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Wisconsin Union Student Showcase: Distinguished Lecture Series

At the Wisconsin Union, there are so many ways for students to excel in leadership positions. One opportunity is the Distinguished Lecture Series (DLS), a Wisconsin Union Directorate committee. The committee’s 25 student members devise the annual speaker schedule for the Distinguished Lecture Series and plan the Wisconsin Festival of Ideas, an annual event that showcases professor and student research. We caught up with a few of this committee’s leaders to learn more about their roles and their commitment to the Wisconsin Union.


Mohan Mandali

Mohan Mandali, x’16

Major: Political Science and Communication Arts

Position: Director of Distinguished Lecture Series

What is your favorite part about being on the Distinguished Lecture Series committee? The best part about it is the community. The Union has a pretty tight-knit community, and you can see that within our own committee itself. And I love being able to see people who are very motivated by or engaged with the speaker. I get to bring in these speakers that really actually mean something to a lot of people. At the end of the day, actually pulling off lectures is something that really is amazing.

What are you planning to do after graduation? I have two paths that lay in front of me. One is going into marketing and brand development. The other is a complete 180: going into improv and stand-up comedy. A part of that is because I have been talking to all of these speakers and they talk about their journey to get to where they are. A lot of them say, “you know, if there is something you really want to do, you might as well do it while you’re still young… Take it as a journey.” I have been using college as a place to figure out myself: what I like to learn, how I learn and what I like to do. It wasn’t until this past year that I kind of added that [improv] piece of the puzzle.

How do you think this position will help you in your future career? There are a lot of skills that I have picked up that I think are a big part of the college experience. Going to class and getting grades is a huge part of it, but at the same time there are a lot of skills that you can pick up from becoming a part of WUD or part of a student org. I think those are some of the things that kind of helped me broaden my horizons.


Will Rosenthal

Will Rosenthal x’18

Major: Genetics and Wildlife Ecology

Position: Associate Director for the Wisconsin Festival of Ideas

What is your favorite part about being on the Distinguished Lecture Series committee? It’s great because I am in CALS (College of Agricultural and Life Sciences), and that doesn’t have much to do with professional development. This position not only exposes me to all of these great speakers for DLS but also allows me to create a lot of professional relationships with people and learn skills that I wouldn’t otherwise get from my classes.

What are you planning to do after graduation? After graduation, I will probably be attending graduate school for my PhD; I don’t know what for yet but something in the spectrum of genetics and wildlife ecology.

How do you think this position will help you in your future career? It’s helping me develop not only professional relationships with people but also developing the skills to create them. In graduate school and post-graduate school, it is a big deal to know people. So far in my classes, it hasn’t been emphasized to learn how to be a better public speaker so you can learn to present your research and how to develop colleague relationships – so DLS is nice in that respect.


Ian Simmons 










Ian Simmons x’19

Major: Accounting, Finance and Economics

Position: Associate Director of Marketing


What is your favorite part about being on the Distinguished Lecture Series committee? What drew me to the committee overall was the fact that we get to decide the direction with what speakers we bring in to campus. As a freshman, I had no say in this year’s lineup, but being on the committee, I will have a fair amount of say in next year’s. I think that’s really cool – getting to decide how we use our budget on the visiting speakers.

What are you planning to do after graduation? I am hoping to sit for the certified public accountant exam and then, hopefully, go into public accounting.

How do you think this position will help you in your future career? I think the leadership experience will help me a lot. Mohan runs the meetings, but if he misses something, then I will ask a question to draw the committee’s attention to something. We are trying to get a couple of more speakers now, so deciding with Mohan the pricing for that and the schedule will help me develop my leadership skills.


The next distinguished lecture will feature photographer Sally Mann, at Memorial Union’s Shannon Hall March 29 at 7:30 p.m. The event is free to students and the public.


Author: Lilly Eggert

Lilly is a UW-Madison senior studying strategic communications and reporting in the Journalism school and is completing a certificate in digital studies. You will often find her studying or spending time with friends in the various nooks and crannies of Memorial Union with a heaping bowl of mocha macchiato Babcock ice cream.

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