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What’s the Marquette Difference? Preparing future educators to find success and satisfaction







S TA R T I N G B E L L IT’S HARD FOR ME TO BELIEVE THAT I’M IN MY TENTH YEAR AS DEAN OF THE COLLEGE OF EDUCATION AT MARQUETTE UNIVERSITY. DURING THE PAST DECADE, IT HAS BEEN A GENUINE PRIVILEGE AND HONOR TO SERVE IN THIS ESTEEMED ROLE AT AN INSTITUTION I CHERISH SO DEEPLY. MAKE THAT A BLESSING. My love affair — or rather my deep sense of reverence — began when I first interviewed here, and it continues to deepen to this day. From the outset, I knew there was something very special about Marquette. I couldn’t find words for it back then, but I knew its essence resided in the extremely intelligent, skilled and dedicated faculty, students, administrators, staff and alumni I encountered initially and then along the way. Early on in my time here, I shared my elusive sense of Marquette’s uniqueness and my struggle to label it with an administrative colleague. Her response brought me a welcome degree of closure, and I remember it, with gratitude, like it was only yesterday: “It’s actually simple, Bill. Marquette has a soul.” One word. Four letters. Infinitely meaningful. That depiction amounted to an epiphany for me. In the period since, I’ve witnessed Marquette’s “soulfulness” play out repeatedly — in our academic programs, our scholarship and our outreach. Excellence, faith, leadership and service are not mere buzz words here. Neither are cura personalis, magis, men and women for others or finding God in all things. Most important, our university and college communities pull together for a higher purpose, a calling if you will, and, frankly, it shows. Clearly we are mission-centric, and this issue of Education showcases several examples of important social justice work being done by our extended College of Education family. I invite you to read about undergraduate teacher preparation in the college and how our student personnel and administration program exemplifies a Jesuit grounding. You can also learn about an alumnus with a distinguished career in Catholic schooling, an exceptional urban educator who has joined our faculty ranks, how we embody hope through counseling and what it means to be a Marquette educator. The coverage of this last topic, in particular, highlights some remarkable attributes of this college — such as the 97 percent of our students who report being satisfied or very satisfied with their undergraduate education or the eloquence and sincerity of graduate after graduate in describing how the college enlarged their world view and helped them understand students from diverse backgrounds. If you accept my invitation along with my assurance that far more examples of our community engagement exist than these pages could accommodate, then you’ll understand why I take such pride in our college and its people. We’ve got soul after all. Sincerely, Bill Henk Dean of the College of Education


Marquette University  College of Education Office of the Dean 561 N. 15th St. Walter Schroeder Health and Education Complex, Room 124 Milwaukee, WI 53233 414.288.7376 Dean of the College William A. Henk, Ed.D. Editor: Lori Fredrich Advising Editor: Stephen Filmanowicz Copy Editor: Becky Dubin Jenkins Art Director: Karen Parr Contributing photographers and illustrators: Kevin Pauly, Jessica Lothman and Dan Johnson, iStock images and Getty Images. Thank you to Marquette University High School and Nativity Jesuit Middle School. Join the College of Education community online and through social media.




Alumni making a difference

Longtime MPS educator Cynthia Ellwood brings her leadership expertise to the college; Dr. Bob Fox launches an online course on home-based mental health counseling for young children.

Larry Siewert dedicates his career to bolstering Catholic education and changing the trajectory of young lives.

4 Research and innovation Hope expert Dr. Shane Lopez sits down with a longtime colleague and sheds light on an oftenoverlooked element of positive academic and life outcomes.


What is a Marquette educator made of ? Skill, compassion and grit. That’s what.


A Marquette educator is reflective yet restless.

Educators around the clock Jesuit values help student affairs program graduates thrive in a field characterized by enlarged expectations.

Blog: Sign up for our weekly email digest at Education Magazine is published annually for alumni, friends and supporters of the College of Education at Marquette University. We welcome feedback from our readers. Please feel free to contact us and share your ideas for people and topics you’d like to see covered in future issues.

