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2003 alumna watches brother's graduation from afar

By Mary Kay Maas
UW-Eau Claire Spanish education graduate

Dec. 22, 2005

I graduated from UW-Eau Claire in December 2003. On Dec. 17, 2005, it was my younger brother David's turn in the spotlight. Internet technology has played an integral role in keeping our family connected.

Archived broadcasts
of the Dec. 17 UW-Eau Claire commencement ceremonies can be accessed online.

During my time at UW-Eau Claire, I spent a year studying abroad in Oviedo, Spain. I arrived in Madrid on Sept. 11, 2001, a scary day to be in a foreign country where you couldn't understand what the images on the television meant because the TV reporters spoke at the speed of light. Jessica Weber, another UW-Eau Claire student I had gotten to know on the plane, and I took a cab to the bus station, managed to buy tickets, and were off to our new home in the north. Our first priority was finding a place to lay our heads that night; our second, to find an Internet cafe to let our parents know we were OK and find out what the heck was going on back home. That year, the Internet was my lifeline.

David and Mary Kay Maas with godchild
Graduate David Maas with parents
Mary Kay Maas and husband
Top: Blugold siblings David Maas and Mary Kay Maas were proud godparents at the Dec. 2004 baptism of their niece, daughter of UW-Eau Claire alumni Nancy (Maas) Dressell '00 and Luke Dressel '97. Middle: David Maas with his parents, Carol Maas and Ed Maas, at the December commencement ceremony. Bottom: Mary Kay Maas with her husband, Diego Alvarez Suárez, on the day of their July 2004 wedding ceremony in Oviedo, Asturias, Spain.

Perhaps a fortunate accident or a bold act of fate, I met my husband, Diego, within the first week. We became friends and later dated, but there was no way I was not graduating college for some guy, no matter how cute his Spanish accent was. For the next two years we maintained a long-distance relationship while I finished my degree in Spanish education. We then married and I moved back to Asturias. I took a course in teaching English as a foreign language and found a job in an after-school/night language academy in Oviedo. I'm in my second year of marriage and expatriatism, and while living so far from home is not easy, thanks to the telephone and the Internet it's much less painful.

Last week while writing Dave a "Congrats, I'm proud of you, I'm sorry I can't be there" e-mail, I entered the UW-Eau Claire Web site to double-check the spelling of his old dorm, Bridgman Hall. To my surprise, I saw the news about the live commencement Webcast and just about burst into tears. No, that's a lie. I really did burst into tears, just about giving my husband a heart attack in the process, until he saw that they were tears of joy.

We are four children in our family. All four of us went to UW-Eau Claire, and three of the four graduated from the College of Education and Human Sciences (previously the School of Education). David is the baby of the family. He played on the defensive line on the Blugold football team throughout his college career, sang in Concert Choir and The Singing Statesmen, and volunteered with Special Olympics. He is an all-around Renaissance man and one of my best friends. Thanks to the staff in UW-Eau Claire's Learning and Technology Services, I was able to see my little brother walk the stage and receive his diploma. (This fall, I had religiously tuned in to every Saturday night Blugold football game audio broadcast on the Internet through a local radio station, but a live video feed was beyond my wildest dreams!) It meant the world to me.

I am by no means a technologically gifted person, but using the UW-Eau Claire Web site was super easy. I did the sound check earlier in the week and come Saturday at 2 p.m. Eau Claire time and 9 p.m. Spain time, I was ready. I clicked on the hotlink and it started my Media Player right up with a live serenade of "Pomp and Circumstance" coming through crystal clear. I beamed! But soon after the visual froze on a cello player, though the audio continued unaffected. I panicked a bit, wishing I could actually see what was going on. As I later discovered, my version of Windows Media Player, while funcional, was not updated.

During the instrumental intermission I quickly downloaded the latest version, restarted a couple times, and sent some kind words upward. My hunch was correct, the technical difficulties were on my end. While I missed the chancellor's and the faculty member's speeches, Zorn Arena reappeared as the "G" graduates were passing by. I crossed my fingers that they hadn't already graduated the School of Education. Seven letters later there he was, proudly strutting across the stage.

From then on out the broadcast was flawless for me. I couldn't help but be in awe at the visual and sound quality.(While at UW-Eau Claire I was in the Usher Corps for a year and worked a graduation ceremony covering Davies Theatre, a space provided where elderly people and families with young, restless children can go, be comfortable, and have room to wiggle while still seeing their loved ones walk the stage a few hundred yards away.) A couple thousand miles away, the broadcast was just as clear. It was truly amazing.

I send my most sincere thanks to the UW-Eau Claire LTS staff for all they do. I called my family while they were standing on the Zorn arena floor after the ceremony. We were all holding back tears — our Davie was now a college graduate. Thanks to the often thankless job of the staff in LTS, I was able to be a part of that special moment.

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