Around 3,320 undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees were awarded to students at the 2018 University of Wisconsin Winter Commencement Sunday at the Kohl Center.

The ceremony’s keynote speaker, Allan “Bud” Selig, a former Major League Baseball commissioner, has also co-taught a baseball history course for the past seven semesters at UW.

Selig addressed what he perceived as divisiveness in American society, and encouraged graduates to use their education to overcome challenges and make the world a better place.

“Take advantage of these interesting times — because if you have the key words hope and faith, if you are smart, persistent and aggressive, and if you have the courage and vision, and you are dedicated and willing to sacrifice, and you are unafraid to form opinions and express acts on these opinions, you can make a difference,” Selig said.

On a more individual scale, Selig said everyone will face personal challenges in their lives, and that it will be up to each person to face those challenges with intelligence.

“You will be faced with decisions. Some mundane, some critical, it will result in actions that will set your course for the future,” Selig said.

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Student speaker Jamie Dawson told her fellow graduates of her family’s struggles in her early life, when she and her mother spent time living with family. Like Selig, she never thought she would be where she is today. 

Dawson, a First Wave scholar, earned a Bachelor of Arts in Afro-American studies and psychology. 

“It took me some time to understand that there were limitless possibilities,” Dawson said.

Dawson emphasized that while the path of knowledge is important, the path to truth should underlie everything one does. Students, Dawson said, should remain lifelong learners.

While at UW, Dawson studied abroad and interned in New York, Brazil, the Netherlands and Denmark. Through these opportunities, she learned that it is important to give back.

“It’s time for us to recognize that, we too, can give back; to support others as those [who] have supported us,” Dawson said.

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UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank congratulated the students on their accomplishments and pointed out that the group of winter graduates is an interesting one because its composed of those graduating both before and after the traditional four years allotted for an undergraduate education.

Blank encouraged the students to look around at those with whom they graduated and notice the variety of people, who came from different states and different countries.

“Our students from China will never understand why Americans put cream cheese in sushi and some of our students from the east and west coasts will never understand the appeal of a deep fried cheese curd on a cold Wisconsin night,” Blank said.

But, as the ceremony showed, all those in attendance were united as Badgers.