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.) 

Debra Monroe '80, bachelor's degree in English

Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award

Debra Monroe '80

Debra Monroe '80

Remember that a career progresses, not according to blueprints or well-laid plans, but in the way that a plant grows in the direction where it finds the most sunlight. This means that opportunities you thought you wanted or needed are sometimes cut off, but if you keep trying you’ll find another direction, another source of light. Follow work that helps you grow in optimal conditions: work that makes you happy, work for which you receive praise, work that accords you the most congenial and interesting life. You'll need to work hard, but it's easier to work hard if you believe in what you’re doing. Follow your passion, but make sure you can pay the bills while you do because otherwise you'll have to quit before you're successful. When you achieve success, never stop mentoring young people in the ways that you were mentored.

Suzannah Sundby '94, bachelor’s degree in biochemistry/molecular biology

Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award

Suzannah Sundby '94

Suzannah Sundby '94

Find a career that you love — one that does not feel like work — and success will follow.

At the start, work hard to get ahead of the field. Once you are there, keep pushing yourself to excel further. And remember to help your coworkers to get to where you are, as you will support one another through your life and career.

Bill White '61, bachelor’s degree in history

Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award

Bill White '61

Bill White '61

If you marry for money the best you can do is endure the marriage. If you select a job primarily for money you’ll seldom enjoy your work. Marry for love and work to fulfill your passion, and both will bring you joy and happiness.

Kurt Mueller '79, bachelor'’s degree in marketing

President's Award 

Kurt Mueller '79

Kurt Mueller '79

Today's employers have the luxury of choosing from a graduate pool that is very talented and well educated. The gap between employers and graduates is in managing the graduate’s expectations. It is hard for the millennial graduate to understand “patience as a virtue.” Today’s graduates likely will have a career span of 40 years. My expectation upon graduation was a 30-year career track. I would be 52, which at that time was when you became eligible for Social Security. I never thought my career would involve moving seven times and having 11 different experiences with Hormel. Instead I retired when I was 62, enjoying every position I held!

Graduates have a lot of “runway” ahead of them, both personally and professionally. The rush for success can cloud what lies ahead. The different experiences you will be exposed to will shape the beliefs you develop and ultimately drive your actions and desired results. The ultimate results can be positive, as intended, or negative, in which case you will need to reassess your experiences and actions. By approaching your life in this manner, you will have a better handle on the results in your personal and professional life.

Beatris Mendez-Gandica '13, bachelor's degree in information systems and international business

Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award

Beatris Mendez-Gandica '13

Beatris Mendez-Gandica '13

To all the upcoming #blugold graduates, I encourage you to try new things and dream BIG! Find that company, organization, or create your own, where your passion can be realized. Do what makes you happy and find opportunities to grow personally and professionally. Remember that your current circumstances do NOT determine your career or future outcome. You can always “rewrite the rules of the world.”

Daneille Strong Skibness '05, bachelor's degree in criminal justice

Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award

Daneille Strong Skibness '05

Daneille Strong Skibness '05

There are so many opportunities that are afforded to you as a graduate of UWEC. Do not let others define your limits; set your sights high and do not be afraid to stand out. Put yourself out there. Introduce yourself. Make yourself a seat at the table. Be the type of leader you have been looking for — the opportunities in front of you are limitless. A very smart woman told me to stop apologizing for achieving, that being successful is not something to hide. You can be humble and proud.

While we do not have a perfect world, it is not naive to work toward a better one. You each have the opportunity to make an impact and better the communities you are about to join. Rise to that challenge. Be a voice of reason, a catalyst for change, and, when necessary, a firework. Be the change this world needs. Make the choice to be kind — it costs nothing but gives everything. And most of all, believe in yourself and do not apologize for your success.

John Behling

Honorary Alumnus Award

John Behling

John Behling

As you grow older, time starts to move very quickly. The days and years just move faster and faster. In order to make life fulfilling, I keep an active bucket list of accomplishments. Every year I write down eight to 10 items that I want to accomplish. Some are personal, some are business, and some are fun! I also reflect on my list to make sure I am working toward accomplishment. Sometimes I review the list weekly, sometimes daily. It is kind of like personal reflection time, but reflection with a purpose. Life is short and don’t let it get past you without accomplishing all the things you dreamed about in college.

Harry Boehm

Harry Boehm

Harry Boehm

Honorary Alumnus Award

Look forward to every day of life with optimism and passion, no matter what age you are.

Michael Holloway

Michael Holloway

Michael Holloway

Honorary Alumnus Award

As I’ve aged, my No. 1 regret has become the times I did not take advantage of the knowledge that surrounded me. My advice to graduates is to mine the knowledge and experience around you. Find people who are willing to share life experience and teach. Ask questions and learn to recognize who you can learn from.

When you enter the work world, continue to learn and remember to work hard, have fun and remain curious.