December 8, 2023

By the end of this week, another class of graduating Cardinals will have crossed the stage at UIW's Commencement Ceremony. Surrounded by family, friends, mentors and the UIW community, they will proudly accept the degrees they worked so hard to earn. This moment signifies both the end of a chapter, and the beginning of a new one. But before the University honors the Fall 2023 class at Commencement, graduating Cardinals were celebrated by various programs during a week's worth of graduation events.

Students who have dedicated their undergraduate years to establishing the start of their careers in medicine and health care were honored in the School of Physical Therapy (SoPT) Award Ceremony and Graduation Dinner and the Health Professions Graduation Celebration.

SoPT Student Affairs Coordinator Alexandria Dominguez helped organize the school's awards ceremony and dinner. She explained that this event was designed to honor and recognize students’ accomplishments within their program.


“My hope for this event was for our students and their loved ones to feel a sense of accomplishment,” shared Dominguez. “There are many sacrifices that students, as well as their loved ones, make to become physical therapists. From students having to move away from home to parents, siblings, or other loved ones being a constant source of support, there are many sacrifices that are made by all parties involved.”

Having all supporting parties present helped to make this event and accomplishment all the more memorable.

While Dominguez dedicated her time to planning the SoPT event, Dr. Heather Barton-Weston, assistant professor of Nursing, helped oversee the Health Professions Graduation Celebration. She wanted the event to provide an opportunity for students and faculty to acknowledge the commitment, sacrifices, and hard work that students exhibit to complete the high demands of the program.

“Faculty are the students’ biggest cheerleaders!” shared Barton-Weston. “We are by their side from start to finish, and we work diligently to ensure that all our students gain the knowledge and skills they need to be successful as they leave the Nest. It is what we all work toward, and so I can say without questions that the pride we feel in our hearts is worth all the work and struggles we experience together.”

UIW’s Honors students were also recognized at the Honors Program Senior Banquet. At the banquet, the honors hooding took place, a tradition in which students choose a faculty member to bestow them with a hood in the color associated with their degree that they will wear at commencement.

Honors Program Director Dr. Jakob Rinderknecht shared that this tradition is one of his favorites to witness at the celebration. “This is a very traditional academic moment, when a mentor dresses their mentee in the academic hood that represents their new degree. It’s always very important for students and mentors, and really sums up what’s so special about UIW and the Honors Program: the chance for real mentoring to take place.”

Meanwhile, UIW’s Military and Veterans Center hosted its Veterans Graduation Celebration to honor graduates who have also served in the armed forces. The center’s director, Bryon Perez, acknowledges that going back to school after serving in the military is often a daunting experience, and is glad that he and his office are there to help make it easier by guiding students through it.

To him, it is an honor to celebrate these graduating veterans. Although it is bittersweet to watch them embark on their next journey, Perez is proud to watch them achieve new goals and leaves them with a message: “Getting your diploma was the first step in finding a long and meaningful career after the military. Continue to build your network and know that you are always welcome back at the Nest.”

UIW’s Fall 2023 Commencement Ceremony will be held Saturday, Dec. 9 at 10 a.m.