Student urges classmates to welcome diversity

Florencia Gutierrez

Graduating class speaker Florencia Gutierrez, who emigrated from Argentina at the age of 9 thanks to her parents’ search for a more promising future, told her classmates at UW-Green Bay mid-year commencement to be open to taking risks, being generous and greeting change with open arms.

Gutierrez says she takes inspiration from her parents and the determination they showed in starting a new life in the United States in 2001. It has fueled her desire to succeed academically, and even to overcome her own reticence and accept nomination as commencement speaker.

“Never in a million years,” she told the audience of about 2,000, “did I think that I, a shy Accounting student, would be able to stand here speaking in front of so many people.”

Gutierrez was chosen to speak on behalf of her class by a committee of UW-Green Bay faculty members and administrators. She was nominated for the honor by Associate Dean and Business Administration Prof. Lucy Arendt, who described her as “an outstanding student leader in the Cofrin School of Business… a role model dedicated to excellence in all activities — academic, extracurricular and professional.”

Gutierrez’s family relocated from Florida to the Green Bay area in 2008, and she graduated from De Pere High School in 2010.

In her commencement remarks, Gutierrez admitted she originally had her heart set on the Ivy League and Harvard, or the University of Florida, but those schools said “no.” She was admitted to UW-Green Bay, she said, thinking she might eventually transfer to a school in a warmer climate.

Instead, she warmed to the people and leadership opportunities at UW-Green Bay, was active on campus, and “became a bigger Packer fan every year.”

She closed her college career by earning cum laude honors and the Chancellor’s Medallion in recognition of her academic achievements. She completed a semester-long study abroad program at the Kedge Business School in Bordeaux, France, as well as a January “winterim” course in Cuernavaca, Mexico. While a student, she was hired as a tax assistant with a major local employer.

After advising her fellow grads to be adventurous and be generous with their time, Gutierrez closed with the reminder that “we should greet change with open arms and a positive attitude.” In passages she delivered in both English and her native Spanish, she alluded to the growing cultural diversity of the Green Bay area. “Green Bay is changing,” she said. “Embrace that beauty.”

Gutierrez was greeted with a lengthy ovation at the conclusion of her address, warm congratulations from UW-Green Bay Chancellor Gary L. Miller, and a compliment as he returned to the lectern.

“Clearly,” Miller said, smiling, “Florida and Harvard made a terrible mistake.”