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Eight UW–Madison grads earn 2018 Forward under 40 Awards

Honored by the Wisconsin Alumni Association for living the Wisconsin Idea.

February 28, 2018

MADISON, WI (February 27, 2018) — The Wisconsin Alumni Association® (WAA) has honored eight alumni with 2018 Forward under 40 Awards. All of the recipients are University of Wisconsin–Madison graduates under the age of 40 who are living the Wisconsin Idea — the principle that the boundaries of the university are the boundaries of the state and well beyond — and leveraging their education to better their cities, states, nations, and even the world. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Forward under 40 Awards, with 114 recipients honored through 2018.

“On behalf of WAA, congratulations to this year’s eight outstanding young alumni,” says Sarah Schutt, chief alumni officer and executive director of the Wisconsin Alumni Association. “The selection committee was so impressed by the positive impact that the awardees have made in their respective areas of expertise and how they are living the Wisconsin Idea through their activities and work. We’re proud to call them Badgers!”

Here is a list of this year’s honorees. Their stories will be published in greater detail in a special Forward under 40 publication in March.

Sarah Coglianese ’00: Diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, she created the #WhatWouldYouGive campaign and has raised more than $600,000 to advance research and promising treatments at the ALS Therapy Development Institute.

Zainab Ghadiyali MS’12, MS’12: She’s a cofounder of Wogrammer, a nonprofit that celebrates the technical prowess of women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Raul Leon MIPA’07, PhD’10: An associate professor of higher education and student affairs at Eastern Michigan University, he studies student success, the role of chief diversity officers, and the impact of international and study-abroad experiences.

Manu Raju ’02: Currently a senior congressional correspondent for CNN, Raju has spent 15 years reporting on many of the nation’s most fiery political issues on Capitol Hill.

Roberto Rivera ’04: In 2008, this innovative artist and educator founded the Chicago-based The Good Life Organization, which trains teachers on how to use tools that are relevant to young people to spark their interests and engagement, both in the classroom and in their futures.

Paulina Stowhas MS’15: As a Chilean veterinarian and expert on human-wildlife conflicts, she is studying biodiversity on three islands off of Chile’s coast that have one of the world’s most vulnerable ecosystems.

Kevin Thao ’06, MD’10, MPH’11: Working as a primary-care physician at Aspirus Wausau Family Medicine, Thao seeks to prevent long-term disease and promote healthier lifestyles for the Hmong community across Wisconsin and the nation.

Rupa Valdez ’03, MS’07, PhD’12: Valdez is a researcher and educator who designs technologies and programs that make it easier for underserved populations — including people living in rural areas, minorities, and those dealing with disabilities — to take care of their health.

Learn more about the 2018 Forward under 40 Award recipients at

Media Information

Contact: Tod Pritchard,, 608-609-5217, @WisAlumni

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