University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Press Release

More than 2,100 to receive degrees at UWM graduation Dec. 15


By - Dec 5th, 2019 09:00 am

MILWAUKEE _ The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee will award more than 2,100 degrees at its 121st commencement on Sunday, Dec. 15, at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, 400 W. Kilbourn Ave.

The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. with Lei Zhang Schlitz, executive vice president of food equipment at Illinois Tool Works Inc., as the featured speaker.

The university will present 1,377 bachelor’s degrees, 591 master’s degrees, 120 doctoral degrees and 64 associate degrees. The oldest degree recipient is 75, while the youngest is 20.


There will be 8,900 seats available for guests in the UWM Panther Arena. Another 4,000 seats will be available for overflow in the adjacent Miller High Life Theatre, where the ceremony will be livestreamed.

Guests should plan to arrive early (doors open at 8 a.m.) because new Wisconsin Center District security screening procedures will likely slow the process. For the first time at commencement, guests will go through metal detectors and bags will be subject to search. Guests are not allowed to bring in such things as weapons, large banners, beverages, coolers, beach balls and other items listed on the Wisconsin Center District website. One exception: Families will be allowed to bring in recording devices to video their graduates’ big moment.

Guests can enter the UWM Panther Arena at the south entrance, along West Kilbourn Avenue. Graduates enter through the doors on the east end of the south entrance. Guests viewing the livestream will use the south entrance of the Miller High Life Theatre.


Lei Zhang Schlitz joined Illinois Tool Works in 2008 as vice president of research & development at the ITW Technology Center. She served as a group president within the Food Equipment segment, managing the global warewashing and refrigeration platforms. She was appointed executive vice president in September 2015. Prior to joining ITW, Schlitz spent seven years at Siemens Energy and Automation and four years at GE Global Research and GE Industrial Systems. She started her career at the Innovation Center for Eaton Corporation.

Schlitz currently serves on the Board of Directors for Archer Daniels Midland Company.

Schlitz graduated from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, with a bachelor’s degree in engineering mechanics and received a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.


The number of degrees awarded by each UWM schools and colleges is below. The numbers include bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, flex and associate degrees.

College of Letters and Science: 491
Lubar School of Business: 394
College of Engineering & Applied Science: 231
School of Education: 175
College of Nursing: 175
School of Information Studies: 159
College of Health Sciences: 150
Helen Bader School of Social Welfare: 148
Peck School of the Arts: 95
College of General Studies: 64
School of Architecture & Urban Planning: 46
School of Freshwater Sciences: 8
Zilber School of Public Health: 8
Global Studies Interdisciplinary: 6
Joint Programs L&S and CEAS: 2


Three students will be featured in videos during commencement and are available for interviews before or after the ceremony. All are willing to speak with media.

Joshua Starkey

Joshua Starkey has had so many internships, he loses count: “Roughly six,” he said. And they’ve been with some of the leading companies in southeastern Wisconsin, including Aurora Health Care, Foxconn and Northwestern Mutual, along with a few local startups. The internships have given the engineering graduate a chance to build his career skills and his professional network. Plus, he’s had the chance to see the world, with two trips to Taiwan. It’s all led to him accepting a job with Foxconn even before graduation.

Kimberly Stuart

After retiring from the military with full disability, Kimberly Stuart lost her sense of purpose. But her volunteer efforts with military nonprofits led her to UWM’s Nonprofit Management and Leadership program, and that made all the difference. “It not only changed my life, it literally saved my life,” she said. She’s now chairman and CEO of Veterans for Diversity, a group that provides services to improve the mental, physical and emotional health for LGBTQ+ veterans. It’s Wisconsin’s only organization focusing on LGBTQ+ veterans and service members.

Nisreen Atta

Nisreen Atta has been working up to 40 hours per week in the emergency department at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center while studying at UWM to become a nurse. Despite having no previous experience, she’s excelled at work and in school. And all the while, Atta has been heavily involved in the community. She helped organize an event that provided over 100,000 food packs and hundreds of clothing items for Syrian and Somali refugees. She’s been secretary of UWM’s Muslim Student Association, worked with the Boys & Girls Clubs’ Stein Scholars program and serves on the steering committee of a new organization, the Wisconsin Muslim Civic Alliance. She’s accepted a job as a nurse after graduation in the St. Luke’s emergency room.


Members of the media wishing to cover the commencement ceremonies should enter through the Panther Arena’s main doors and ask for assistance from an usher.

Mentioned in This Press Release

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