Welcome Students!

The mentoring program is a supportive aspect of the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare and designed to assist students in an array of areas including:
  • career advising,
  • support for difficulties in coursework,
  • personal challenges that impact the successful completion of course requirements,
  • confusion or frustration in navigating campus or school related matters,
  • or other concerns/needs where support is needed. 
Please refer to Campus/Community Resources for a listing of supportive professional services and resources available to students. 

Instructions for selecting a mentor:

The following listing includes faculty and staff volunteer mentors in the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare with information about their interests and backgrounds to assist you in selecting the most appropriate mentor.

This service is completely confidential with the exception of the state of Wisconsin mandated reporting requirements.


Johanna Barkei, MSW
  • Senior Outreach Specialist
  • barkei@uwm.edu
  • 414-964-1328
  • Enderis Hall 1098
  • I became interested in social work due to my desire to make a difference in people’s lives. Over my undergraduate career, I loved working with children and families and ultimately decided to focus my career on child welfare. Child welfare has given me the opportunity to work with multiple populations around various treatment issues including mental health, AODA, domestic violence, and medical needs.
  • I continue to teach and train current and future child welfare professionals through my position at UWM. I truly enjoy watching future professionals develop new skills and find their passion in this field. When working with social work students, I always encourage them to develop healthy self-care strategies so that they have the emotional and physical ability to meet the needs of themselves and others. This work is challenging and the earlier we get into healthy routines, the better. I discovered how much I needed to slow down to practice mindfulness, be active, and connect with people that are important to me for my self-care plan.
  • When I’m not at work, I enjoy reading, spending time with my family, and being outside.
  • More about Johanna

Crystal D. Carter, MSW, LCSW
  • Clinical Assistant Professor
    and Social Work Field Liaison
  • cdcarter@uwm.edu
  • 414-229-4440
  • Enderis Hall 1065
  • My bachelor’s degree is in psychology, but after seven years working in the field of social work post-graduation, I thought it only made sense to pursue a graduate degree in social work. My goal was to become a licensed therapist in the mental health field and a master’s degree in social work was the path to take to complete that goal. I went on to be a therapist for many years. While in the master’s program, my favorite class was Adult Psychopathology. I would diagnose people all day, even when watching television shows.
  • The best advice I can give students is always be professional and maintain a good reputation in this field. A good reputation will keep you employed because people will want to work with you. Even when you have a bad experience with an agency or another social worker always be pleasant, respectful and humbled.
  • My hobbies are I like to travel, go to the movies, shop, read, listen to music, sing in the choir and laugh. It’s hard to do this job without a sense of humor. I have always wanted to try comedy improvisation.
  • More about Crystal

Candace E. Coates, MSW, LCSW
  • Clinical Assistant Professor
    and Social Work Field Liaison
  • cecoates@uwm.edu
  • 414-229-6026
  • Enderis Hall 1063
  • Candace is a licensed clinical social worker with extensive experience working within the area of housing individuals with clinical needs.
  • More about Candace

Tina Freiburger, PhD

Jen Kahn-Pettigrew, MSW, CAPSW
  • Clinical Assistant Professor
  • kahnpet2@uwm.edu
  • 414-229-6888
  • Enderis Hall 1067
  • I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison for my BA.
    I double-majored in psychology and women’s studies, and minored in Spanish. As a student, I sometimes felt overwhelmed, and stressed out by the workload and requirements.I did not utilize the support systems that were available to me as much as I could have. However, I did find support with other students in my program, and was ultimately successful in school.
  • My first job after college was at Community Advocates, where I worked with individuals living in poverty regarding issues such as health care, housing, and disability benefits. This experience inspired me to attend UWM HBSSW to obtain my MSW. In addition to the client populations listed above, I have also worked with victims of domestic violence, and the majority of my social work career has been as an Adoption Social Worker
  • A few “fun facts” about me are: I am left handed, I am mainly vegetarian, and I enjoy visiting antique and thrift shops.
  • More about Jen

Amy Kirby, MSW, LCSW
  • Clinical Associate Professor
    and MSW Program Coordinator
  • kirby@uwm.edu
  • 414-229-4983
  • Enderis Hall 1071
  • My undergraduate degree was in psychology. A pivotal conversation with a psychology professor in my senior year of college resulted in him suggesting to me that I consider my MSW for a graduate school path, and not the clinical psychology PhD, for which I had been planning throughout my undergraduate years. Being naïve about what social work really was all about, I was actually offended! “Didn’t he hear me and what I want to do with my education and career?” I thought to myself, “I never indicated that I wanted to be a social worker!” Well, despite my initial reaction, I decided to explore what he had suggested – and today I am thankful I did – because social work was the right path for me.
  • What I didn’t even fully understand at the time that I chose to pursue my MSW, is that social work is a rich and varied field and that I would have such a wide ranging set of opportunities and challenges to experience as I moved through my career. I love the variety. It keeps me moving forward.
  • Pursuit of my MSW degree led me from Iowa to Milwaukee, which I now call home and have for over 20 years. Throughout those years, I have grown in so many ways personally from my professional experiences – in social work it is hard to separate the two, but at the same time it’s very important to know the difference. Being a social worker will impact you as a person. It should impact you. But not consume you.
  • I like being able to support other people working toward their path in social work; because every person and every path is different but comes back to the same core values. There are so many ways to find your passion or passions in this profession.
  • My personal life revolves around home and family, a love of music, reading, Netflix binging, and enjoying the outdoors.
  • More about Amy