Sheila Stormont, Ed ’12

6 The Marquette Difference

What unique value does Marquette bring to teacher training? We took a look at the facts and asked the people whose opinions matter most.




GUIDING PRINCIPALS Longtime MPS leader shares her expertise

Cynthia Ellwood’s first day on the job as a principal was unforgettable. “I felt like I’d

“ … her tendency to pursue bold change arises directly out of her passion and world view.” — Gregory Thornton

been hit by a truck,” she recalls. She was tasked with running the troubled Hartford Avenue Elementary School in Milwaukee. “There was just a lot of meanness — disrespect of adults toward kids and teachers angry at each other,” she says. It took several years of intense work to turn the school around, overcoming a group of loudly negative members of the teaching team, cultivating leadership by some of the quieter but more dedicated educators, and trying to create a climate where students and parents and teachers are working together. For Ellwood, the change became clear when older students stopped destroying the pots of flowers she brought to the school and kindergartners began picking the flowers as gifts for their teachers. Ellwood is now bringing her wealth of leadership experience to the College of Education, where she is a visiting assistant professor. That wealth includes 29 years with Milwaukee Public Schools, serving under nine different superintendents and handling a wide variety of jobs. She was a teacher for six years and a principal for 12, and she served for more than 10 years in the MPS administrative office. She played four different roles there, culminating in a position that functioned like a sub-district superintendent. As regional executive, she oversaw and made key decisions for the east region of MPS, which included 35 schools serving 17,500 students. In that position, she worked closely with MPS Superintendent Gregory Thornton, who says of Ellwood: “She is driven by a commitment to ensure that every last one of our young people enjoys the highest-quality education. Though one could characterize her work as courageous, I have come to believe her tendency to pursue bold change arises directly out of her passion and world view.” At Marquette, Ellwood’s job is to teach leadership classes to graduate students, many of whom aspire to be principals themselves, and help reshape leadership education in the master’s and doctoral programs of the Department of Educational Policy and Leadership. “I thought I might have to explain myself, that I take a moral view of education and for

Visiting faculty member Cynthia Ellwood: reshaping leadership education here.

me it’s an affair of the heart,” she says. “But that was a given at Marquette — there’s a commitment to social justice and diversity. That’s been a thrill.” Bruce Murphy


Please mark your calendars for the second annual Mission Recognition Event, Tuesday evening, April 22, in the Henke Lounge of the Alumni Memorial Union. This event honors individuals and groups from within and outside Marquette who have made a significant contribution toward advancing the social justice mission of the College of Education.

Behavior Clinic

extends its reach

During the past decade, Dr. Robert Fox and the staff at Marquette’s Behavior Clinic have often been at the forefront of treating children with serious behavior issues. They broke the mold by treating children at an earlier age and in a more comfortable setting. Instead of having parents bring the young patients to them, the clinic staff started going into the homes of families in need. Now, Fox, a professor of counselor education and counseling psychology, is embracing innovation again. Through a new online course offered by the College of Education, Fox hopes to reach professionals who interact with troubled children and their parents but don’t have the training it takes to help. “It’s a way to increase community capacity to deal with these kids,” Fox says. Intended for social workers, counselors, nurses and others who work in the field, the course will use videos, written material and exams. The course is based on Fox’s work at the Behavior Clinic, a partnership between the College of Education and Milwaukee’s Penfield Children’s Center. The clinic will treat more than 500 children this year but has a significant waiting list — indicating a need for more expertise. “There’s not a lot for parents of young kids that have

serious problems,” Fox says. “There are a couple of other programs, but they don’t tend to target the low-income families.” The course will teach several techniques that have proven effective in the clinic — from showing practitioners how to help parents set limits and expectations to something as simple as teaching them how to play. The most important step, Fox says, is to help parents enjoy being with their children again. The course is expected to count toward continuing education requirements for professionals in Wisconsin but will likely draw interest far outside the state. Fox says they’ll likely charge a “nominal” fee to take the course, with any revenue being split between Marquette and Penfield. Fox also hopes to submit it to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for certification as an evidence-based program, which could increase its profile. “We want to get to the practitioners and say: ‘Here are some tools you can add to your toolbox. They work. They’ve been proven to work. We can get kids’ behavior problems dropping down to nearly nothing. Parents improve their skills. It’s a happy family,’ ” Fox says. “And we can prove that with our research.” Chris Jenkins



