UWM Grad Leverages Opportunities

Scholarship recipient Katrina Hightower ’17, a School of Information Studies graduate in information science and technology, nearly didn’t finish college. She was working as a mail carrier, taking night classes on the side. A UWM adviser helped her get a three-month internship at ManpowerGroup, which turned into a yearlong internship. Her work with Destination Innovation led to a workshop in New York for Kohl’s, which led to her getting a full-time job with the company as a software engineer.

First-Generation Graduates Pursue Meaningful Jobs as Teachers

Financial help and other support from UWM’s Life Impact program helped Jared Anderson ’17 and Amber Anderson ’17 juggle two children, jobs, and volunteer work while attending UWM. Both are the first in their families to graduate from college, both earned degrees from the School of Education, and both landed jobs before graduation: Amber will teach at Cudahy Middle School, and Jared will teach at Bay View High School.


PhDs Are Critical to Top-Tier Status

For Mohsen Bahmani-Oskooee of the Economics Department, the 2017 commencement ceremony was a milestone event. That Sunday, he placed hoods on his 49th and 50th doctoral students: Seyed Hesam Ghodsi and Sujata Saha, respectively. He believes he holds the record at UWM for the most doctoral students produced by a single professor.

Bahmani-Oskooee, a distinguished professor and holder of the Patricia and Harvey Wilmeth Professorship of Economics, says that the number of PhD students a university graduates is directly related to its standing as a top research institution. “In 2016, for the first time in the history of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Carnegie Foundation included us in the top 115 research universities out of 4,665 universities that were evaluated,” he says, adding, “We finally got there!”

Relationships with faculty are critical when a PhD student reaches the doctoral dissertation phase, he explains. “It’s at that stage that the students need somebody to lead them, advise them, and show the way they have to start and finish.”

Philanthropic support is also a key element to a PhD student’s success. Gifts that help doctoral students defray costs of traveling to conferences or submitting papers to academic journals have a real impact. “A hundred dollars might not be that much for a faculty member, but for a graduate student, that’s a lot of money,” says Bahmani-Oskooee, who is also director of the Center for Research on International Economics. The center was created through a gift from Patricia and Harvey Wilmeth.

“Generous support from friends like the Wilmeths is helping our faculty and graduate students, promoting our research, and moving our mission forward. Because of their gift, I spend more time doing research; inviting guest speakers from schools like the University of Chicago, Northwestern, and UW-Madison; and working with my students. I feel very honored to carry the Wilmeths’ name.”

Honoring Key Faculty, Recognizing Star Students

The Lubar School of Business is celebrating its 50th year this year, but as noted by Paul Fischer, who is the Jerry Leer Professor of Accounting, the accounting program predates the school by 20 years. Accounting has a long tradition of excellence at UWM, and on April 21, 2017, more than 250 alumni returned to campus to celebrate the impact this program has had on their lives.

At this Lubar Alumni Accounting Grand Reunion, three key faculty members were honored for their contributions to the program. Jerry Leer, Paul Fischer, and Bill Taylor have been mainstays at the Lubar School, and anyone who has gone through the accounting program has likely had at least at least one of these men as an instructor.

To celebrate their influence, a new scholarship was created in their honor. Thanks to generous contributions from alumni, faculty, and friends, the Fischer Taylor Leer Accounting Scholarship will be awarded to outstanding students who have passed Intermediate Accounting with flying colors. The award covers tuition for the next semester, supporting star scholars in the accounting program.

“Since day one, the accounting faculty at UWM’s business school have been exceptionally dedicated to teaching excellence, to developing and mentoring their students, and to instilling the important values and attitude that students can carry with them into the workplace,” Dean Kanti Prasad said at the event. “This new scholarship pays tribute to the many years of service given by Professors Fischer, Taylor, and Leer, and will help us recognize high-achieving students in the accounting program.”


Scholarships Attract the Best

Lead scholarship donors Avi Shaked ’80 and his wife, Babs Waldman, MD, have had an incomparable impact on engineering students at UWM. Since 2006, the couple has provided hundreds of scholarships to students at the College of Engineering & Applied Science.

“Our gift to UWM has been successful on so many levels: for the students, the College of Engineering & Applied Science, the larger university, and the employers who hire the graduates,” says the couple. “We don’t know who the next great innovator will be, but we feel the need to support students who wouldn’t otherwise have such opportunities for success.”

Avi Shaked benefitted from scholarships when he was a student at UWM and wanted to give others the same advantage. He also wanted to raise the caliber of engineering students by rewarding those with higher GPAs and ACT scores. Since the couple’s scholarship was established, those numbers have gone up and the freshman retention rate has risen.

First-generation engineering student Ameralys Correa ’19 says her scholarships allowed her to start college immediately after high school, something she could not have done without financial support. “Scholarships eliminate one of the biggest obstacles keeping otherwise capable and motivated students from chasing their dreams,” she says. “At UWM, you can go tremendously far as long as you are willing to work for it. With scholarship support, I can put my time and energy into going that extra mile.”