Peggy Maillet, MSW, PhD
  • Senior Lecturer
  • pmaillet@uwm.edu
  • 414-229-5627
  • Enderis Hall 1069
  • I got interested in social work because my sister adopted two children and had many wonderful experiences with social workers. Also, I got to know a professor who was a social worker. I really connected with her and realized my dream was to be a social worker.
  • I have worked with many different client populations ranging from children to later adulthood. I have worked in psychiatric hospitals, substance abuse centers, medical hospitals and nursing homes. I love working with clients, their families and other support systems in their world. I have found social work to be very challenging and rewarding. Social work is such a needed and valued profession in our society.
  • I absolutely love working with students! Teaching is such a rewarding experience … All students have their own personal values, life experiences and ideas about helping clients. I really strive to value everything students bring to the classroom as we critically think about social work as a profession.
  • More about Peggy

Livy Malle, MSW
  • Senior Lecturer of Social Work
  • ludowise@uwm.edu
  • 414-229-6107
  • Enderis Hall 1045
  • I studied social work and psychology in college as well as education. People are my passion and I enjoy learning from others and helping others learn. If you asked my elementary school teachers, they would tell you my favorite classes were recess and lunch. While that was probably true, I enjoyed social sciences throughout. I very much enjoyed college classes that were practice-based, so I could learn by doing and making mistakes along the way. I absolutely love helping my students apply their learning to the field.
  • Something I learned in college and see as a need more than ever in hindsight is for students to build a network of friends, colleagues, instructors, and mentors that give you energy and support! Stay busy and connected on campus; these people and experiences will stay with you throughout your career and life.
  • When I’m not working, I’m busy at my children’s school helping them and their classmates enhance learning through book clubs and art appreciation – and sometimes I’m just the lunchtime helper. I cheer on my children and their friends in their sports activities. I binge watch Netflix shows, and occasionally hit the gym. I love to go fishing, and do this a few times a month when the weather cooperates. You will definitely find me on one of Milwaukee’s fine restaurant patios in the summer.Because helping others is my passion, I’m excited about the opportunity to support students in their academic career as a mentor.
  • More about Livy

Danielle Romain, PhD
  • Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice
  • dmromain@uwm.edu
  • 414-229-6953
  • Enderis Hall 1139
  • My education background is somewhat varied – I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in Jewish Studies, a master’s degree in criminal justice, and a PhD in urban studies. My college and graduate school paths led me to opportunities I had never through about, and gave me experiences that I wouldn’t have normally considered.
  • I became interested in criminal justice as a way to bridge what I learned as a psychology major with a personal interest of mine: working with victims of intimate partner violence. This led me to an internship opportunity with the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office and Sojourner Family Peace Center working as an advocate for victims of domestic violence. This experience helped shape much of my research focus on court decision-making and the handling of sexual assault and intimate partner violence cases.
  • Although I rarely saw my academic advisor as an undergrad, I developed close relationships with a few faculty on campus who helped guide me on courses to take and were instrumental in helping me decide to go to graduate school. I wish I would have sought out my academic advisor more – I may have been more aware of scholarships and volunteer opportunities around campus. My main challenge as an undergrad student was balancing work, school, and sorority obligations. I worked several jobs and often had long days between work, school, and working in a psychology lab for class credit.
  • Some interesting facts about me include: I enjoy riding my motorcycle in the spring and summer months, I enjoy cooking and baking, and I love taking my dog Stella for walks around Greenfield Park.
  • More about Danielle

Julie Schuppie, MSW, PhD
  • Senior Lecturer of Social Work
  • schuppie@uwm.edu
  • 414-229-4726
  • Enderis Hall 1041
  • My interest in social work developed through a social justice lens. Particularly, my grandfather’s interest in workers’ rights and my parent’s interests in civil rights informed my desire to understand the injustices in society, and work with individuals and communities to improve lives. I initially wanted to be a high school social studies teacher focusing on history and sociology, but realized I was more interested in working with kids who were struggling because of issues outside of the classroom. After finishing my BS in secondary education at UW-Madison I decided to pursue an MSSW at Madison and a PhD years later.
  • My direct practice social work experience is in health care outpatient, inpatient, and community settings, residential treatment facilities, outpatient cognitive behavioral therapy group settings, and school settings. I have also worked with a variety of client populations including pregnant women, new parents, and infants, survivors and perpetrators of intimate partner violence, clients with serious mental illness, and families living in poverty. Engaging with clients has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and have been honored to do this work in Milwaukee.
  • My experiences as a student have been mostly positive. I have always appreciated my incredible luck that I was afforded the opportunity to go to college and have access to new ideas, new research, and interesting classmates and professors. I realized early on in my college experience that the many demands expected of a student were at times overwhelming, and I needed to prioritize on any given week, day or even hour. I acknowledged I couldn’t be perfect at school and so, I learned to give myself a break and enjoy the process of learning, reminding myself that I would be a “learner” the rest of my life.
  • When I’m not working, I enjoy hanging out with friends and family. I love a good book, a long run, and a great joke. Funny people keep me grounded. Compassionate people keep me uplifted.
  • More about Julie

