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Meet the Class of 2018: Making their mark on campus and beyond

May 6, 2018 By Doug Erickson

This weekend, thousands of students will achieve their goal of graduating from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Each has a story to tell — of hard work, of perseverance, of success.

Many will go on to change the world. Some already have made great strides in that direction. Here are a few examples of how members of the Class of 2018 made their mark on campus or beyond.

Helping to educate Kenyan children

Photo of Sam CarlsonSam Carlson came to UW–Madison having already seen much of the world. During five years in the U.S. Air Force, the Madison native served tours of duty in Japan, Kuwait and Iraq. Post-military, he lived in Kenya, where he saw children orphaned by HIV and AIDS forced into child labor or worse. He and two others, including a Kenyan social worker, started a nonprofit that pays the educational costs so that vulnerable Kenyan children can afford to go to school. Today, Action Two Africa is a registered international nongovernmental organization that is helping dozens of Kenyan families. Carlson will graduate this month with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. He hopes to use his schooling to provide quality health care to fellow veterans.


Serving others through political advocacy

Jordan Madden wasted no time upon arriving on campus. During his freshman year, he started a political advocacy organization aimed at making reproductive health care more accessible and affordable. In the ensuing years, he compiled a lengthy record of campus and community involvement. He served in student government and advocated alongside state and federal policymakers for positions that help UW students. Last month, he was awarded a prestigious 2018 Truman Scholarship. Winners are chosen based on academic success, leadership accomplishments, and the likelihood of becoming public service leaders. Madden plans to attend law school, then pursue a career in politics and legal advocacy. Read more about his scholarship win.


Setting an undergraduate precedent

Photo of Brianna Young

Since 2007, UW–Madison has annually recognized women of color doing extraordinary work on campus and in the larger Madison community. The 2017 Outstanding Women of Color honorees included Brianna Young, the first-ever undergraduate winner. Young is a Posse Scholar as well as a STEM and School of Nursing student ambassador, an undergraduate researcher, and the founder of ROOTZ, an Afro-Caribbean dance team on campus. She has served as a mentor to younger students interested in pursuing careers in health care and studied public health in Thailand. Last summer, she interned with the UW Health In-Roads program, which provides clinical experience to racially diverse student populations. Upon graduation, she plans to work as a registered nurse. Her dream is to pursue a role in nurse leadership.


Leading from the front of the class

Photo of Ariela Rivkin

Ariela Rivkin served as president of the Class of 2018, just one of the many leadership roles she took on while earning a bachelor’s degree in Russian language and comparative literature. She served two years as an elected student government representative and two years as chair of the committee that allocates money to student organizations. She currently serves as a student representative on the board of UW Hillel, the campus Jewish student center. She has been a forceful advocate, even when the role has not been easy or popular. She intends to continue her interest in public policy and the equitable treatment of all people by studying international human rights law at Boston University School of Law. She will give remarks on behalf of the Class of 2018 at commencement May 12.


Bringing sustainable energy to rural Africa

Photo of Aaron OlsonIn an entrepreneurship class three years ago, Aaron Olson and classmate Mehrdad Arjmand put together a business plan for providing clean, renewable and sustainable electricity to communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). They received such positive feedback from UW Business School alumni that they decided to launch the startup for real. The result, NovoMoto, is finishing its first 100 solar lighting installations in the DRC. Meanwhile, Olson is completing his Ph.D. in engineering mechanics this month. (Olson also attended as an undergraduate and participated in the PEOPLE program). Arjmand recently completed a Ph.D. in the field. Read more about their startup.


Setting trends in the marketplace

Photo of Brian LucksingerBrian Lucksinger may know what you want to buy even before you do. The marketing and entrepreneurship double-major focused his undergraduate studies on figuring out the desires of consumers. The retail industry took notice. This year, he was awarded $15,000 for finishing second nationally in the Next Generation Scholarship competition sponsored by the National Retail Federation. He also took home $5,000 for a top finish in a national competition for college students sponsored by the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund. Lucksinger has accepted a job as an assistant buyer for Macy’s in New York City. Read more about Lucksinger and other award-winning fashion and retail students.


Excelling through pluck and perseverance

Angeline Mboutngam was raised in a small village in Cameroon where girls had little chance of going to school. She didn’t learn to read and write English until she moved to the United States in her mid 30s, and financial obstacles made an undergraduate degree seem impossible. But Mboutngam enrolled at UW–Madison and excelled in spite of innumerable hardships. For her pluck and perseverance, she received an Outstanding Undergraduate Returning Adult Student Award in April. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in community and nonprofit leadership, Mboutngam plans to attend pharmacy school and focus her career on helping underserved populations in Madison and Cameroon. Read more of Mboutngam’s inspiring story.


Sparking campus conversations through humor

Shane Linden didn’t have big ambitions a year ago when he launched a funny Facebook group, UW Memes for Milk-Chugging Teens. But it’s not surprising that on a campus as steeped in humor as UW, the page took off and now has nearly 14,000 followers. Students swap jokes and they also use the group to tackle more serious subjects, albeit with plenty of Photoshopping. Read more about it.