Graduation Celebration

May 17, 2024

More than 500 Ҵý graduates received their degrees during three commencement ceremonies on May 10. Both the Grand Island Campus and Hastings Campus graduations were held at the Heartland Events Center while the Columbus Campus commencement was held at the Raider Fieldhouse.

Keynote addresses at all three campuses were delivered by Ҵý’s Outstanding Alumni Award recipients: Brett Olson, Columbus; Quinn Webb, Grand Island; and Dillon Kuehn, Hastings. A recap of each ceremony follows.

Columbus

Brett OlsonThe 100 or so graduates in the Raider Fieldhouse heard Olson encourage them to find their passion. He said his two-year course of study at the Columbus Campus provided the perfect opportunity for him to explore his interests and find his passion.

“Attending class was more than just filling an academic requirement,” said Olson, who at first was unsure if he would pursue engineering or information technology (IT). “It was an experience filled with camaraderie, support and inspiration.”

After graduating, Olson stayed at Ҵý-Columbus and worked as an IT technician. Later, he found an opportunity in the utility industry, which helped lead him to his current role as director of information and operations technology at Cornhusker Public Power. Along the way, Olson said while learning the intricacies of the power grid system, he embraced each opportunity to expand his skills.

“It wasn’t just about mastering a job,” Olson said. “It was about embracing a passion for understanding and improving the systems that surround us.”

Olson concluded his address by saying that passion is more than having a vision. It’s about discovering what ignites your soul.

“Passion is not an input, it’s an output,” said Olson. “It’s how we feel when we are involved in something that is deeply personal to us. All I ask is that you find your passion."

Grand Island

Quinn WebbWebb told some 216 Grand Island Campus graduates how he set out to pursue his dreams at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Chemistry was his major, criminal justice was his minor and he hoped to work in forensics. However, Webb said he made a key discovery early on.

“I quickly learned that criminal justice was much more fun than chemistry and I quickly changed my major,” said Webb. “Life had other plans and I soon found myself faced with unforeseen life changes that required me to reassess my path and I decided to start my career prior to graduating.”

Webb left UNL and enrolled at Ҵý-Grand Island. He also began working at the Hall County Sheriff’s office where he said he gained invaluable real-world experience as a law enforcement officer.

“From patrolling the streets to investigating crimes, I witnessed firsthand the impact that effective law enforcement can have on the lives of individuals and communities,” Webb said.

Following 20 years in law enforcement, Webb went to work for the Hall County Department of Corrections, where he remains today as assistant director. In this role, he assists Ҵý criminal justice students in exploring and pursuing their passion.

“I urge you to embrace this moment as a celebration of your collective achievements and a launching pad for the limitless possibilities that lie ahead,” Webb said. “Let us never forget the transformative power of education to shape our futures and change the world.”

Hastings

Dillon KuehnHard work was the theme of Kuehn’s address to the nearly 200 Ҵý-Hastings graduates. He began is speech by quoting a former boss and mentor.

“History is decided by those who show up and put in the work,” said Kuehn.

Born in Grand Island, Kuehn graduated from the Hastings Campus in 2012 with a degree in agriculture sciences. Since that time, he was worked as a heavy machine operator, farm and ranch hand, agronomy salesman, livestock consultant, insurance representative, political campaigner and a congressional legislative assistant. Kuehn currently works as a legislative director for Water Strategies, LLC, a Washington, DC-based firm that specializes in water, power and agricultural issues.

“No matter the new experience or the issue I was confronted with, old-fashioned hard work was the underpinning along my route which enabled my next steps,” Kuehn said.

However, Kuehn said that hard work is not just a means to an end, but also a foundation to build the qualities necessary for higher achievement. He identified the qualities as resilience, determination and commitment.

“In an era that often celebrates instant gratification and overnight success, it can be easy to lose sight of the value of hard work,” said Kuehn. “It is often approached as a burden. However, I believe that it is in this effort, service and striving of work that we discover our meaning and purpose.”