“I dream of a world without disparities”: new graduates share their visions of the future

The past two school years have been anything but normal. A global pandemic has upended schools, shifting learning from the classroom to students’ homes. Throughout this time, the country has grappled with deep-rooted racism, climate change, debates over abortion access, gun control and trans student rights – leading to student activism generalized. Politics has seeped into schools and school boards at a pace not seen in decades, yet students’ hopes for the future are stronger than ever.

As the school year draws to a close, Wisconsin Public Radio celebrates graduation season — and the future — by featuring stories from recent grads from across the state in their own words.

“I hope to pave the way for the youngest”

Mengcha Moua, 22, New Richmond

Mengcha Moua isn’t interested in taking the easy route after earning his English degree from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. For him, that means pursuing a master’s degree in film studies at the University of Washington in Seattle, which could lead to a career as a college professor.

Listen to Mengcha Moua here.

My name is Mengcha Moua and today I graduated from UW-Eau Claire.

It’s very nice to come out of it and have that accomplishment and be able to walk on stage and be with all my other peers, as well as be mask-free and be able to see everyone’s happy faces.

After college, I will go to the University of Washington in Seattle to pursue a master’s degree in film studies.

For me, the future looks like pursuing what you are passionate about. I think we kind of live in a world where people are going to take the easy route instead of pursuing what they really want to pursue. Pursuing my graduate degree and film studies, I hope to pave the way for younger people to also pursue their passions and the things that make them happy.

“I dream of a world without disparities”

Giselle Monette, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe, recently earned a bachelor’s degree in community and environmental sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. During her studies, she helped lead groups of Aboriginal students such as wunksheek and Alpha Pi Omegaand played a role in bringing the university to remove the Rocher de Chamberlin. His dreams for the future are even bigger.

Listen to Giselle Monette here.

My name is Giselle Monette. I am a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe. I’m 23 and a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In the short term, my goal is to hang out. College was really hard. Wisconsin is a tough school. So, I really want to read good books and do monotonous things for a while until I challenge myself.

I’m really interested in health and creating ways to bring healthy food systems into Indigenous communities.

I really hope for a world where all my brown and black relatives, in particular, can achieve the levels of health, wealth and well-being that they desire.

I dream of a world without disparity, where people can exist as themselves in any way they want without judgment or hatred or unfair regulation of their being, their body and their existence.

“I can have an impact on society by activating new technologies”

William Kunkel, 24, Jim Falls

Struggling with dyslexia in elementary and high school, Jim Falls’ William Kunkel felt like college wasn’t for him. But he went on and learned that it was easy to apply engineering concepts to practical problems. The 24-year-old is now excited to start a PhD at Wisconsin’s flagship university, UW-Madison, and use his skills to make an impact on society.

Listen to William Kunkle here.

My name is William Kunkel. I graduated from UW-Stout with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Then I will pursue a Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

I had a lot of difficulty with school at the beginning of elementary school and middle school. I’m dyslexic, so I finally decided that school wasn’t for me. When you enter higher education – especially to pursue a Ph.D. and even at the undergraduate level, it’s all about application. And I never had trouble understanding the concepts. That’s just the memorization part.

My vision is really to work on what I like to think of as the problems of tomorrow. The technology our company can develop depends largely on the materials we have and the manufacturing processes we have. So what I’m going to be working on is basically improving the 3D printing of metals. This is how I feel I can have an impact on society by activating new technologies.

“Don’t be afraid to try new things”

Priyank Patel, Osséo

Priyank Patel, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, is wasting no time after stepping onto the stage with a degree in corporate finance. Patel received a job offer to work as a financial analyst for Kohler Co. in Sheboygan before the start.

Listen to Priyank Patel here.

My name is Priyank. I graduated today with a bachelor’s degree in corporate finance. I will start working at Kohler Co. in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and start as a financial analyst, which I look forward to.

Today was a great achievement. But it is only a step in the direction of the future that awaits me.

I hope I can leave a good legacy behind when I retire at age 60 and make an impact in people’s lives.

Don’t be afraid to try new things. Don’t be afraid to take a big step. As Steve Jobs said, “Stay hungry. Strive for greatness.”

Christy J. Olson