MATC holds first in-person Commencement since 2019

Keynote speaker urges graduates to be great, know their value

Mark Feldmann,

December 17, 2021

MILWAUKEE – Milwaukee Area Technical College graduates should always know their worth, and should never, ever sell themselves short.

That was the succinct, spirited message from keynote speaker Denise Thomas to nearly 300 graduates at MATC’s Winter Commencement at Fiserv Forum on Dec. 17, 2021, the college’s first in-person Commencement since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

In all, more than 600 students were eligible to graduate from associate degree, technical diploma, apprentice and Adult High School programs.

Thomas owns and operates her own company, The Effective Communication Coach, that helps transform emerging and existing professionals into extraordinary leaders. She has nearly 20 years of experience working with numerous Fortune 500 companies, including PepsiCo, General Electric and MillerCoors. 

Thomas, who had two children before turning 21 while growing up in Evansville, Indiana, lauded MATC’s graduates for overcoming any and all obstacles to complete their education.  

“Maybe because of the color of your skin, your gender or the neighborhood where you grew up, you were told that you couldn’t be great,” Thomas said. “Yet here you are.”

Thomas urged graduates to own their identities, foster relationships with people who will support them, visualize their future possibilities and most of all, know their worth.

“You’re an MATC graduate. The price just went up,” said Thomas to delighted applause. “Demonstrate your bossness every day.”

MATC student Eryka S. Cunningham, who graduated with an associate degree in human services, presented the student speech. She also received the Outstanding Associate Degree Graduate Award. She served as president of MATC’s Black Student Union, on the Student Government Association and on the Student Voice Committee for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. 

Cunningham praised her fellow graduates’ patience and persistence during challenging times that included a global pandemic, strained racial relations and political upheaval.

“We have overcome all of these sad and devastating times,” Cunningham said. “Here you are and I can see the pride in your eyes, the hope in your heart and plans for future glory in your minds. This is how we know you are special.”

Cameron Settler, a graduate of the Baking & Pastry Arts program, earned the President’s Award. Jaime Fakler, who received a technical diploma in bricklaying, was named the Outstanding Technical Diploma Graduate. Tina Stone received the Outstanding Adult High School Graduate Award.

MATC President Vicki J. Martin conferred the degrees, while MATC board officers Lisa Olson, Erica L. Case, Citlali Mendieta-Ramos and Nikki Moews attended.

Wisconsin’s largest technical college and one of the most diverse two-year institutions in the Midwest, Milwaukee Area Technical College is a key driver of southeastern Wisconsin’s economy and has provided innovative education in the region since 1912. More than 25,000 students per year attend the college’s four campuses and community-based sites or learn online. MATC offers affordable and accessible education and training opportunities that empower and transform lives in the community. The college offers more than 170 academic programs; and transfer options leading to bachelor’s degrees with more than 40 four-year colleges and universities. Overwhelmingly, MATC graduates build careers and businesses in southeastern Wisconsin. The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.