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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.)


Catherine Emmanuelle

Catherine Emmanuelle ’11, bachelor’s degree in women’s studies and economics

Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award recipient

I have three nuggets of wisdom to share:

It wasn’t until I was on the job market and interviewing for a dream job that I actually thanked (yes I did!) the grueling years of finals weeks for preparing me for the final job interview. So, when you go to interview, you are going to study, study, study beforehand, and then at your interview, shine, shine, shine with the skills, knowledge and experience you bring to the organization.

Since I graduated, I discovered the world of improvisational theater and have applied the main concept, “yes, and” in my professional work and beyond. “Yes, and” acknowledges whatever may be going on around you, and finding a way to interact with it in a way that is true and affirming to yourself and others. Saying “yes, and” has been a sanity saver through the twists and turns of my professional, political and personal life.

Practice self-care. Along life’s rich and trying journey, be generous in love and kindness to yourself.


Nicole Griensewic Mickelson

Nicole Griensewic Mickelson ’05, bachelor’s degree in German and history

Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award recipient

Spend time with those who fill you up. Walk away from those who don’t. Relationships are like clothes, sometimes you grow out of them and they need to be donated.

Surround yourself with others who are different. Like-minded people won’t challenge your thought process or help you grow.

Keep a mental list of those who have inspired you. In times of uncertainty, think back to them. Would they be proud?

Understand you are privileged. Be part of the need for social change.

Get involved. Democracy is not a spectator sport. Being quiet serves no one.

Share your failures. Learn from them and those of others.

Don’t be normal. It’s impossible anyway. Embrace your weirdness. Flock to those who are authentic.

Do something that scares you to death. Know that you made it through. Push yourself, as no one else is obligated to do so.

Prove the bad bosses and teachers wrong. When you do, it feels pretty amazing.

Quit worrying about what others think. Your 20s are the best of times, and the worst of times. Be confident with your experiences. Just because you are young does not mean you are of any less value. Be ready and willing to sell yourself. Explain your worth — past your résumé and degree.

Push yourself so far that you simply have to succeed. Be open to new opportunities. Be willing to be flexible. Push yourself to grow. Be vulnerable and connect with others. Embrace challenges. Don’t shy away from them.

And remember: You may not always get the credit, but you will get the karma. 


John Raymond

John Raymond ’09, bachelor’s degree in music performance

Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award recipient

No one ever told me that, to truly reach your fullest potential, you absolutely must go through more hardship and conflict than you sometimes think you can bear. Endless nights of soul-searching, long weeks and months and even years of perseverance, and opposition towards what you've set your heart to do should be expected. But all this is normal, because nothing worth chasing comes easy. You realize that it's not about the short-term successes you once wanted, but it's about the long game — it's about endurance and staying the course. And only the people who do so are the ones who end up achieving what they set out to achieve. What's more though is that, in fact, it's precisely in these moments that you're being refined more and more to become the person you truly were meant to be. And then you begin to realize … this personal growth is actually much sweeter and more worthy of chasing after than achieving anything you may have ever wanted. So pursue this — it's far better than any awards or accomplishments you could ever garner for yourself, and it'll be the stuff that lasts well past the shelf-life of your career.


Mary Laschinger

Mary Laschinger ’85, bachelor’s degree in business management

President's Award recipient

While confidence is a positive trait, it’s important to stop short of arrogance.

Be willing to take risks and put yourself in a position of learning. That might mean changing your focus from one of "going up the ladder" to one of going across an organization. You can learn a lot more, and it gives you broader perspective and greater learning, and it expands, long term, your opportunities.

Figure out what your passion is, because if you can find your passion you’ll be great at it. Recognize the choices that you want to make and why, and realize that those are all going to be different answers for different people.


Elizabeth Willis

Elizabeth Willis '83, bachelor's degree in English

President's Award recipient

Trust your instincts, keep learning, be open to opportunities event if they don't make sense to anyone else, and don't be intimidated. We're all just making it up as we go.


Pat Toutant

Pat Toutant

Honorary Alumnus Award recipient

Congratulations! The opportunities that lie ahead are endless and amazing if one is willing to work. It is important to recognize that this journey is a marathon, not a sprint. It requires hard work and patience. You are not entitled to cross the finish line, but when you do because of all your efforts, it is amazingly rewarding.

It is really important to stay true to yourself. There is so much noise it becomes difficult at times, but remember it is the true you that defines your character.

Be careful what you think, for that will determine attitude.

Be careful about your attitude, for that determines action.

Be careful about your actions, for that determines character.

Be careful about your character, for that determines lifestyle.

William James said, "Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out if they've got a second." Give your dreams all you've got and you'll be amazed at the energy that comes out of you.

Choose your friends wisely, be loyal, be kind. Be endlessly curious, help others and give back.

Be unique. Remember even the littlest things can make a big difference.

Remember, it is not what — it is who!

"Lace 'em up."


Mary and Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson ’82, bachelor’s degree in accounting, and Mary Johnson ’82, bachelor’s degree in business education

Lifetime Excellence Award recipients

The best advice we could give to UW-EC's newest graduates is to be open to new opportunities. Don't let yourself become too comfortable, and by all means work at something you love to do. When you find a way to mix your vocation with your avocation it can be very special, especially when you have the unending trust and support of the ones you love.

Life is all about learning, so "knowing then what I know now" would have taken away some of the challenges of learning about life, which strengthens us all. But if there was one thing we wish we had known sooner it is how small the world really is — our time spent in Holland and learning about the ex pat community that exists around the globe was truly a life-changing experience for us.


Randi and Peter Scobie

Peter Scobie ’71, bachelor’s degree in business management, and Randi Scobie

Lifetime Excellence Award recipients

Keep an open mind and be willing to EMBRACE change. If you don't succeed with something, look for ways to approach your goals in a different way — make it a learning experience when things don't go the way you planned.