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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


UW students, families gather at Camp Randall Stadium for 2024 spring commencement

Olympian delivers powerful message on resilience
Sami Bitat
Graduates experience the Spring 2024 Commencement. May 11, 2024.

University of Wisconsin students and family members gathered at Camp Randall Stadium Saturday for the 171st spring commencement ceremony. In total, 7,868 bachelor’s, master’s and law degrees were awarded, UW Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin said in her remarks.  

In addition to addressing the university’s history and its transformation into a prestigious state institution, Mnookin acknowledged the war in Gaza and its impact on students.

“For many in the campus community, there is pain and grief over the devastating destruction, injustice, and loss of life in Gaza and Israel,” Mnookin said. “Some of you have had to navigate this final year of your degree amid anguishing worry about friends and relatives there. Please know that you are not alone at this difficult — very difficult — time.” 


The commencement came after a 12-day-long encampment demonstration on Library Mall organized by UW students in protest of the war in Gaza. Protest organizers and UW administration reached an agreement Friday.

Former UW women’s hockey player and Olympic gold medalist Meghan Duggan delivered the keynote address, during which she encouraged graduates to meet failure head on and grow from it. 

Former NCAA Women’s Hockey champion Meghan Duggan gives keynote address at Spring 2024 Commencement. May 11, 2024. (Sami Bitat)

Duggan recounted her experience competing in the Olympics as captain of the USA Women’s National Hockey team, with whom she would win three gold medals over the course of her athletic career.

Duggan acknowledged her Olympic wins were preceded by losses — highlighting Team USA’s heartbreaking defeat during the finals against the Canadian national team during the 2014 winter olympics. 

“As captain of the team, I took the loss incredibly personally,” Duggan said. “I was already thinking, ‘Is this my last Olympics?’ ‘We failed, I failed, I have to live with it,’ ‘maybe eventually I will be happy that we even got this far.'”

Duggan said the loss haunted her for a long time, but she eventually realized she alone controlled her future. As such, she and her team committed to the ultimate objective of returning and securing the gold medal in the subsequent Winter Olympics, Duggan said.

In 2018, the team trained with the belief they should not expecting different results while staying the same. As a result, the team adopted new approaches, seeking any advantage possible, even if it meant just improving by 1%, Duggan said. 

During the 2018 Winter Olympics, Duggan and her team found themselves once again facing Canada during the finals. 

“This time, when I looked at my teammates’ faces, I had no doubt our past failures had put us on the road to finding out exactly what we needed to win,” Duggan said. “In a back-and-forth nerve-wracking game that needed 60 minutes of regulation, 20 minutes of overtime in a shootout, we came out on top as Olympic gold medalists.”

Duggan also encouraged students to stick up for themselves and what they believe in by recounting another anecdote where she and her teammates advocated for gender equality in sports.

In 2017, Duggan and her team threatened to skip the world championship unless their working conditions improved. This bold move paid off, with better pay and support for the women’s team. Their courage was recognized with the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award and the Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year honor, according to UW News.

Senior Class President Gracie Nelson also spoke at the event. Nelson said the most valuable aspects of her college experience were the relationships she built and the growth she experienced as a person, highlighting the importance of carrying the empathy, kindness and solidarity students learn at UW-Madison forward into the world. 

Senior Class President Gracie Nelson gives speech at Spring 2024 Commencement. May 11, 2024 (Sami Bitat)

“Let’s allow the bonds we formed at UW-Madison to serve as the foundation for building a more compassionate and Equitable world,” Nelson said. “It’s not our resumes or the titles we hold that define us, but the depth of our humanity and capacity to uplift others.”

Graduates Jump Around one last time at the Spring 2024 Commencement. May 11, 2024. (Sami Bitat)
Students stand when their respective degrees and schools are called out at the Spring 2024 Commencement. May 11, 2024. (Sami Bitat)
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