Notable spring 2020 graduates from UW–Madison CALS

On May 9, a new group of University of Wisconsin–Madison students will officially graduate and join the Badger alumni community. Following the state’s Safer At Home guidelines, UW–Madison will recognize this group—including graduates of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences—during a commencement ceremony video that will be posted online that day at noon. Some university departments are also coordinating their own virtual celebrations and recognitions. As is the case with so many other aspects of our lives these days, pomp and circumstance is being redefined this spring.

“Despite the unfamiliar situation we all find ourselves in these days, I cannot imagine a better time to be an agricultural or life scientist,” says CALS Dean Kate VandenBosch. “Today’s pandemic illustrates the tremendous value of the skills our graduates have learned to secure our food system, improve public health, discover biological mechanisms and to forward public policy and public service that benefit our communities.”

While the celebration of student accomplishment may look and feel different this semester, their achievements are undiminished. Below are brief snapshots of a few of our CALS students who will be graduating this spring.

Allison Breunig explains the composition of cow feed to Wisconsin Idea Seminar tour group members during the group’s visit to Mystic Valley Dairy in May 2018. Photo by Catherine Reiland/UW–Madison.

Allison Breunig
Life Sciences Communication major, with Entrepreneurship certificate
During college, Breunig was actively involved with the Badger Dairy Club; Association of Women in Agriculture; National Agri-Marketing Association; Collegiate Farm Bureau; and the Intercollegiate Dairy Judging Team. She was also selected to be a Renk Agribusiness Institute Scholar. She helped host UW–Madison’s 2018 Wisconsin Idea Seminar tour group at Mystic Valley Dairy, her family’s farm. Breunig plans to work in agriculture communications in some way. “I’m really interested in food marketing and how farmers can have a more personal relationship with consumers to create a platform for telling their story,” she says. Learn more about Breunig here.

Kevin Crosby addresses the crowd as the student spotlight speaker at the UW Board of Regents meeting in February 2020. Photo by Bryce Richter /UW–Madison.

Kevin Crosby
Nutritional Sciences major, Environmental Studies certificate
While a UW–Madison student, Crosby interned three summers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (part of the National Institutes of Health) and two years at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison. Crosby served as a peer mentor for campus’ Physics Learning Center and the Department of Biochemistry, and as an undergraduate teaching assistant in the Department of Nutritional Sciences. Outside the classroom, Crosby volunteered as a cultural coalition chair for a consortium of three residence halls, working with a team to create a more culturally inclusive campus. Through the Badger Volunteers Program, he has assisted with the operation of The River food pantry in Madison and an afterschool program at a local elementary school. Crosby attended UW–Madison on a full-tuition scholarship through the Posse Foundation, which identifies students with extraordinary leadership potential and partners with top universities to diversify their applicant pools. He was a Rhodes Scholarship finalist. Learn more about Crosby here.

Hannah Fenelon holds a disc of resin containing ticks at various life stages in campus’ Russell Laboratories building in December 2019. Photo by Michael P. King/UW–Madison CALS.

Hannah Fenelon
Entomology and Spanish double major, with Global Health certificate
Fenelon pursued undergraduate research, taking a position in the lab of Susan Paskewitz in the Department of Entomology. To help address the public’s general lack of knowledge about ticks and how to identify them, Fenelon worked on perfecting a method for suspending ticks in hard resin blocks that could serve as teaching aids and allow the public to “safely hold ticks in the palms of their hands and get a better idea of what they look like.” The big-picture goal is to help reduce the spread of Lyme disease. To that end, Fenelon shared her resin blocks with kids at a summer camp. She says the entire process has helped her develop skills for working with the public, which will prove indispensable as she pursues a career in global public health and medical entomology. Learn more about Fenelon here.

Grace Padgett prepares samples for an experiment in the Ntambi Lab at UW–Madison in November 2019. Photo by Michael P. King/UW–Madison CALS.

Grace Padgett
Biology major, with Global Health certificate
During her sophomore year, Padgett joined the lab of James Ntambi in the Department of Biochemistry, diving into a project to explore the cellular and molecular mechanisms behind obesity. Over the course of three years, she gained invaluable research experience that will help her as she moves on to a career in medicine and public health. “Doing this kind of independent research really helped me apply what I was learning in my classes,” says Padgett. “It’s helped me learn about the many approaches to an issue, be that clinical, through a global or public health perspective, or in laboratory research.” Learn more about Padgett here.

Monica Starck at her home in spring 2020. Photo courtesy of Starck.

Monica Starck
Nutritional Sciences and Life Sciences Communication double major
Starck served as co-leader of the UW–Madison’s Food Recovery and Pre-package Program, a campus “gleaning” effort that launched this past year that was designed to reduce both food waste and food insecurity. The operation involves gathering food that was cooked, but not served, at campus dining halls and markets and then dividing the food up into healthy, frozen, microwaveable meals. The meals are made available to food insecure students. When it was up and running, the program delivered an average of 250 meals a week. After graduation, Starck will be heading to a dietetics internship at Illinois State University, one of the 18 students that helped the Department of Nutritional Sciences achieve a 100% dietetics internship placement rate this year. Starck will be graduating alongside Brianna DeNamur (Nutritional Sciences major, with Global Health certificate), her fellow co-leader of the Food Recovery and Pre-package Program. Learn more about the program here.

Help celebrate the class of 2020 by posting messages of congratulations on social media using #uwgradcals.