The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee holds its Spring Commencement

Pamela Harris

The University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee celebrated the success stories of more than 3,700 new graduates at its Spring Commencement, May 20, at the U.S. Cellular Arena. Commencement speakers included:

  • Will Allen, the son of a sharecropper, who became founder and CEO of Growing Power Inc. and a leading authority in the field of urban agriculture.
  • Jacquelyn Fredrick, president and CEO, BloodCenter of Wisconsin Inc. She is the first woman to hold that position in the organization’s more than 60-year-history.

Among the thousands of May UWM graduates are many individual stories of persistence and passion in pursuit of a dream career. Jasmine Ridgell, for example, wanted to be an investment advisor to help people achieve their dreams. She earned her B.B.A. in finance from UWM’s Lubar School of Business, and is starting a job at Robert W. Baird & Co.

Jasmine Ridgell

“Being able to help people with that aspect of their life is more meaningful than anything else I can think of doing,” says Ridgell. “Many of us have a vision for our future, and the future of our family. But money often can get in the way—the money that is needed as the initial investment to achieve those dreams.

“Once you attack the money aspect of goals, everything else tends to fall in place,” Ridgell adds. “The future may not be completely smooth sailing, but what needs to be accomplished will be much easier.”

Pamela Harris, who moved to Milwaukee with her family from Mexico in 1995, found her niche in mathematics. She received her doctorate in that subject at the May 20 commencement, and has won a very competitive postdoctoral appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Mathematics was not her original interest.

“I’m not a super brilliant math whiz. It didn’t come naturally,” says Harris, the first in her family to go to college. “But for me, if it’s hard and requires work to master, then it’s worth doing.”

Both students participated in programs that helped them succeed and plan their future.

Harris had completed two associates’ degrees at Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC), where instructors first got her interested in the field of mathematics.

After completing her bachelor’s degree at Marquette, Harris, who is married to a Marine and is the mother of a six-year-old daughter, enrolled at UWM’s Graduate School because she found financial support through the Academic Opportunity Center . She appreciated UWM’s diversity and the support of the mathematics faculty.

“The math department here is like a big, dorky family,” says Harris. “They make you feel included, and they actually care about your private life instead of looking at it as something getting in the way of your coursework.”

Ridgell participated in the Business Scholars Program in the Lubar School of Business while earning a degree in finance and completing the Investment Management Certificate Program. Business Scholars enroll in classes that are limited in size, and focus on in-depth discussion with faculty, critical thinking, written and oral presentations, “real world” application of business concepts and team projects.

“I admire Jasmine’s ambition and tenacity,” says Brian Hinshaw, one of her advisors. “After one of my first meetings with Jasmine, I wrote this in my file notes: ‘Wants Business Scholars, finance major, investment management certificate and study abroad. Told her that scheduling all this would be nearly impossible within a four-year time frame.’”

Hinshaw points out that despite some hardships, “Jasmine managed to get it all done, with drive and hard work – and good humor to boot.”