CELEBRATION OF TEACHING The College of Education and the Education Deans of Greater Milwaukee invite you to save the date for the second annual Celebration of Teachers and Teaching, Thursday, October 16. Watch for details. Friends of teacher education at Marquette are encouraged to attend to show their support for the profession.


CALL FOR NOMINATIONS Do you know a college alumnus/a who embodies the mission of Marquette personally and professionally? Please nominate him or her for a 2015 Alumni National Award at awards. And save the date for the college’s Alumni Awards ceremony, Thursday, April 24.

With doctoral student Brittany Gresl, Behavior Clinic founder Dr. Robert Fox created a new online course to share the clinic’s innovative pediatric behavioral approach with a broader audience.



Hope works Dr. Shane Lopez’s research shows hope can be cultivated and used to considerable advantage in our lives. But don’t confuse hope with wishfulness, he advises in this interview with the college’s Dr. Lisa Edwards.

When associate professor of counseling Dr. Lisa Edwards was a graduate student at the University of Kansas, Dr. Shane Lopez was her faculty adviser. An early adherent of the positive psychology movement in a field traditionally more focused on dissecting pathologies and negative influences, Lopez helped inspire research interests that continue to define Edwards’ career at Marquette, such as factors promoting resilience in youth from challenging urban, multicultural settings. Now known as “America’s foremost researcher on hope,” Lopez took time out for a conversation with his longtime colleague when he visited campus in November to deliver the college’s Tommy G. Thompson lecture. These excerpts from their discussion reveal how a concept as deceptively commonplace as hope has a promising role to play in helping those who are struggling psychologically and in promoting positive outcomes for those at risk for academic setbacks, depression and other life struggles because of poverty, abuse or multicultural stressors. In contrast to wish-based forms of pop psychology, hope’s effectiveness has been proven empirically, says Lopez, but hard work and persistence are required to unlock its value.

Edwards: How did you start researching hope as an outgrowth of positive psychology? Lopez: Hope has been around long before positive psychology. It is an ancient virtue that humans have been practicing forever, and we really just started figuring it out in the 20th century. In the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, psychology was known for focusing on weaknesses and pathology. That helped us figure out how to treat those who are in dire straits, but it told us very little about how to help people who were just trying to live a slightly better life or be better parents. In the ’80s, a professor named Rick Snyder tried to demystify hope; he thought maybe we could teach it. So I picked up on that work and thought, “OK, if we could teach hope to adults, we could probably teach hope to children”… and right about that time is when positive psychology came into being. Positive psychology is all about what’s right with people — better understanding what we do well and how we develop happiness and spread that happiness to others. Edwards: In bookstores, we see a lot of pop psychology. How is the hope you’re talking about different from that? Lopez: Well, there is a subsection of the self-help genre that’s all about wishing. And I think that is corrosive. We don’t make a happy life just by sitting on the sidelines and wishing it to be so. It takes a lot of hard psychological work … When you combine optimism with that belief that you can influence your own life — and you develop confidence and plans to develop a better future for yourself — that’s when you have hope. Edwards: Can you give us an example of the empirical research being done on hope in education? Lopez: We just did a meta-analysis of 48 studies around the world, looking at ages ranging from elementary to law school. We found that hope is worth about a letter grade. So, if a hopeful student with a 100 IQ and a less hopeful student with a 100 IQ take a test, the hopeful student will do better on that test. And over time, that student will do about a letter grade better, so they’ll be more successful. A compelling finding is that hope is one of the few things that comes close to being an equal opportunity resource … We have told ourselves that poor people are less hopeful than rich people when in fact that’s not necessarily true. Hope cuts across income levels. It cuts across IQs. It cuts across social groups. Edwards: We care a lot about urban youth in Milwaukee and the stressors they face. So how do urban youths address some of the things that detract hope from their lives?

