2019 Student Speaker Hannah Malmberg

Student Commencement Speaker Hannah Malmberg tells fellow Phoenix to have the courage to start anew

Student Speaker Hannah Malmberg (Political Science, Communication) tells her fellow grads to have the courage to start anew. Here’s her speech:

Hello everyone. I feel like we’ve been trained to introduce ourselves with our name, major, and a fun fact about ourselves. So why not do it one last time? My name is Hannah Malmberg, I’m a Political Science and Communication major, and as for a fun fact about myself? Well I ran out of those after the 20th time of having to do this on the first day of class.

But I do have a fun fact for you. Did you know that the UWGB mascot wasn’t always a Phoenix? Up until 1970, the mascot was a water-skiing badger called the Bay Badger. Which honestly does sound kind of cool, but it made me think about the meaning of being a Phoenix.

What is a Phoenix, besides a dope mascot named Phlash?

The Phoenix is an ancient mythological creature found in folklore spanning several cultures that symbolizes renewal and rebirth. It bursts into flames before beginning its new life and soaring.

Which is beautiful, but in order for the Phoenix to be resurrected from the ashes and start anew, it must first fall.

While we may not be living in a legend of old, I’m sure many of us can relate to a tale about failing before finding success. I know that I can.

Before what was supposed to be the first semester of my sophomore year of college, I actually dropped out of this University.

2019 Winter Commencement Student Speaker Hannah Malmberg
Hannah Malmberg

My freshman year was a struggle. My mental health was in one of the worst states it had ever been in since I began my battle against mental illness many years ago. I felt disconnected and lost from everything and everyone around me. I wasn’t adjusting to college life like I had expected. Combine that with the fact that high school had been academically easy for me, so college was going to be too right?

Well not exactly. I even failed a class, American Government and Politics. Which is hilarious considering I became a Political Science major. Don’t worry, I retook it.

After taking a semester off, I decided to reapply and was admitted once again to the University. This time around, I challenged myself and sought help from those around me when I needed it. I also wanted to become that person for others as well. I became a peer mentor in the Gateway to Phoenix Success Program so that I could help others have an easier transition to college than I did. I am proud of helping the next generation of Phoenix succeed. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to have a second chance and try again.

So to me, being a Phoenix means being resilient because I know my story is not unique. We have all faced obstacles along our journey to this very day. But look at us now! I’m proud of that fact that we have created a community of support where we help each other rise when we one of us has fallen.

As I look out at all of you, I see how much we have grown and I know that the sum of our achievements is extraordinary. We have served as mentors and tutors. Conducted research, created beautiful pieces of art, and competed as talented athletes. We have left this campus and community better and stronger than when we arrived.

We may live in an uncertain world, but I know we will land on our feet and excel. We will create the world we want to see for ourselves. We are Phoenix after all.

Before I go, I would like to take the time to thank those who have helped me along my college journey. To my family, thank you for letting me discover my own path and for letting me make mistakes while loving me all the same. Today I am thinking about my Grandma Doris who always inspired me to pursue an education but passed away before she could see me graduate. To my friends, thank you for being there on those sleepless nights, for listening to me when I’m at my wit’s end, and for helping me create some of my most cherished memories. I am forever grateful for meeting you. I also want to thank the incredible faculty and staff I have met here at UWGB, especially Dr. Levintova and Dr. Helpap. I would not be up on this stage if it wasn’t for the guidance you gave me, the confidence you helped build, or the opportunities you provided.

So congrats UWGB Class of 2019, we finally made it and for old time’s sake, Go Phoenix. Thank you.