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Last updated:
May 24, 2001

Cottage Grove Resident UW-RF Commencement Speaker
By Jolene Bracy
UW-RF News Bureau

Cynthia Bahr, a double major in economics and business administration from Cottage Grove, Minn., delivered the address at the commencement ceremony for UW-River Falls on Saturday, May 19, in the Robert P. Knowles Physical Education and Recreation Center on campus. Bahr was the first non-traditional student ever to deliver the commencement address at UW-RF.

A non-traditional student at UW-RF is typically defined as someone over the age of 25 who is pursuing an undergraduate degree. About eight percent of the student population at UW-RF is composed of non-traditional students. Because of the life experience they bring with them to the classroom, they have much to contribute that a younger, traditional student canıt.

Bahr addressed 589 bachelorıs and masterıs candidates, one of the largest graduating classes in the Universityıs history, with a speech titled, "A Brand New Journey." She shared her educational experiences from the perspective of a non-traditional student, and encouraged her fellow graduates to take a look at the world and the possibilities that exist.

Bahr was selected for the honor of delivering the commencement address from a group of 10 students. Each spring semester, all commencing undergraduates are invited to apply to the Faculty Senate External Relations Committee for the privilege. They must include a letter of support from two faculty members, a resume, and a draft of their proposed speech.

The committee reviews the applications, invites in students to do deliver their speech in an audition, and then sends a recommendation to the chancellor, who approves the selection and extends the invitation to speak.

Bahr returned to school in the fall of 1999 as a full-time student because she wanted to change careers. "I wanted to understand the economy and the economic perspective. I also returned for personal growth," said Bahr. She served as vice president and president of the Student Economic Society at UW-RF, and achieved dean's list honors two semesters.

Her husband Neil and three stepsons, Sam, 16, Phillip, 13, and Nathan, 10, supported her decision to return to school , although it meant lean times for the family.

Janna Cowen, professor of economics, and Jacque Foust, chairman for the department of business administration, nominated Bahr for the honor of delivering the commencement speech. Cowen, who is the adviser for the Student Economic Society, noted that Bahr held a successful career as an information technology trainer prior to returning to school. She also credits Bahr as being an active participant in the classroom and in co-curricular activities. " Not only will she speak in an articulate manner, but what she says will be worthwhile," said Cowen in her recommendation.

Foust cited Bahrıs ability to balance her busy family life and part-time jobs, and be an excellent student. He also commented on her professionalism during her presentations in the classroom. "The in-class presentations I have seen her do have been excellent," commended Foust.

Bahr began her new career with a full-time position in systems operation at Dain Rauscher following graduation. While she was in school, she worked part time in computer training at the Science Museum of Minnesota, and as a freelance consultant.

Before her return to college, Bahr spent 14 years in the corporate world as an information technology trainer teaching system software for projects in accounts payable, budgeting, case management, coding software and estimating for such clients as the St. Paul Company, Medtronics and the U.S. Postal Service.

She earned an associateıs degree at Normandale Community College, where she served as the President of the Student Senate and as legislative director for the Minnesota Communication College Student Association.

Bahr feels her education at UW-RF as a non-traditional student has provided her with the experience of a lifetime. "As an older student there is a different appreciation for learning," said Bahr. "You are more willing to speak up, participate and ask questions as a non-traditional student," she said. She summed up her experience at UW-RF in three words. "Itıs been perfect," she said.

UW-RF enrolls a student body of about 5,800 students it the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences; College of Arts and Sciences; College of Education and Graduate Studies; and School of Business and Economics. UW-RF is located about 30 minutes east of the Twin Cities in the scenic St. Croix Valley of west central Wisconsin.

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