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Graduating class makes history as UW-Rock County’s largest

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Catherine W. Idzerda
May 21, 2011
— In most ways, it was an ordinary graduation ceremony.

Speakers, music, the march across the stage to the whoops and applause of family and friends—all the standard elements were there.


But at UW-Rock County, where so many students have extraordinary stories to tell, Friday’s commencement ceremony was a testament to bravery and stubborn stick-to-it-ive-ness in the face of ridiculous odds.


Of the 210 students who graduated this year, 74 took the trip across stage in the formal ceremony. It’s the largest graduating class in college history. Last year, 90 students received associate degrees.


Almost all of the students plan to on to four-year colleges to get bachelor’s degrees. As they received their degrees from associate dean and chemistry Professor Kim Kostka, she announced their future plans.


UW-Whitewater was the most popular destination. Students were also headed to Rockford College, UW-Madison, UW-Platteville, UW-Oshkosh, Gateway Technical College, Saint Anthony College of Nursing and the University of Minnesota.


At those schools, they planned to pursue degrees in subjects ranging from social work to English literature, engineering to construction management, information technology to education, and biomedical sciences to economics.


It was an ambitious line-up made even more impressive by students’ stories.


Sure, there were many students, such as Heather Dickison, 19, who went to UW-Rock County to get her associate degree because it was less expensive than one of the larger state schools.


Dickison took so many advanced placement classes in high school that she was able to get her two-year degree in one year.


But more often, students had unusual stories to tell. Take Dickison’s mother, Shari Gibb.


Gibb, 38, who had a stylish swirl of magenta running through her hair, graduated with her daughter after two years of study. She said she plans to go to UW-Milwaukee and would like to be a child psychologist.


Why didn’t she go to school after high school?


“I had kids,” she said, laughing.


Katie Heine, 27, wore a red rope and tassel, indicating she had spent her whole time at UW-Rock County on the honor roll. She also sported a gold rope and tassel, indicating she was in the English honor society. And a gold sash marked her as a member of the two-year-college honor society.


Pretty good for a young woman who dropped out of high school in her teens, never imagining she would go to college. She received her GED certificate at Blackhawk Technical College, and after having a baby in her early 20s, decided she wanted a better life for her child.


With the help of her mother, Peggy Heine, Katie managed to work full time, go to school and graduate on Friday with her gown decorated with honors.


She said she plans on going to Beloit College or UW-Whitewater and hopes to major in English literature and communication.


UW-Rock County 2011 Commencement

School: UW-Rock County, Janesville


Number of graduates: 210


Featured speakers: Student speaker, Samantha Lewis; commencement address, Greg Lampe, UW Colleges provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.


Music: The Brassa Nova Brass Quintet


Prizes: First year chemistry excellence award, Jason Hakim; Daniel Atwood research essay award, Anna Sherman; Learning Support Center tutor of the year, Sara Weir; Hari Ram Luddhar math award, Andrew Que; mathematics educator award, Jennie Bowyer; Gil Sedor excellence in teaching award, Rose Galindo, associate professor of Spanish; instructional academic staff excellence in teaching award, John Sonka.


Other recognition: Retirement and conferring of emeritus status, Rose Galindo, Diane Pillard.



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