Going above and beyond as a leader at UWEC is exactly what the Ryan Prechel Scholarship is about. Ryan Prechel was an active Honors student and leader on campus from 2001 to 2005.
This scholarship, in an effort to support student leadership, includes a grant given to a program, organization, or department of the recipient’s choosing.
Erin McMichael is from Hudson, WI and is majoring in ecology and environmental biology, with a certificate in sustainable climate action. Although she found a home at UWEC and in the Blugold Marching Band’s color guard, if you had asked her freshman year if she embodied the meaning of this scholarship, she would have said, “absolutely not.”
“When I first came, I was a freshman on the rainbow floor and I was so afraid of everyone,” she said, “but I slowly started just getting more involved.”
Today, Erin has broken out of her cocoon and is a leader in the Honors LLC, the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center (GSRC), Campus Pride, and Q-fest.
UWEC’s LGBTQ+ space made Erin feel welcome and wanted on campus, and she knew she wanted to make her own impact on the community. Erin has been on the executive board forCampus Pride for 4 years, occupying the Outreach Coordinator, Vice President, and President positions at different points in time.
As an intern forQ-fest, Erin traveled to San Francisco to attend the oldest and largest queer film festival, Frameline Film Festival. There, she and 9 other students watched and chose films they would want to show at UWEC’s Q-fest, which happens every October.
While planning efforts were in full swing, Erin was busy with advertising and “website development,” and preparing to make it an incredible event.
The GSRC, which she is also an intern for, heads Q-fest, meaning some of her duties overlap. Other than working on Q-fest operations, Erin plans events and hosts office hours at the GSRC. Their goal is to provide a safe and welcoming community, offer resources, and help all queer students feel supported.
Honors Living Learning Community
Erin is incredibly proud to be part of all her organizations but being a R.A. for the Honors Living Learning Community (LLC) has made a lasting impact on her life. The LLC is a source of joy and togetherness for all involved, and it is especially meaningful for her to be able to foster that kind of community.
“I found that especially helping younger first year students find their community in college has really allowed me to find my drive and motivation to continue doing a lot of things,” says Erin.
Not only does the LLC make it easier to meet other students from different disciplines, but Erin and her fellow R.A., Elijah Wolf, help connect their residents with UWEC and Honors resources.
Erin chose the LLC to receive the Prechel donation, and she is excited to be able to have input on its use. Whether it’s by creating more events, going on a field trip, or making group t-shirts, Erin and the LLC leaders hope to create a positive impact on everyone on Bridgman Hall’s second floor.
Continuing the Legacy
In the winter of 2022, Erin went to Belize for an immersion and research experience, where she realized her passion for biology. She returned the next summer as an intern, doing research on lionfish, coral, and trash pickup. Before this experience, Erin considered going into student affairs after undergrad so she could continue being a helping hand.
Graduating from UWEC will not be the end of Erin's leadership. Although she does not have concrete post-grad plans yet, she hopes to be able to fuse her interests in biology and helping others by doing conservation work or working in the Peace Corps.