Watch them rise: UW-Green Bay’s 1,100 spring graduates poised to bring bold thinking to ignite the regional workforce


GREEN BAY, Wis. – In a January letter to the campus and region, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Chancellor Michael Alexander shared that “It is clear that our future and the future of Northeast Wisconsin demands us to be bold.” This message, along with the university’s core mission of providing access to education that ignites the regional workforce will be highlighted this weekend as more than 1,100 eligible graduates and their families celebrate UW-Green Bay’s 2024 Spring/Summer Commencement.

The commencement events will be held on Saturday, May 11, 2024, in two ceremonies scheduled for 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Kress Events Center on the UW-Green Bay campus.

Notably, UW-Green Bay will celebrate its largest class of Rising Phoenix graduates. More than 144 students from state-wide high schools will earn their associate degree before they graduate from high school later this month. Current Green Bay Preble High School senior, and Rising Phoenix Vanessa Abella-Martinez will earn her associate degree along with her two siblings, (earning their Bachelor’s degree) at Saturday’s commencement ceremony.

Other highlights of Saturday’s ceremonies include:

  • More than 50% of Saturday’s graduates are considered First Generation students, meaning they are the first in their family to earn their degree
  • Nadia Neziri (Environmental Policy and Planning) will be the youngest Latinx graduate, at 19 years old, to receive her bachelor’s degree from UW-Green Bay
  • Three students from the first Rising Phoenix cohort will receive their bachelor’s degrees
  • The Community Health Education program will celebrate its first graduates, including Lisa Miller, who did her field experience at the Oneida Nation Health Department
  • Members of the first class earning a Master of Science in Nutrition and Integrated Health will graduate
  • Graduate Studies will celebrate its 1,000th master’s degreed student during Saturday’s commencement

The ceremonies will honor graduates and celebrate with families from all four of UW-Green Bay’s campuses (Green Bay, Marinette, Manitowoc and Sheboygan,) awarding degrees in high-demand areas such as nursing, education, business and engineering.

Morning ceremony (9:30 a.m.)

  • College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences
  • College of Health, Education & Social Welfare
  • All Associates degrees from all four campuses including the Rising Phoenix program

Afternoon ceremony (2 p.m.)

  • Austin E. Cofrin School of Business
  • College of Science, Engineering & Technology

Every UW-Green Bay student has the power to rise. Graduates from the University are future-minded problem solvers and innovators, poised to transform the communities and the region. The stories below from the Class of 2024 exemplify the resiliency and tenacity found in every UW-Green Bay student.

Note to media: If interested in speaking with one of the highlighted students below on Saturday, please call or text Kristin Bouchard at 920-360-6045. Or you can email her at


Morning ceremony student speaker Blai Yang amplifies her voice to help others rise

Embarking on a college journey entails not just a first step but often includes a cascade of mixed emotions. For Blai Yang, a former Rising Phoenix whose voice is now used to support others and to give back, her initial steps on the campus of the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay began with empathy and quiet courage. “I was super shy and scared of being judged,” she remembers. But beneath the surface of her reserved demeanor was a determination – a voice – ready to grow and flourish, amplifying her personal potential and inspiring and uplifting others. Her choice to major in Democracy and Justice Studies was more than an academic decision—it was a challenge to express herself. Read her story here.

Afternoon ceremony student speaker Adan Cordova builds a foundation to fearlessly dream

It’s 4:15 AM, and Adan Cordova’s day has already begun. In the pre-dawn stillness, while the rest of his family still sleeps, he silently hurries to catch a ride to be at work by six. Then, he puts in a twelve-hour day before returning home. These hours would probably be considered typical for the soon-to-be class of 2024 graduate in Human Biology with aspirations for medical school. But this was a snapshot of Cordova’s day from more than 15 years ago, when he lived in his native Honduras working construction jobs. He recalls, “I did everything from mixing concrete to preparing foundations.” These days, Cordova is laying a different kind of foundation—a career in medicine. His primary goal to “provide for my family” remains the same decades later. But today, his dreams are transformative. Read his story here.


Nadia Neziri never stops learning…or rising

Nadia Neziri will graduate on Saturday, May 11, 2024 during the 9:30 a.m. ceremony.

Fearless and ready to change the world, UW-Green Bay class of 2024 graduate Nadia Neziri is poised for greatness. As a member of the first cohort of the Rising Phoenix program, she is the youngest Latinx person to receive their bachelor’s degree from UW-Green Bay. The best part about her impending graduation? She’s leaving with a bachelor’s degree and without debt; due in part to the groundbreaking collaboration that is the Rising Phoenix program. This unique partnership between UW-Green Bay and regional high schools, provides an opportunity for high school juniors and seniors to earn their associate degree, many times at no cost to the student. This not only prepares them for the rigor of college classes but allows students to reduce the overall expense of college. Read her story here.

First in her family and first in the Community Health Education program. Meet Lisa Miller

Lisa Miller will graduate on Saturday, May 11, 2024 during the 9:30 a.m. ceremony.

Born and raised on the Menominee Reservation, Lisa Miller’s pursuit of education began in her community at the College of Menominee Nation. She continued her journey at NWTC which eventually led her to UW-Green Bay, as one of the first to enroll in the Community Health Education program. Being “first” is a thing for Miller. “I will also be a first-generation graduate with a four-year degree.” A natural problem-solver, Miller is thinking boldly about how she can inform her community about access to education surrounding community health resources and information. “My education has challenged my perspective by becoming more aware of my surroundings and what is happening in the world. It has made me view situations in new perspectives and challenges me to look beyond my own space.”

About UW-Green Bay
The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is a school of resilient problem solvers who dare to reach higher with the power of education that ignites growth and answers the biggest challenges. Serving 10,300 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students as well as 67,500 continuing education learners annually, UW-Green Bay offers 200 academic degrees, programs, and certificates. With four campus locations in Northeast Wisconsin, the University’s access mission welcomes all students who want to learn, from every corner of the world. Championing bold thinking since opening its doors in 1965, it is a university on the rise – Wisconsin’s fastest growing UW. For more information, visit

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