University News

UW-Whitewater commencement speaker Dylan Riley has big dreams for the future

April 24, 2024

Written by Dave Fidlin | Photos by Craig Schreiner and submitted

Dylan Riley arrived at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater as an undergraduate three years ago with college-level coursework already under his belt. He had a demonstrated propensity for hard work, but was not fully certain what he specifically wanted to pursue in his earliest days on campus.

Dylan Riley stands behind a podium and smiles at the camera.

This spring, Riley is graduating with a Bachelor of Business Administration in finance from UW-Whitewater’s renowned College of Business and Economics. He plans to continue his education at the university this fall as he works toward an MBA in management.

He earned the honor to serve as a commencement speaker for UW-Whitewater’s spring 2024 commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 11.

Riley, a 2021 graduate of Oregon High School, had several goals in mind as he considered where he would go to college.

Pictured, right: Dylan Riley, a business administration and finance student, is shown with a social media campaign he prepared as a member of the American Marketing Association on April 15, 2024. (UW-Whitewater photo/Craig Schreiner)

“I knew that I wanted to stay in state because I am very close to family and friends from home,” Riley said. “One of the things that always intrigued me about UW-Whitewater was the College of Business and Economics. It is a very good business school, which I really appreciated.”

While Riley came to UW-Whitewater with a built-in work ethic and drive, he credits faculty, advisors and others on campus with helping him advance to the next milestone in his life.

“I was that hardworking student who came out of high school, but didn’t really know what their future was going to look like,” Riley said. “Whitewater was the place for me to find my path, to network and to have those wonderful faculty-student interactions and some really great courses to set myself up for success. I feel that my little success story really is the Warhawk story.”

For the past two years, Riley has been involved with the university’s American Marketing Association chapter, which has a long history of achievement on an international scale. Riley said marketing professor John DeGraff has been especially influential throughout his time with the organization.

“He’s been the advisor for the AMA Social Impact Division, of which I’m a vice president,” Riley said. “He’s really been there for us, as a group, but also for me throughout my time at Whitewater. I’ve had a really good experience with him. He’s been an outstanding faculty member.”

Riley also credits finance and business law professor Yuan Yuan with instilling a deeper appreciation of the insurance industry through the classes he attended.

“She’s always been that professor that if you have any questions or want to talk about anything, she’s there for the students,” Riley said. “She’s a very knowledgeable person and is someone I’ve looked up to.”

Last fall, Riley also studied abroad for a semester through the American University of Rome, Italy, a fulfillment of a personal goal. He learned of the opportunity by stopping by UW-Whitewater’s Center for Global Education booth at an involvement fair.

“Studying abroad in Italy was the experience of a lifetime,” Riley said. “I still had a full schedule and still took all of my business classes, but I was also able to take some cultural classes.”


Dylan Riley sits at a desk with the European Union flag behind him, which is a blue flag with yellow stars.

Dylan Riley, a business administration and finance student, is shown with a European Union flag during a travel-study in Europe in 2023. (Photo courtesy Dylan Riley)


Riley, who minored in political science, said the opportunity to meet with European Union representatives was an especially enriching and insightful experience as he studied abroad — particularly against the backdrop of the conflicts in Ukraine and Israel.

As a finance student, Riley notes the hard data of analytics is the driving force behind his studies. But opportunities such as studying abroad and the close-knit environment on campus have also helped him hone in on those all-important soft skills.

“I met lifelong friends here,” he said. “Networking, whether it’s professionally or more informally, has been so much fun. I’ve also had some really great experiences with professors. I never would have thought I would have some professors as mentors.”

As he closes out one chapter of his collegiate experience and begins the next one, Riley said he is overcome with gratitude to the Warhawk community for the role they have played in helping him achieve his goals.

“The campus always felt very comfortable to me,” Riley said. “I’ve enjoyed the smaller class sizes and having more one-on-one interaction with professors. I think it really is a school that fits my needs. Even though it is smaller, UW-Whitewater has so much to offer. I’ve had a wonderful time being a Warhawk for the last few years. I am so grateful for what this university has instilled in me — it’s been an absolutely amazing experience.”