It’s all about the numbers for 18-year-old Madison Ackley, who will break several records when she graduates from UW-Stevens Point May 20 with a degree in accounting. She will be the youngest graduate in 41 years, the second youngest overall, the youngest female and the youngest Native American to ever graduate from the university.
Was it her lifelong plan to graduate at an early age? Actually, the journey started only a few years ago in her hometown of Crandon. By the time Ackley was in eighth grade, she had exceled through all the math courses available at her middle school. School leaders moved her into a high school course.
“That one class opened the door for me to start taking college courses once I was in high school,” said Ackley. “I took advantage of the opportunity immediately. I loved that class and knew I needed to take more.” At the time, her high school did not offer many college courses or help cover the cost. But she took the initiative to find classes that would fit both the needs for her future career in accounting and her high school requirements.
Her hard work and perseverance paid off, with Ackley finishing high school in just two years. At age 16, she graduated and moved to Stevens Point to pursue her bachelor’s degree at UW-Stevens Point. She followed in the footsteps of her aunt, Megan Gerber, ’07, who also studied accounting.
Ackley did not plan to finish her undergraduate degree in two years. But a year ago, while sitting in class, she listened to seniors talking about their graduation, which got her thinking.
“I hadn’t really considered when my graduation would be,” she said. “At first, when I looked at completing in another year, I was like, no way. But after a bit, I thought, why not? So I sat down with Professor Bo DeDeker and devised a plan. It was an aggressive schedule, but I knew I was up for it.”
Once the plan was in place, Ackley also checked with Institutional Research about how many other students in the university’s history had graduated at a young age. She learned she would set records by completing the rapid path to graduation. That was a motivating factor for her.
The schedule required Ackley to take classes year-round and maximum credit loads in the Sentry School of Business and Economics. She also took courses from other institutions and had the credits transferred to UW-Stevens Point. “Due to classes not always aligning with the schedule, I needed to take some external courses. But they all transferred in and helped me to meet my deadline,” she said.
While at UW-Stevens Point, she was involved with the Native American Center, Toastmasters and Chi Alpha. She has also worked up to 50 hours weekly at Laona State Bank since 2021 and runs her own business as a microblading artist.
DeDeker, an assistant professor of accounting, said he was honored to teach and advise Ackley.
“Madison is an amazing student, who has applied herself and worked hard to obtain success,” he said. “She is a direct descendant of the Great Chief Ackley, the last hereditary Chief of the Sokaogon Chippewa. Chief Ackley was known as a true leader of the people. He represented the Great Spirit and taught many what it means to be a good person. I have found that Madison has her great-great grandfather’s spirit within her.”
What is next for the student who has completed through high school and college in record time? She is planning a trip to Israel with Chi Alpha after graduating. “I’m taking the summer off. I haven’t had one in a while and want to enjoy everything I have accomplished,” she said. And by taking the summer off, she means from classes. She will begin a job at KerberRose in Rhinelander as a staff accountant, which she secured last November. She plans to pursue her master’s in accounting in fall.
As for her long-term goals, she hopes to become the chief financial officer for Mole Lake Sokaogon Chippewa Reservation. Personally, Ackley is planning her winter 2023 wedding to her fiancé, whom she met on her first day at UW-Stevens Point. She also dreams of buying her grandparents’ family home.