoon ceremony celebrated the 1,000th person receiving a graduate degree. Michelle Kruschke-De Jesus taught for 15 years before returning to UW-Green Bay to pursue a Master’s in Business Management. This afternoon, she achieved that goal.

“Eco-U” is a phrase that community speaker, President Christopher Caldwell takes to heart, both as President of the College of Menominee Nation and an alumnus of UW-Green Bay. Caldwell shared the dedication of the Menominee Nation’s forest management program and the impact it’s had on the community and world. Since the early 1900’s, Caldwell and the community have worked to ensure the forest’s strength for generations to come. “The diversity of trees, plants, animals, insects, and other non-human relatives, waterways, and ecosystems continue to serve as the backbone of our forest’s strength and by extension, our people’s strength.” He continued, igniting a call to action for the class of 2024. I want to share a statement summarizing all of this. During an 1856 Tribal General Council meeting, Chief Oshkosh, one of our tribal leaders, exemplified the values of the Menominee when he said: ‘I wish to pursue a course which will be best for the generations who follow us.’ Resilient problem solvers – fearless dreamers, let us pursue a course that will be best for the generations that follow us.” 

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