We are proud to see five of our Human Ecology students recognized across UW–Madison as campus “Notable Grads” for the Class of 2023. These graduating students—spanning Community & Leadership Nonprofit, Consumer Behavior & Marketplace Studies, and Personal Finance—are already changing the world.
Mary Papageorge, Consumer Behavior & Marketplace Studies
Mary Papageorge put a modern-day twist on a centuries-old dance form. It turned into a massive viral sensation. One TikTok video of Papageorge Irish dancing to hip-hop music has been viewed 35 million times. Celebrity fans include Jennifer Lopez, Jason Derulo, Missy Elliot and the Jonas Brothers. “What I really love about all this is how much attention Irish dance is getting,” she says. “It’s so fun to see Irish dance blow up.” She’s even been featured in a TikTok commercial. Papageorge, of Mequon, Wisconsin, has competed three times in the world championships, considered the “Olympics of Irish Dance.” At UW, she majored in consumer behavior and marketplace studies. Her post-graduation plans include working for Under Armour on the company’s consumer intelligence and social strategy teams. She’s already started the job — a position she got due to skills developed while cracking the TikTok algorithm. Watch her dance in front of the state Capitol.
Dawry Ruiz, Community & Nonprofit Leadership
Dawry Ruiz hopes to educate and empower diverse youth and underrepresented communities through art. His career and academic goals got a big boost last year when he was awarded a Truman Scholarship, a prestigious national honor that comes with $30,000 for graduate school. Ruiz is earning a bachelor’s degree in community and nonprofit leadership. The First Wave scholar intends to work in the nonprofit youth arts field. “To even imagine a future where I’d work in public service is unbelievable to my 14-year-old self,” he says. “I desire to be an example to youth who look like me, showing there is a pathway to being successful within the arts.”
Anna Linberg, Personal Finance
Anna Linberg’s final semester at UW–Madison included a trip to the Super Bowl, where she was recognized from the field during the pre-game festivities. It was all part of being one of 32 finalists for “NFL Fan of the Year” — one for each NFL team. Linberg, who was born and raised in San Diego but has deep Wisconsin roots, represented the Green Bay Packers. (The first thing she learned as a baby was to shoot both arms straight up in the air when she heard “Touchdown, Packers!”) Alas, she did not win the ultimate title — curses, Seattle Seahawks! — but she had a great time during the year, especially meeting other finalists at the Super Bowl. “Being able to build that community with like-minded individuals was such an honor,” says Linberg, who is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in personal finance.
Samantha Angelina and Akshay Kalra, Community & Nonprofit Leadership
Recently, the River Food Pantry in Madison faced a challenge: It needed an efficient, sustainable way to get food to people who couldn’t access the pantry during regular business hours or needed food in an after-hours emergency. Enter UW–Madison students Samantha Angelina and Akshay Kalra. They partnered with pantry staff to install 10 outdoor food lockers, with funding provided through a Wisconsin Idea Fellowship grant. “The system allows a user to independently fill out an online form and get access to a limited-time locker code, reducing the workload of the River staff, increasing the independence of the users, and creating an environment of support with dignity,” Kalra says. The result: less food insecurity in Madison. Both Kalra and Angelina are earning bachelor’s degrees in community and nonprofit leadership. Each also has a second major — Kalra in political science, Angelina in sociology.
Excerpts written by Doug Erickson, as part of University Communications’ full coverage on Commencement 2023.