Undergrad award winner role model for her sons
When she crosses the stage in May to earn a Lakeland University bachelor’s degree, Morgan Wilbur is anticipating the sense of pride of knowing her sons will be in the audience.
Nearly 20 years removed from her high school graduation, Wilbur has faithfully followed a nontraditional path to a college degree as a lifelong learner.
“I wanted to set the example for them that it is never too late to accomplish your dreams and that if you work hard, people will notice,” she said.
For her persistence in staying the course to earn a degree, Wilbur, of Menomonie, Wis., is the 2023 winner of Lakeland’s Outstanding Kellett Undergraduate Student Award.
Nominees must be junior standing or above, earn a minimum of a 3.0 GPA and at least 24 credits at Lakeland and have:
Shortly after high school graduation in 2004, Wilbur lost her self-described biggest fan, her father, to cancer. She says she lost her purpose in life and dropped out of the college she was attending.
But she always dreamed of being the first person in her family to earn more than a high school diploma, and the pathway to that goal took shape in August of 2019. Recently married with a newborn son and an 8-year-old son, Wilbur was fueled by encouragement from her husband and began the paralegal program at Chippewa Valley Technical College when her son was just seven days old.
She graduated from CVTC with honors in May of 2021 with an associate degree of applied science in paralegal and, motivated to learn more, she immediately transferred to Lakeland to pursue a bachelor’s in criminal justice.
As classes began in August of 2021, the family welcomed another baby boy and Wilbur started fall semester classes when her youngest son was three days old.
Karin Miofsky, a Lakeland associate professor of criminal justice, recalls that semester, and she applauded Wilbur for being a motivated student willing to share her ideas with fellow students.
“While the pandemic has been devastating for everyone, it’s been especially hard for college student mothers,” Miofsky said. “And yet, Morgan had, and has, a lot of hope. It is the pursuit of her degree as the shining light during this time of dark for many.
“When women are educated, we have opportunities, choices and power. And ultimately, we can make decisions. She has made me proud as her professor, and upon graduation, I know as a friend that she can inspire other young women to seek careers in public service.”
Wilbur started working as a paralegal in the spring of 2021 and maintained a 4.0 grade point average while juggling work, family and classes.
“It has not been easy by any means, but it has been worth it,” she said.
Wilbur aspires to work as a victim witness coordinator and is looking to continue her education either with a master’s degree or law school.
“I would love to work with victims and help to advocate for them,” she said.
From her family to her professional life to her classmates, Wilbur’s track record of serving others is inspiring, Miofsky said.
“Morgan helps others accomplish something that they may not have been able to do without her guidance and service,” Miofsky said. “She is seeing various strides of progress that persons served can make with community support, whether it is supporting a person at an appointment or making a phone call to gather some information.
“Morgan’s future is bright. She has a passion toward her education and a desire to be successful.”