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Graduating twins value shared experiences, opportunities to follow their own path

| Judy Berthiaume

Photo caption: Chloe (left) and Allie Knuth are excited to be graduating together this month. The twins say UW-Eau Claire was a great fit for them because it was small enough that they could easily stay connected yet big enough that they had room to grow as individuals.

When Allie and Chloe Knuth decided to both attend the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, the twins from Green Bay were excited to share a campus but also determined to have their own distinct experiences and follow their own academic paths.

Four years later — as they graduate together this month — the siblings say things worked out even better than they could have expected. UW-Eau Claire’s campus is small enough that their lives sometimes overlap, yet big enough that each of them has had room to stretch and grow as individuals.

“It means a lot to graduate alongside each other and I wouldn’t want it any other way,” says Chloe, who will earn her degree in international business and management with certificates in Mandarin Chinese and leadership studies. “Graduating college is a momentous experience and I love that I will be walking with my sister.”

Allie, who will graduate with a degree in biology and a certificate in Chinese language, originally planned to go to UW-Madison. At the time, the sisters thought they wanted to be on their own in college, anxious to be seen as individuals rather than as one of the “Knuth twins.”

However, as college neared, Allie decided to go to UW-Eau Claire as well, a decision Chloe supported.

“I didn’t want to be without my twin sister,” Allie says of her decision. “We spent less time together the first three years because we lived in different dorms and went on different exchange trips. This is our senior year, and we chose to live together in an apartment, so we spend a lot of time together now. It means a great deal to be graduating with my sister because she has always been there for me.”

Shared experiences

While the siblings pursued different majors, they did share some experiences and accomplishments during their college careers.

For example, they both completed certificates in Chinese. As Asian Americans, it was important to them to learn more about Chinese language and culture.

Allie and Chloe also are active in the University Honors Program, a program where they were able to explore interesting topics that fell outside their academic program.

“I was able to take courses that stimulated my creative learning,” says Allie, who was part of an Honors living and learning community and later worked as an Honors orientation assistant. “I love the discussion aspect of the Honors courses and I learned a lot from my tenacious fellow students. This program is not just something to put on my resume; it had a vast positive influence on my college experience.”

As a science major, Allie especially enjoyed the Honors courses that let her think more creatively.

“One of my favorite experiences was doing an independent study with Dr. Heather Fielding,” Allie says of the Honors director. “I learned a lot and got to be creative, which, as a science major, I rarely get to do. I was able to create fun but educational content for Honors and collaborate with other students.”

Chloe and Allie contributed a great deal to the Honors program, Fielding says. They invested time and effort into helping other students, especially new students, to adapt to college and develop a sense of belonging, she says.

Allie worked as an Honors orientation advisor, while Chloe led a section of the Honors first-year experience class. They both were on a team charged with finding ways to support the program’s first-year students during the pandemic, Fielding says.

“Chloe and Allie share this drive to help others — and a serious work ethic — but each has charted a unique path for herself,” Fielding says. “It's been a pleasure to work with them, in part because they’re both just such fascinating people with wide-ranging interests.

“Allie has great stories about everything from studying in Hawaii to the experiences she’s sought in different sectors of the health care industry as she’s been navigating decisions about her career. Chloe, I learned, has analytical talents but also an eye for design. While talking with her, I’ve learned about everything from identity in the Virgin Islands to global attitudes about climate change.”

Allie’s journey

Allie says UW-Eau Claire was a great fit for her because it encourages students to find interests outside of their major, something that aligns well with her own interests. She loves that she is accomplishing her academic goals while also pursuing her other passions, Allie says.

“I value being able to grow as an individual through life-changing experiences,” Allie says. “UWEC gave me the opportunity to do that.”

Student organizations, research, service projects, immersion experiences and other outside-the-classroom experiences all have helped prepare her to be successful in her future career and life, Allie says.

With a longtime interest in the sciences and health care, Allie always knew she wanted to study biology in college. Her initial goal was to be a pharmacist. However, she changed her thinking after a stint working in retail at a pharmacy.

So, instead, after graduating from UW-Eau Claire, Allie will enter a nuclear medicine technology program at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Among the experiences she had as a Blugold that helped find her new path was volunteering for the Community Connections Team at Marshfield Clinic.

“I volunteered there for two years, which reinforced my decision to work in the medical field,” Allie says. “Connecting patients to community resources was extremely rewarding. Helping patients find housing, food, transportation, etc., truly aided me in comprehending the value of holistic care. It helped me develop my communication skills further and gave me one-on-one patient interactions.”

Through her volunteer work, she was awarded an Area Health Education Center (AHEC) scholarship. The two-year educational scholars program for aspiring health care professionals provided her with additional information and volunteer experiences in rural and underserved urban settings.

Still another outside-the-classroom experience that was meaningful was participating in the National Student Exchange. In fall 2019, Allie studied at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

“That experience was truly remarkable and eye-opening because UH at Hilo is the most diverse campus in the United States,” Allie says. “The different cultures, history and languages were amazing to witness, and I even completed a Hawaiian Culture certificate.

“This experience helped me become a better, well-rounded person by realizing that not only accepting or tolerating but understanding and respecting diverse cultures is extremely important.”                                        

Chloe’s journey

Given her love for exploring new places and her interest in business, Chloe knew even before coming to UW-Eau Claire that she wanted to study international business.

However, like Allie, Chloe also came to campus eager to pursue learning experiences outside of her major. The university’s study abroad, Honors and Chinese language programs all were appealing, in part, because they all created opportunities for her to increase her cultural competencies.

While all those experiences were meaningful, a cross-cultural leadership class she took this year also made a big impact on her thinking about the world, Chloe says.

“We were required to work in a team made up of other college students around the world,” Chloe says. “This was the first time I had ever collaborated with people from completely different cultures than me. It taught me many things about leadership and teamwork. I made new friends around the world, and it allowed me to further explore my interest in different cultures. I got a real-life global perspective.”

Another highlight of her college career was studying abroad in the Virgin Islands, she says, noting that Allie visiting her there was a bonus.

“This made a huge impact on me,” Chloe says of studying abroad. “My entire college career was highlighted by this semester, and I loved getting out of my comfort zone and adapting to an entirely new environment. I thrived in the Virgin Islands and learned a lot about myself.”

She enjoyed many adventures in the Virgin Islands, from jet skiing to snorkeling to bioluminescence kayaking, all things she’d never done before.

She also met students from other places and built strong connections with the local community.

“I did all that while still earning credits for my degree and learning more about business,” Chloe says. “This added value to my time in college through learning business from a different viewpoint and culture. I also loved the actual island and being able to visit the ocean every day, which is my favorite place to be.

“The Virgin Islands reconfirmed my love for travel and exploring new places and cultures.”

After graduation, Chloe is excited to begin her career as a sales development coordinator for Fastenal in Winona, Minnesota. She will be working for a great company, she says.