This weekend, thousands of Badgers will earn their degrees at UW-Madison Commencement. In anticipation of the commencement proceedings, UW-Madison highlighted several graduates with unique accomplishments to share, and three of them will be receiving their degrees in History.
The first is Susan Kay Baker. Susan is a returning student earning her bachelor’s degree in history following a journey in higher education that began 50 years ago at UW–Stevens Point. She took some detours, got married, became a mother and grandmother, and retired in 2020 as a senior outpatient procedural coder at UW Hospital & Clinics. “I decided the time was right to complete my degree,” she says. Fun fact: Baker had wanted to appear on “Jeopardy” since she was a little girl. When the dream came true in 2016 at age 62, it was everything she’d hoped it would be — “thrilling, terrifying, panic-inducing, exhilarating,” she says. It also left her with an immense feeling of accomplishment. Viewers loved her reaction when she won. “That is what total shock looks like,” she says today.
The second student being recognized is Kyla Vaughan. Kyla made news when word got out that she’d set a goal for herself in calendar year 2021 of reading a book a day — and then surpassed it by reading a total of 392. “I guess I did it partly for the bragging rights, but also because I believe that reading about other people is the best way to gain empathy,” she says. Vaughan, a double-major in English and history from southwestern Wisconsin, attributes her accomplishment to being a naturally fast reader and making reading a priority. Read more about Vaughan’s Year of Reading Wildly.
The third student being recognized is Karma Palzom-Pasha. Karma was born in a refugee camp in Nepal. Her father was part of a group that became known as “The Lucky 1,000.” The U.S. opened 1,000 spots in 1990 to sponsor Tibetans in refugee camps in India and Nepal for permanent residency in this country. Palzom-Pasha’s father was among those selected through a lottery. Madison was a major sponsoring area for these refugees. After Palzom-Pasha’s father secured a job in Madison and earned enough money, he sponsored the rest of the family to come to the United States. Palzom-Pasha stood out in middle school and was selected to be part of UW–Madison’s Precollege Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence, known as PEOPLE. She came to UW–Madison, earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, and is now earning a PhD in U.S. History. With a deep commitment to public service, Palzom-Pasha will be returning to PEOPLE in a leadership role. She’ll work on expanding the program’s reach and building a bigger pipeline to prepare more first-generation students and students from groups historically underrepresented on this campus to come to UW–Madison and succeed here.
Read about all of the highlighted graduates at UW News.