Four inspiring students share their university experiences through Q&As 

Menomonie, Wis. – Among the class of 209 Graduate Studies students who crossed the commencement stage at University of Wisconsin-Stout on May 4, four were recognized by faculty and staff as inspiring graduates whose stories represent what it is to be Stout Proud. 


The graduates shared their university experiences, setbacks and successes in UW-Stout’s Inspiring Graduate Q&A series


  • Areeba Ali, M.S. food science and technology, Lahore, Pakistan, and Eau Claire
  • Brianna Capra, M.F.A. design, Menomonie
  • Killy Kitzmann, M.S. clinical mental health counseling, Eau Claire
  • Samim, M.S. marriage and family therapy, Kashmir, Pakistan

Three ceremonies celebrated 1,037 undergraduates and graduates at spring commencement. 


Inspiring Graduate: Areeba Ali, M.S. food science and technology


Ali’s personal journey to graduation “reflects the resilience, determination and spirit of perseverance that defines our graduating class,” she said.


After a break of seven years, Ali made the decision to return to academia, despite feeling doubt and uncertainty about her ability to succeed. She chose UW-Stout’s food and science technology master’s program and was attracted by its focus on applied learning to prepare students for successful careers upon graduation.


“The university's hands-on approach to education, combined with its commitment to innovation and industry partnerships, resonated with me as I sought to gain practical skills and real-world experience,” she said.


Ali won first place and the People’s Choice Award for “Development of Eco-friendly Milk Whey Protein Isolate Biodegradable Packaging” at the WiSys Quick Pitch State Final in 2023; and first prize at the Biohealth Communications Competition for graduate students at the Wisconsin Biohealth Summit. She also received an honorable mention as UW-Stout’s Outstanding Graduate Student Researcher for 2024.


Ali earned her master's in food and science technology. She plans to pursue a career in food product innovation or food packaging and earn her Ph.D. in a related field after gaining industrial experience.


“My experience at UW-Stout, where I found acceptance, support and guidance from both classmates and professors, has equipped me with firsthand knowledge of the transformative power of education and the importance of fostering a culture of inclusivity and belonging within our academic community,” she said.


Inspiring Graduate: Brianna Capra, M.F.A. design

Brianna Capra


When Capra began her master’s degree, she had been out of academia for more than 20 years, having earned her B.F.A. in sculpture from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 1999.


Her passion for making books and love of illustrating for children led her to UW-Stout’s master’s in fine arts in design program.


Her focus areas of study were illustration and bookmaking, and she has a Design for Sustainability Certificate. She was chosen as UW-Stout’s Outstanding Graduate Student Researcher for 2024.


Capra will continue making books and has many ideas she’s been waiting to bring to life. She plans to start a center for book arts in the Chippewa Valley, modeled after the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, and hopes to continue teaching drawing.


“It is wonderful to share what I know with the next generation of artists, plus I learn just as much from them as they learn from me,” she said. “Stout has also given me some teaching opportunities. These experiences were incredibly valuable as I intend to pursue future teaching positions.”


Inspiring Graduate: Killy Kitzmann, M.S. clinical mental health counseling


Killy Kitzmann

Veteran Kitzmann was an active-duty Navy Fleet Marine Force Corpsman, Petty Officer 3rd Class from 2013 to 2018. He served two tours to Iraq.


When he began his graduate program at UW-Stout, he made earning his degree his job.


Kitzmann earned his master's in clinical mental health counseling, with specializations in alcohol and other drugs counseling; and crisis and trauma counseling.


He will work in mental health counseling in the Twin Cities, with a focus on the substance abuse population.


“Stout helped me discover the kind of person that I want to be and to continue pushing myself to be better. I feel that leaving this program will be setting me up for success in every aspect of the profession,” he said.


Inspiring Graduate: Samim, M.S. marriage and family therapy


As an immigrant from Kashmir, Pakistan, and practicing the Islamic faith, Samim sought an environment that would not only accept but cherish his unique background.


He was attracted to UW-Stout because of its reputation for embracing diversity and inclusion.


“The university went beyond my expectations, welcoming me with open arms and providing me with an education that is nothing short of excellent. The plethora of opportunities I encountered have nurtured me, shaping my personal and professional growth in ways I had never anticipated,” he said.


Samim earned his master’s in marriage and family therapy. He received a Minority Fellowship from the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, a competitive national fellowship.


“Through experiential learning and real-world applications, I honed my craft, emerging as a seasoned artisan ready to forge new pathways and illuminate the darkness with the light of understanding,” he said. “These opportunities not only expanded my knowledge but also instilled in me a sense of responsibility to give back to my community and advocate for the importance of mental health awareness and support.”


UW-Stout is Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, with a focus on applied learning, collaboration with business and industry, and career outcomes. Learn more via the FOCUS2030 strategic plan.


Support local news with a membership!

WisCommunity Staff
Press release
News Section

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.