Inspiring Graduate Cecilia Knudsen, B.F.A. Graphic Design and Interactive Media

'I can see the level of my work improve, and I will continue to be motivated to achieve what seemingly can’t be done.'
May 30, 2023

Inspiring Graduate: Cecilia Knudsen (’23)

Cecilia Knudsen is a geriatric nursing assistant and volunteer for a rare-disease nonprofit. Her desire is to merge her passions of health care and design to form a unique career path and is seeking a job in health care user experience design.

With her goal in mind, Knudsen transferred her associate arts degree credits from Anoka-Ramsey Community College to UW-Stout and earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design and interactive media. She pushed through personal struggles and graduated on May 6, one of 1,173 graduates.

Cecilia Knudsen, 1
Inspiring Graduate Cecilia Knudsen with Chancellor Katherine Frank at commencement / UW-Stout

“I want to make the quality of life better for users of products and systems. I can’t help but be nervous and excited for the future, knowing it holds challenges and greatness,” she said.

“My years at Stout were no doubt exactly where I was meant to be and helped me develop into a lifelong student,” Knudsen said. “I am continuing to grow into a well-rounded and open-minded individual ready to continue to make an impact on the lives of others wherever I go.”

How has UW-Stout prepared you to work in your field?

I was taught a variety of industry-specific and general professional skills that equipped me with confidence going into my internship and as I emerge into the workforce. Regardless of what specialization I end up in during my career, I have the tools to be adaptable and am capable of developing the required expertise. At Stout, I learned how profitable perseverance is paired with the humility to be taught. It will take you everywhere you are determined to go.

How have your UW-Stout education and experience changed you?

Stout has helped me to question why I do what I do. The skills I’ve developed are not just to my benefit professionally and financially but more importantly will benefit those I serve through my career.

Uniquely, the competitiveness of our programs did not manifest into competition between peers, but rather in competition with yourself. What you bring to the table, including your past experiences, personality traits, weaknesses and passions can be wielded to your advantage through individuality.

Nobody else is you, so your power is found in the unique purpose you are to fulfill here on Earth.

What stands out about your UW-Stout experience?

The standard that professors have for their students and their willingness to help them accomplish these goals gives UW-Stout a mark of both greatness and humanness.

Students and faculty are proud of Stout. Peers and professors collaborate to help everyone attain success. This is a large motivating factor to give everything you’ve got and receive everything you can out of your experience here. Helping others achieve academic excellence is the defining factor of your own skills and heart.

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Cecilia Knudsen / UW-Stout

How did you overcome the challenges you faced in earning your degree?

The pandemic affected every aspect of my life – mentally, physically, spiritually and academically. There was a new normal in my stage of life and in the state of our world. I understood and respected why the precautions of distancing, wearing masks, vaccines and weekly testing were necessary, but the results of isolation and frustration with the ambiguity of its end point were discouraging. With all of my classes going online in the spring semester of my freshman year, I moved back home and attended classes remotely for my second semester. This outcome further isolated me from my peers and professors but provided a larger space than a dorm room to work in and reunited me with my support system at home.

This experience provided me with the determination to return to Stout the following year and to adapt to unforeseen alterations in what I had planned for my academic trajectory and beyond.

Transferring in credits from my associate degree was financially ideal. And having a compressed course load of only major-specific classes immersed me into the design atmosphere, but it also required an accelerated acclimation. The demand at times was overwhelming. But my degree was not earned by passivity. My talents and ambitions were tried and formed through pressured conditions.

I can see the level of my work improve, and I will continue to be motivated to achieve what seemingly can’t be done.

Since freshman year of high school and continuing through my college years, I’ve developed constant headaches and migraines that have impacted my everyday life, especially my education. Many times, I’ve been forced to rest and recover when all I can think about is the work left to be done. I have learned to recognize and nurture my capabilities and prove that this limitation can touch but can’t determine my success. My pain has given me a window into understanding the limitations and hidden struggles of others. Though I’m continuing to fight the battle against them, headaches and migraines have not and will not be victorious.

How did your involvement impact your experience?

I trained on the Blue Devils Dance team. This provided me with an outlet and an immediate group of friends. But trying to develop a team atmosphere in the alternative learning period during the pandemic proved to be a hindrance in dance technique and relationships. Ultimately, facing reoccurring injuries and the commitment level during my second year at Stout, led me to quitting the team and forced me to evaluate what defined me as an individual. I could still have a love of dance but chose to prioritize my health in many aspects of my life that were suffering.

I’ve generously been awarded several scholarships. This reaffirmed in me the type of student and individual I sought to be and provided me with financial stability to complete my degree. The scholarships I received included the Inspiring Innovation and Promising Student Scholarship; Melvin LeRoy Anderson Scholarship; and Edward L. and Dorothy D. Decker Endowed Scholarship.

Last but not least, my Christian faith has grown immensely during the trying circumstances during this stage of life, through the support of campus ministries, classmates and starting my own small group. Investing in the spiritual and academic journeys of my peers has been the most rewarding experience. As our small group has grown, I can envision the future of this community continuing to welcome in anyone who is looking for a safe space to explore faith.

I hope to leave the legacy behind of hospitality and humility to grace others because of their intrinsic worth.

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