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Dr. Jill Biden will deliver MATC commencement speech

Dr. Jill Biden, former U.S. second lady and community college professor, will be the keynote speaker at Milwaukee Area Technical College’s spring commencement to be held at 6:00 PM on Friday, May 12, at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. Approximately 1,400 students will graduate from MATC’s associate degree, technical diploma, apprentice and adult high school programs.

Currently an English professor at Northern Virginia Community College, Biden’s accomplishments as second lady included increasing national awareness of the importance of community and technical education. Along with former President Barack Obama, Dr. Biden led a campaign to ensure greater access to higher education by advocating for two years of free community college for students across the country. She continues to promote College Promise programs across the nation. 

With the launch of the Biden Foundation in February 2017, Dr. Biden and her husband will continue their commitment to strengthening the middle class, protecting women and children against violence, and supporting community colleges and military families.

MATC launched Wisconsin’s first Promise program. Beginning in fall 2016, the MATC Promise paid tuition and fees, after federal and state financial aid was applied, for eligible high school students enrolling at the college.

In 2012, Biden traveled across the country as part of the “Community College to Career” tour to highlight successful industry partnerships between community colleges and employers. She hosted the first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges with President Obama in 2010 and subsequent White House gatherings of community college officials. She frequently visited colleges, meeting with students, professors, and industry representatives on behalf of the Obama administration.

Biden teamed with former First Lady Michelle Obama in 2011 to launch the Joining Forces initiative, which inspired Americans to find new ways to support military families in their own communities. She also wrote a children’s book, Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops, based on her granddaughter’s perspective of a military family’s experience with deployment.

She earned her doctorate in education from the University of Delaware in 2007. Her dissertation focused on maximizing student retention in community colleges. Biden holds a master’s degree in reading education from West Chester University and a master’s in English from Villanova University. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Delaware.

Dr. Vicki J. Martin, MATC president, will officially confer the degrees at the commencement; and Kurt D. Wachholz, chairperson of the MATC District Board, will address the assembly.

Lydia Gonwa, who will graduate with an associate degree from the dietetic technician program, will present the student speech. Gonwa also will receive the Outstanding Associate Degree Graduate Award. Nicholas Bowersock, who will receive a welding technical diploma, will receive the Outstanding Technical Diploma Graduate Award. Bau Ya will receive the Outstanding Adult High School Graduate Award.

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