Every year, the Milwaukee Business Journal highlights 40 emerging community leaders in its fall “40 under 40” issue. Two of those were students together in the Lubar School’s Business Scholars program. Here’s their story:
Devon Norwood (’05), Senior Vice President, Baird
Ranell Washington (’05), Partnership Development Advisor, American Family Insurance
While the Business Journal honored Devon Norwood and Ranell Washington individually in their “40 under 40” recognition, the two alumni wanted to be interviewed together for this article about their UWM experiences since they met and became friends at the Lubar School of Business. They were both Lubar Business Scholars, served with the Delta Sigma Pi professional fraternity and the Black and Gold Committee, attended classes together and worked out together at the Klotsche Center (where Norwood met her husband).
So, of course they sat together at graduation when Norwood received her bachelor’s in finance and Washington received his bachelor’s in finance and certificate in real estate.
Norwood started college in the sciences at another university, but after a few semesters decided the sciences might not be what she actually wanted to do. “I started taking some business courses and enjoyed the coursework. My dad actually planted the seed in my head. He told me UWM has a really strong business program and he was familiar with some of the staff and faculty.”
The summer between her sophomore and junior years, she transferred to UWM, taking three summer classes to put her on track to be accepted into the business program.
“That’s when I met Ranell. He was the first person that I actually hung out with, and we took classes together. We were pretty much inseparable.”
“One thing that sticks out for me,” says Washington, “was that we were both Lubar scholars.” Washington, who had graduated from Washington High School, became interested in UWM through a recruiter, and found the financial package he was offered a deciding factor.
“I started the program at UW-Milwaukee and loved it, then I made some great friends. Devon taught me a lot about myself and kind of helped me look at opportunities in a different way than I typically had before.”
Norwood said one of the things that she liked about her UWM experience was the sense of community, something she hadn’t felt at the university she previously attended.
“I remember the first evening class, Ranell just came up to me and said ‘hi, you’re new around here.’ I immediately had a group of people where we could study together, and had that amazing support system.”
Serving in leadership roles in Delta Sigma Pi was a formative experience for both of them. “Those opportunities influenced the kind of person I am now,” said Norwood. “That was one of my first significant leadership experiences. Learning how to bring my skill set to the table and being able to identify that as a strength I had was an important.”
Norwood and Washington were also active in mentoring younger students, particularly students of color. “I took a lot of pride in helping provide that additional information that those students needed to navigate through some of those tough classes,” said Norwood.
Washington liked the diversity of UWM. Working for the campus IT department helped him meet people from all over campus, he said. “I was able to meet a lot of people with different backgrounds and experiences.”
“I think with the university being in the city and a large university, there were so many things you could be part of,” he added. “We were busy, but we had the support system of our friends and other students.”
Both found the career development center a great help in doing resumes and getting ready for job fairs. Norwood had an internship at Kohl’s and several full-time job offers before graduation.
“I would say from start to finish UWM was really supportive of their students and making sure that they succeed,” said Norwood.