Going to Bat for Panther Baseball

Although many baseball fans look forward to its springtime rituals, Chuck Hildebrand’s passion for baseball spans all seasons. A professional sportswriter who also was a teacher and youth baseball coach, Chuck has authored a new book, Sad Riddance, about the 1965 Milwaukee Braves in the year before their move to Atlanta. His life’s legacy now includes an endowment to support the Milwaukee Panther baseball team. He established the endowment last year and has also made a provision in his will for an additional gift to his fund.

A native of California and graduate of San Jose State University, Chuck began spending his springs and summers in Milwaukee in 2007 and moved there fulltime and permanently in 2016.

He quickly realized that, as the only university in Wisconsin with an NCAA Division I baseball program, UWM plays a unique role in promoting and perpetuating baseball for the young players and fans of all ages in this state.

“I admire the Panthers baseball team and UWM’s outstanding coaching talent,” says Chuck. “These athletes play with passion that reflects the fact that they know they’re representing their families and their communities and their state, as well as their teammates and themselves. UWM puts competitive teams on the diamond every season despite challenges that few Division I programs must face, and I want to support these efforts.”

The impact of Chuck’s endowment gift has already been felt by the baseball team and its coaches. Athletic Director Amanda Braun notes, “Our athletes were very excited when they learned that someone with Chuck’s knowledge of the game chose to support their team. His confidence in our talent, our winning attitude, and the future of our program means the world to us.”




On a Roll for Change

Wheelchairs don’t require driver’s licenses or permits, but repeatedly using one the wrong way could result in injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or rotator cuff tears. Associate Professor Brooke Slavens is helping to develop a geared wheelchair that could reduce these types of injuries.

To accomplish this, Slavens has partnered with IntelliWheels, makers of a geared wheel system that would make using a wheelchair similar to riding a 10-speed bike. “The idea is that it would make it much easier for people to use and push, with less energy demands and hopefully fewer muscle demands,” she says. “Generous support from IntelliWheels is helping us make it easier for people to use wheelchairs.”

Slavens works directly with people of all ages, including veterans, who are
wheelchair users. She collaborates not only with pediatricians but also with
doctors at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center. “We always team up with a
physician to help provide that clinical drive and insight to know that all the
work we’re doing is going to be applied to make an important impact and
change, not just engineer to engineer, but to be able to take what we’re doing
and provide it to someone in need.”

Marissa Siebel-Siero, co-founder of IntelliWheels, explains how important her company’s collaboration with UWM’s College of Health Sciences is. “Dr. Slavens’ work is part of a critical step in IntelliWheels’ innovation process. Innovation is only valuable if it truly solves a problem and fits the end-users’ needs. Having the opportunity to develop new ideas here at IntelliWheels, test them with Dr. Slavens’ assistance, and refine them with user feedback enables us to bring the right solution to market to serve the greater good.”

Searching for Energy Solutions

Growing up in Nepal, Nisrit Pandey and his family experienced frequent power outages, but when they explored purchasing solar panels as an alternative energy source, they discovered it would cost nearly 60 percent of his family’s annual income. This personal experience inspired Pandey to pursue a degree in materials engineering so he could work to identify affordable alternative energy solutions for people in developing countries.

Since his first semester at UWM, Pandey has participated in research with Associate Professor Benjamin Church and has presented his research on energy storage technologies across the U.S. He was awarded Outstanding Presentation at the University of Wisconsin System Research Symposium, edging out 750 other presenters.

Pandey is a recipient of UWM’s Academic Achievement Leadership Award as well as the KleinOsowski Scholarship, which is awarded to students in the Honors College. He says this support has been transformational to his experience at UWM. “My scholarships have allowed me to worry less about my finances and focus more on my extracurricular activities, research, and academics.

“Being in the Honors College has immensely developed my critical thinking and communication skills, and has allowed me to see how I can use my engineering skills for the benefit of society. Without scholarships, I cannot even imagine being in college.”

African American Faculty & Staff Council Gives Students a Boost

Graduation rates. It’s a topic that comes up frequently at meetings of UWM’s African American Faculty and Staff Council (AAFSC). The group’s members want to raise graduation rates among African American students and close the college-completion gap between black and white students at UWM.

Recently, they came up with one solution: a scholarship designed to help people finish out their last year at UWM. “As representatives of UWM, we wanted to demonstrate our commitment to the students we interact with on a daily basis,” says Diana Borders, assistant director of business services in the School of Education and co-chair of the AAFSC scholarship committee.

Why give scholarships at the end of the college experience? “Some students find it difficult to complete their degree in four years, and the financial aid funds they receive can run out before they finish,” she says. “Students in their final year at UWM have proven their commitment and desire to graduate, and with a bit of financial assistance, the odds of them getting to the graduation finish line are extremely high.”

The reaction among AAFSC members has been positive, and many have contributed to the fund. “Our members now act as foot soldiers, asking campus donors and community members to contribute to the scholarship program,” says Abigail Amissah-Arthur, assistant dean of the College of Health Sciences and co-chair of the AAFSC scholarship committee.

The AAFSC has partnered with the African-American Alumni Chapter (AAAC), a group that has also been exploring ways to provide financial assistance to those near graduation. Borders adds, “The collaboration between AAFSC and AAAC will help us reach our shared goal of increasing the number of students who walk across the stage at commencement, ready to embark on their careers.”