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A graduating Blugold looks back — and forward

By Joann Martin 

Joann Martin will graduate May 23 from UW-Eau Claire with a degree in psychology. Her time outside the classroom at UW-Eau Claire has included being president of the Campus Ambassadors, vice president of the Future Student Affairs Professionals Organization, an orientation assistant during new student orientation, and a member of the Blugold Marching Band

My first time on campus, I experienced a paradoxical feeling of uncertainty and an immediate sense of belonging. I was a confused high school senior, and by the end of my tour I knew that I had found my future home. 

In my four years, UW-Eau Claire has become my second home and I have had the pleasure of sharing my story with prospective students as a Campus Ambassador and orientation assistant. As a tour guide, I have been asked, "Why did you choose UW-Eau Claire?" more times than I can count. Perhaps it was the beauty of the campus in late spring, the welcoming Admissions staff, or my excitement to join the Blugold Marching Band. The response I have always given to prospective students is that UW-Eau Claire made me feel as though I could experience multiple unique opportunities and cultivate my passions. 

At the start of my first semester, I was so incredibly shocked by the support system I had found on campus. Within the first month I had connected with resident assistants, marching band members and my hall director. These individuals recognized my interests and encouraged me to branch out and become involved on campus. By simply trusting their advice and accepting new opportunities, I have developed various transferable skills and connected with staff members who I now see as mentors. 

Every semester has been a different adventure academically and personally. From long nights spent in the library, summer afternoons floating down the river, or grabbing coffee in Davies, I have realized that it is the community on campus that has fostered my growth the most. 

The behaviors and interactions I observe on a daily basis remind me that being a Blugold is having the courage to be unapologetically yourself. When you are able to be confident in yourself, you are able to push your boundaries and discover new knowledge. Without the supportive community on campus, I would not have been comfortable exploring outside my comfort zone. Whether I talked to my professors, friends or staff members, everyone extended their hand and guided me.

When I began my college journey, I was overwhelmed by the breadth of possibility and opportunity that was available to me at UW-Eau Claire. Yet, this very fact is the reason I have found myself unable to come to terms with the idea of graduating. Because of the supportive and challenging atmosphere, I simply cannot accept that I am finished learning, which is what The Power of AND is supposed to encourage students to aspire to. 

Being a Blugold means having self-assurance in your capabilities, sharing your passion with others and constantly seeking out new opportunities to better yourself. To this day, I am endlessly amazed at the growth I see in other students and their excitement when they are able to share their passion with others. I am slowly warming up to the inevitable title of "Blugold alumna." I will truly miss this university and the promise here of limitless opportunity. However, I will carry with me the memories and lessons, and never stop sharing my passion with those who will listen.