UW-Madison: ‘Top 15 of 2015’ highlights noteworthy graduates

CONTACT: Meredith McGlone, [email protected], (608) 263-7523

MADISON – This weekend, more than 10,000 students with receive a bachelor’s, master’s, professional or doctoral degree during UW-Madison’s commencement exercises. Every student’s journey is unique, but some of this year’s graduates have demonstrated extraordinary perseverance in obtaining a degree. Many have already jumpstarted their careers as entrepreneurs or cutting-edge researchers, and others are making a difference in their communities through outreach projects and public service.

Below are a handful of their stories:

Biochemistry major Emily Baumann and wildlife ecology and environmental studies major Katelyn Budke have spent their senior year growing UW Boxable, a Styrofoam recycling program. The project has been awarded $105,000 in grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Baumann and Budke recently helped launch similar programs at two other universities. Read more at http://go.wisc.edu/g9yls1

Nicole Bowman-Farrell balanced her doctoral studies in educational leadership and policy analysis with her full-time consulting business in Shawano – a challenge that has only strengthened her commitment to education as a tool for social justice. As a member of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians, she plans to use her degree to empower Native American communities. Read more at http://go.wisc.edu/2y3sae

Alan Chen, a biology major in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, moved to Minocqua, Wisconsin, from China with his family when he was in second grade. He aspires to help others by becoming a doctor, and his academic excellence, volunteerism and research earned him a prestigious scholarship from the Bascom Hill Society. Watch at http://go.wisc.edu/55y9h4

This year, political science and economics major Neil Damron and biochemistry major Rachel Dvorak made the final round of consideration for two of the top awards in education. Damron was a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship, and Dvorak was a finalist for the Marshall Scholarship. Read more at http://news.wisc.edu/23323

Earning a master’s degree from the Department of Kinesiology’s Occupational Therapy program has been a deeply personal journey for Ted Elias. He’s the primary caretaker for his 9-year-old daughter and his wife, Tabea, who suffered a traumatic brain injury nearly a decade ago. He plans to use his degree to help his wife and others struggling to overcome injuries. Watch at http://go.wisc.edu/127l3b

From her farmette in southeastern Wisconsin, Kelly Flowers logged more than 120,000 miles on the road to her doctorate in veterinary medicine. A mother of five, Flowers credits supportive faculty and classmates in helping her succeed, and she aspires to start her own specialty practice. Read more at http://vetmed.wisc.edu/drive-to-a-dream/

Rehabilitation psychology and special education major Jenna Freeman created a photography blog based on the popular site Humans of New York to document life in Madison. The Humans of Madison project has garnered thousands of social media followers. Read more at https://www.facebook.com/humansofuwmadison

Kelly Hiser, who completed a doctorate in historical musicology, is helping libraries more efficiently collect, license and share music with communities. Her startup, Rabble, grew out of a project that Hiser worked on while serving as a public humanities fellow with the Madison Public Library. Dubbed the Yahara Music Project, it’s a digital platform that features the works of independent, local musicians. Read more at http://news.wisc.edu/23756

Computer science major Saul Laufer discovered a legal hack that enables smartphones to work with multiple phone numbers. The idea led to an iPhone app that received a $50,000 grant from the university’s Discovery to Product (D2P) office. Laufer plans to market the app to businesses that issue phones to employees who want to keep their professional and personal calls separate. Read more at http://news.wisc.edu/23256

Some gardens are created to cultivate or showcase particular kinds of plants, others to grow food. But landscape architecture senior Lily Mank is most interested in gardens that are designed to aid healing. For her senior capstone, she developed a tranquil space for patients with eating disorders, depression, OCD and anxiety. Read more at http://go.wisc.edu/s5p1s2

Mechanical engineering student Eric Ronning is part of a team that won multiple awards this year for inventing the Remex Static Mixer, a mixer that uses a unique design to combine chemicals or live cells in a reactor without any moving parts. Situated in a pipe or cylinder, the mixer gently blends fluids, using up to 33 percent less energy compared to other mixers on the market. Read more at http://go.wisc.edu/z0qtcm

While interning at a hospital in Kianjokoma, Kenya, biology major Kayla Sippl found it odd that patient bathrooms had no soap. Sippl saw a public health crisis – and a solution. Through a fellowship from the Morgridge Center for Public Service, Sippl now runs soap-making workshops for women in several Kenyan communities. She was recently invited to discuss the project at the Clinton Global Initiative University. Read more at http://go.wisc.edu/qou81c

Maya Warren recently won $1 million, shared with fellow food science Ph.D. student Amy DeJong, on the CBS reality show “The Amazing Race.” After completing her dissertation on fat agglomeration, she intends to homogenize her TV experience with her knowledge of ice cream, outgoing nature and self-confidence to develop a new show about frozen desserts from around the world. Read more at http://news.wisc.edu/23585