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UW Winter Commencement Ceremony Dec. 16

December 8, 2017
man in wheelchair gives thumbs up
Mechanical engineering student speaker James Francis will be the student speaker for winter 2017 graduation.

The University of Wyoming is scheduled to accord degrees on 714 students during a combined winter commencement ceremony Saturday, Dec. 16, at 10 a.m. in the UW Arena-Auditorium.

This is the first single, university-wide commencement ceremony in many years, and it will feature a new tradition of a student serving as one of two featured speakers at the event.

Graduating mechanical engineering senior James Francis, of Gillette, will share the podium with former Wyoming Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kite, who will give the commencement address.

Kite was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2000, the first woman to hold the position. She served as chief justice from 2010-14 and retired from the court in 2015. She received both her undergraduate and law degrees from UW, and her career included service in the state attorney general’s office and private legal practice.

Francis was chosen by a student speaker selection committee following a nomination process that considered students’ record of academic excellence; ability to write and speak effectively to a large audience; demonstrated leadership in student organizations, student activities, public service or other activities; and representation of the best qualities of UW graduates.

During his time at UW, Francis has served as president of the UW chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. A member of Mortar Board, he also chaired the UW engineering fund for enrichment and was a finalist in both the John P. Ellbogen $30K Entrepreneurship Competition and Fisher Innovation Challenge. He has worked as an intern at Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Laramie River Station power plant; at Solvay Chemicals’ Green River soda ash plant; and at Peabody Energy’s North Antelope Rochelle coal mine.

With a desire to use his engineering background to help those with disabilities, Francis is working to start his own firm, Monarch Mobility, which focuses on adaptive technologies. He has filed a provisional patent for a multigeared attachment to retrofit manual wheelchair frames.

Francis also has served as a volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America and Special Olympics.

“My time at UW has been splendid. From a young age, I knew that I would attend school here,” Francis says. “The university plays such a big part in the operations of the state, it is impossible to grow up here and not want to attend such a profound institution. The people I have had the great opportunity of meeting here have made a substantial and positive impact on my life.”

Francis plans to begin pursuit of master’s degrees in engineering and business administration at UW this fall.

Music for the commencement ceremony will be provided by the Wyoming Jazz Ensemble and the Happy Jacks, UW’s resident male a cappella group.

Honorary marshals for the event are Steve Barrett, professor of electrical and computer engineering and associate dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science; and management and marketing Professor Larry Weatherford, the Scarlett Chair of Business in the College of Business.

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