In co-authoring a new book on the topic, Dr. Lisa Edwards had her eyes opened to the epidemic levels of depression and suicide among Latina teens. The authors seek insights from the resilience and hope of Latinas who overcome difficult circumstances.

Lopez: Rick Snyder did a study a long time ago showing that high-hope students who went to a rough neighborhood experienced violence, but it didn’t stick to them. It didn’t emotionally scar them. They were able to process it in a way that allowed them to go to school the next day without that violence dictating their day. The low-hope students experienced violence and it stuck to them … It kind of pulled them down so that the next day they’re feeling the weight of the world and they struggle in school. So this way of thinking about the future affects how you process things that happen to you today. Whether you’re rich or poor, black or white, you can create stories of the future that are so compelling that they help you deal with what you live with … it’s a buffer. Edwards: So what happens when urban youth tell a story about their future that is perhaps unrealistic in that the expectations are too low or the expectations are too high? Lopez: Hopeful people are realists. They see all the obstacles that lay before them when they’re working on this big goal. Wishful people are deluded. So they’re not seeing all the obstacles and they’re maybe aiming too high for anyone except the one in a million people who occupy that role of best rapper in the world or best basketball or baseball player in the world. At the same time, folks are absorbing what they see in their community. So they’re setting the bar based on what they know to be doable. We may see that as aiming too low, but that may be all they know. Edwards: OK, so the mentors, the role models, are critical to hope? Lopez: If we connect a young person with someone who looks like them but is 20 years older and is behaving like they want to behave in the future, then that student can literally see himself growing up and doing amazing things. Edwards: Folks often arrive at counseling devoid of hope. How do we make sense of that from a hope perspective? What do they need in these situations? Lopez: That’s where I got turned on to hope. I was working with a client who was suicidal — a smart, capable guy who had the rug pulled out from under him by a health problem. He felt like he had no future, so he didn’t want to live today. What I try to keep in mind is that that person has forgotten what hope feels like. The feeling of hope is foreign to them. So I need to reteach them how to feel that again, one step at a time. We have to string a few days and weeks together of people feeling good so they can transcend those hopeless feelings. You can begin telling a compelling story about the future if you get excited about the future and spend some time with a very hopeful person … because then your body and your brain and your heart will start feeling hope again, and it might reinvigorate you enough to start taking some chances.

Dr. Shane Lopez puts his research on hope to work as a senior scientist at Gallup and as the author of popular books. He also serves on the faculty of the University of Kansas School of Business.



What’s the Marquette Difference? By Lori Fredrich

“A Marquette education is a means to a greater end.” Eric Wolffersdorff, Ed ’11

What special value does this private Catholic, Jesuit university bring to teacher training?

We took a look at the facts and asked the people whose opinions matter most.




Is it worth it?

of College of Education students feel that their undergraduate education provided value for the money spent. 2013 Survey of Graduating Seniors

97 percent

of College of Education students are satisfied or very satisfied with their undergraduate education. 2013 Survey of Graduating Seniors

Riana Johnson, Ed ‘14



What You Get: A high-quality education that can be completed in four years.


All Marquette education students complete a double major in education (elementary/middle or middle/ secondary) and a content area of their choice. So they graduate from Marquette as content experts.

“I frequently hear from principals that Marquette graduates are well-prepared in their chosen content area.” Susan Stang, Licensure Officer College of Education


Education students are admitted directly into the College of Education. So they can focus immediately on what’s important and get a head start on completing their degrees.


The average number of years College of Education undergraduates spend completing their degrees.


