Magazine Feature / People

Figure skater Michelle Kwan adds DU diploma to list of accomplishments

Figure skating champion Michelle Kwan (BA ’09) joined hundreds of other graduates at the University of Denver’s undergraduate Commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 6. Kwan — who came to DU in 2006 — received a BA in international studies from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies. She minored in political science.

Kwan has won nine U.S. championships, five world championships, two Olympic medals and is the most decorated figure skater in U.S. history.

“It was a turning point in my life when I came to DU,” says Kwan. “From seventh grade on I had tutors while I was training and competing, and it was a big transition to go from full-time skating to full-time student.” She recalls spending the first few weeks at DU on crutches following hip surgery.

Kwan says she was shy at first when it came to asking questions in class and that the back of the room was her preferred location at first. But DU’s small classes and wonderful professors made it easy for her to become more engaged, Kwan says.

Shortly after coming to the University Kwan was asked to participate in what she describes as the ultimate internship for an international studies student. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (BA ’74, PhD ’81) appointed Kwan the first American Public Diplomacy Envoy to help promote an understanding of America by sharing her story in a cross-cultural dialogue with international youth.

“It was difficult to travel and go to school, but it was so enjoyable visiting other countries,” says Kwan. “There were a few times when I had been on a plane for 15 hours then returned to campus to take a test.” Kwan says she was able to take what she learned in the classroom and apply it to her work around the world.

There are no plans for Kwan to stop traveling on behalf of the U.S. She recently met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to discuss continuing her role with the State Department. However, Kwan will still have tests waiting for her when she returns from each trip. She has been accepted to the graduate international affairs program at Tufts University in Medford, Mass.

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