They may not get to walk to cheers and thunderous applause at the Kohl Center, but the achievements of the 120 Wisconsin School of Business students graduating this weekend are no less momentous. In many ways, they are more so.
“This has been a difficult year for all of us and our December graduates have been particularly disrupted,” says Jim Franzone, assistant dean of the undergraduate program. “They’ve spent their final two semesters in front of laptop screens instead of the Terrace, Camp Randall, and with their friends.”
Since the global COVID-19 crisis hit in March, WSB students have had to adjust to virtual learning, physical distancing, and staying vigilant about protecting themselves and others as the pandemic reshaped what their daily college life would look like.
Business Badgers studying abroad last spring were among the first impacted by the pandemic, Franzone says.
“Some of those students are represented in this graduating class and we want to commend them for their particular resilience in the face of uncertainty and disappointment. They were asked to navigate an abrupt departure from abroad, manage the stress of traveling home as an epidemic spread rapidly, and exercise patience as we worked with partners abroad to verify if earning course credits would still be possible.”
Persevering in the pandemic
For many students approaching the end of their degrees, the pandemic threw curveballs at their career and job search plans.
Even in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, Jenny Kilps (BBA ’20) had a successful virtual internship over the summer as a human resources intern at Kohl’s corporate headquarters. Although Kilps’ manager had requested she be hired to a permanent position, by late September, Kilps was told they could not extend an offer due to the pandemic’s impact on the company.
With no job offer and graduation approaching, Kilps “started applying like crazy,” participating in campus-sponsored career fairs and meeting with WSB career coach Caitlin Quillen to help boost her chances.
“In the past, I had always felt confident in my interview skills and being able to connect with interviewers,” Kilps relays, “but virtual recruitment put a new barrier to trying to show my personality. I tried to get as many interviews as possible, and I started getting more confident in my virtual interviewing skills.”
Her hard work paid off when an American Family Insurance recruiter contacted her about the company’s rotational development program that included a technical track Kilps was interested in. The first phone screening led to an interview, which went extremely well thanks to her newfound recruiting confidence.
“I was supposed to find out within four days if I got the position,” Kilps says, “but the day after the interview, I woke up to a call from the recruiter saying they didn’t even have to contemplate hiring me. All of my interviewers were in agreement that they wanted to offer me the position and not make me wait to hear.”
Kilps accepted the offer and says she’s thrilled to be joining the American Family Insurance team after graduation.
“Being a Business Badger taught me that even when the world seems against you, never lower your goals,” Kilps says. “You might have to work a little bit harder and wait a little longer, but you will always get there eventually.”
Virtual commencement celebrations
WSB will hold a virtual commencement celebration on Friday, December 11, at 5 p.m. Central Time. Speakers will include Vallabh Sambamurthy, Albert O. Nicholas Dean, and Brian Mayhew, associate dean of the undergraduate program, with a welcome by Franzone. The program will include a reading of all WSB graduates’ names.
The University of Wisconsin–Madison’s commencement ceremony will be held on Sunday, December 13, at 11 a.m. Central Time.
December’s graduates now join a robust WSB alumni network of nearly 45,000 Business Badgers worldwide.
“Dealing with unexpected challenges is always a skill we hope our Business Badgers learn and these past two semesters have provided opportunity to practice that skill in abundance,” Franzone says. “While we know the path to their graduation changed, the bright future ahead of our December graduates hasn’t.”