When Brianna Canales was younger, her father told her that she would change the world one day. Those words “stuck” and became a motivational soundtrack in her head. As an Afro-Latina student, Brianna says, “I believe in not just talking about change, but being about and for change every single day.” She has spoken on panels organized by ACLU Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Repertory Theater around the topics of minority representation, social justice, and dismantling oppressive structures. At UWM, she works to lead her peers in the Black Student Union, Leaders Igniting Transformation, and the Lawton Scholars Program, which seeks to increase the retention rate of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) students. Brianna’s academic achievements have led to recognition on the Dean’s List but she defines her success by her perseverance. “If I could tell my younger self one thing,” she says, “it would be that I have grown beyond what I ever thought possible.” With her future degree in marketing and her love of words and art, she hopes to one day become the creative director of her own company.
Joannah Chang knows how much her immigrant parents have struggled to create a good life for their family. “They didn’t have the same educational opportunities that I have. That is why they’re pushing me to succeed in college to be able to get a good job and become happier in life.” Joannah is working hard in her accounting major and looking forward to working at professional internship next summer, joining the Beta Alpha Psi international honor organization, and networking through the Multicultural Mentoring Program. Currently, she is also conducting research to start an online beauty product sales business, hoping to establish her platform through Amazon and later expanding. In addition to exploring vendors and considering her necessary profit margins, she’s also learning about the formalities of business establishment and tax issues. “I believe that I can set a great example for my younger siblings and show them the way towards having a successful life once I’ve completed my undergrad and graduate degrees.”
He may have gotten a later start to his college education than most students, but Robert Clark has more than made up for it in his total commitment to his studies. Working for 18 years after his high school graduation, he says, allowed him to see the world and understand what he could and couldn’t accomplish without further education. First earning his associate’s degree in business from MATC and then transferring to UWM to study accounting, Robert has maintained a near-perfect GPA with only two A- grades in his entire college career. As a member and officer in the Beta Alpha Psi business fraternity, he has had the opportunity to volunteer in the VITA tax assistance program to help low-income taxpayers resolve tax disputes with the IRS. He’s also leveraged his life experience to help mentor and motivate his fellow undergraduate students, and hasn’t ruled out teaching accounting in the future. Currently working as a tax intern for a local firm, Robert plans to pursue his master’s degree in accounting and his CPA.
For many years, Jenna Delatte considered herself a follower. During her years at UWM, however, she’s blossomed into someone she calls a leader, outspoken, strong, professional, determined, and independent. “Before I knew it, I was a campus ambassador, a member of a sorority, a friend to my whole floor in the residence hall, and someone I did not recognize.” Jenna joined Gamma Phi Beta, and quickly became a leader in the sorority. This led to another opportunity to grow her leadership skills as president of UWM’s Panhellenic Council, which governs the sororities on UWM’s campus. Jenna has shared her personal story and her UWM story as a campus ambassador and a Lubar ambassador, speaking to high school students interested in studying business about her experience as a Lubar student. Currently a human resources intern at J.W. Speaker Corporation, Jenna hopes to attend law school after graduating — inspired by another strong woman in her life, her aunt. “I found my independence at UWM and it has opened the doors to everything I have become.”
The summer before her freshman year, Calla Esch made a list of goals that she wanted to achieve in college. Set to graduate in May, she’s checked off all of the boxes on her list — and more. In addition to earning top grades and being involved in Business Scholars and the Baird Mentor Circle, Calla has undertaken two marketing internships. The most recent, as a Merchandise Analyst Intern at Kohl’s, allowed her to flex her entrepreneurial muscles by pitching a new digitally native brand idea to managers – including market analysis, product development, financial projects, and marketing strategy and execution. “Even though it was just a project, I loved applying my creativity and ideas while working through the entrepreneurial process.” She’s also grown and gained confidence as a leader at UWM, she says, and was even nominated by her fellow Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity members for the national organization’s prestigious Collegian of the Year award. “I have always been a self-starter and taken initiative for myself, but it was not until college when I became passionate about leading others.”
