Stout Proud day: Chancellor congratulates 526 happy graduates during fall commencement

Two ceremonies highlight success stories from class of 2023 along with words of wisdom from two graduates, alum
​Jerry Poling | December 18, 2023

Smiles and warmth filled Johnson Fieldhouse at UW-Stout on an early winter day as 526 graduates received degrees Dec. 16 in two commencement ceremonies.

Chancellor Katherine Frank addressed graduates and their guests while two members of the class of 2023 and an alum also spoke.

Frank congratulated graduates on their achievement and a job well done. “This is a world that needs you, your knowledge, your talent and your vision,” she said.

Ceremonies were held at 10 a.m. for the College of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Management and the College of Arts and Human Sciences; and 2 p.m. for  Graduate Studies.

Some of the 526 graduates take part in one of the two ceremonies.
Some of the 526 graduates take part in one of the two ceremonies. / UW-Stout

In each of her speeches, Frank cited examples of inspiring graduates. In the undergraduate ceremony, she highlighted:

  • Ariana Enciso, of Fond du Lac, who graduated in applied social science. “I am most proud of not just completing my degree but doing so while actively engaging in extracurricular activities and advocating for social justice because I deeply care about it.” She also cited the “personal growth, tenacity and the unwavering dedication I have discovered within myself.”
  • Julia Baxter, of Chippewa Falls, who graduated in engineering technology. “My Stout education has allowed me to be more confident working in the field of engineering. It has allowed me to become more innovative and creative. I have developed lifelong skills … that I can use in and out of industry. It has also shown me that once you set your mind to something you can accomplish anything.” She has been hired full time as an engineer with Phillips Medisize.
  • Nicolas Langenfeld, of Wild Rose, who graduated in computer networking and information technology. “My Stout experience has had a profound impact on my life. It has allowed me to turn a hobby of tinkering with computers and technology into a professional career in information technology. My experience has not only given me the technical skills to be able to do my job, but it has also given me the soft skills to develop as a person and become more sociable.” He has been hired as a full-time information security analyst at Waupaca Foundry, where he has been interned for the past three years.
A graduate gets a hug after receiving her diploma.
A graduate gets a hug after receiving her diploma. / UW-Stout
  • Monica Miranda, of Eau Claire, who graduatedin 3½ years with a double major in marketing and business education, and business administration. She has been hired as a marketing teacher in the Colfax School District. Miranda said that “being open to meeting new people when in college was one of the best choices I ended up making.” She also thanked her professors for their support “throughout my time at Stout on a personal level and on a daily basis.”

In the Graduate Studies ceremony, Frank highlighted:

  • Anne Redmond, of Fredonia, who earned a master’s in construction management. She faced a personal battle with cancer, a hospitalization due to COVID, and the loss of both her husband and mother. “Life got to be so hard sometimes. I was so close to just dropping it all and moving on. I'm glad I didn't. This is a proud moment for me, especially since I am in my mid-50s.”
  • Aaron Hendricks, of Rice Lake, who earned a master’s in clinical mental health counseling. He said the “Stout experience has been significant because of its unique ability to practically apply theory. We were hands-on, gaining skills with each other, the first week.” He enjoyed the challenge of considering “the diverse range of world views and life experiences of the faculty and my peers. This further prepared me for counseling as it taught me the joy of diversity, the joy of walking with someone who lives in a different reality and learning how to connect as fellow humans on a journey towards happiness together.” 
  • Stephen Aduboffour, of Ghana, who earned a master’s in food science and technology. Living in a new country with a different style of learning was challenging. “With the support and encouragement of the (professors), I was able to adjust to the new system. They were friendly and welcoming and were always more than willing to go the extra mile. Growing up, I never imagined I would one day study in the United States. With the opportunity and financial assistance Stout offered me, I have been able to finish my master's in three semesters, and it makes me feel Stout Proud and hope this inspires others to also pursue their dreams.” 
A happy graduate crosses the stage to receive her diploma.
A happy graduate crosses the stage to receive her diploma. / UW-Stout

Frank thanked the graduates for “all that you have contributed to UW-Stout and the larger community through the commitment, honesty and hard work reflected across all areas of your university experience.”

Alum and student speakers

Joshua Carr, a Minneapolis native who graduated in 2017 with a degree in construction, returned to speak in the CAHS and CSTEMM undergraduate ceremony. He is a project manager for commercial general contractor Kraus-Anderson of Minneapolis.

He recounted how his father died when he was a student and didn’t get to see him graduate. “You’ve faced your own challenges,” he told graduates, “but what we share is the drive and desire to continue down our path!

“Remind yourself that you’ve already got a track record of making some really great choices, including studying at UW-Stout. Your experience at Stout has equipped you with the hands-on career training, tools and experiences to build your career. And the connections you’ve made here will serve you well into your future,” he said.

Dayton Feldt, of Beloit, who received a Bachelor of Science degree in video production, also spoke in the undergraduate ceremony. He, too, lost his father while at UW-Stout, soon after arriving.

“The thing that kept me going that night and the days moving forward, was the support others gave me. My roommate giving me chocolate ice cream that night and a hug, did so much for me. My professors reaching out, offering me support and extensions on assignments. Specifically, my anthropology professor who told me he went through the very same thing,” he said.

Then, he had to get through COVID. “Our success here at college has been defined by our ability to adapt to an ever-changing world. We met people along the way and had to say goodbye to many of them. We joined communities and maybe even created them. We pushed forward, we persevered …  And that’s what we are going to keep doing through the rest of our lives.”

Polly Berendes, who received a master’s degree, addresses fellow Graduate Studies graduates.
Polly Berendes, who received a master’s degree, addresses fellow Graduate Studies graduates. / UW-Stout

Polly Berendes, of La Crosse, spoke in the Graduate Studies ceremony. She received a Master of Science in training and human resource development.

She thought about why she returned to school, after 20 years, career changes and three children. “Because I didn’t know if I could, and I did not know what would happen unless I tried. And I am so glad I tried,” she said.

“You, fellow graduates, are here today because you also chose to do something hard and be open to more. You decided to take a risk – to take on a big challenge called Graduate School. And I would guess that like me, most of you took that risk as working adults, perhaps with kids of your own or elderly parents to care for. Full-time jobs, volunteering on boards, helping with committees. Despite those unique and sometimes significant responsibilities, you took the risk and turned it into an opportunity.

“Whatever your ‘why’ is, one thing we all have in common is we have chosen to grow. To expand. To change. Graduation is not an end to learning. In fact, it most likely marks the beginning of another corner to turn in the journey we are each on in which we must use our skills, talents and abilities to make our communities and world better,” Berendes said.

Provost Glendalí Rodríguez presided over the ceremonies, which included music by the UW-Stout Symphonic Band and the Jazz Orchestra, directed by Aaron Durst; and the Chamber Choir, Symphonic Singers and Devil Tones Acapella, directed by Jerry Hui.

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