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Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement to Honor Spring Graduates

Nearly 280 UW-Madison graduates to be recognized for completing degrees


Nearly 280 graduating college seniors will celebrate the successful completion of their undergraduate careers at UW-Madison on Friday, May 13 at 5 p.m. in Union South’s Varsity Hall.

Hosted by the Office of the Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer, the third annual Graduation Recognition Ceremony will celebrate the Division of Diversity, Equity and Educational Achievement’s scholars in the CeO (Center for Educational Opportunity), Chancellor’s and Powers-Knapp Scholarship programs, First Wave Hip-Hop and Urban Arts Learning Community, Pathways, PEOPLE (Precollege Educational Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence) and Posse programs. A reception on the Union South Terrace will follow. The event can be viewed online via Livestream here.

Bringing this year’s charge to the graduates as keynote speaker will be Tania Ibarra, president of the Latino Professionals Association. Tania has 10 years of experience working in the accounting and finance industry. Her experience ranges from serving small-sized companies to large multinational corporations. She has experience in a variety of industries including hospitality, energy and utilities, manufacturing, financial services, and government. She has a multitude of skills across project management, auditing, accounting, financial analysis, risk management, client services, software implementation, and development.

In the Latino community, Tania has volunteered as the Treasurer at Centro Hispano and the Latino Chamber of Commerce, in addition to being a founding member and current president of the Latino Professionals Association. She also has been recognized as a 40 Under 40 Outstanding Professional. She is a founding member of Step Up Equity Matters, an initiative which was recently named as one of 35 on Madison Magazine’s M-List for social innovation.

This year, the Office of the Vice Provost & Chief Diversity Officer and Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement is honoring two exceptional UW-Madison alumni with the Outstanding Alumni of Color Award for their professional careers and personal contributions to the community as excellent examples of the Wisconsin Idea at work. Ray Allen (JBA ‘73) and Carlton Highsmith (BA Economics ’73) launched their undergraduate careers as roommates.

Ray Allen is a native of Milwaukee who moved to Madison in 1969 to attend college at the University of Wisconsin, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism & Mass Communication in 1973. Upon graduation, he went to work for the John Deere Company as a marketing and finance representative.

He joined state government in 1987. He has been the Executive Assistant to the Secretary of the Department of Employment Relations, where he supervised the Division of Affirmative Action, the State Employee Assistance Program, and the state’s Total Quality Management Training Program. He also served as the Director of the State Office of Employee Development and Training. Allen later became the Executive Director of the Technology for the Educational Achievement in Wisconsin Board. In 1996, he joined the Department of Financial Institutions, where he spent the following two decades in a variety of leadership roles, including Deputy Secretary and Secretary before his appointment as Secretary for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

Allen has served on many Madison area community boards and commissions, notably being elected to three terms on the Madison School Board, serving from 1995 to 2004, and was Chairperson of the Madison Area Technical College Board. He is the former publisher and owner of The Madison Times, a weekly newspaper. He is a partner and Vice President of Madtown Paradies, which operates retail stores in Dane County’s Regional Airport.

Carlton Highsmith earned a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1973. He holds Honorary Doctorate degrees from Quinnipiac University and Albertus Magnus College.

He was founder, chairman, president and chief executive officer of The Specialized Packaging Group, Inc (SPG) from 1983 until 2009, orchestrating three successful acquisitions and integrations during that period. SPG grew to become the largest minority owned, and 7th largest overall, manufacturer of paperboard packaging in North America before it merged with PaperWorks Industries in 2009. He also directed several key strategic initiatives that included the 2001 “greenfield” carton manufacturing expansion in Lenexa, Kansas and in 2000 he established a new package design and innovation center in Chicago.

As chairman of the Board, Connecticut Center for Arts & Technology, Highsmith has led the expansion into Connecticut of McArthur Genius Award winner Bill Strickland’s replication model for adult training and after school student arts programming. Known locally as the Connecticut Center for Arts & Technology (ConnCAT), the Center is located in Science Park at Yale in New Haven and has become Strickland’s fifth replication Center in the nation, joining San Francisco, Grand Rapids, Cincinnati and Cleveland. Serving on numerous national industry board of directors, Highsmith is the recipient of multiple federal and national business awards and University of Wisconsin honors.

“These two men have literally been able to take their dreams of possibility and realize success, provide opportunity for others and impact our society in the truest iteration of the Wisconsin Idea,” Sims said. “They have provided an example of what we hope all Badgers will strive to accomplish, including giving back to their community and alma mater. It is imperative that our students see and encounter role models in leadership and innovation, which is what Wisconsin Badgers are known for and the ultimate goal of earning a degree in higher education.”

Overall, more than 4,600 federally-defined minority students are working to earn undergraduate degrees from UW-Madison. In many of the Division’s programs, the majority of enrollees are the first in their families to earn a college degree.

“Having diversity and inclusion in higher education is clearly a necessity across the board,” said Ruby Paredes, Associate Vice Provost for Diversity and Climate, who has worked on campus diversity for more than 25 years and helped to create and launch several UW-Madison programs like PEOPLE. “What we hear, both statistically and anecdotally, shows that this is making a difference and changing lives in an essential and permanent way. It’s the right and an inspiring thing to do.”