“Before I started at UWM, my goal was to challenge myself to be the best version of myself outside of the classroom and inside the classroom,” says Joshuah Ewing. Graduating this semester with a near-perfect grade point average and as a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, his academic goals have clearly been met. Additionally, he’s proud of the leadership skills that he has developed among his college peers and as a summer camp counselor, where he’s had the opportunity to instill the importance of teamwork in his young charges. An avid reader, Joshua notes that reading helps him interpret himself and the world more positively, and inspires him to make better choices and take positive actions more often. His next set of goals includes working in the supply chain management field and eventually owning his own business. Having financed much of his own education – from laying asphalt to interning with an inspirational entrepreneur – he knows the value of hard work and dedication. “I want to make a difference in the world and add value to people’s lives.”
Annika Gogan says she finds it easy to succeed in things that she enjoys, including her research, Business Scholars, Honors College, and involvement in professional organizations. Early on, she seized on the opportunity to be an undergraduate research assistant, and has worked on projects with two Lubar accounting professors. She enjoyed the experiences so much that she elected to do an independent research study this semester on the implementation of a new accounting revenue standard. Beyond academics, Annika stays active as a member of the Beta Alpha Psi business fraternity and was selected to be the student vice president for the Beta Gamma Sigma business honors society. She’s also stepped up as a leader for other students, serving as a peer mentor to 130 business freshmen during her second year of college. “At UWM, I am able to participate in thought-provoking classes, clubs that relate to my major, and activities that promote academic achievement. In the future, I look forward to studying abroad, having an internship at a Big 4 accounting firm, and attending graduate school for accounting.”
Gisella Greco has a mindset of helping others. A first-generation college student, she knows from experience that we sometimes need guidance from others, and she’s eager to step up. As an intern with Northwestern Mutual, she was selected to be the College Team Captain, in charge of training and assisting new interns in their in initial client meetings. She is currently ranked #77 in the nation out of 300+ interns and – though she won’t graduate until May 2022 – she’s already been offered a full-time position upon graduation. She looks forward to a career of helping others as a wealth management advisor. A long-distance runner, Gisella is currently training for the 2021 Chicago Marathon, with a personal goal to raise $1,250 for a Chicago food pantry at which she volunteers. She is also an active leader and volunteer in her church and on campus through the Panther Catholic organization. “UWM has taught me how to be a leader, how to build relationships with people, and how to be independent. I could not see myself being this happy at any other university!”
As a child, Victoria-Rose Gwanyalla worked in her family’s bookstore in Uganda and treasured the books she was able to read there – so much so that she was inspired to write her first novel at age nine. Today, she not only continues to write fiction, but she has also taken control of her own story. Born in Minnesota and raised primarily in Uganda, Victoria-Rose came back to the United States at the insistence of her mother, who wanted her to have the best education possible. The road wasn’t easy, but she worked to earn money and set herself up for success the year before enrolling at UWM. While she credits UWM’s Educational Opportunity Center and pre-college program with providing her with a good foundation, it is with her own tenacity that she has fully committed herself to her studies. A Dean’s List student who works part-time during the school year, Victoria-Rose is involved in the African Students Association and the Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity. To ensure that others have the opportunity to write their own stories, her career goal is to empower lower- and middle-income households to create, sustain and pass on generational wealth.
Whatever he’s doing, Mitchell Haag finds a way to make a significant contribution. When his family decided to launch a small business last year, he was at the core, meeting with industry professionals and financial advisors to help get the business up and running – all while balancing his own part-time job and schoolwork. He continues to assist in day-to-day operations, applying his education to the accounting end of the business. He calls it a “one of a kind” entrepreneurial experience that he is extremely thankful for. At the same time early in the COVID pandemic, he played a key role in his position at a mortgage company by helping transition operations to remote work, earning him special recognition at the organization’s regional conference. But his community is also important to him. That’s why he has served as an election official in his hometown since 2016, starting as a poll worker, advancing to chief inspector, and most recently serving as chief election observer. Set to graduate a semester early, Mitchell plans to go on for his master’s degree before launching his accounting career.
