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Citizen archaeologists uncover Milwaukee’s past

Volunteer archaeologists have been excavating an old Milwaukee homestead under the direction of UWM’s David Pacifico. (Page 6)

College of Letters & Science


May 2019, Vol. 9, No.5

“I know what


UWM pre-dental stud

Feature Stories

Pre-dental student overcomes hardships Professor studies Great Lakes stakeholders Community archaeology uncovers the past Professors write brief for Census court case Alum runs private autopsy company Students launch weather balloon Researchers collect gun violence stories Math researcher wins Guggenheim award UWM celebrates student research

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It’s all a little unbelievable. “Five years ago, if you had asked me if I would be where I am right now, if I had gotten into dental school, if I would have had the grades that I have, if I would have the confidence that I have, I would have laughed in your face and told you no,” she said.


Five years ago, Hayes-Birchler had just immigrated to the United States from Uganda with her son, Preston, and now-ex-husband, who is an American citizen. They lived in Madison, Wisconsin, where she worked as a certified nursing assistant. In 2015, difficulties in the marriage forced her to file for divorce, but before she could find a place to go, her ex-husband kicked her out of their home. Hayes-Birchler bounced between living in her car, a homeless shelter, and on friends’ couches.


Five years ago, she had a wild idea.

Columns People in Print Passings Upcoming Events In the Media Alumni Accomplishments Laurels, Accolades, & Grants

Josephine Hayes-Birchler is about to graduate from UWMilwaukee with her bachelor’s degree. In the fall, she’ll attend Marquette Dental School. And in April, she officially became an American citizen.

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“While I was staying at the shelter, I started thinking about going back to school,” Hayes-Birchler admitted. “It was crazy. That shouldn’t have been my No. 1 focus – but I was thinking about going to school. So I applied to UWM.” As a newly-single mother with little income, HayesBirchler saw education as the way out of poverty for her and her son. She talked with College of Letters & Science student advisor Jennifer Hack, who helped her apply to the university and chart out her classes on the pre-dental track with a cell and molecular biology major.

(414) 229-2923.

L&S Dean: Scott Gronert In Focus Editor: Deanna Alba

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Josephine Hayes-Birchler shares a silly moment with her son, Preston. “I want him to have a good life,” she said. Photo courtesy of Josephine Hayes-Birchler.

it feels like to struggle”

dent seizes education to forge a better life and help others “I remember the day I moved, I got all of the stuff off of the truck. My son was napping. Nothing was unpacked. I sat in the middle of the room and I broke down and cried,” Hayes-Birchler recalled. “I was like, this is crazy. I didn’t have a job in Milwaukee. I didn’t have child support from my ex-husband. I didn’t have help with babysitting. I didn’t have anything; I didn’t know anyone.” But she did have motivation. Hayes-Birchler smiles each time she talks about her son, who she says is her greatest accomplishment in life. Preston is six years old now, and will start first grade in September. He’s a curious boy who loves to explore, go to the park, and ride his bike. But back then, Preston was her reason for getting out of bed each morning to go to class. “There are times when I feel like giving up or I feel so overwhelmed,” Hayes-Birchler said. “There are times I don’t feel like studying, but I say no, I need to do this. I want him to have a good life – not just a good life, but a life where we don’t have to struggle.” To put herself through school, she worked at a nursing home and later with an in-home care agency. Each semester, she took a full load of classes so that she would be able to graduate in four years. Along the way, she forged a support system: Her dear friends from Madison, Jim and Edith Davison; her advisor, Jennifer Hack; her professors, who were understanding when she sometimes had to bring Preston to class with her; the crew at UWM’s Life Impact program, which assists disadvantaged parents in attaining an education; and her friends in Milwaukee. Her four years of college were full of early mornings, long hours at her job and school, and studying. But when she got the phone call telling her that she had been accepted to Marquette Dental School, it made all of that work worth it. “I started crying like a little child. I was so excited! I could not believe it,” she said. On top of it all, in April, Hayes-Birchler took her oath of citizenship to become a citizen of the United States. In the audience cheering her on were Hayes-Birchler’s coaches from UWM’s Life Impact Program, dear friends from Madison, and her son. Though she is about to graduate, Hayes-Birchler still has a long road ahead. Dental school will be challenging, and she won’t be able to work while she’s in school. Without a job, she’ll lose her state assistance for child care and will

Josephine Hayes-Birchler (second from right) smiles with her son, Preston, and her friends and supporters after taking her oath of citizenship to become a United States citizen in April. Photo courtesy of Josephine Hayes-Birchler.

have to take out loans instead. She’s familiar with struggling. It’s shaped her future career goals. “I would like my own dental practice and I would like to work in low-income areas. I know what it feels like not to have insurance. I know what it feels like to struggle,” she said. “I would like to be able to give back to help people who were in my situation. I would like to be able to offer dental services for free or for a reduced price, even if it means paying out of my own pocket.” When she walks across the stage in May, she’ll be taking one step closer to that dream. By Sarah Vickery, College of Letters & Science College of Letters & Science • UW–Milwaukee • 3

