April 22, 2022
Written by Jeff Angileri | Photos by Craig Schreiner
While sitting in a college class in Tampa, Florida in his early twenties, Michael Carlson listened to a lecture on modern American literature and immediately knew what he wanted to do with his life.
The path to a bachelor’s degree would be interrupted by personal struggles and tribulations, but Michael overcame them. Twelve years later, he is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in English, Creative Writing — and will be one of the student speakers for the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater debut on Saturday, May 14.
He is one of 960 non-traditional undergraduates — those who graduate with a bachelor’s degree at age 25 or older — who are part of the Warhawk family. Carlson cites the support he received on campus as critical to his success.
“I needed to be able to work full-time in Janesville while taking in-person classes,” he said. “The faculty and staff really understood my needs as a non-traditional student and commuter.”
For nearly six years, Carlson worked at Boardtracker Harley-Davidson in Janesville, where he was responsible for managing e-commerce operations. Currently, he works at DiMAX Office Solutions in Milton as a copywriter, marketer and communications specialist.
One of Michael’s most influential mentors is Assistant Professor Barrett Swanson, an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in Harper’s, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The New York Times Magazine and The Guardian.
“Telling stories is my way of making sense of the world,” Carlson said. “Barrett taught me that we’ve all shared pain and struggles and in order to reach out and help the reader, we have to keep our focus on them. It’s easy to get lost in ourselves and our expectations. We have to be sensitive to someone’s humanity. He’s sensational like that.
Carlson is the recipient of several UW-Whitewater honors, including the Kristine Grimsrud Memorial Scholarship (for creative writing in English), the Alumni Scholarship in Arts and Sciences, the Jack Heide Outstanding Major Award, the Paul F. Grant (for English majors pursuing higher education), and two University Writing Awards.
He is co-editor of The Muse, UW-Whitewater’s literary arts magazine, and editor of Reading Film, the university’s film studies journal.
A certified Level 1 CrossFit trainer, Carlson hosts free workouts for friends at his home gym and enjoys supporting others’ fitness goals. He is an avid marathon runner, both on the road and on the track.
Carlson was accepted into Vanderbilt University’s prestigious Creative Writing MFA program, which only accepts three fiction writers each year, to continue his quest to become a published author and college professor.
He celebrates this moment with the incredible women in his life – his wife Kameo, his mother Laura and his sisters Meredith, Ashley (a UW-Whitewater alum), Nikki, Sarah and Jessica.