One of the most memorable moments of Elen Hovhannisyan’s life was when she became a U.S. citizen in 2014. Born in Armenia, Elen immigrated with her family when she was ten years old and, over the last decade, has overcome numerous obstacles, such as the language barrier and cultural differences. She says this taught her to value every opportunity in life, work hard, and never take anything for granted. “I have also realized the power of education and its ability to open doors in life that would be unknown to us otherwise.” A stand-out accounting student who maintains a perfect 4.0 grade point average, Elen is also in the Business Scholars program and Honors College. Able to speak four languages (English, French, Russian, and Armenian), her “fifth language” is math, where she has always excelled and worked as a math tutor. Currently a Financial Analyst Intern with Robert W. Baird & Co, Elen’s next goals are to work as a research assistant and to intern in public accounting before going on for her master’s degree.
Aleyna Irem Karacan has lived in the United States for only four years and is especially proud that – despite being new to the educational system, culture, and language – she’s made the Dean’s List every semester with a nearly perfect GPA. “It is a big motivation for me.” Pursuing a double major in marketing and anthropology, Aleyna is interested in the evolution of human psychology and the brain, and its effect on our daily decisions, including buying decisions. Though she hasn’t started a business, she still considers herself entrepreneurial in her approach to building her skills in school, adapting to a new culture, seeking out opportunities to grow and network on campus. “Being entrepreneurial requires you to use every opportunity to help you in the future, and that’s what I do.” A member of the American Marketing Association, she currently volunteers as social media editor for the non-profit Anike Foundation, whose mission is to provide educational opportunities to children in Africa. “If I can attend a university and pursue a career that I choose, every child should be that lucky.”
Not every accounting student is working hard on developing their storytelling skills, but Zach Kosidowski is. This self-described jack-of-all-trades says he’s always had a wide range of interests and been able to develop an easy rapport with others, allowing him to learn and understand others’ ideas and opinions. Pursuing his degree in accounting as a Business Scholar, his near-term career aspiration is to become a forensic accountant, perhaps with the FBI. Right now, he’s working hard in school and focusing on helping himself and other students stay connected with each other during virtual learning. A serious Dungeons and Dragons afficionado, he’s been a key member of the UWM Geek Week Planning Committee, which he says has helped him build his planning and communication skills, along with providing a fun and diverting outlet for UWM students during the pandemic. His ultimate goal, though, embraces his true passion and his creative side. He hopes to one day own an animation studio where he’ll make his own feature-length films. Until then, he’ll keep crunching numbers and developing those future plotlines.
Though Blake McCurdy hasn’t narrowed down his career goal, one thing is clear to him – that the company that he works for has values that match his own. Seeing a friend in high school go into cardiac arrest (and come out stronger), changed his perspective on the world. Ever since, he says, “I knew that I wanted to be someone who made a difference for the people around me.” He recently sought out an internship with a company whose values he respected, and is excited for his internship this summer with Exact Sciences, a leader in cancer testing with a focus on early detection. Active in both Business Scholars and as an officer in the Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity, Blake stays both challenged and involved as a leader. In the fraternity, he is responsible for mentoring new members. He especially enjoys this role because of its importance in preserving the organization’s fraternity values, which include professionalism and community service. Along those lines, he volunteers his time for UWM’s Campus Cleanup and Make a Difference Days, as well as Children’s Hospital.
Krysta Nichols is used to setting her sights high, both in her education and in her service to those around her. At UWM, she has regularly been named to the Dean’s List, and has also been nominated for the Business Writing Competition and Public Speaking Showcase. A Lifetime Member of the Girls Scouts, Krysta says that the organization has had a huge impact on the development of her character as well as her leadership abilities, and has allowed her to better understand and work with others. Recognized with numerous scout honors including the Golden Torch and Gold/Silver Torch awards, she is especially proud of the more than 600 volunteer hours she has logged in the community. That commitment to service continues at the Lubar School, where she is a volunteer accounting tutor through the Beta Alpha Psi honor society, as well as a supplemental instructor in math for UWM’s Student Success Center. Krysta describes herself creative, analytical, and a problem solver, all of which will serve her well in her future graduate studies and career as a certified public accountant.
