Nominate a Student Commencement Speaker by March 20

UW-Green Bay is seeking nominations for student speakers for the May 2020 commencement ceremonies. One student will be selected for each of the two ceremonies, representing one of the colleges participating in that particular ceremony:

  • Morning Ceremony (9:30 a.m.)
    • Austin E. Cofrin School of Business
    • College of Science, Engineering and Technology
  • Afternoon Ceremony (2 p.m.)
    • College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences
    • College of Health, Education & Social Welfare

Please nominate one or more students for this honor. Nominees must be graduating in May or August. Please send your nominations to Claudia Guzmán, via e-mail (guzmanc@uwgb.edu) by Friday, March 20, 2020 and include the following information:

  1. Student’s Name
  2. Student’s College
  3. Student’s Major(s)/Minor(s)
  4. Cumulative GPA
  5. Postgraduate Plans
  6. Brief Description of Student’s Accomplishments
  7. Other Reasons Why This Student Should be Recognized
  8. The Names of All Faculty Who Support This Nomination

This is the minimum amount of information required to nominate a student.  Please feel free to provide as much additional information as you would like to support your nomination(s).

Thank you for your assistance with identifying potential students for this most special designation and honor. Your efforts are appreciated.

About the Graduating Class Speaker Yuntlekalau Mamie McLester

Success comes at your own pace. Yuntlekalau Mamie McLester, Satuday’s graduating class speaker, knows this well. As a non-traditional student, mother and mentor, McLester forged a path toward earning her degree that was neither fast nor easy, but is indeed her own. UW-Green Bay is the fifth and final college she’s attended on her path to completing an undergraduate degree. Along the way, she’s found the importance in one’s passion should be encompassed within earning a degree.

Her unique journey toward obtaining this diploma today included asserting her passions, finding belonging in the right program, having a valuable sense of community on campus and starting a family. Originally from Oneida, Wisconsin, McLester is of the People of the Standing Stone and she’s of the Wolf Clan.

McLester graduates today with a Bachelor of Arts in First Nations, a minor in environmental science and a certificate in Environmental Management and Business. She was nominated to serve as Commencement Speaker by John Arendt, Forrest Brooks, Carol Cornelius, Elizabeth Wheat, JP Leary, Lisa Poupart, Rosa Serrano, Karen Stahlheber, Alison Staudinger and David Turney.

Described as a powerful Haudenosaunee woman, she embodies the work of her ancestors as a positive campus leader. Her contributions to the upward mobility of student successes include but are not limited to serving as a peer mentor in the Gateway to Phoenix Success program, leading the Intertribal Student Council, assistant teaching undergraduate students Ethnohistory with Carol Cornelius. Her strength in helping others comes from being an active community member and a mother. As a student she attended the Wisconsin Sustainability in Business Conference, was a presenter at the Widening the Circle Conference, and presenter at the Wisconsin Indian Education Association. She continues to advocate for wellness and social change in underrepresented communities.

This past year, as an intern at the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council’s Native American Research Center on Health, McLester looked into policies and practices that colleges and universities could adopt to help foster greater academic success and better overall wellness for Native American students. McLester served as the student representative on the search and screen committee for the Native American Student Success Coordinator for the UW System, and was the only student from across Wisconsin selected to do so. The work she completed through her internship leaves an important legacy for other Native students who attend UW-Green Bay.

McLester credits UW-Green Bay faculty and fellow students for encouraging her to get involved and to use her voice to encourage the real conversations about inclusion and diversity that are so important in Wisconsin and beyond.

“Ms. McLester works collaboratively across all social groups to build consensus and promote inclusion,” wrote Associate Prof. Lisa Poupart in her letter of recommendation. “Her strengths are many and include strong intellectual abilities, excellent oral communication and presentation skills. She is an authentic ally in action to members of oppressed social groups including people of color and the LGBTQ communities. She is always working to understand her own privilege and challenges those around her to grow and do the same. Her approach to challenging others is effective and firmly rooted in respect.”

Upon graduation, McLester will be applying her education at the Oneida Cultural Heritage department as a language and culture trainee. She was recruited by the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin to serve as an Indigenous language apprentice, where she will be applying for acceptance into an adult immersion program in Ontario.

Student speaker Kuchta recalls father’s words

olyvia kuchta class speaker

Psychology grad Olyvia Kuchta spoke on behalf of her graduating class at UW-Green Bay commencement on May 16 at the Kress Events Center.

She shared her personal story of not being certain she would attend college until she reflected back on one of her final conversations with her father, who died when she was 16.

