Alum and student speakers
Alum Lakayana Drury, a 2014 graduate in applied social science, spoke at the undergraduate ceremonies. After struggling in school because of a learning disability while growing up in Madison, he came to UW-Stout with little self-confidence.
“My deepest fear was that I was a failure. The only thing I was familiar with was failure and rejection,” said Drury, who lives in Portland, Oregon.
Drury came away a different person, one who has gone on to teach in China and Portland and start a nonprofit, Word is Bond, to help empower young Black men.
“At UW-Stout, I found for the first time in my life educators actually believed I was capable. Beyond the fantastic professors I had, the students became my first true friends I ever had in school. I found, despite a predominantly white campus, a community of peers, Black, brown, and white, who made me feel at home. And on campus, I found a way to reinvent myself,” Drury said.
“You are full of infinite possibilities. You can rewrite your story any time you choose. That's what I took away from UW-Stout,” he said. “There’s a difference between the story they tell you about yourself and the story that you write about yourself. Don’t ever let anyone define your own truth. Your story is the greatest thing you will own.”
In the CSTEMM ceremony, Anna Brooks, of Menomonie, majoring in applied science, said that when she heard Russia had bombed her hometown in Ukraine she “grew 10 years older.” Her new community at UW-Stout immediately rallied around her, along with family, to give her strength and help her finish her degree. “Suddenly, I realized that I was a part of something bigger and stronger than myself. Our strength is in our people. We come together (today) to celebrate the triumph of knowledge and support for each other.”
In the CAHS ceremony, Andrew Nosal, of Eden Prairie, Minn., majoring in video production, said he knew no one when he came to campus. “Coming to Stout, I was a nobody. But because of everyone here, I became somebody. I look out at the crowd. I see my friends. I see my professors. I see my family. And in my mind, you are all up here with me. Because without you, I am nothing. So today, on this most celebratory day, make it a point to appreciate those around you. Appreciate those who got you here today. Recognize their full worth and say, ‘Thank you.’”
In the Graduate School ceremony, Shaun Zahradka, of Rapids City, Ill., in the operations and supply management graduate program, encouraged his fellow graduates to “remain committed to continued learning, remain curious, open-minded, and receptive to new ideas and perspectives. Remembering to be compassionate and empathetic towards others, recognizing that everyone has their own unique experiences and challenges. By working together with kindness and understanding, we can create a better future for all.”
Provost Glendali Rodriguez presided over the ceremonies, which included music by the UW-Stout Symphonic Band and the Jazz Orchestra, directed by Aaron Durst; and the Chamber Choir, Symphonic Singers and Devil Tones Acapella, directed by Jerry Hui.