Volunteering has been Andrew Niessen’s passion for many years, he says, both locally and internationally. In Milwaukee, he has given of his time and talents at Hunger Task Force, Hope House food pantry, the Milwaukee Parks Department, Red Cross, and the Ronald McDonald House. But his service has also taken him across borders and connected with another of his interests — the environment. Spending a month in Costa Rica with International Student Volunteers, Andrew’s project was to gather research data to ensure that the trees most vital to the ecosystem were protected. The data provided by his team was eventually used to update logging laws in the country. An accounting student who transferred from MATC with an associate’s degree with honors, Andrew has become a member of the Golden Key Honor Society at UWM. Highly motivated to maintain his high grade point average, he sees the silver lining in any challenge he faces. “Each struggle I overcame built my confidence in my ability to handle any challenge.” He is looking forward to a professional internship and working in private industry.
Joanna Paredes Jimenez is on her way to becoming the first in her family to graduate from college. At UWM, she says she’s learned about so many things that she wouldn’t have thought she would be interested in, and it’s now all coming together for her. Late in her freshman year, she chose marketing as her major but added a supply chain major this year when she became fascinated with how the supply chain market worked, especially during COVID. Working full time to put herself through school, Joanna was furloughed during COVID. To keep some income flowing in, she started not one but two home-based businesses (in beauty and food specialties) that have gotten her excited about being an entrepreneur, so much so that she’s also pursuing a certificate in entrepreneurship. “Both of my small businesses have been extremely successful and have made me very happy and filled with confidence to one day open up my own location.” While she wants to make her parents and friends proud of her, most importantly, she says, she wants to make herself proud.
Bella Passamani is doing far more than just keeping her head above water at UWM. As a member of the UWM women’s swimming and diving team, her dual focus on academics and athletics is setting her apart. Recognized as a Horizon League Academic All-American for her accomplishments in both the classroom and the pool, she was also honored with UWM’s Faculty Representative Award in 2020. In the Lubar School, Bella enjoys the networking and camaraderie she has in the Beta Alpha Psi business honor society, where she serves as vice president in charge of social events and media. She also volunteers biweekly with the Interchange Food Pantry. Bella says she often thinks back to what an earlier coach told her. “Every day at practice, my coach would remind us that only we could determine how we would do at the end of the season. I think that keeping this advice in the back of my mind all these years is the reason I have gotten as far as I have with both swimming and school. I am driven to reach my goals and will work hard to get to them.”
Sydney Sampson-Webb enjoys an academic challenge. Valedictorian of her high school class, she is continuing her strong academic record at the Lubar School as a Business Scholar and has been named to the Dean’s List every semester. “When classes were in person, you could always find me in the front row engaged and asking questions. In the virtual environment, my focus has not shifted.” As president of the co-ed business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi, Sydney says she’s learned important leadership lessons this year. “Being a mentor and a leader in these times is like being the flashlight in a dark tunnel. The world can be so divided and it’s important that strong leaders and individuals unite and inspire people.” With two professional internships at both Olympus Group and Direct Supply on her resume, Sydney has also found the time to launch a custom baking business to help fund her college education. After college and a corporate career, she’s also considering operating her own bakery. “Having potential and a passion means nothing if you don’t put yourself and your business plan out there and attempt to execute it.”
A driving influence for Joshua Solomon is his faith, which continues to guide him in his college experience and his consideration of his future career. A human resources management major who is still contemplating his career path, he is currently serving as a business intern at Eastbrook Academy (where he also went for his K-12 education) and finds that both his role and the mission of the parochial school fulfill his vision of how he wants to blend his talents and values. Joshua says he uses his communication and people skills as the president of UWM’s Cru organization as the basis for his leadership, as well as to facilitate collaboration with Cru chapters at other universities in Southeast Wisconsin. Having served as a summer camp counselor for many years also helped him develop his skills as a leader and team member. Interested in serving others, Joshua has undertaken hurricane relief work in Texas, helping to rebuild homes and churches. The second in his family to attend UWM, he says he’s proud to be walking in his father’s footsteps.
