2019 Forward under 40 Award Nominations

July 1st, 2018

Inspiring a generation to create change. Preserving wildlife on a Chilean archipelago. Researching Hmong health in a rural Wisconsin community. These are just a few examples of the inspirational work that this year’s Forward under 40 Award recipients are doing in Wisconsin and around the world.

Know of a fantastic young graduate who embodies the Wisconsin Idea in their daily life? Nominations for the 2019 Forward under 40 Awards are open now through September 1, 2018.

Forward under 40 — the annual magazine featuring the story of each awardee — was mailed with the Spring 2018 issue of On Wisconsin, and these stories are now available online as well. Each online story includes a brief biography, a Q & A, and a personal essay.

Here are the 2018 recipients:

Sarah Coglianese ’00

Journalism, College of Letters & Science
Founder, #WhatWouldYouGive Campaign

In 2015, Sarah Coglianese asked a big question: what would you give? The question came three years after Coglianese — who, as a UW student, enjoyed traveling, running, kickboxing, and, yes, parties — was diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. Read the full story.


Zainab Ghadiyali MS’12, MS’12

Industrial Engineering, College of Engineering
Computer Sciences, College of Letters & Science
Cofounder, Wogrammer
Product Manager, Airbnb

Zainab Ghadiyali’s first foray into engineering was a winner. As a UW student, she joined a Facebook-sponsored Hackathon team, which won a round of the contest by programming Goodmate, an app to facilitate chores, bill-paying, and other communication among roommates. Read the full story.


Raul Leon MIPA’07, PhD’10
International Public Affairs, College of Letters & Science
Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, School of Education
Associate Professor of Higher Education and Student Affairs, Eastern Michigan University

Through close-knit communities and global adventures, Raul Leon makes college a place where everyone feels at home. He studies student success, the role of chief diversity officers, and the impact of international and study-abroad experiences. He infuses this expertise throughout his work as a researcher, teacher, mentor, and world traveler. Read the full story.


Manu Raju ’02

Marketing, Wisconsin School of Business
Senior Congressional Correspondent, CNN 

Washington Life Magazine named him to its annual list of DC’s young “power players.” India Abroad newspaper called him “King of the Hill.” But another moniker appears in Manu Raju’s Twitter profile: “Wisconsin Badger for life.” Read the full story.


Roberto Rivera ’04

Social Change, Youth Culture, and the Arts (Individual Major), College of Letters & Science
Chief Empowerment Officer, 7 Mindsets

Roberto Rivera has helped troubled youth to realize in as little as 10 weeks what it took him years to understand for himself. “I have purpose; I have people; I have passion; and yes, I even have pain,” he’s said. “And that pain can become propane for me to transform my life and to transform this world.” Read the full story.


Paulina Stowhas MS’15

Environmental Conservation, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
Veterinarian and Project Facilitator, Island Conservation

Paulina Stowhas has always admired diversity — in nature, in culture, and in people. A Chilean veterinarian and expert on human-wildlife conflicts, she has recently followed her passion for biodiversity to the Juan Fernandez Archipelago: three islands that lie about 430 miles off Chile’s coast. The islands, which have one of the most vulnerable ecosystems in the world, are known for their biodiversity. Read the full story.


Kevin Thao ’06, MD’10, MPH’11

Medical Microbiology and Immunology, College of Letters & Science; and Public Health, Medicine; School of Medicine and Public Health
Physician, Aspirus Wausau Family Medicine
Faculty Associate, UW Department of Family Medicine and Community Health

Wisconsin has been home to one of the nation’s largest Hmong communities for more than 40 years. And still, Kevin Thao is struck by how startlingly little is known about their health. So he’s building a better body of research. Thao wants to prevent long-term disease and promote healthier lifestyles for Hmong across Wisconsin and the nation. Read the full story.


Rupa Valdez ’03, MS’07, PhD’12

Industrial Engineering, College of Engineering; Certificates in Cultural Anthropology and European Studies (College of Letters & Science) and Business (Wisconsin School of Business)
Assistant Professor, Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Virginia
Founder, Blue Trunk Foundation

Rupa Valdez is a researcher and educator who designs technologies and programs that make it easier for people to take care of their health. In most of her work, she engages with underserved populations, including people who live in rural areas, who identify as minorities, or who live with disabilities. Read the full story.