Tracy O'Mara grew up in a place where cows outnumbered people -- a 360-acre dairy and beef farm near the unincorporated Grant County community of Kieler.
"My closest neighbor was mile away," she said.
O'Mara admits she was a bit scared when she arrived on campus.
"It was really daunting coming to Whitewater," she said. "It took me about three days to actually be able to sleep in this town, because it was so big.
"I had never been around so many people before. I'm used to hearing crickets and coyotes outside my windows, not people."
O'Mara not only adapted to her new environment, she flourished and on May 17 she will address her fellow graduates as the undergraduate commencement speaker.
O'Mara is graduating with a major in communications with an emphasis in corporate health, and a minor in communications. She has been involved extensively on campus and has taken on leadership roles in the American Marketing Association. She served as a Warhawk Ambassador and a Communication Department Ambassador.
O'Mara also received the 2013 Student Value Expression Award, which recognizes campus academic achievements and accomplishments.
"On the farm, from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed, there's work to be done," she said. "And so, when I came here and I had my major set, I thought, ‘well, what can I do now? What can I get involved in? How can I apply this?'"
As she leaves campus, O'Mara is looking forward to new challenges.
After gradation she plans to move to Madison and has taken a position in the staffing and recruiting industry.
O'Mara said she wouldn't recognize the timid student she was four years ago. She said she's been transformed by her experience at UW-Whitewater.
-- Written by Ben Jones, photography by Craig Schreiner