“We have streamlined our curriculum, making it easier for students to finish in a four-year timeframe. We have really worked hard to create a curriculum that is easy for students to follow, as well as a system by which they work with an education adviser and a content major adviser to ensure they are on track with requirements.” Tina McNamara, Director of Undergraduate Advising





Vocation and Service

of College of Education students participate in community-based service learning, giving them insights on how to address the challenges faced by urban students.

“A Marquette educator can see a misbehaving student, a struggling reader, a disengaged child— and identify the whys without excusing the problem.”


of education students applied for full-time community service positions like the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and Teach for America during their senior year.

Nick McDaniels, Ed ’08

2013 Survey of Graduating Seniors

What sets Marquette teachers apart from the crowd? Use #MUEducator on Twitter and Facebook to share your thoughts.



“I am impressed with the number of our students who view teaching as a calling to serve the underserved. That commitment plays out not only in their required field experiences and student teaching in urban schools but also in their willingness to volunteer as tutors, teachers, recreation directors and child care workers for organizations serving children and youth living in poverty in local, national and international settings.” Dr. Joan Whipp, Director of Teacher Education


Global Experiences

gain cultural self-awareness

31 T





An average of 31 percent of College of Education students study abroad during their time at Marquette. In fact, the College of Education has the second-highest participation rate for study abroad on campus after the College of Business. By comparison, less than 2 percent of all U.S. students enrolled in higher education participate in study abroad programs.




Italy Spain South Africa

experience different teaching styles

Top 3 countries where Marquette education students go to study.


How did your experience abroad change your perspective on teaching? Share your story on Twitter and Facebook: #MUEducator.


“Study abroad raises preservice teachers’ awareness that social justice issues are interconnected nationally and internationally. The resulting global consciousness informs the way they approach their teaching. As today’s schools grow increasingly ethnically and socioeconomically diverse, Marquette educators with international study or teaching experience will be the ones best positioned to take advantages of teaching opportunities locally and around the globe.” Dr. Ellen Eckman, Department Chair for Educational Policy and Leadership



Readiness and Employability The Hartman Literacy and Learning Center provides elementary preservice teachers with real-world training in teaching math and reading — allowing them to develop skills that let them hit the ground running in their first teaching positions.

REAL WORLD Education students begin

gaining experience



80 % of our students find teaching positions in their area of certification after graduation. The remainder typically pursue graduate work or jobs in education-related and nonprofit organizations.


in classrooms starting their freshman year.


The state of Wisconsin requires students to have 100 hours in the field before student teaching. On average, Marquette students exceed this requirement by 40 hours, giving them more valuable experience in the classroom.

“Having my class in the Hartman Center and teaching small groups before student teaching gave me an advantage in taking on my own classroom.” Crystal Tolbert, Ed ’12


“Though no teacher comes into the classroom and gets it perfect on the first day, Marquette students have confidence and experience in classroom management that give them a readiness that you just don’t see in all new teachers.” Mark Joerres, Principal of St. Thomas More High School




around the clock

Graduates benefit from Jesuit-based approach to student affairs education Collaborating with student affairs professionals at St. Norbert to connect students with the community harnessed her passion for social justice work. “It had never occurred to me to pursue a career in higher education,” Johnson says. “I discovered a personal joy connecting with students and giving them chances to develop their skills, engage in dialogue about ethics and diversity, and see themselves as active citizens.” Re-energized, Johnson enrolled in the College of Education’s master’s program in college student personnel administration. After receiving her degree in 2012, she was hired by the University of Michigan’s Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning, where today she advises, trains, and supports students and student groups engaged in community service and social action.

“... the Marquette program

“I love the work,” she says, praising “how the Marquette program prepared me — mind, body and spirit — for this role.”

prepared me — mind, body and spirit

Kids don’t dream of growing up to work in college student personnel administration, or student affairs for short. Yet competent and compassionate student affairs professionals are vital to any college wanting to educate and serve its students. Graduates say the Marquette student affairs program, now celebratimg its 10th anniversary, embodies the deepest professional ethic of their field by hewing closely to fundamental Jesuit values: caring, striving for better and promoting social justice.

