UWRF Students Receive Degrees With Pride, Anticipation

May 18, 2011—It’s one of the most memorable moments in a college student’s life – walking across the stage and proudly accepting their diploma in front of friends, family and faculty members.

Some 651 undergraduate and 63 graduate students received their degrees from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls on May 14 at spring commencement.

At a packed Robert P. Knowles Physical Education and Recreation Center, Chancellor Dean Van Galen welcomed all in attendance.

“On behalf of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, let me join in welcoming our honored graduates, their family and friends, current and past faculty and staff, alumni and other guests to the spring 2011 commencement ceremony,” said Van Galen. “Today, we celebrate the accomplishments of over 700 UW-River Falls graduates and recognize the support that has made this day possible.”

Van Galen congratulated on the graduates on their hard work and dedication, and reminded them that they will be forever connected to their alma mater.

“You are a Falcon forever, and you carry with you the spirit and great promise of this university,” said Van Galen.

Student Regent Aaron Wingad, a senior at UW-Eau Claire and representative of the UW System Board of Regents, UWRF Faculty Senate Vice President Dawn Hukai and Jason Keck, UWRF Student Senate president, also congratulated the graduating students.

Commencement also provided an opportunity to recognize two members of the UW-River Falls community. Karl Peterson, professor of chemistry, received the 2011 Distinguished Teacher award.

“Dr. Peterson is an outstanding teacher and mentor. He is also an active researcher in the area of synthetic organic chemistry,” said Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Fernando Delgado. “In addition to his teaching and research activities, Karl is one of the best known faces at UWRF due in part to his extensive service to campus.”

The 2011 Distinguished Alumnus award was presented to Juleen Zierath. Zierath, a 1984 graduate, is a professor of clinical integrative physiology in the Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery Section for Integrative Physiology at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, as well as a prolific Type II diabetes researcher.

“UW-River Falls is a national leader in providing students with undergraduate research and international education experiences. Dr. Zierath serves as a model for our students as they look to build a career upon the foundation these high impact learning practices provide,” said Van Galen.

Commencement took on a somber note as a posthumous degree was awarded to the family of a student, Mary Catherine Virnig, who died of cancer earlier in the school year. Dean of the College of Agriculture Food and Environmental Sciences Dale Gallenberg presented Virnig’s Bachelor of Science in Animal Science, Science Option/Meat Emphasis and Pre-Veterinary Medicine to her family.

“Mary Catherine was a wonderful student. She was an enthusiastic and determined individual and founder of UWRF’s Conquer Cancer Club. Her wonderful smile and intellect are missed in our college,” said Gallenberg.

After conferral of the degrees, Steve Healy, director of the board for the UW-River Falls Foundation, welcomed the graduates into the Alumni Association.

“Together we shall provide on-going support to this university in the years ahead so that our alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, can continue to provide educational opportunities to residents of this region and state – the opportunities for excellence that have benefited each of us,” said Healy.

Prior to the ceremony, graduates also had the opportunity to sign up to be a part of the Graduation Pledge Alliance. Students who signed the pledge vowed to work for socially and environmentally ethical companies after graduating, and received a green bracelet to wear during commencement to signify their promise.

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