Fellows Alumni

Nichole Crust’s interests in sustainability include social enterprise and food systems on a local and international level. Nichole’s fellowship work placement was at Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative (WWBIC) where she worked as a Kiva Advisor. She focused on building Kiva’s base of lenders and borrowers. Prior to this, she worked at Hunger Task Force where she developed and monitored the organization’s pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters. Nichole is a graduate of Cairn University with a Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies. In her spare time she loves to read, travel, volunteer with Slow Food WISE, and take people on tours of Milwaukee. Nichole is pursuing a Master’s in Sustainable Peacebuilding at UWM and was awarded an Economic Development Fellowship for the period 2016-2018.
Nichole Crust will now lead KIVA Greater Madison. As a WWBIC Team Member Nicole will be responsible for truly starting and advancing KIVA in Greater Madison beginning with a large launch set for February 4th 2019. The City of Madison, Madison Gas and Electric, The Doyenne Group and WWBIC were key leads in raising funds to bring KIVA to the Madison area. Nicole Crust is an ideal fit as during her time in the UWM Economic Development Fellows program she served as the KIVA Lead for the Milwaukee Market.

Katie Bennett was born and raised in the Metro-Detroit area. She attended Michigan State University, where she earned her B.S. in Urban and Regional Planning, with a specialization in Women, Gender, and Social Justice. She spent many years managing community development grant funds, which supported infrastructure improvements in low-income communities, before deciding to join the Peace Corps. As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Moldova, Katie worked as a Community and Organizational Development Advisor for the small, rural village in which she lived. Additionally, she served as staff for a civic engagement and youth leadership development camp, was on the leadership team of a business pitch competition for high school students, and worked to raise awareness on human-trafficking and prevention methods throughout Moldova. Katie is currently pursuing dual Master’s in Urban Planning and Master’s in Public Administration degrees at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. As an Economic Development Fellow, she assisted with the City of Milwaukee’s $1 Vacant Side Lot Program, which encourages community members to reuse and reinvestment in vacant city-owned lots, as a way to enhance their own property values and to strengthen their neighborhoods. Katie chose UWM for graduate school because she was impressed with the Urban Planning Department’s utilization of the surrounding city environment, as well as their many local partnerships, to provide applied-learning experiences and real-world problem-solving opportunities for their students.

Andrea Luecke: “As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocca, I was a Small Business Development volunteer, working with local counterparts in leading both a women’s Argan (tree) oil cooperative and leather embroidery association in rural Morocco toward more community-sustaining business practices. It wasn’t long before I was fully integrated, speaking Berber and spending time with my new Moroccan friends. This experience broadened my perspective and cemented my lifelong commitment to economic development, poverty reduction and the environment.

Upon completion of my Peace Corps service I knew I wanted to go to grad school for environmental policy and business. I chose UWM strictly because of its Economic Development Fellows program and my particular Fellows work placement. It was easily the best fit for me not only economically, but also for the experience and skills I was sure to gain.

At UWM, I pursued a master’s of science in nonprofit management and leadership through the school of business. The intensive coursework easily applied to my work placement at the City of Milwaukee’s Office of Environmental Sustainability where I was responsible for running its U.S. Department of Energy funded, Solar America Cities program: Milwaukee Shines. For two years, I fought to create the necessary infrastructure that would ensure solar energy adoption at the local level. Although I left the City shortly after completing my Economic Development Fellowship, Milwaukee Shines is still going very strong.

I accepted a position at The Solar Foundation in Washington, DC, where I’m the Executive Director. The Solar Foundation is a national research and education nonprofit focused on driving the adoption of solar energy worldwide. Solar energy is one of the fastest growing industries in the country. It is one of the best ways to create energy independence and a drastic reduction in greenhouse gases. Besides that, people love solar.

I too love solar and I love my job. Most people can’t say that. I owe a great deal to the Economic Development program.”