Alumnus sees 'opportunities everywhere to get involved'
Distance Education Alumni Board member Chris Hanegraaf first came to the University of Wisconsin-Platteville as a transfer student his sophomore year of college to study computer science. “It’s hard to pick any one thing that stands out. I had a lot of great experiences at UW-Platteville,” said Hanegraaf, whose father is also an alumnus of the university. “I did always enjoy the Engineering Expo. I had an entry in the expo, and judged the expo for many years after graduation. It was always great to see other projects happening throughout campus, and a great way to get kids interested in the STEM fields.”
Hanegraaf returned to UW-Platteville in 2011 as an online student in the Master of Science in Project Management program. “I was at a transition point in my career at Esterline Avista [in Platteville, Wisconsin], where I was taking on more leadership responsibilities, but I wanted to learn more. I didn't want an MBA, though. I was more interested in learning about what it takes to lead successful projects and teams. So, after looking around at a few schools, it made sense to go back to UW-Platteville. The online program allowed to me to get my classes done while traveling for work, and the resources on campus were in town when I needed them.”
Hanegraaf is now the Director of Quality at Exosite, where he works to bring quality and security to the Internet of Things. The IoT is the connectedness of the devices that communicate with each other via the Internet. One example—smart homes, which use Wi-Fi to connect to and control thermostats, lights, door locks, refrigerators, and more.
“I've been able to work on a lot of interesting and fun projects with a lot of different companies,” he said. “I know that my education has been a big part of having the flexibility to get the jobs I want in the industries that I like.”
Below, Hanegraaf explains why he chose to stay connected as an alumnus and offers some suggestions for others who wish to get involved.
Q: What made you want to join the Alumni Board?
A: After I moved away from Platteville, I wanted a way to stay connected to the campus. Giving to the campus is one way, but for me it didn't seem like enough. Melissa Gavin—who is the best advisor on campus in my opinion—told me about the board, and I knew that this was what I was looking for, a way to give back and be involved.
Q: Do you have any specific duties as a member?
A: I don't hold a special role on the board at this time, but I do make it a point to make it to every meeting. I generally try to be the voice of fairness and continuing education. I've seen UW-Platteville as both an on-campus student and a distance education student, so I try to bring both perspectives to the table.
Q: Why is it important for you to stay involved and connected as an alumnus?
A: I believe getting a good education is so important for everyone, no matter your age or background. Continuous education is important in so many levels of business, government, and society in general. Giving back to UW-Platteville and other educational institutions might seem like a small thing but it helps a lot. Education budgets can't always keep up with demand, technology, and the changing workforce, so giving back or volunteering some of your time can help offset those challenges.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish as a board?
A: I really hope to expand the amount the board can help those students who need the extra push to go back to school. Through scholarships, outreach, and involvement, the board can help convince prospective students that continuing your education is worth it, and more accessible than ever.
Q: What would you say to encourage other students and alumni to get involved and stay connected to UW-Platteville?
A: It doesn't take more than an email or two to figure out how you can get involved. There are generally opportunities everywhere to get involved; all it takes is simply going to the UW-Platteville website or talking to your old professors or advisors to see where they could use some help. There is something for everyone.
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