UW-Rock County grads celebrate during intimate ceremony
JANESVILLE Josh Winkle wasn’t about to miss UW-Rock County’s commencement ceremony on Friday. For him, the family pressure was on.
“My mom would kill me if I skipped this,” Winkle said as he eased a black graduation gown over jeans and a black T-shirt with a tuxedo print screened on it.
The 32-year-old Janesville native’s three-year span at UW-Rock has included stints as president of the student government association and editor of the college’s literary journal.
Winkle said politics and writing have captivated him and led him to a career path: He plans to study journalism at UW–Madison.
“It will be a really good mix of things that I enjoy,” Winkle said.
Winkle was one of 59 graduates who participated in an intimate commencement that included a fraction of the 225 who earned degrees from UW-Rock this year.
Officials this year imposed a cutoff date for graduates to sign up for the commencement ceremony to limit the number of people packing into the college’s auditorium, where the ceremony was held.
Space at the graduation ceremony has been an issue the last few years as student enrollment at UW-Rock has grown. This year, the school shattered its enrollment record, and student numbers are expected to climb another 12 percent next year.
“It’s a good problem to have,” said Stacy Randall, director of community education at the college.
Pride and a new start
Some graduates said they made a point to sign up early to get a spot for commencement.
Tanya Cash, a single parent who works full time as a receptionist at Premier Rehab in Beloit, said there was no way she’d miss Friday’s commencement.
She was too proud of the work it took to earn an associate degree in arts and science.
“This was a really, really big deal to me,” Cash said.
Cash now plans to commute to UW-Whitewater, where she’ll pursue a degree focusing on human resources.
Graduate Arina Menard said she was homeless when she moved from California to Janesville in 2006 and started classes at UW-Rock. She graduated high school 30 years ago.
Menard said she plans to continue schooling to become a social worker. She wants to give back to society and those who helped her find her way in life.
“You are not a product of your environment,” Menard said. “Your environment is a product of you.”
Honor, ambition, adventure
Israel Condon, 21, of Brodhead is the first of his four siblings to graduate with a college degree. He did so with special commendations Friday, earning a red honor cord to go with his black gown and tan Converse sneakers.
Condon also won the college’s Communication Studies Award and praise from communication and theater arts associate professor Patricia Clasen for his hard work in film class and his intuitive nature.
Condon plans to study media arts and game development at UW-W. He said he wants to learn 3-D animation. Condon was thrilled to have a spot at commencement.
“This was a really nice way to top off a great experience,” he said.
Others were overjoyed to be at the ceremony. Graduate Gabriel Mitchell was the first male in his family to earn a college degree.
Mitchell wrung his hands above his head and pointed to the crowd like a prizefighter who just won a championship bout.
As graduate Dez “Nighthawk” Miller passed the lectern on his way to get his diploma, he beamed from ear to ear and threw the crowd a loud ode to himself.
“Nighthawk!” he shouted into the microphone.
Campus Dean Carmen Wilson encouraged Miller and the other graduates to carry their jubilance from Friday into the future.
“Every so often, let your spirit of adventure triumph over your good sense,” Wilson said.