Madalaine McConville ended up attending University of Wisconsin-Stout because she had no idea what she wanted to do after graduating high school in Augusta.
It turned out to be one of the best decisions ever for her.
“I am glad my doubt and confusion led me here to UW-Stout,” McConville said. “This place quickly turned my doubts into plans and my plans into realities.”
Still, there were days she questioned her decision. “That is exactly what UW-Stout taught us to do, question things and come up with better solutions,” McConville said.
McConville will graduate virtually at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 9, with a degree in applied social science. She is one of 1,004 undergraduates and 179 graduate students receiving diplomas. Commencement is virtual because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students graduating this spring will have the opportunity to participate in an in-person ceremony either in August or December.
McConville, who plans to take a year off before attending graduate school, is one of the student commencement speakers. Her speech was prerecorded. In it she encourages her fellow graduates not to look back at what they missed the last semester but to hold on to the memories they had already made at UW-Stout.
She also encourages them to use the skills they learned to help make the future brighter, accept challenges and make a difference in their fields.
The other student speaker is Rana Pluemer, of Platteville, a double major in hotel, restaurant and tourism management and golf enterprise management.
McConville has shared research twice at the annual UW System Research in the Rotunda at the Capitol in Madison. This past March she presented “Democracy and Interpersonal Relationships in Danger: Political Divisiveness.”
She found that those who held extreme political values were 29% more likely not to date someone with different political views versus those with more moderate viewpoints. Those who identified as Democrats were 4.1% more likely to not be friends with someone having different political views. Republicans were 4.8% more likely to avoid someone with different political views.
Last year she presented the “School to Prison Pipeline,” on the impact of having police presence and heightened security in schools and if it made students feel safer. She determined that extra security had the opposite effect, making students misbehave because they felt like they were in a prison-like environment. Social workers hired to work with students were a better option to curb violence, she found.
Last spring, she traveled to New York City to present research to the Society for the Study of Sociology and at the American Sociological Association Conference. She presented “The Power of Vulnerability in Politics: Political Division as Control.”
“This shows how important research is at UW-Stout,” McConville said.
This academic year, McConville served as director of Legislative Affairs for the Stout Student Association and was a Stout Ambassador, helping to represent students to alumni.
Christopher Marshall, a history senior lecturer in the social science department and McConville’s adviser, said McConville is a fantastic student with great potential. “Maddie is the most driven, confident and formidable student I have ever had the pleasure of teaching in my career at UW-Stout,” Marshall said.
“Watching her transition from an extremely bright but reserved freshmen to an amazing young woman bound to make her mark on whatever endeavor she undertakes in life has been both an honor and a pleasure,” Marshall said.
Professor Nels Paulson taught McConville in several sociology classes and said she lives a purpose-filled life. “I am amazed by her determination and thoroughness,” Paulson said. “The other thing I appreciate is her openness to feedback. While nobody really welcomes criticism, she actually seems to recognize, in a healthy way, the importance of growth and not perfection. This is something I know she always has had, but her time at Stout, I believe, really nurtured that side of her.”
Eventually, McConville hopes to attend an in-person graduation, although she praised UW-Stout’s decision to hold a virtual graduation to honor students.
McConville may not have known what she wanted to learn at UW-Stout, but she was glad her life led her to the campus.
“It’s an amazing university with great people (where) we learn to problem-solve. I fell in love with the campus, my professors and the people in my program,” she said. “I’m glad I ended up here at UW-Stout.”