Kristi Wilkum is an associate professor in the communications studies department at UW Oshkosh, Fond du Lac campus. She earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees at St. Cloud State University and UW-Milwaukee, respectively, and her doctorate from Purdue University. Wilkum’s research interests include: understanding how people help each other in times of need and the integration of technology in high school and college classrooms. In 2020, Wilkum was awarded the Alliant Energy James R. Underkofler Excellence in Teaching Award. Wilkum said she has stayed at UWO Fond du Lac because she has a front-row seat to individual stories of transformation.
The following are her prepared remarks from the morning ceremony during UWO’s 57th midyear commencement:
Chancellor Leavitt, Provost Koker, Regents, distinguished faculty, graduates and honored guests: It is my pleasure to speak to you today, on this day of celebration. I would like to start by celebrating our ability to physically share space as we come together in community today.
Today is an inflection point, a moment of transition. Certainly, it is a transition for our graduates, but all of us could use today to notice our own transitions. Personally, I became a Titan late fall of 2017 when the Fond du Lac campus joined with the Oshkosh campus to build ourselves into becoming the One University we are today. There are points of connection between your UW Oshkosh journey and my own.
Students, you have succeeded in accomplishing a major life goal. We are here to celebrate you, but you have not done it alone! As you sit with your friends, family and University community I hope you can appreciate the support and guidance that led to this day. We, your friends and family, will continue to cheer you on as you step forward in new roles and in new organizations. Perhaps adventures in a new city or state loom. And, we hope that you build on Quest 3, and give back in your community now that you will not be reading all those textbooks or finishing those problem sets we, your professors, have been assigning for years. Before you move forward into this wished for future, I implore you to also look back.
Take a moment to notice and reflect. Think about the strides that you have made and the people who were central to your time as a student. You have changed. You are more skilled, more knowledgeable. You are stronger. You are not the same student who became a Titan. For some, you became aware of your growth in a specific moment in the recent past—at your thesis defense, as you walked out of the locker room, lab, or studio, as you passed the reigns of leadership on to those next in line for your club, or sorority, or in those final conversations this week with your adviser or mentor. But more often change is ephemeral, difficult to notice or grasp, because it is built out of daily practice, micro decisions we do not recall making.
I would assert that every graduate here is a stronger reader, writer, scientist and citizen than you were at Titan Takeoff. Certainly, the faculty deserve some credit for this change! After inviting (um… badgering) you to excel in your assignments, they—together with the UWO staff, role modeled the human and industry specific skills you have attained. But the growth, the attainment of those skills, is your own. It is reflection of the seeming insignificant, unmemorable choice to read, write, speak, listen, calculate, observe, analyze, report out, collaborate, help and problem solve—completing those to-do list items that got you to this day. Each time you failed, or succeeded, you built another layer of skill, day-in and day-out, hour-by-hour—you changed. We tend not to notice those 1% improvements in ourselves without a big event or someone else noticing our skills. It takes a day like graduation to realize just how far we have come.
Read the entire address