Dylan Lange, a December 2016 graduate from Green Bay, WI, delivered the student “Reflections” speech to business, and education and human science graduates at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Commencement on Saturday, December 17, 2016. Lange graduated with degrees in business administration and political science.
Gretchen Hutterli, assistant dean in the College of Business, interviewed Lange about his speech, his experience as a UW-Eau Claire student, and his future plans.
GH: This fall semester has been an especially busy one for you as you were a full-time college student and a staff member on a successful congressional campaign. Given all of this, it certainly would have been easier to sit it out and listen to someone else give the reflection. But you didn't. Why not?
DL: This institution has meant a lot to me. I think we often get too caught up in all the fast moving parts of our lives and fail to take the time to reflect on the things that have a great influence on us. No matter how busy I was between balancing school and the heat of a competitive campaign, I just felt as though I could not walk away without taking the time to pay proper respect to this university that has had such a strong impact on my life.
GH: The theme of your reflection is change. Where did the inspiration for this idea come from?
DL: As I began to reflect on my time here at UW-Eau Claire, I couldn't help but realize how many things changed during my time here: my friends, major, future ambitions, and hobbies. I was also moved by the fact that I will be a part of the 100th graduating class of UW-Eau Claire. Well I believe a lot has changed about this university over the last 100 years, I think UW-Eau Claire’s founding principles have remained unchanged and are forever tradition at UW-Eau Claire. Knowing that I have been apart of an institution as special as UW-Eau Claire inspired me to jump at the opportunity to share this reflection with my classmates at commencement.
GH: Let's talk a bit about the changes you made as a student. How have you changed? Did any of the changes surprise you?
DL: I would argue that all of the changes I have experienced at UW-Eau Claire have made me a better person, and have prepared me to make an immediate impact on society upon graduation.
I initially came to UW-Eau Claire to run track and prepare for law school. Once I began school as a freshman, I quickly realized that I didn't have a desire to continue my athletic career and lacked an interest in law. This was a change that definitely came as a surprise. For awhile, I was left afraid with no idea of what I wanted to do for a career or how I wanted to spend my time at college.
GH: A lot of students will be able to relate to your situation. Any advice for those facing similar situations?
DL: To be open to change, remain patient, and utilize the resources we have on campus. Everyone at UW-Eau Claire is here to help you succeed, and the students truly care about one another. Take the time to explore the countless opportunities this university offers, and never hesitate to ask for help.
GH: Great advice, Dylan. Towards the end of your speech, you gave several examples of things that won't change at UW-Eau Claire . . . things that are forever engrained in our traditions here. One example you gave was the dedication of our faculty and staff.
DL: I think UW-Eau Claire has some of the best and most caring faculty and staff --- people who are here because of their desire to help students succeed, not because of their own personal agenda. My successes on campus wouldn't have been possible without the help and guidance of two great mentors: Emily Elsner Twesme in Business Communication, and Dr. Rodd Freitag in Political Science. These two continuously encouraged me to pursue my goal of obtaining a career working in government in Washington, D.C. I will forever be indebted to them for helping me achieve this goal.
GH: Tell us more about your future plans. What will you be doing in Washington, D.C.?
DL: I will be working as the staff assistant for Congressman Mike Gallagher (WI-08). In this position, I will be helping him with constituent services, and legislative and policy research.
GH: That sounds exciting! How has your education at UW-Eau Claire, and specifically the College of Business, prepared you for success in your new position?
DL: My political science major helps me understand the political process and the factors influencing government. However, studying the impact that government has on business in my business courses is a key reason as to why I want to work in government. My courses in accounting, finance, and management will help me analyze legislation and policy, and develop strategy. Other business courses helped me develop team working, networking, time management, and problem-solving skills which will help me personal as well as professionally.
GH: Thank you for sharing your insights, Dylan. Your hard work has paid off! While your academic journey at UW-Eau Claire is ending, an exciting one in Washington, D.C. is just beginning. Best wishes always and please stay in touch.
December 2016 Commencement Reflection
"I will never forget my first class as a freshman. It was a general education course and the professor wanted to learn about the students’ backgrounds and interests. The professor decided to go around the room asking each student what their major is and what they want to do after college. So when the professor got to me and asked what my major is, I responded by saying political science but I’m also planning on adding business. The professor then informed me that those are two very broad majors and questioned what I’m going to do with them. I had no idea. I was just glad I made it to the right room. So, wanting to sound smart, I said that I want to help people and make a change in society. Fearing that I answered my first question in college wrong, I was surprised when she replied by saying, “Well then you’ve come to the right place.” And that I did. UW-Eau Claire is truly a place for change.
Change is a powerful thing and could not be more relevant to us today. Right now, each and every one of us is experiencing a great change in our lives. We have also experienced countless changes from when we started our time here at UW-Eau Claire to when we walk out those doors today. So while we have each experienced our own unique changes, this university that we are now forever apart of has also undergone many changes. This year, we celebrate UW-Eau Claire’s centennial–100 years of tradition in excellence. And today, we join a network of Eau Claire alumni that is 100 years strong.
So what has changed in both the last 100 years and our short time at this institution? Things like the look of campus with the new Davies Center and addition of Centennial Hall, our friendships, our majors–probably more than we would like to admit, and our university slogan just to name a few.
Change is expected. And while a lot has changed over the last 100 years at UW-Eau Claire, I would argue that even more has gone unchanged about this campus and at this university.
The following are some things that I believe have remained unchanged and are forever engrained as tradition at UW-Eau Claire. The dedication of our administration and professors who are determined and willing to do whatever it takes to help students succeed. The inspirational stories of our alumni going on to make world-changing achievements. The extreme heat of Hibbard Hall. The fact that UW-Eau Claire is and always will be Wisconsin’s most beautiful campus. Our dominance in athletics. The freezing cold walk across the footbridge on the way to class each day. Our national academic prestige. The heavy breathing induced by climbing the hill. Our commitment to serving and enhancing the community. And the life-long friendships and connections we have formed.
So yes, there have been a lot of changes at UW-Eau Claire. But there are also many things that have not, nor will they ever change. And the most important thing that will never change is that, together, we will forever be Blugolds for life."