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Tip Sheet for week of May 13: Commencement

May 13, 2013

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Spring 2013 commencement ceremonies will begin at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, May 18, in Zorn Arena. Graduates from the College of Arts and Sciences and College of Nursing and Health Science will participate in the morning ceremony. Graduates from the College of Business and College of Education and Human Sciences will participate in the afternoon ceremony. Stories about commencement and May Alumni Award winners can be found on UW-Eau Claire's website.

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Sona Mehring, founder and CEO of CaringBridge, a nonprofit website that connects families and friends in times of health crises, will give the Charge to the Class during both ceremonies on Saturday. Mehring graduated from UW-Eau Claire in 1983 with a bachelor's degree in computer science. She worked as a software engineer prior to starting her own technology solution consulting company, Beacon Point Technologies. With the founding of CaringBridge in 1997, Mehring launched one of the first social networks. More than 1 billion visits have been made to, with daily visitors coming from all 50 states and more than 225 countries. Mehring received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition and was named one of 2011's "Most Influential Women in Technology" by Fast Company and "Leading Woman for Change" by She is a member of Women Business Leaders of the U.S. Health Care Industry Foundation, the National Health Council and the National Health Marketing Leadership Roundtable. Mehring's son, Luke Mehring, will graduate Saturday — also with a degree in computer science. Her sons Jacob and Nicholas also are students at UW-Eau Claire.

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Zach Halmstad, a 2004 music and theatre arts graduate, will receive the Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award Saturday. The award acknowledges special achievements and great promise of alumni who are within 15 years of their graduation. Halmstad is the co-founder of JAMF Software, a company that produces the only Mac and iOS management software developed exclusively for the Apple platform. He began developing the software while working as a student in UW-Eau Claire's Learning and Technology Services. Although JAMF has offices in New York, California, Amsterdam and Hong Kong, its primary offices are in Eau Claire and Minneapolis. Of the 170 employees, more than 90 of them are at the Eau Claire location, and more than 35 percent of those employees are UW-Eau Claire graduates. JAMF supports internships at UW-Eau Claire. JAMF pledged $500,000 to support the construction of a new community arts center at the confluence of the Chippewa and Eau Claire rivers in downtown Eau Claire. The arts center is the centerpiece of the public-private partnership known as the Confluence Project. The $500,000 pledge would help fund the construction of, and give JAMF Software naming rights associated with, the arts center's 250-seat black box theater. Halmstad will receive his alumni award during an awards luncheon between commencement ceremonies Saturday in Davies Center.

Regional graduating student highlights

  • Kayla Theiste, a graduate of Eau Claire North High School, will graduate Saturday with a bachelor's degree in music education — instrumental. While still a junior in high school, Theiste was asked to fill a spot in the brass line of the Blugold Marching Band. She was nervous to join a college band so young, but loved the experience and continued with the marching band throughout high school and during her college career. She said connecting with the band at such a young age was the best thing to happen to her; the BMB helped her become a better musician and a leader. You can reach Kayla Theiste at
  • Natalya Bykhovaya, a native of Russia who resides in Menomonie, will receive a master's degree in nursing Saturday. She moved to the U.S. as a young adult after earning a nursing degree in her native country. Once in the U.S., she earned a bachelor's degree in nursing from UW-Eau Claire in 2009. She currently works for Mayo Health System in Eau Claire. You can reach her at
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