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UW-Stevens Point December grad determined to make a difference globally

December 7, 2020
Sanne Roeven, an international studies-Spanish-political science triple major, for our commencement feature story. December 2020

Like many students, Sanne Roeven wants to make a difference in the world. Like a select few, she already is making her mark on a clear path to continue.

Roeven, who has a triple major in international studies, Spanish and political science, will complete her bachelor’s degree in only three-and-a-half years. She is among more than 500 who will graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in a virtual ceremony Saturday, Dec. 12.

Born in The Netherlands to Dutch and American parents, Roeven grew up in Stoughton, Wis. She chose UW-Stevens Point because it was “close to home, really nice, welcoming and had the programs I was looking for, so it was perfect,” she said.

She knew at an early age she wanted to major in international studies and make the world a better place. She envisioned working for a humanitarian aid agency, using her Spanish skills as an interpreter.

As a University Honors Program student, Roeven participated in more academically rigorous courses designed to engage high-achieving students. A political science course in international relations helped her discover that was the career she wanted. She added her third major after learning about broader historical and political perspectives. “I’m more interested in designing public policy to protect human rights,” she said.

She’d like to work with an agency concerned with Latin American affairs or the United Nations. Roeven got a taste of this through a student organization, Model United Nations, an international simulation of the U.N. Students represent a member state and research issues involving that country while learning public speaking skills, international culture and diplomacy.

Joining the Spanish Club her first year at UW-Stevens Point “really gave me a sense of community,” she said. They played games, cooked and learned to dance. As president this year, she has helped the club shift to online programming. They recently hosted a career night with useful tips from the Academic and Career Advising Center.

This fall, Roeven developed several videos interning for the Campus Election Engagement Project, working with the Student Government Association. One blended compelling clips from faculty and students about why to vote, including those from theatre and dance students who performed “Unruly Women and Unfinished Business,” commemorating the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote.

Roeven studied internationally for two semesters through UW-Stevens Point programs at universities in Szeged, Hungary, and Valladolid, Spain.

Building on those experiences, her international studies senior capstone project involved research on visitors’ reactions to the War Childhood Museum in Sarajevo. A visit to the museum as a sophomore sparked her interest. She presented her research at the College of Letters and Science Symposium for Undergraduate Research and is editing it for publication.

“Sanne represents one of the very top students from UWSP who pursue careers in international affairs. She embodies the full meaning of a global citizen by applying her skills in world languages and cultural studies to focus on international human rights issues,” said Professor of History Valerie Barske, who led the capstone class and coordinates International Studies.

In addition to Valerie Barske, faculty members Tobias Barske, world languages and literatures, and Jennifer Collins, political science, served as mentors who “challenged me to learn more and think about things differently,” Roeven said.

“Something that’s unique about UW-Stevens Point is how much the faculty care about their students. That has really helped me grow as a student and as a person, so I’m really glad that I came here.”

Roeven, who will receive a Chancellor’s Leadership Award, will pursue a graduate degree in international relations and human rights. She hopes to work in international migration rights, helping refugees and asylum seekers have better access to flee dangerous situations and economic migrants who seek better and safer lives for their families.

“As her academic adviser, I have been inspired by how Sanne navigates the world with both professionalism and warmth, how she has continued to develop and to discover her purpose at UW-Stevens Point and beyond,” Valerie Barske said. “Sanne not only demonstrates the skills and dispositions for making a living, but most importantly she builds on her training at UWSP to make a life and to make a difference in a global context.”