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Alumni award honorees share words of advice for new grads

This winter'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.)


Dang Yang

Dang Yang '08, bachelor's degree in public communication

Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award

Make a decision. There is something to be said about the value of options and choice, but too often, I find myself spending so much time examining what my choices are that I never get to the decision. I imagine that others have experienced this as well. As our choices and options have significantly increased because of our smartphones, we sometimes find ourselves in a state of choice paralysis. Whether it’s trying to decide which restaurant to patronize or which job offer to accept, break out of that paralysis, make an educated and ethical decision, and be prepared to face the implications — whatever they may be.


Randall Larson

Randall Larson ’79, bachelor’s degree in accounting

Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award

To be successful, you have to be passionate about the subject or task at hand.  You need to determine what “floats your boat,” and go do it. Without passion, you likely will just go through the motions.

Confidence is another key requirement to be successful. Believe in yourself. Take control of your destiny. You have much more influence over your career path than you may currently believe to be the case. Lean in.

When evaluating a job opportunity or career path, do not forget to consider the nature and types of experiences and challenges that you would like to encounter. It is not always about money or promotions, but rather am I getting the experience and opportunities to take me to the next level. Take the initiative to schedule conversations with your supervisor about your performance and future assignments, especially if you are thinking about changing jobs or careers.


Shawn Pfaff

Shawn Pfaff ’94, bachelor’s degree in social studies education

Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award

One, do not be afraid to ask questions and take risks when pursuing your professional and life goals.

Two, be more than just someone who is cynical about their government and other community institutions and makes the active choice to not get involved. Instead, be someone who gets involved and shows an interest and works hard in not only determining what the world looks like but also what the community where you live and work and raise a family looks like.

Three, I wish I would have known back when I graduated how important the soft skills in life are. Be sure you are able to write and communicate (both verbally and non-verbally) in a professional manner, dress appropriately for the task at hand and always be respectful of your and others' time.


Mitchell Bleske

Mitchell Bleske ’97, bachelor’s degree in finance and economics

President's Award

Most importantly, seek work that you enjoy, not just the largest paycheck. If you do so, you will do it well. From there, opportunities will follow for growth and success.

Remember the value of your activities beyond the classroom. While I did not know it then, not only was receiving an excellent education important to lay a foundation of knowledge, but involvement beyond the classroom as a member of the UWEC men’s tennis team and a student manager for Davies Center, as well as a variety of internship opportunities, provided a well-rounded college experience. The perspective each of these enabled me to move quickly into the workforce and immediately make an impact.


RG Conlee

RG Conlee ’78, bachelor’s degree in music education

President's Award

The most important thing I can share is that you need to continue to learn. The job I was prepared to do in 1978 is nothing like I do today. However, the skills I learned at UWEC did prepare me to improve on skills — and to learn new skills — that provided the platform for career advancement. Each step along the way, you have to make sure that you learn something (speech, writing, presentation, analysis, etc.). Your success depends on using your life to learn — not just depending on your formal education for meeting all the requirements of life.


Nick Meyer

Nick Meyer

Honorary Alumnus Award

Take a long hard look at the Eau Claire community and consider making a life and career for yourself here. This community is in the midst of a generational rebirth and reawakening. It's a time when ambitious individuals can deeply engage and make a real difference in a way that is hard to duplicate in a big city. Eau Claire is growing and evolving at a rapid pace, and more 20-somethings are taking leadership in that every day. Now could be your time.


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