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Student speaker Marina Kerekes ready to inspire incoming Badgers at Convocation

August 30, 2022

Marina Kerekes, student speaker at the 2022 Chancellor’s Convocation for new students, credits UW–Madison with being supportive and encouraging. Photo: Bryce Richter

UW–Madison junior Marina Kerekes arrived on campus two years ago thinking she’d pursue a pre-law track. But something about it didn’t seem quite right.

She later realized that she’d internalized other people’s goals for her future. In an elective psychology course, she became fascinated with primate behavior. She changed her major to anthropology and hasn’t looked back.

“That’s one of the things I hope to impart to first-year students,” says Kerekes, who will be the student speaker Sept. 6 at New Student Convocation. “You don’t need to have it all figured out right away.”

Convocation is UW–Madison’s formal welcome ceremony for all new freshmen and transfer students. For thousands of incoming students, the event at the Kohl Center commemorates their entry into higher education and marks the beginning of their journey at UW.

Beyond academics, convocation marks the first and only time the entire incoming class will be together until commencement at Camp Randall Stadium. It’s a chance to learn about the traditions, pride, and values that come along with being a Badger.

Students will hear remarks from Chancellor Jennifer L. Mnookin, who herself is new to campus, having started Aug. 4. Other members of the university’s leadership team will speak, as will Kerekes, who was selected to be this year’s student speaker through a competitive process open to all students in upper grades.

Kerekes, of Waterville, Minnesota, is majoring in anthropology with a certificate in environmental studies. She has been very active with the Wisconsin Speech and Debate Society, competing last spring in the National Forensic Association’s championship tournament at Illinois State University.

Kerekes works part time on campus for the Wisconsin Energy Institute and volunteers with the Strier Lab, a research effort in the Department of Anthropology focused on primate behavioral ecology and directed by Professor Karen B. Strier. This fall, Kerekes will be secretary of AnthroCircle, UW–Madison’s anthropology student organization.

Outside of classes, Kerekes enjoys playing video games (“The Sims 4” is a favorite) and painting pictures of monkeys. She recently reactivated a middle school obsession with rock collecting and has about 300 of them with her at her Madison apartment — “I’ve made some irresponsible rock purchases lately,” she says.

Kerekes looks forward to encouraging students at Convocation to be true to themselves. This past summer, she spent several weeks in Costa Rica researching howler monkeys.

“Only at a school as supportive and encouraging of exploration as UW can you enter your freshman year pre-law and two summers later, find yourself in a rainforest with monkey feces on your arm,” she says. “And trust me, for a primatologist, that’s a good thing.”

New Student Convocation, hosted by the Center for the First-Year Experience, takes place from 1:30-3 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 6 at the Kohl Center. At the end of the ceremony, students will receive a free copy of this year’s Go Big Read book.

Following the event, students are invited to attend the New Student Ice Cream Social and the Badger Welcome Dinner. Full details can be found here.