— for this role.” — Brianne Johnson, Grad ’12, of the University of Michigan’s Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning

Brianne Johnson figured she was heading toward a law career in the nonprofit sector when she graduated from Northwestern University with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and international studies. But even after giving a graduate program in nonprofit management at Marquette a try, she couldn’t shake the nagging sense she was missing something. So the native of Kingsford, Mich., took a break, signing up with Americorps VISTA. Assigned to St. Norbert College in DePere, Wis., she managed a campus service program linking college students with community volunteer opportunities — and discovered an unexpected new path.

“Student affairs professionals now view themselves as educators who significantly contribute to providing seamless learning experiences for students,” writes Rev. Andrew Thon, S.J., a founder of Marquette’s program and one of its two full-time faculty members. His recent short book, The Ignatian Imperative, examines how those Jesuit principles align with the values of the student affairs profession. Marquette’s program not only lives up to that ideal, participants say — it does so with a powerful mixture of theory and practice. Assistantships on campus help many of the students pay part of their costs and, more important, bring to life their classroom studies. “We bring in our own experiences,” says Patrick Schweiger, in his first year as a member of the 2015 class. “I’m not just sitting in the class, but I’m bringing in those real-world interactions that we have.”

“A guiding philosophy of student affairs administration is to help students

do more and be more.” — John Janulis, Grad ’12

The Jesuit connection drew Katie Trulley to Marquette because she’d thrived at Jesuit-run Loyola University Chicago, majoring in sociology and anthropology as an undergrad. Those values permeated Marquette’s student affairs master’s program, she found. “It goes really down to social justice,” she says. She saw Marquette staff, faculty and fellow students living out the Jesuit value of cura personalis — caring for each person with respect for his or her unique gifts and challenges as individuals — in their daily work.

First-year master’s student Patrick Schweiger says real-world interactions take Marquette’s program to another level.

“It’s not just about education, not just about them as a student, but about each of them as an individual who is going to be a contributor to our society, ” Trulley, Grad ’11, says. When she graduated, she took that ethic with her. She recently started a new job as an academic adviser at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay, Wis. Many of her students come from low-income families and diverse ethnic backgrounds — people, she says, “who wouldn’t necessarily think of themselves as having access to education.” Back during her years at Marquette, “We were celebrating 100 years of women at Marquette,” Trulley recalls. “I remember, in a lot my classes, hearing: ‘The conversation can’t stop here. Women have access to education now. But who doesn’t?’ My job now very much relates to providing pathways for students to have access to education.” John Janulis, Grad ’12, isn’t Catholic — and not even religious, he says — but he too found value in his Jesuit experience. A University of Illinois history graduate who worked as a residence hall director at the University of Michigan before joining Marquette’s college student personnel administration program, Janulis says he chose Marquette to broaden his experience beyond large, public universities to include a private, faith-based, urban institution. Student affairs administrators “have a lot of values that are congruent with Catholic, Jesuit values,” says Janulis, who works at Marquette in Intercultural Engagement. He finds particular inspiration in the Jesuit ideal of magis, or the more. “A guiding philosophy of student affairs administration is to help students do more and be more,” he says. Johnson says her new career is helping her achieve her undergraduate ambitions to “help people” and “make a difference in the world.” But she also has reframed those goals considerably and gives Marquette credit for that. “My career path has become less about the charity-based notion of ‘helping people’ and more about acting as an engaged, empowering, and supportive community member and student affairs professional,” she says. “Beyond ‘making a difference,’ I strive to align my work and values toward creating a more just and caring world.” Erik Gunn

Chronicler and change agent As a former student affairs vice president and current faculty member of the college’s student affairs master’s program, Rev. Andrew Thon, S.J., has witnessed and influenced an evolution in the field from a focus on keeping students “out of mischief” to developing the whole student and extending learning beyond the classroom. His new book, The Ignatian Imperative, captures the vision for student affairs that now defines Jesuit colleges and universities.



