UW-Green Bay’s fall graduating class urged to ‘innovate and think creatively’ at the 2023 UW-Green Bay Fall Commencement ceremonies

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 13, 2023

More than 480 students to be awarded degrees at UW-Green Bay’s 2023 Fall Commencement, December 16, 2023

GREEN BAY, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay fall graduates will cross the stage on Saturday, while being urged to “innovate and think creatively” to enhance the region. A total of 485 eligible graduates and their families celebrate the 2023 Fall Commencement, Saturday, December 16, 2023 in two ceremonies at the Weidner Center.

Degrees to be awarded include associate, bachelor and master’s degrees in high-demand areas such as business, environmental sciences, psychology, liberal arts, nursing, engineering and education. The ceremony will honor graduates and celebrate with families from all four of UW-Green Bay’s campuses (Green Bay, Marinette, Manitowoc and Sheboygan). This is the University’s 108th Commencement ceremony since its first in June of 1970. Graduates join the more than 50,000 proud Phoenix alumni.

“Celebrating the fall graduating class this weekend builds on the momentum we have as a university, and shows that we are meeting the needs of our regional workforce,” UW-Green Bay Chancellor Michael Alexander said. “It is my hope that our graduates will continue to fearlessly face challenges and solve problems to ensure the vibrancy of Northeast Wisconsin. As we rise as a university, we rise together as a community and region.”

Morning Ceremony (9:30 a.m.):  

-College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

-College of Health, Education & Social Welfare

-All Associate’s Degrees from all four campuses

Afternoon Ceremony (2 p.m.):  

-Austin E. Cofrin School of Business

-College of Science, Engineering and Technology


Morning student speaker Rachel Bartell returns to the Phoenix flock
Spring on the UW-Green Bay campus, typically a time for leisurely walks across its 700 park-like acres, was shrouded in an eerie quiet in 2021. Once bustling lecture halls were empty. The popular, well-attended class DJS 101: Introduction to Democracy and Justice Studies—historically a dynamic exchange among professors, peer mentors, and around 70 students—had morphed into a collection of individuals staring at their computer screens. This cornerstone course for future law, politics, and social service professionals had moved online.

Among those DJS students was Rachel Bartell, returning to college after an eight-year absence. She also took on the role of one of two peer success mentors, tasked with connecting with students who might be struggling in the class—a challenging assignment while also reacclimating to college life.

A decade earlier, Bartell was a fresh from high school Phoenix with a completely different major in mind. “I had wanted to do acting. My whole thing was I wanted to go to California.” Read her story.

Washington Post writer Laura Meckler to address morning graduates

Laura Meckler is a national education writer for the Washington Post, where she covers the news, politics and people shaping American schools. She previously reported on the White House, presidential politics, immigration, and health care for the Wall Street Journal, as well as on health and social policy for the Associated Press.

Before coming to Washington, Laura covered state government in Columbus, Ohio. She got her start covering everything from schools and cops to the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame festival at The Repository in Canton, Ohio. Her honors include a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University. She received the Livingston Award for National Reporting for her coverage of organ transplantation, and she was part of a team that won the George Polk Award for Justice Reporting for a series on the life of George Floyd. She is the author of DREAM TOWN: Shaker Heights and the Quest for Racial Equity, about her hometown. She now lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two sons.

Afternoon student speaker Sean Babasin ‘retests’ the waters

Describing the journey through higher education is fraught with challenges—and clichés. “Choosing your path” is a common metaphor. Sean Babasin’s experience, however, is more akin to navigating a river, occasionally without a paddle. His path from California to Afghanistan and finally to academia at UW-Green Bay has been as winding as the course of a river itself; but illustrates that ultimately, we each have opportunities to shape our own destiny amidst life’s unpredictable turns.

“I grew up in the San Fernando Valley on the north side of the HOLLYWOOD sign.” Babasin recalls. He also remembers being fascinated by two things— water and the military. “In high school I had a chemistry class that had an emphasis on water quality and chemistry.” Babasin remembers “field trips” to the L.A. River, the famous concrete-lined waterway spanning much of the city which functions as a giant storm drain.

These experiences, he believes, were the source of his future career decisions. “Growing up in a region that deals with water scarcity like that motivated me to get into water,” he explains. Yet, there was one venture he was not prepared for at the time—college. Read his story.

Schreiber Foods President and CEO Ron Dunford to speak at afternoon ceremony

Ron Dunford was named President and Chief Executive Officer of Schreiber Foods in 2019. He is Schreiber’s eighth President and CEO. Ron spent more than 40 years in the dairy industry.

Ron joined Schreiber in 1996 at the Green Bay, Wisconsin, home office. He was named a Vice President in 2000, Senior Vice President in 2002, President & COO of Schreiber Chain Sales in 2003, President & COO of Operations in 2006, and President of Schreiber U.S. in 2014. Additionally, Ron was elected to the Schreiber Foods Board of Directors in 2003.

Ron serves as a Board Member for the Utah State University Center for Entrepreneurship, the International Dairy Foods Association, and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy where he serves as Food Safety Vice Chair. He also served a 2-year term as the Chairman of the National Cheese Institute. In the community, Ron is actively involved with non-profits and in serving the needs of others.

He earned a B.S. in Geology from Utah State University in Logan, Utah.


Meet Kaite Rabideau, soon-to-be UW-Green Bay Associate Degree of Arts and Science’s graduate. As a first generation student, mother of two and aspiring teacher, she is ready to rise like the Phoenix she is.

Kaite was 13 when she got pregnant and became a mother at age 14. For most people, this situation would stop you in your tracks. Not Kaite. At 15, she worked with the local school board to complete her high school diploma virtually, and in less than two years. At the ripe age of 16, and with her son Wyatt at her side, Kaite received her high school diploma.

Kaite went on to pursue a career in nursing. She earned her CNA license and started working while going to school. She realized quickly that nursing was not her passion. Motivated by a love of learning, she enrolled at UW-Green Bay in the pre-education track and found her calling. Balancing a young child, day care, work and school wasn’t easy, but Kaite persevered, and on December 16, will realize one giant step in her dream to become a teacher.

Kaite wants her unconventional educational journey to inspire everyone; from young teenage mothers like herself to current students who feel afraid to change their major to do something they love. Most importantly, she wants to show her two boys that anything is possible, no matter what might stand in your way!

Jacob Daniel Kulis’s story perfectly illustrates turning adversity into achievement. Known as J.D., his college journey as a first-generation student began in the shadow of homelessness, family trauma and the COVID pandemic—obstacles that could derail anyone’s dreams. Yet, as he stands ready to graduate with a Bachelor of Public Administration, his story becomes a powerful testament to his own resilience and the transformative power of education.

Facing the daunting challenges of homelessness and the absence of family support, J.D.’s determination found a match in the resources and care of friends, faculty and staff. UW-Green Bay’s Phoenix Cares program became a pivotal element of his support system, exemplifying the university’s dedication to every student’s success, especially for those who are the first in their families to attend college.

This is the crux of J.D.’s story: the courage to ask for help, the strength to keep going, and the university’s pledge to provide a robust network of support. We at UW-Green Bay stand proud of our role in nurturing students like J.D., who transform their life challenges into inspiring tales of success.

NOTE: Members of the media, please RSVP your attendance to Kristin Bouchard, bouchark@uwgb.edu. Contact Kristin for interview requests and/or photos. 

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 www.uwgb.edu.

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