Autumn Svoboda-Lessard has learned a lot about leadership in her time at UWM. She joined the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority in her first semester and soon earned a leadership position with the College Panhellenic Council. In 2019-20, she was elected president of her sorority chapter. “This role was very tough to accomplish during a global pandemic, but our executive board did not give up. We continued to focus on greatness for our chapter and strengthened our bonds as sisters. I feel so incredibly lucky to be part of such a wonderful organization.” Also committed to community service, Autumn has volunteered for Hunger Task Force and Wehr Nature Center, and raised money with her sorority for the Arthritis Foundation. Graduating this May with honors (and eight out of eight semesters on the Dean’s List), she hopes to work in marketing or communications for a nonprofit organization. “UWM has provided me with so many wonderful experiences and I am so thankful to get to call this place my home. I am extremely proud of myself for overcoming the hurdles and accomplishing this dream.”
Hope Voorhies says that academic success means more to her than a framed piece of paper. It means challenging yourself to learn not just in the classroom, but in life itself. With that mindset, she dove into college her freshman year, with the goal to experience multiple internships and gain real world experience. On track to graduate next spring after three and half years, she has already completed two internships – a finance internship with Northwestern Mutual and a marketing internship with Direct Supply. Working more than 40 hours per week while attending school full time, she also joined three organizations and serves on the executive boards of two of them, in addition to being a campus and Lubar ambassador. “I have taken every opportunity from UWM and turned it into an amazing college experience. When I set my mind to something, put in the effort, and have the courage to ask for help when I need it, then I succeed and grow and build relationships along my path to learning.” Hope is looking toward a career in marketing and aims to one day be elected to a corporate board.
Jacob Walesh is not only committed to his own academic success, but to that of others as well. While serving as chairman of the scholarship committee at his fraternity Phi Sigma Kappa, he led the challenge to elevate members’ academic success by spearheading efforts that recognized that individuals learn through different approaches. Through their study initiatives, the fraternity reached its highest ever semester average grade point average. Jacob sees himself as more of a leader is in the classroom, however, where he says he recognizes others who are struggling and reaches out to help them. “That is where I see myself as a true leader, when helping others.” A volunteer for the Women’s Shelter, Feeding America, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Jacob hopes to one day give back even more significantly through economic and cultural development initiatives in the Milwaukee. He is particularly interested in addressing the issue of housing equity and would like to explore an entrepreneurial approach to the problem based on his education in finance and real estate.
Christina Wenman is so fascinated about the concept of success that she wrote and published the book Success Through Your Eyes – Learning from Your World to Find Your Way. “The process of taking an idea, creating something from nothing , and sharing that with others was incredibly rewarding.” The year-long project helped her understand how different people think and what motivates them to do what they do. Along the way, she also decided that she wants to help people become their best authentic selves, which is why she is focusing her studies on human resources and psychology. In college, she has been an HR intern at both Church Mutual Insurance and Ki Mobility, and has been involved in Business Scholars and the Business Panthers Living Learning Community. As a resident assistant for 60 freshman business students, she says she learned a lot about the impact of servant leadership and acting as a positive role model. “For many students, the transition to college can be overwhelming and confusing. It was so great to be someone they could come to for help.” Christina has also volunteered with AmericaCorps and Junior Achievement.
As captain of the UWM women’s swimming and diving team, Maddie Worgull says she’s had a great opportunity to showcase her leadership skills by motivating those around her to be the best version of themselves and make them believe that they can do something that seems impossible. As a leader, she also seeks to reinforce with her teammates what swimming has taught her – “trust, accountability, time management, passion, and most importantly fun.” In addition to being a Division One athlete, Maddie has excelled in school, being named to both the Academic Athletic Honor Roll and the Dean’s List. During the pandemic, as her interest in politics grew, she decided to add a political science major to her marketing major, and is now thinking ahead to law school and a career as either a corporate attorney or criminal defense attorney. With her last summer before graduation next spring approaching, Maddie is planning to take the LSAT, and hopes to attend the United Nations Summer Seminar in New York, as well as participate in the Lubar School’s business study abroad program in Europe.