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Notable grads: winter commencement 2019

December 10, 2019 By Doug Erickson

On Sunday, Dec. 15, hundreds of students will complete their UW–Madison studies by walking across the Kohl Center stage at winter commencement. The 10 a.m. ceremony will feature UW–Madison alumnus and popular Wall Street Journal sports columnist Jason Gay as keynote speaker. Commencement details can be found here.

Every graduation ceremony is rich with personal stories. Here are just a few from this year’s winter graduates:

Photo: Cassie Dietrick

Cassie Dietrick

Cassie Dietrick, of DeForest, Wisconsin, kept her schooling going through challenging circumstances. While deployed to Afghanistan as a tech sergeant in the Wisconsin Air National Guard from July to November of this year, Dietrick completed five courses through BSN@Home. The online program at the UW School of Nursing is for registered nurses who already have a two-year associate’s degree and want to earn a four-year nursing degree. While studying in Afghanistan, Dietrick performed maintenance on a flight line seven days a week for 12-hour shifts. Back home, she’s the mother of two young children and volunteers as a Basic Life Support instructor for the Air Force Base at Truax Field in Madison. After graduation, Dietrick will continue working as a nurse at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison.

Photo: Studio portrait of Lisa Kamal

Lisa Kamal

Lisa Kamal loves the music from the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” especially the line, “I am not throwing away my shot.” The sentiment resonates with her because she got her shot through a full-ride scholarship funded by a government corporation in Malaysia, where she was raised. The education sponsorship enabled her to study geology at UW–Madison, a field she excelled in. She’ll be sharing her story as the student speaker at winter commencement. Get to know her a little better here.

Photo: Portrait of Patrick Sweeney

Patrick Sweeney

As a double-major in economics and finance, Patrick Sweeney co-founded with fellow students Thomas Costello and Zach Swaziek a new student organization, the Federal Reserve Challenge. The group prepares its members to be successful in research-oriented fields by, among other things, competing against other top universities in a monetary policy case competition called the College Federal Reserve Challenge. In national competition last year, the UW–Madison team, including Sweeney, finished third behind Yale University and Rutgers University. Sweeney, of Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, has accepted a job as an investment banking analyst with Cowen and Company, an investment banking services company headquartered in New York City.

Photo: Vansh Jain

Vansh Jain

Vansh Jain is a pre-med student majoring in international studies (global security track) and biochemistry, with a certificate in South Asian studies. His international academic interests cross regions and disciplines, says Csanád Siklós, assistant director for students and curriculum in the Institute for Regional and International Studies. “His academic record speaks for itself — a simply superb student who demonstrates the best qualities in terms of academic rigor, interest and application,” Siklós says. In summer 2018, an internship took Jain to Uganda, where he worked in rural health care to help analyze data and improve reporting efforts. He was the recipient of a Hilldale Undergraduate Research Fellowship (the university’s top research grant) and, along with graduate student Dan Tremmel, was among the winners in this year’s Cool Science Image Contest. Jain, of Minocqua, Wisconsin, plans to enter medical school in fall 2020.

Photo: Portrait of Lauren Shafer

Lauren Shafer

Lauren Shafer has performed the National Anthem so many times — both alone and in groups — that she can’t put a number on it. At this year’s winter commencement, she will perform the notoriously challenging song accompanied by the UW Band. The audience, expected to number around 8,000, will be her largest to date. Any nerves? “Not really,” says Shafer, who will be earning a master’s degree in music performance that day. “I love the song and I love being on stage.” Shafer, who was born in Michigan and lived numerous places in the Midwest growing up, earned her master’s while working full time for an energy efficiency services company. After commencement, she plans to audition for stage work while continuing her day job. Enjoy a preview of her performance with these excerpts from her master’s recital.