University of Wisconsin-River Falls

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May 15, 2004

UW-RF Commencing Students Reflect on Value of University Experience

Two graduating seniors on Saturday told fellow graduates that the UW-River Falls experience provided important lessons for life and a road map for the future.

Maria Francesca McGinnis, a marketing communications major with an agricultural emphasis from St. Paul, Minn., delivered the 9:30 a.m. commencement address to graduates of the College of Food and Environmental Sciences, College of Business and Economics and Graduate Studies. Kelly Hendrickson, a biology major with a pre-medicine focus from Cloquet, Minn., gave the 2 p.m. commencement address to the graduates of the College of Arts and Science and the College of Education and Professional Studies.

McGinnis and Hendrickson spoke to 526 bachelor's and 65 master's degree candidates and several thousand family members at commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 15. The ceremony was held in the Robert P. Knowles Physical Education and Recreation Center.

Conferring the degrees was Interim Chancellor Ginny Coombs. Joining her in those presentations was Dean Gorden Hedahl of the College of Arts and Sciences; Dean Stephen Ridley of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences; Dean Barbara Nemecek of the College of Business and Economics; Dean Connie Foster of the College and Education and Professional Studies, and Dean Leon Zaborowski of Outreach and Graduate Studies.

Introduced at the ceremony was history Professor Edward Peterson who was selected as the 2004 Distinguished Teacher, the highest award accorded at the University. Peterson also celebrated his 50th anniversary of teaching at UW-RF in 2004. Also during the ceremony, Sigurd C. Hanson, an internationally respected humanitarian, was introduced as the 2004 Distinguished Alumnus.

Graduating senior Dolanie R. Spiller of Park Falls, Wis., was the soloist who sang the school song at the 9:30 a.m. ceremony. Graduating senior Lacey L. Chovan of Ridgeland, Wis., was the 2 p.m. soloist. Music was provided by the River Falls Brass, composed of faculty members Tom Barnett, Rick Gaynor, Craig Hara, Andy Parks and Charles Wazanowski.

McGinnis' speech, "Life's Road Map," reflected on the positive effects of college in shaping a person's life. "The unique aspect of college that cannot be found in any other area of life is that we have had the freedom to make mistakes and find the courage, support and resources to fix them. These mistakes, as well as triumphs, have taught us how to be mature, informed and contributing members of society. We are not only graduating today with a degree, but with a road map for life."

In addition, she recalled the late Chancellor Ann Lydecker's influence and example, as McGinnis entered UW-RF during Lydecker's inaugural year. "Chancellor Lydecker said, 'You, the class of 2004, and I are in this together. This is my first year, and you are my first freshman class.'She had an unmistakable vision when it came to her students, and she wanted nothing more than to see us succeed."

McGinnis concluded, "The faculty, staff, administration and students have been the focus of our lives for so long, that it is hard to imagine life without them. After spending the last four years of my life here, I have grown into a person that I am proud to be today, and I know that River Falls has played a huge role in that."

In the fall, McGinnis will attend UW-Madison to pursue a master's degree in life science communication. He career goals include agricultural broadcasting and education.

Hendrickson's speech, "Lessons Learned," highlighted the values of a university education including the learning that is accomplished outside of the formal classroom. She compared the university experience with travel and exploration. "It's hard to describe the journey of college," Hendrickson said. "Only after the journey do we see the effect." She cited a list of lessons outside of the classroom, including the benefits of residence hall life, the embracement of diversity, the importance of agreeing to disagree and the futility of anger as a response.

"You should have your own opinions, but don't force them," she said. "It's much better to disagree with respect and understanding."

Hendrickson concluded with a reading from Dr. Suess' "Oh the Places You'll Go."

"Congratulations! Today is your day, you're off to great places, you're off and away. You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own and you know what you know, and you are the guy who'll decide where to go. So be sure where you step, step with care and great tact, and remember that life's a great balancing act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft, and never mix up your right foot with your left."

This fall Hendrickson will attend the University of Minnesota Medical School. "I am grateful for all of the wonderful experiences I have had here at UW-RF and for how well prepared I am for a future in the medical sciences."


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