Magazine Feature / People

Michelle Kwan among graduates at Saturday ceremony

One name to be called at Saturday’s undergraduate commencement ceremony might be slightly more familiar to the crowd gathered in the Ritchie Center. Figure skating champion Michelle Kwan will join hundreds of other DU students receiving diplomas from Chancellor Robert Coombe.

Kwan came to DU in 2006 to pursue an international studies degree from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies. She minored in political science.

“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. But, as time went by she moved closer to the front and asked more questions. DU’s “small classes and wonderful professors” made it easy for her to become more engaged, according to Kwan.

Shortly after coming to DU 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.” Among other places, her trips on behalf of the State Department took her to Argentina, China, Russia and Ukraine.

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. Recently, she 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’s Fletcher School.

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

But despite all she’s done in her life, participating in Commencement is something she looked forward to for a long time.

“I am so excited,” she says.

For more information or for streaming video of DU’s commencement ceremony, please visit DU’s commencement Web site.

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