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Always a Badger

Welcoming the newest generation of UW-Madison alumni

After four (or five … or more) years of hard work — and play — more than 4,000 Badger graduates will cross the commencement stage later this month and become part of a storied Wisconsin alumni tradition that dates back more than a century and a half.

But new UW traditions are still being created, and this group of alumni will be part of one of the newest — one that’s specially crafted to welcome them to alumnihood and help them to embrace their connections to the university.

Whether it’s clear at the time or not, commencement is a monumental moment in any graduate’s life: she literally climbs to the stage as a student, and exits as an alumna. To commemorate that achievement, this year’s grads will receive a specially designed “alumni” pin created by the Wisconsin Alumni Association, the design of which will be kept secret until commencement weekend.

The pin, available only to graduating seniors, is in some ways a symbol of the many ways in which WAA is helping new graduates to navigate what it means to be alumni and the varied ways they can stay in touch with the UW.

Starting in 2011, WAA gave graduating seniors the chance to purchase a professional photo of them saying cheese while sitting on Abe’s lap. This year, all proceeds benefit the Wisconsin Idea Scholarship.
Starting in 2011, WAA gave graduating seniors the chance to purchase a professional photo of them saying cheese while sitting on Abe’s lap, with proceeds going toward scholarship funds.

Recent grads face many life-changing decisions — a new career, buying a home, paying off student loans — along with learning to make new friends in social situations that aren’t orchestrated in a dorm or a study group. WAA’s mission is to connect alumni with each other and with their alma mater; that includes educating recent graduates about what it means to be alumni, and how to keep their Badger pride strong even after they trade backpacks for briefcases.

“It’s important for me to remain engaged with the university,” says Ari Oliver ’09, who moved to Boston in March. “It’s where I developed as a person, and the UW was instrumental in shaping me into who I am today.”

Nearly 400,000 UW-Madison alumni live and work around the world, and volunteers help to manage more than 100 Wisconsin Alumni Association chapters to help Badgers of all ages to connect with each other and their alma mater through game-watch parties, educational opportunities and community events. Twenty-five percent of recent UW grads stayed in Dane County after school; Chicago, Milwaukee, the Twin Cities and New York City claim the most Badgers after Madison respectively.

“The recent-grad events I attended in Madison helped me maintain a relationship with my fellow alumni,” Oliver says. “I like that the people who attend are in my age group and experiencing the same things.”

As they continue moving forward in this new world of alumnihood, recent grads can expect WAA to offer new ways to stay in touch online and on the go at and on social media; volunteers in chapters around the world are exploring new ways to engage young alumni in their new home towns; and WAA is working with current student leaders to ensure that more Badger bonds stay strong after the walk across the commencement stage.

“One of the ways I stay connected to the university and my fellow alumni is Badger sports, and I try to go to at least one football game a year,” Oliver says. “The University of Wisconsin-Madison will always be a strong presence in my life.”

Recent UW-Madison graduates do some pretty amazing things. To show our pride in these young alumni, the Wisconsin Alumni Association created an award called Forward under 40 in 2008 to recognize Badgers under the age of 40 who make a difference in their communities across the globe.

From lawmakers to filmmakers, entertainers, innovators and educators, these honorees live the Wisconsin Idea. Meet our current and past Forward under 40 award recipients.

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