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Megan Degenfelder Named UW's Co-Outstanding Graduating Woman

April 20, 2012
Woman smiling
Megan Degenfelder of Casper, a senior in political science and economics, is the co-recipient of the Rosemarie Martha Spitaleri Award as the University of Wyoming's outstanding graduating woman.

Megan Degenfelder, who will graduate in May with dual degrees in political science and economics, is the co-recipient of the Rosemarie Martha Spitaleri Award as the University of Wyoming's outstanding graduating woman.

The award, established in 1964, recognizes Degenfelder for exhibiting the finest leadership, academic integrity and citizenship qualities. She shares the award with Michaela Uhling of Saratoga. Sean Moran of Milford, Ohio, received the Tobin Award, honoring the outstanding graduating man.

Degenfelder is a Mortar Board chapter member and is the outgoing Associated Students of UW (ASUW) president. She has been involved with ASUW since her freshman year and will graduate with a 3.5 GPA.

One of her lasting legacies as ASUW president is helping to secure funding from the State Legislature -- and student fees -- for a $27 million improvement project to Half Acre Gym.

Degenfelder studied during the 2009-2010 academic year at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, China, and is proficient in the language. She has had a remarkable journey in her short career at UW, one that has seen her become involved in both the UW campus and Laramie communities, to becoming a cancer survivor.

She was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in January 2010 and immediately underwent multiple surgeries and radiation treatments. As the time came closer for her to return to her studies in Beijing, Degenfelder's life was at a crossroads: Stay, which would be the least strenuous option as suggested by her doctors, or return to China for what would become the most difficult months of her life.

Degenfelder returned to China, refusing to let her struggles define her. Even coming back to UW later that semester was a challenge for her, but those struggles made her want to succeed even more.

"One can go their entire life trying to do the ‘right' thing to achieve success. But only through life's great challenges is one tested to the point of facing their will to commit to ideals higher than simple self-preservation," Degenfelder says. "Through my challenge, I realized that there is no formula for success, especially in the form of leadership. It is about a passion to improve the lives of others, even in the smallest of ways."

In those final two years, she changed her major and became more involved in serving others, making it her calling in life.

David Finnoff, Department of Economics and Finance associate professor, can attest to that.

"Megan has been more active in her service to the university than almost any undergraduate student I have ever met," he says, adding that she has become a role model for others, overcoming the odds. "She is a person we should all celebrate and look up to."

ASUW Vice President Ty McNamee says Degenfelder has "not forgotten her duty to serve others through good character and citizenship," citing her involvement in her church, volunteering in organizations abroad to help those in need, delivering meals to shut-ins, working in the local soup kitchen, and making UW a better place for future generations.

"I feel confident in stepping away knowing my efforts and experiences made a difference on campus and in the lives of students," Degenfelder says. "Just as significantly, I can step away knowing the University of Wyoming made a difference in my life, in more ways than ‘just getting by.'"

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