Devin Thomas, MSW, CAPSW
  • Clinical Assistant Professor
    and Social Work Field Liaison
  • thomas92@uwm.edu
  • 414-229-6890
  • Enderis Hall 1055
  • Throughout my life I was exposed to social work through my parents commitment to social justice – often I accompanied them to volunteer work, protests, meetings and discussions on poverty. I have worked extensively with the LGBTQ+ population, specifically with survivors of trauma, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and sexual exploitation. I have also worked with youth and young adults who have been involved with the child welfare system. Other experiences include working with chronically homeless/displaced individuals and individuals living with mental health issues.
  • I received my BSW at University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, where I also minored in Peace and Justice Studies. I studied abroad in Cuernavaca, Mexico, where I learned about social work in Mexican communities. I completed my MSW at University of Illinois-Chicago. I love to garden, hike with my dog Artemis, exercise, try new foods and explore Milwaukee’s vibrant music scene. I enjoy participating in community issues, particularly around LGBTQ identities, poverty, sexual and reproductive heath and racial discrimination.
  • More about Devin

Dimitri Topitzes, PhD
  • Professor of Social Work
  • topitzes@uwm.edu
  • 414-229-3004
  • Enderis Hall 1193
  • My name is Dimitri Topitzes, and I’m a faculty member in the Social Work Department here at UW-Milwaukee. I got into social work because I thought medicine was bogus, psychology too individualistically-focused, and dentistry gross. I couldn’t pursue engineering because I had no related talent, and I lived in the midwest or else I would have chosen marine biology. Teaching public school was also out because I don’t like crowds. So that essentially left social work! Although I characterize it as a default profession, I love social work because it enables me to work in so many different contexts (outpatient mental health clinic, child welfare, etc.), at many different levels (individual, community, policy, etc.), and on behalf of collective healing. My primary interest is in the role that trauma plays in the development and well-being of individuals and communities. More specifically, I develop and test programs that can help adults and families resolve the effects of trauma.
  • I got involved in social work when I was in my 20s because I knew that addressing trauma at the individual and community levels was my life calling, and because I knew that I couldn’t do anything else except marine biology, which as I already mentioned was out of the question due to geography. So I dove into social work with all my heart when I was young, first as a substance abuse counselor, then as an MSW student, then as a family and adolescent clinical social worker, then as a doctoral student, and now as a university faculty.
  • I love my job, but reminisce about the old days in Madison as a graduate student. It took me seven long years to complete my masters and doctoral degrees, but those were fun years in Madison, a town that is tailor-made for students. I worked hard, but enjoyed myself.
  • Upon graduation, I was fortunate to return to the place in which I was raised, Milwaukee, and ultimately land a job at UW-Milwaukee. I have a soft spot for this city and university. I grew up in the Sherman Park area and now do research that hopefully can have an influence in some small way on the quality of life in Sherman Park and beyond. Seems like a lofty goal, but it is a motivating factor. One passion of mine is to interface with students who will themselves go on to work in Milwaukee and Wisconsin, devoting themselves to the values of social work, which in my mind are healing, growth, and compassion.
  • More about Dimitri

Jeanne Wagner, MSW, LCSW, ACSW
  • Clinical Professor and Director of Social Work Field Education
  • jeannew@uwm.edu
  • 414-229-6501
  • Enderis 1073
  • I have been proud to call myself a social worker since I graduated with my BSW degree many years ago. I worked as a BSW social worker for nine years before pursuing my MSW. As a BSW professional I worked in poverty stricken Appalachia, with older adults in a skilled care center, with adults who had intellectual limitations or brain injuries, and as a child welfare/adoption case manager.
  • Once I received my MSW my practice was expanded to include becoming a licensed clinical social worker and I then became a supervisor and eventually a program director. I developed an expertise in adoption and have worked in private clinical practice.
  • I can honestly say that I have never had a single moment where I felt that I had pursued the wrong career, even though I was uncertain what the career of social work was when I selected my BSW major so many years ago.
  • The intrinsic experiences in social work practice far exceeds any monetary value you can gain in other professions and I am grateful for the wonderful career that I have been privileged to have and I am proud of my students who have chosen this remarkable profession!
  • More about Jeanne