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Commencement speakers: Value of Blugold degree goes well beyond dollars and cents

 University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire graduates have a lot to be optimistic about as they head into the world with a Blugold degree. 

That was the message shared Dec. 20 by UW System Board of Regents President Michael Falbo and UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt as they addressed 761 graduates during commencement ceremonies in the university's Zorn Arena.

Falbo reminded the newest Blugold alumni that they were becoming "distinguished graduates of a world-class university."

"Let me tell you what I see when I look at UW-Eau Claire," Falbo said. "I see a university that is more relevant than ever. UW-Eau Claire regularly ranks among the leaders when it comes to everything from academic achievement to affordability for students and return on investment, to being a campus that is environmentally responsible and also veteran friendly."

Falbo noted the "remarkable record of accomplishment" of UW-Eau Claire graduates —and singled out the achievement of current UW-Eau Claire student Tayo Sanders II, recently named a 2015 Rhodes Scholar (UW-Eau Claire's second student to receive the honor).

"My point is, a little bragging is not out of line when it comes to your alma mater," Falbo said, encouraging the graduates to add to the Blugold tradition of alumni success.

Falbo told the graduates that by virtue of earning a UW-Eau Claire degree, they have shown they have what it takes to succeed, even in the face of uncertainties along the way. 

"I'm here to break it to you that the diploma you're receiving today doesn't mean you have all the answers," Falbo said. "That isn't part of the deal when you are graduates. But it does mean you are much better equipped to find those answers —or even to find more questions. "

Graduates' experiences while pursuing their UW-Eau Claire degree gave them opportunities to discover what they're good at, what it takes to lead a team, and how to be at home in different cultures and even different countries, Schmidt said.

"I hope you've found new passions that will stay with you all your life: passions for service, for civil discussion, for active citizenship, for making a difference where you are," Schmidt said. "That is why this university exists and why it has been worthy of your investment and the investment of the citizens of Wisconsin."

But graduates and their parents don't have to take his word for it when it comes to the value of a UW-Eau Claire degree, Schmidt said, noting that the university placed high on a list by Payscale.com —and third among all public and private Wisconsin and Minnesota universities —that rated the return on investment for graduates from universities across the country. The Payscale.com ratings compared the cost of an education and what alumni earned after graduation.

Blugold graduates are conferred their degrees "with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities pertaining thereto," Schmidt said, adding that among those responsibilities —and in keeping with UW-Eau Claire's purpose since its founding 98 years ago —is to serve the public good.

"Our graduates not only build careers, they build society by voting, by serving on public boards (as Regent Falbo has done so generously) and by volunteering in their communities," Schmidt said. "You see, UW-Eau Claire is about the Power of AND," Schmidt said. "The power that our graduates have because they are scholars and voters, researchers and global citizens, Blugolds and civic leaders."