University of Wisconsin - River Falls

May 19, 1996

Student Addresses UW-RF Commencement

Many people helped the UW-River Falls graduating class of 1996 on the road to a college degree, but now graduates must take the lessons they've learned and apply them to the real world, said student speaker Mike Kulstad at Sunday's commencement ceremony.

Some 515 bachelor's and master's candidates participated in the ceremony witnessed by about 1,800 family members and friends at the Robert P. Knowles Physical Education & Recreation Center.

During the ceremony, Chancellor Gary A. Thibodeau recognized Dr. David F. Swensen, as the 1996 Distinguished Alumnus. A native of River Falls and 1975 UW-RF graduate, Swensen is responsible for Yale University's $3 billion endowment fund.

Thibodeau also acknowledged the awarding of an Honorary Doctorate to Dr. Lien Chan, the Vice President and Premier of the Republic of China, Taiwan. Vice President Lien , a former political science faculty member at UW-RF, will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in a special ceremony from Thibodeau in Taipei later in May.

Kulstad's speech marked the first commencement address to be delivered by a student in the modern history of UW-River Falls. Kulstad was chosen to deliver the address through a selection process among graduating seniors that was coordinated by the Faculty Senate Public Relations Committee.

"There's a world out there that calls," said the Red Wing, Minn, native. "It's calling for us, our attention and our skills."

Kulstad urged graduates to make the most of their educations and to remember all those who helped them along the way. Students don't graduate from college on their own, he said. They receive help along the way from parents, friends and professors.

Parents should be recognized for both what they've done and what they haven't done, Kulstad said. They supported their children and gave advice, but they also knew when to step back and let their children make their own mistakes.

"Although the road could get rocky, it was a road that led to this stage, and we wouldn't be here without taking that trail with our parents," Kulstad said.

Friends, too, play an important role in the college experience. They are there to offer advice, lend an ear or just gossip. Along with friends come lifelong memories, he said.

Kulstad also recognized the important role played by instructors who work hard to challenge students to think critically. Many go above and beyond by giving out home phone numbers and making themselves available at all times "not because they had to, but because they truly cared about us as students," he said.

Graduates need to take all the things they've learned from these people and apply them as they go off into the world, Kulstad said. They must also teach others what they've learned at UW-RF.

"We do that by leading by example," Kulstad said. "Taking the leadership skills that we learned at UW-River Falls and applying them to the classroom of the world."

While they're doing this, they must keep in mind that, though the world has too many problems for one person to solve alone, each individual's contribution makes a difference.

Kulstad closed with advice for both UW-RF students and graduates.

Saying that a University can only be as strong as its students, he urged them to get involved and take active roles in their educations.

And he urged his fellow graduates to put their educations to good use.

"Make the best use of your education, and live your life to the fullest," Kulstad said. "The clock of life is wound but once, and it cannot be reset. It will continue to go until there comes a time when it will stop. Don't waste the clock."

A native of Red Wing, Minn., Kulstad, 22, is a journalism broadcast major who has served as News Director for campus radio station WRFW-FM; as a Producer for "Focus on U," a news magazine program cablecast over Channel 10; and as a columnist for the Student Voice.

Kulstad began his pursuit of a journalism career at the age of 15 with KCUE radio in Red Wing, Minn., where he continues to work. During his years at UW-RF, he has held journalism internship positions with the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Timberwolves Radio Network, WCCO-TV, and the Norwest Cup Bike Race. Those internships or work opportunities have led to his reporting being broadcast on NBC Sports, ESPN Radio, CBS Sports, Turner Network Television, CBS Radio, CBS Spanish Radio, The Miami Dolphins Television Network, The Saints Radio Network, and the Dallas Cowboys Television Network.

His academic accomplishments and student journalism achievements have been recognized through the National Association of Broadcasters Scholarship and the Minnesota Broadcasters Association Scholarship. Kulstad also was selected to receive the Journalism Department's 1996 Wayne M. Wolfe Journalism Outstanding Senior Award.

Kulstad is pursuing a career objective of becoming a network news producer. He has been hired as a reporter and weekend news producer by WDIO- TV in Duluth, Minn.

He is a son of James and Carol "Bunny" Kulstad of Red Wing.

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