As an incoming UW-La Crosse freshman, Sean Mobley was 100 percent certain he wanted to one day design rollercoasters for Walt Disney World. He liked riding rollercoasters and he loved playing the ‘RollerCoaster Tycoon’ video game. It made perfect sense.
But Mobley says college took him for an unexpected ride — with some big twists and turns. It was a journey that ultimately got him on the right track.
“It wasn’t always easy and it wasn’t always fun, but it was a wake-up call to make sure that I was doing what I actually liked doing,” explains Mobley. “If you are not doing that, you are not going to succeed.”
It turns out learning the physics and engineering required for Mobley’s Disney dream job was not interesting to him. He didn’t like those classes and he struggled through them. The defining moment came when a letter was sent home over winter vacation his sophomore year. It said Mobley’s grades — notably two Fs in math and computer science — made him academically ineligible to return the following semester.
Mobley recalls staring at the letter and feeling like his Disney dreams were crumbling all around him. He didn’t want to tell anyone. His mind was flooded with thoughts of what to do next.
“I like to think there is a single moment in everyone’s college career — it is usually a very humbling moment — when you realize you are not the center of the world and everything is not going to be handed to you on a platter,” says Mobley. “This was my moment.”
Mobley decided to appeal the decision and succeeded in returning to UW-L the next semester. He thought back on some general education courses he liked and signed up for a Television Production class just for fun. Mobley had natural ability creating videos and says it was “a blast running around campus with a camera.” He took more classes in communications studies and film and his A grades eventually landed him on the Dean’s List.
“He is a student that is just a go-getter,” says Patricia Turner, faculty member in Communication Studies. “He always strives for excellence and is always is looking for ways to better himself.”
Mobley says Turner allowed him to use studio space outside of class to pursue extra curricular film projects. Other professors in Communiciation Studies and History gave him more tools and opportunities to pursue interests, including guidance in the application for two UW-L Undergraduate Research and Creativity grants. Mobley was awarded both grants, which allowed him to pursue more film projects. One project took him and his camera to Baltimore to create a TV documentary, “Francis Scott Key and the Battle of Fort McHenry.”
Mobley took up numerous other extra curricular activities, working as manager and executive assistant at the WMCM, the campus TV station. He also worked at the campus radio station, RAQ radio, and designed its website. For two years he trained and supervised Drake Hall desk staff as a desk coordinator for the residence hall. Most recently, he helped with programming to keep hall residents connected after the fire Sunday, Jan. 29.
“He is a source of wisdom and guidance for my team,” says Sara Tienhaara, Mobley’s Drake Hall supervisor. “I can’t imagine what this year would have been like without him.”
Today Mobley, 23, is a graduating senior in communication studies – broadcast & digital media with a minor in history. He has five Wisconsin Broadcast Association awards to his name. And the documentary on Francis Scott Key landed him the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Student Achievement Award – a national award distributed by the same organization that awards Emmys.
Mobley will walk the stage with his College of Liberal Studies peers May 13. But, prior to that, he’ll share his commencement address about how college prepared him for life.
“It took quite a bit of wandering through rocky territory to figure out what I was going to be,” he explains. “I know there is more wandering to come, but I feel much more prepared now and much more confident because I do have that end goal in mind and I know it’s a good goal.”
View Mobley’s award-winning video
UW-L graduates walk the stage Sunday, May 13
A total of 1,455 UW-La Crosse students are candidates for graduation, including 1,159 undergraduate students and 296 graduate students. Graduates will walk the stage during two separate ceremonies at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 13, at the La Crosse Center, 300 Harborview Plaza, La Crosse.
No reservation or tickets are required.
Two student addresses are scheduled at 10 a.m. Sean Mobley, graduating senior in Communications Studies – Broadcast & Digital Media, and Ka Lia Lo, graduate student from the Student Affairs Administration program, will give the student address.
At 2 p.m. UW-L Seniors Cassandra DeHaro and Rachel Boldt, who traveled to Costa Rica this semester as part of their Community Health Education program, will give a commencement address together.
All colleges will have a reception immediately following the graduation ceremony in the Ballroom. Graduate students will be in the Zielke suite one hour prior to graduation to meet with their program directors for formal placement of their hoods. Find more UW-L commencement details.
Ceremonies and times
10 a.m. – College of Business Administration; College of Liberal Studies; School of Education (including teacher education programs in Early Childhood-Middle Childhood, Middle Childhood-Early Adolescence, English, Social Studies, History, Political Science, Sociology, German Studies, Spanish); School of Arts and Communication (including teacher education programs in Art, and Music [Choral, General, and Instrumental])
2 p.m. – College of Science and Health; School of Education (including teacher education programs in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, General Science, Mathematics, Physical Education, and School Health Education)