Written by Kristine Zaballos | Photos by Craig Schreiner
The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater will celebrate the achievements of its graduates on Saturday, May 14, Sunday, May 15, and Tuesday, May 17, as proud families and friends gather for the 2022 spring commencement ceremonies on the Whitewater and Rock County campuses.
On the university’s Whitewater campus, a total of 1,481 May and August graduates will cross the stage on May 14 to receive their degrees. The morning ceremony, which begins at 10 a.m., recognizes 713 undergraduate and 134 graduate students from the College of Arts and Communication and the College of Business and Economics. The afternoon ceremony begins at 3 p.m. and recognizes 504 undergraduate students and 117 graduate students from the College of Education and Professional Studies and the College of Letters and Sciences. An additional 13 degrees are not specific to any college. The ceremonies, which last approximately two hours each, will be held in the Kachel Fieldhouse.
Included in the graduates crossing the stage on May 14 will be 97 students who are veterans, 11 international students and 200 nontraditional undergraduate students, defined as undergraduate students who are 25 years of age or older. In addition, 194 self-identified students with disabilities will receive degrees. Finally, two graduates of the university’s LIFE Program, which provides a complete college experience for young adults between the ages of 18-25 who have an intellectual disability, will cross the stage during the afternoon program.
A third ceremony, to be held at 10 a.m. Sunday, May 15, celebrates 2020 and May and August 2021 graduates and allows them to participate in person with their friends and family members in attendance. More than 300 graduates and their family members are expected to attend.
The commencement speaker for all three ceremonies on the Whitewater campus is Kevin Newell. A proud graduate of Milwaukee Public Schools, Newell earned a BBA in general management in 2007 and an MBA in 2009. After graduating, he founded Milwaukee-based Royal Capital Group, a venture and holding company with a focus on urban development and innovation. As CEO, he became the first African American to build and own a multifamily commercial development in downtown Milwaukee and the first to partner with an NBA team — the Milwaukee Bucks — to develop a commercial entertainment district.
The student speaker for the morning ceremony is Dawson Babcock. The Janesville native, who will be graduating with a Bachelor of Music, has had four field study and student teaching experiences — working with students from kindergarten through high school, from Wisconsin to New Mexico — and is currently pursuing a career as a middle or high school band director.
The student speaker for the afternoon ceremony is Michael Carlson. The nontraditional student from Janesville, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in English, creative writing, has been accepted into the prestigious Creative Writing MFA Program at Vanderbilt University, which only accepts three fiction writers each year, to further his pursuit of becoming a published author and college instructor.
The student speakers for the 2020-21 ceremony are Alexander Ostermann and Ann Marie Lavorata.
Ostermann, a marketing major from Cedarburg, has arguably had one of the most active and well-rounded experiences of any Warhawk. After spending his collegiate years advocating for students, mentoring a new generation of young leaders, and modeling public service and philanthropy, he has been working at Collective Measures Performance Digital in Minneapolis, where he interned.
Lavorata, from Crystal Lake, Illinois, studied communication, and her passion for her major led to numerous hands-on opportunities at UW-Whitewater. Despite struggling with speech challenges and dyslexia, Lavorata excelled at broadcasting, among 12 Warhawks who took home honors at the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association 2020 Student Awards for Excellence. And when ESPN came to Perkins Stadium for the 2019 NCAA Division III semi-final championship football game, Lavorata and her UWW-TV peers worked alongside industry professionals for the live broadcast.
In addition to Ostermann and Lavorata, Brian Martinez and Jaclyn Wolf also served as students speakers at the university’s December 2020 commencement ceremony, which was held virtually.
The commencement ceremonies on the Whitewater campus will be broadcast live online by UWWTV, the university television station.
On Sunday, May 15, the Office of Alumni Relations and the Chancellor’s Office will host a Celebration of Graduates — all graduates of the classes of 2022, 2021 and 2020 are invited to celebrate with family, friends and the whole community at Cravath Lakefront Park in downtown Whitewater from noon to 2 p.m. This special event in collaboration with Discover Whitewater is sponsored by Mercyhealth and Educators Credit Union.
The graduation ceremony for UW-Whitewater at Rock County will be held on Tuesday, May 17, at 6:30 p.m. in the gymnasium of the Wells Cultural Center. The commencement speaker is Angela Pakes, the president and CEO of Forward Janesville, and the student speaker is Laura Gillaspie, a liberal arts major from Monticello who is also pursuing a BSE in education on the Whitewater campus. About 50 graduates will be receiving their Associate of Arts. During the ceremony, the Outstanding Alumni Award will be presented to Heidi Van Kirk, executive officer of the South Central Wisconsin Builders Association, who earned an AAS in 2012 on the Rock County campus. The Excellence in Teaching Awards and the faculty and staff who are retiring will also be announced at the ceremony.
For more information about UW-Whitewater’s commencement ceremonies: uww.edu/commencement.