We invite you to explore these brief interviews with Community Engagement and Education BS graduates. Learn how the degree supported their careers and about the jobs they are doing now.

Paola Deliz Felix Encarnacion

Graduation: 2011 BS in Community Education (now Community Engagement and Education, or CEED)
Current Position: Senior Director, Network for School Improvement, City Year. Formerly Team Leader, Program Manager, Senior Impact Manager, and Impact Director, City Year.

Today, Paola manages “a program funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation helping school districts to implement continuous improvement science. I support schools and teachers. I provide resources for them and work collaboratively with the school district to identify these resources, I support them as they’re going through it, we analyze data. It’s about forming partnerships at the school level but also at the district level.”

“A lot of the work I do involves solving complex problems and doing it in a way that feels equitable. It’s new territory for me, working with multiple partners in a project that feels high stakes. It’s like building a plane while flying it.”

CEED for Paola was fundamentally “about community service, about looking at different perspectives, about looking at the whole picture, about analyzing what and why things were happening in communities. My biggest takeaway from the program is the idea that there are many different ways to support communities.” It prepared her well for the unpredictable challenges she faces on the job today.

She remembers classes in CEED with “a lot of like-minded people. Not people that agreed with what I said, but people that cared about doing something in the community and in the world around them. And it didn’t look the same as how I wanted to work.” She learned by engaging with the diverse perspectives of her classmates.

Paola valued the opportunities she had in the program to take many electives and put together her own unique major focused on her own interests.

Benjamin Dobson

Graduation: 2016 BS in Community Education (now Community Engagement and Education, or CEED)
Current Position: Social Work Supervisor, Children’s Long-Term Support, Rock County. Formerly, Children’s Long-Term Support Case Manager, Rock County; Youth and Family Specialist, Rock County

After 15 years as a Youth and Family Specialist at Rock County, Ben needed a bachelor’s degree to advance. After completing his CEED degree he was quickly promoted to case manager, and then became a supervisor only about a year and a half later.

He chose CEED because of the online option and because the content fit so well with his interests. “It offered a diverse selection of classes that could really apply to any job working in the community, with low-income families and kids.”

Ben took the entire program online from Rock County. He found the online offerings “really great,” making it “really easy as a returning adult.” Over the internet he found “really great conversations.” The professors were “great at communication, very good at drawing out answers and making me think a little bit deeper” and they “always gave great feedback on papers.”

In the CEED program, he found that, “You could really pick and choose the pathway that best met your needs. You could go the ‘community organizing’ route, the ‘working with families’ route, ‘at-risk kids,’” among lots of options. “It was tough to choose one, because they all sounded amazing. I learned a lot more than I thought I would.”

Latisha Franklin

Graduation: 2012 BS in Community Education (now Community Engagement and Education, or CEED)
Current Position: Vice President of Youth Development, Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Baltimore. Formerly, the Senior Director of Programs, COA Youth & Family Centers. Prior, the Director of Operations and Branch Director for the Boys and Girls Clubs. Pursuing MS in Organizational Change Leadership.

An experienced Club Manager at the Boys and Girls Clubs before CEED, Latisha needed a relevant BS degree to get promoted to the next level. On the job, today, she draws on what CEED taught her about “approaches to community organizing and institutional racism that affects black and brown communities.” She has used this understanding “not just to recruit but also to develop the structure my organization’s youth development and family programs.”

CEED “gave me the foundation of how community-based organizations operate from building boards to grant writing. I also have a better understanding of racial inequality in America and Milwaukee that includes how our city was structured and how that plays into what’s going on today in society.”

Even now, some years after graduation, she finds she is still “using the basic foundations I got in my CEED degree.” Currently in graduate school, many of the books and ideas she encounters are ones she already explored in CEED.

Carla Dorn

Graduation: 2017 BS Community Engagement and Education
Current Position: YouthBuild Career Development Coordinator, Milwaukee Christian Center

I was hired a month out of the program, and the degree really helped. I was hired by a boss who also graduated from CEED, so he knew what I’d learned.

At the Milwaukee Christian Center, I do career development with a group of YouthBuild students who are learning a trade. I teach them the nitty-gritty of how to get a job, and I do a ton of different programming.

A lot of the students have been disengaged from school or work, dropped out, and came to YouthBuild to complete a GED or HSED. Unique people with different experiences.

I use the asset-based approaches I learned in CEED. With my students I’m always asking, “What are you bringing to the table?” “What are your strengths? Let’s start there.” The underlying issue in all CEED classes: community-building and relationships.[CEED] gave me a specialized understanding of the nonprofit world. And the program taught me about Milwaukee: the history and where it is now. For the students I work with, this is their lived experience, growing up in a segregated city.

Cedric Brown

Graduation: 2016 BS Graduate in Community Engagement and Education
Current Position: Math Teacher*, Milwaukee Scholars Charter School

Cedric switched from math to CEED because “I wanted to find a program to help my community.”

“The program changed my life. I learned about the whole history of education and the different struggles people have faced. I never would have been aware of these things without CEED.”

“Every professor in the program pushed me in some way and saw the best in me. When you are in an environment where people want you to succeed, they’ll help you understand that you have to succeed.”

“As a single parent with three daughters, I saw what I could do to help other people that were in positions similar to mine.”

In CEED’s “family environment” he met “amazing people with the same mindset of what I was caring about.”

“The degree gave me insight on the different social factors and struggles my students are facing. I learned to adapt to students’ needs instead of standing in front of the classroom and trying to push a book assignment on them. It helps me become an agent for my students, to teach them to say, ‘Yes I can’ instead of ‘I don’t know.’”

*CEED does not license teachers for K-12 public education. Cedric teaches under a charter school license, and is pursuing a post-bacc license at UWM.

Tiffony Robinson

Graduation: 2011 BS Graduate in Community Education (Now Community Engagement and Education)
Current Position: Family Engagement Coordinator, MCAA Head Start. Formerly Family Services Coordinator, MCAA Head Start; Urban Initiatives Specialist, Girl Scouts

Tiffony switched from teacher education to CEED when she realized she didn’t want to be in a classroom. The CEED major allowed her explore broader forms of education in the community.

“My first job after graduation was with the Girl Scouts. I didn’t have much professional experience, but when I explained what I had done in CEED they quickly said I was what they were looking for.”

Today, “as a Family Engagement Coordinator, I train, mentor, and coach those provide direct service to parents in Head Start.”

“One of the most amazing things [about CEED] was that I got to pick and choose classes. I did courses in family, psychology, parenting, along with a lot of education courses. The required nonprofit courses for the program fit together with this into a very well-rounded, comprehensive degree program. Everything that I took I am utilizing now in my position.”

The full-online option was critically important for her, since her children were very young. She didn’t have to find and pay for childcare. And faculty were very flexible with her as a working single mother.

Antonia Drew Vann

Graduation: 2014 BS in Community Engagement and Education
Current Position: Director, the ASHA Project, End Domestic Abuse WI

The ASHA Project is the only culturally specific African American, anti-domestic violence and sex trafficking agency in Wisconsin.

“[In CEED] I learned how to build relationships and networks to address issues from all sides. We have to connect with the community and connect with other programs. No one agency can do it all. CEED helped us better connect with larger entities like Children’s Hospital. You can’t do your best work in a silo.”

In CEED, “I gained confidence with looking at data and gained skills in writing and research techniques. The greatest thing for me was developing critical thinking. Instead of going along and assuming that’s the way things are, I go back and think about why this happens. OK, that’s where we are, but let’s look upstream to what caused it to happen.”

“Not only are CEED faculty supportive, they understand students have real lives outside the classroom.”