University News

Melissa Dix selected as student speaker for UW-Whitewater 2021 winter commencement

December 07, 2021

Written by Jeff Angileri | Photo by Craig Schreiner

When Melissa Dix crosses the stage at UW-Whitewater’s winter commencement, she’ll be completing an educational journey that began more than 28 years ago.

Dix started taking college courses in 1993, earned an associate degree from Rock Valley College in Rockford, Illinois, and — on her pathway to UW-Whitewater — raised a family and pursued a career in computer programming, marketing and teaching.

She’s one of the 960 nontraditional undergraduate students — those who are earning a bachelor’s degree at age 25 or older — who are part of the Warhawk family. On Saturday, Dec. 18, Dix will serve as student speaker for the Class of 2021’s winter graduation ceremony at Kachel Fieldhouse in the Williams Center.

“I’ve worked in technology for 20 years, and I knew I wanted to learn new things, so I chose a major in liberal studies,” she said. “I came to value the transformational impact of a liberal arts education, which trains you to think critically and to approach concepts more holistically and from various angles.”

The well-rounded education at UW-Whitewater introduced Dix to fun and thought-provoking courses, from meteorology to writing to race/diversity issues.

One instructor in particular, Kristin Lavelle, an associate professor of sociology, criminology and anthropology, “expanded my worldview and impacted everything from my teaching style to my parenting style,” Dix said. “I took her course during the heart of the pandemic, and — even through remote instruction — her warmth came through.”

Dix is carrying on a proud family tradition of Warhawk graduates — and teachers. Her mother, Kathleen Loy, earned a degree in education in 1971, and her great aunt, Julia Share, graduated in 1928 on the way to becoming a teacher and school principal.

Currently, as a lead program instructor at Blackhawk Technical College in Janesville, Dix develops and teaches courses on web software development and is a contributing editor to the college’s magazine. Previously, she worked in several roles at Beloit College that combined her computer programming, strategic marketing, digital media and writing expertise.

“I love helping people overcome intimidation of technology and become masters of technology. At one point, I had the job title of ‘technology evangelist.’ I love seeing students apply what they learn to projects or causes they’re passionate about,” she said. “I’m amazed by the power of  technology to impact life in a positive way, when it’s combined with creativity and good intention.”

Originally from Rockford, Illinois, Dix lives in Beloit with her husband, Tim. They have four children: Madigan, Teagan, Kailyn and Colin.