“It was late in the afternoon and we were driving in the car together. We had never really talked much about college or ideas I had for my future until this moment. He asked me what I wanted to do after I graduated high school and while we discussed it, he told me that no matter what I did, I had to work hard. He told me that he was proud of me, and knew I would do well. I believe that a large reason why I work so hard is to make him proud.”

Kuchta referenced a number of UW-Green Bay professors she considered influential in her college career.

“I was recognized in classes by professors, specifically by Professor Christopher Martin who recognized me as the girl who never put her hand down in Philosophy, Dr. Ryan Martin who invited me to work under his supervision on an internship and honors project, and Dr. Illene Cupit, who allowed me to work consecutively for two years on research with her. I truly found my niche in the Psychology Department and would not be the person that I am today without their guidance and unconditional support.”

She closed her remarks by telling her fellow graduates that the value of education goes far beyond the diploma, or career.

“It is about approaching each situation with curiosity, seeing each problem from multiple perspectives, and finding the sun wherever you go,” Kuchta said.

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.”

Accounting major Gutierrez will speak for graduating class

Florencia Gutierrez, who will receive her bachelor’s degree in Accounting at mid-year commencement, has been chosen to speak on behalf of her graduating class. Gutierrez was nominated for the honor by Associate Dean and Business Administration Prof. Lucy Arendt, who describes 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.” Read more on Gutierrez, a native of Argentina and graduate of De Pere High School.

De Pere H.S. grad selected class speaker at UW-Green Bay

Graduating class speaker Florencia Gutierrez of Green Bay, who will receive her bachelor’s degree in Accounting at UW-Green Bay’s mid-year commencement this Saturday, Dec. 13, has been chosen to speak on behalf of her graduating class by a committee of faculty members and administrators.

Gutierrez was nominated for the honor by Associate Dean and Business Administration Prof. Lucy Arendt, who describes 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 completed a total of 174 academic credits in a little over four years, including the 150-credit-hour requirement for individuals seeking licensure as certified public accountants. She graduates with cum laude honors and Business Administration and International Business minors in addition to her Accounting major. 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.

Gutierrez is a native of Mendoza, Argentina. She moved with her parents, Hugo Gutierrez and Gabriela Marino, to Orlando, Fla., in 2001, and to Green Bay in 2008. She is a 2010 graduate of De Pere High School, where she advanced to state competition in accounting though the Future Business Leaders of America program, and competed on the tennis and track teams.

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‘I didn’t think I’d survive biology, algebra, statistics’

exworthy

Graduating class speaker Susan Exworthy of De Pere began her remarks at Saturday’s UW-Green Bay commencement by recalling her initial trepidation at enrolling in college as a returning adult student.

It was 2011, she was 48 years old and, she said, “I didn’t think I’d survive biology, algebra and statistics… but I did.”

She went on to earn her bachelor’s in Social Work and proceeded immediately on to graduate studies. Exworthy credited the help of caring faculty members and UW-Green Bay’s interdisciplinary, problem-solving approach for her academic success.

Recipient of a master’s degree in Social Work on Saturday, she shared numerous examples of ways Social Work students are engaging the community. She exhorted the nearly 5,000 in attendance to be more conscious of community crises from homelessness to heroin addiction, she lectured on the urgent need for solutions, and she plugged for additional funding of programs to address these issues.

She urged her fellow grads to be active members of their communities.  “Get involved,” she said. “Donate, speak up at city council or county board meetings, contact your legislative representatives… but get involved.”

Our news release has more about Exworthy, and her selection as student speaker, here.

Address by Master’s in Social Work grad urges serious work on serious issues

Graduating class speaker Susan Exworthy of De Pere credits the help of caring faculty members and UW-Green Bay’s interdisciplinary, problem-solving approach for her academic success. She urged her fellow grads and the nearly 5,000 in attendance to be more active members of their communities. We have a photo and more.

Returning adult MSW grad will offer Saturday’s student address

Soon-to-be MSW grad Susan Exworthy has done the commencement thing before — exactly one year ago, in fact. In May 2013, Exworthy, a 50-year-old returning adult student, earned her Bachelor of Social Work degree (and a University Leadership Award, to boot). Saturday (May 17), she’ll participate in the ceremony as a Master of Social Work grad, set to complete her degree requirements in August after a year of full-time work, extra courses and a 15-hour-a-week internship requirement. Exworthy is Saturday’s graduating class speaker, and we expect she may have some advice on dedication and multitasking. Our news post has more.