Siewert’s Way Alumnus turned legendary educator Larry Siewert had two rewarding careers

LARRY SIEWERT ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A TEACHER BUT NIXED THE IDEA BASED ON THE ADVICE OF A HIGH SCHOOL COUNSELOR. “HE SAID: ‘OH, YOU DON’T WANT TO GO INTO TEACHING. YOU WON’T MAKE ANY MONEY,’ ” RECALLS SIEWERT, BUS AD ’63, GRAD ’72. That changed, however, as he was en route to finishing his business degree from Marquette. He ultimately worked for 49 years as an educator in Milwaukee, becoming the longest-serving principal of Marquette University High School and, later, co-founder and principal of the innovative Nativity Jesuit Middle School. But he didn’t arrive there in the most orthodox way. Siewert took some undergraduate education courses but was hired in 1964 to teach at Marquette High based on his business degree and willingness to teach courses like accounting and coach freshman football. Also, as an alumnus of the school he was known by much of the staff. He had a football coach’s gruffness. “I’ve talked to many Marquette high school graduates who talked about how rough and tough he could be,” says Paula Harris, who later worked with Siewert at Nativity Jesuit. But he always had “tremendous empathy and compassion” for students, she says.

Siewert soon came to realize this would be his career. “I wanted to work with kids. I like their energy. I liked their openness,” he says. “I had high school teachers who were a big influence on me, and I wanted to be that person.” By his third year on the MUHS staff, he became the school’s first lay dean of students and was pursuing a master’s degree in education administration at Marquette, a career direction thoroughly encouraged by the principal of MUHS. From there, Siewert rose to administrative assistant to the principal and, in 1981, became Marquette High’s first lay principal. “I had qualms about accepting,” he recalls. “I was only 40. And I worried I was creating an end game for myself,” given the typical turnover for the position of principal. As it turned out, Siewert served in the role from 1981–92, until he left to found Nativity Jesuit. During his 28 years at MUHS, the school’s staff flip-flopped, changing from about 90 percent Jesuit to a 90 percent lay staff. But the staff is so committed to the Jesuit philosophy that “it’s probably more Jesuit (in spirit) now than it was then,” he says. Siewert and other staff attended workshops on Jesuit identity, and he came to embrace the approach, specifically the action-oriented Jesuit phrase of being men and women for others. “The idea that you live for others meant a lot to me,” he says.

Siewert’s lessons for educators

After 28 years at Marquette High, 11 of them as principal (center, black and white), Larry Siewert co-founded Nativity Jesuit and spent another two decades helping make it a life-altering, year-round presence in the lives of its low-income Latino students.

Based on the successful experience of Nativity Jesuit, here’s advice for helping low-income, low-achieving students excel.

And he was challenged to do just that by Rev. Bill Johnson, S.J., who asked Siewert to join him in creating a new middle school on the city’s near south side. The old St. Patrick’s school building was Nativity’s location until the move to its current location on South 29th Street in 2004. After some consideration, Siewert said yes. “It was a tough transition, leaving Marquette High,” he says. “But, looking back, it helped me grow in ways I might never have.” Siewert and Father Johnson spent a year planning the school. Serving fifth- to eighth-grade students, the program would be year-round, modeled after New York’s Nativity Mission Center, and would target low-income Latino boys, the ones in the neighborhood most at risk of dropping out of school or joining gangs. To immerse himself in the Spanish language and culture, Siewert spent months with his wife and youngest daughter living with a family in Guadalajara, Mexico, and took Spanish classes.


