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Alumni award honorees share words of advice for new grads

This spring's UW-Eau Claire Alumni Association honorees have done a few things right since earning their degrees from UW-Eau Claire. They are award winners, after all.

But they didn't achieve their goals without a few missteps here and there, and — this is key — learning from them. Below, for the benefit of UW-Eau Claire's newest graduates, these award-winning Blugolds share some of the wisdom gained from valuable experiences. (Learn more about the alumni award honorees.)

Hiep Nguyen ‘08, bachelor’s degree in computer science
Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award recipient


Hiep Nguyen

Advice to new Blugold alumni: “I recommend current and graduated students spend some time studying and/or working abroad. Life teaches us so much more besides what we get from school — and life in another country teaches us even more. Living in another country takes us out of our comfort zones, pushing us to the highest potential of who we are in order to live and succeed in new environments. And very often what we get from these times living abroad are lifetime lessons, joyful trips and relationships that we never forget.

“Also, regardless of the degree you earn, remember that hard work, passion and flexibility are musts after graduation. You might not find the right job after you have switched through several positions. This is very normal. But hard work and passion, not just intelligence, will ensure your success. I majored in computer science and started working as a programmer. However, now I am working successfully in the financial industry. I am thankful to UWEC for offering a very high-value liberal arts education that did not just prepare me for the first job, but also for the last one.”

Judge William Domina ‘82, bachelor’s degree in business administration
President's Award recipient


Judge William Domina

Advice to new Blugold alumni: “Be bold with your career! When I was graduating, I had no concept that I would have the opportunities that I have had during my over 30 years as a lawyer. I really had very limited vision. I wanted to pay my rent, buy a car and find a special person to spend my life with. Don't be afraid to try and risk failure. I have run for office eight times and failed three. Although painful, I have learned more about who I am and my priorities when I have failed than when I have succeeded. Be bold!”

Scott VanderSanden ‘87, bachelor’s degree in finance
President's Award recipient


Scott VanderSanden

Advice to new Blugold alumni: “The most successful people I know have a very deep network of connections. Building and keeping connections will pay dividends as people go through life and career.”

Felix Cisneros Caballero ‘97, bachelor’s degree in journalism
Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award recipient


Felix Cisneros Caballero

Advice to new Blugold alumni: “Our values are often reflected in the way we live our lives. Our attitudes dictate how we react in concrete situations; they influence our choices and responses to challenges. Emotions, feelings, beliefs and inclination for action all impact our lives. All of these make up one's attitude. Live your life with faith, trust, hope, love and a positive attitude, and you will succeed in life.”

John Hecht ‘80, bachelor's degree in accounting
Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award recipient


John Hecht

Advice to new Blugold alumni: “Don’t be afraid to take chances, and don’t let fear dictate your career options. It’s OK to make mistakes, but only if you learn from them and don’t repeat history. You’re only young once, so give yourself permission to follow your heart’s desires and things that you are passionate about. It will never seem like work if you do.

“Thoughtfully consider the key values that you believe in and let these be your moral compass. Your character will be tested during your business career, and your ethics and integrity will serve as your foundation to help you always do the right thing.

“Finally, I cannot stress how much volunteerism has enhanced my life with valuable relationships and a sense of purpose. I encourage all graduates to give back to their communities in ways that align with personal passions and interests. You’ll never regret it!”

Mary Jo Quinn ‘77, bachelor’s degree in special education
Lifetime Excellence Award recipient


Mary Jo Quinn

Advice to new Blugold alumni: “Everyone can give back. Find a cause that you are passionate about and help out!

“Also, something I wish I’d known: Be kind to yourself — be your best friend. Monitor your own internal chatter and say things only that you would say out loud about your best friend.”

Charles Szews ‘78, bachelor’s degree in accounting
Lifetime Excellence Award recipient


Charles Szews

Advice to new Blugold alumni: “I will expand on this in my address to the graduates at commencement, but in a nutshell: First, seek to create a legacy in every part of your life. Second, be brave in doing so. Third, give a complete effort each day with good intentions.”