Newest UWM graduates show education’s life-changing power

December 26, 2019


By Mark A. Mone
Chancellor, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

UWM Chancellor Mark Mone

The University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee held its 121st graduation ceremony on Dec. 15, and more than 2,100 students earned the right to walk across the commencement stage at UWM Panther Arena.

Over the course of 2019, more than 5,000 students graduated from UWM, which is the most diverse campus in the UW System. Even more remarkable than the number of graduates are their inspiring personal stories. I wish I could share them all. Today, I’ll share just a few of the many stories from our December graduating class.

Nisreen Atta has been working up to 40 hours per week in the emergency department at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center while studying at UWM to become a nurse. Despite having no previous nursing experience, she’s excelled at work and in school. And all the while, Atta has been heavily involved in the community.

Atta helped organize an event that provided more than 100,000 food packs and hundreds of clothing items for Syrian and Somali refugees. She’s been secretary of UWM’s Muslim Student Association, worked with the Boys & Girls Clubs’ Stein Scholars program and serves on the steering committee of a new organization, the Wisconsin Muslim Civic Alliance. She’s accepted a job as a nurse after graduation in the St. Luke’s emergency department.

Joshua Starkey has had so many internships, he loses count: “Roughly six,” he said. And they’ve been with some of the leading companies in southeastern Wisconsin, including Northwestern Mutual, Aurora Health Care, Foxconn and a few local startups.

These internships have given the new computer engineering graduate a chance to build his skills and his professional network. Plus, Starkey has had the chance to see the world, including two trips to Taiwan. It’s all led to him accepting a job with Foxconn even before graduation.

After retiring from the military with full disability, Kimberly Stuart lost her sense of purpose. But her volunteer efforts with military nonprofits led her to UWM’s Nonprofit Management and Leadership master’s program, and that made all the difference. “It not only changed my life, it literally saved my life,” she said.

Stuart is now chairman and CEO of Veterans for Diversity, a group that provides services to improve the mental, physical and emotional health for LGBTQ+ veterans. It’s Wisconsin’s only organization focusing on LGBTQ+ veterans and service members.

Nisreen, Joshua and Kimberly are just a few examples of the diverse and inspiring individuals who graduate from UWM and go on to positively impact others in our community and the wider world.

Our December graduating class received 1,377 bachelor’s degrees, 591 master’s degrees, 120 doctoral degrees and 64 associate degrees. Our degree recipients ranged in age from as young as 20 to as old as 75. We are proud of every one of them and excited to see them embark on the next chapters of their lives.

They are the faces of the future and inspire us all to see just how life-changing higher education can be.