Smaller is better:


Teach values:


Keep them busy:


Offer a summer camp:


Teach art and music:

Nativity targeted — and continues to target — poor-performing students from public schools. “Most were bilingual, but they could not read or write in either language,” he notes. “They had a different language, different culture, different way to dress.” The Jesuits paid to create a summer camp in Wisconsin’s North Woods, near Mercer, and students began the school year in June, spending six weeks in camp. “Most didn’t know how to swim, and they’d never been in a boat,” Siewert says. The school year brings long days with many after-school options: sports, art, chess, drama, dance. Classes are small. All students take a religion course each semester. Instruction is not bilingual. “We decided we’d just hammer English instruction,” Siewert says. “But we do teach Spanish culture and the Spanish language.” Families pay $900 a year in tuition, which is negotiable for particularly poor families, but the actual cost for each student is at least $16,000. The remaining funds are provided by individual, corporate and foundation donors. Many students flourished, Siewert says, “but once they got to high school, there were a million cracks they could fall through.” All graduates attend area Catholic high schools, and Nativity raises about $265,000 annually to support them with scholarships. Even so, with graduates struggling in other ways, Nativity created a new position of graduate support director, and Siewert, ever the problem-solver, took the job. After eight years as principal, he worked for 12 years in that new position before retiring last year. He helped students with a wide range of problems encountered in high school. “He would take calls in the middle of the night if they needed help,” says Harris, now the school’s development director. Indeed, Siewert has stayed in touch with students even after they moved on to college. “Our oldest students are 32 now, and some have gone back to school for the first time in 10 years,” he says. “You have to take the long view.” Bruce Murphy

Nativity Jesuit has traditionally kept classes to no more than 20 students. Most are smaller.

“Whether it’s religion or history, the instruction has to be values-based,” he says. “They learn: ‘It’s not just about me. It’s for my family, my neighbors, my community.’ ”

Students attend from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and are involved in after-school programs. The extra time for learning helps, but the most important element? Kids don’t have much time to get involved in gangs and other trouble in their typically tough neighborhoods.

There, Nativity students learn academic and life lessons and bond with instructors. “You learn you’re on the same team, and then you get much less pushback from students.”

“I think the whole person is really important. If you’re not doing art and music, you’re missing something.”



What is a

Marquette educator? What happens when you spend four years at a place described as having “a soul�? You develop the skill, compassion and grit to stand up and make a difference.

We asked six graduates to share their thoughts about what it means to be a Marquette educator.

Marquette helped me realize the gravity of my vocation. It’s this challenge — this responsibility — that keeps me going. It’s the main reason why I love my humbling and hungering career. Eric Wolffersdorff, Ed ’11

Confident Educators who attend Marquette have a great focus on social justice issues in the classroom.

Marquette educators are sensitive to the needs of all students and seek ways to fairly educate them. Crystal Tolbert, Ed ’12

Nick McDaniels, Ed ’08


We are able to see students, families and other teachers who are struggling and look beyond the apparent problem and find root causes.


Cassandra Hanson, Arts ’03

Marquette teachers are culturally aware of the differences of their students, and they value those differences.

A Marquette educator is a teacher of students, not subjects.


Sheila Stormont, Ed ’12

Marquette education professors modeled and reminded us every day what an important career we were choosing. Emily (Rodier) Jones, Ed ’08


Marquette educators are flexible and can thrive in any environment — suburban, urban and everything in between.


Crystal Tolbert, Ed ’12

Emily (Rodier) Jones, Ed ’08

A Marquette educator is reflective yet restless.

Marquette educators have a more elevated sense of the societal structures that create injustice in education.


Nick McDaniels, Ed ’08

A Marquette educator is a person who is passionate about creating students who are lifelong learners.

Sheila Stormont, Ed ’12

Cassandra Hanson, Arts ’03



More than simply knowing their content area, Marquette teachers know — and show compassion for — their students. They learn how best to present the content to foster meaningful learning. Eric Wolffersdorff, Ed ’11

What qualities do YOU think describe an #MUEducator? Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

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W E ’ D L I K E YO U T O L I K E U S. But we’d LOVE you to talk with us. Inside this issue, you’ll find messages asking you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, using #MUEducator. So please weigh in about the qualities, perspectives and skills that set Marquette educators apart. We’d love to hear from you. Learn more about how to find, follow and join us at /MUEducation


Education Magazine 2014