High stakes for the Great Lakes

Geographers explore how to find - and kee From the boundary waters of the United States and Canada to the vast Cuyahoga River watershed to the Milwaukee Estuary, there are 43 Areas of Concern (AOC) surrounding the Great Lakes. Each is in need of remedial clean-up to address numerous beneficial use impairments that impact humans and wildlife alike. The AOCs on the U.S. side of the border are overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency, but at the ground level, clean-up efforts fall to local stakeholders. The question is, how do you find, recruit, and keep those stakeholders? Associate Professor of Geography Ryan Holifield offered some answers in a recent article, titled “Recruiting, integrating, and sustaining stakeholder participation in environmental management: A case study from the Great Lakes Areas of Concern.” Published in the Journal of Environmental Management, the research grew out of surveys that he and co-author Katie Williams, Holifield’s former graduate student, sent to various administrators of Great Lakes AOCs to determine what methods work best to establish and keep stakeholder participation. The hunt for stakeholders A stakeholder is anyone who has a stake in the outcome of a particular AOC: “State, local, and municipal or county governments, sewage districts, or port facilities in some cases,” said Holifield. “It would also include businesses that are affected by areas of concern. Local environmental organizations are a big stakeholder in a lot of these Areas of Concern.” Ryan Holifield

However, identifying stakeholders isn’t the problem.

“One of the findings was that the question of how we recruit active stakeholders, and getting people to be active and stay active over time, is possibly a bigger challenge than identifying them in the first place,” Holifield said. Stakeholders from the industrial world are often tough to recruit, for example. Holifield and Williams’ research showed that many groups had trouble convincing businesses to participate in environmental projects, even though they often have the biggest stake in their outcome. Some of the businesses may have even been responsible for the contamination of certain environmental sites to begin with. Another problem is that there is no “one size fits all” approach to encouraging participation. The size and scope of AOCs vary wildly. The Milwaukee Estuary Area of Concern, for example, is defined

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Areas of Concern

ep - environmental stakeholders as bank-to-bank: Only the waterways and a small part of Lake Michigan are included in the AOC. In contrast, the Cuyahoga River Area of Concern covers the water and land of the entire Cuyahoga River watershed, which includes the cities of Cleveland and Akron, Ohio. That means, said Holifield, that the level of stakeholder participation needed at each AOC also varies. The recruitment methods for one AOC won’t necessarily work for another. So, how do AOC administrators overcome those challenges? The “best practices” of participation As Holifield and Williams conducted their surveys, they found some recurring themes. Chief among them was that successful recruitment and meaningful participation relies on building relationships. For example, one set of AOC coordinators was struggling to maintain the involvement of a First Nations reserve as a stakeholder in the project. Traditional methods of engagement weren’t working, so they tried another approach.

Great Lakes Areas of Concern are toxic ‘hotspots’ where some sort of contaminant has affected the quality of the surrounding environment. These “beneficial use impairments” range from contaminants causing tumors or deformities in fish and wildlife, to tainted drinking water, to beach closings, and more. The AOCs range from the small – Ohio’s Ashtabula river AOC is just a few thousand feet long – to the enormous, like the Cuyahoga watershed AOC that includes Cleveland, Akron, and other municipalities. No matter the size, the Environmental Protection Agency views stakeholder participation of a fundamental part of site clean-up. The nearest AOC to UW-Milwaukee is the Milwaukee Estuary on Lake Michigan.

“The groups met and had a traditional dinner, which was much less formal. There was a lot of conversation. That was a great breakthrough for them where they were able to get a lot of people on board,” Holifield said. “That pointed to another finding that emerged out of all of this, which was the importance of relationship-building, and the importance of making stakeholder participation meaningful for people.” It seems like a simple thing, he added, but the importance of building strong social relationships is often overlooked. “In retrospect, it seems like, of course! But you realize for how long that that didn’t really play much of a role in what it meant to conduct public participation, and that’s something that’s now emerging and catching up,” Holifield said. He and Williams found other “best practices” as well. Several groups spoke about the importance of using social media to appeal to a younger generation of stakeholders. Many said it was crucial to emphasize stakeholder successes to boost morale. “Another best practice that we heard repeated over and over again was cultivating champions: People who are leaders of some kind in the community, but who also had wide networks. They’re able to both steer the committee towards decisions but also have good relations with a lot of people in the area and can also bring those people on board, or at least, forge alliances with them,” Holifield said. Establishing stakeholder participation is a crucial part of AOC recovery. As climate change continues to impact the environment, the Areas of Concern need all the stakeholder help they can get. By Sarah Vickery, College of Letters & Science

College of Letters & Science • UW–Milwaukee • 5

Dig a little deeper

Community archaeology unearths past settlements at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center

In 1872, the De Swarte family, a group of Dutch settlers, built their home on a bluff near Lake Michigan. They had a house and a barn on several acres of land before they left the area in 1892. David Pacifico knows about the family name, dates, and buildings thanks to old surveyor’s maps and records he found with the Milwaukee County Historical Society. He knows about their crockery, tools, and nails thanks to the amateur archaeological dig at what is now Schlitz Audubon Nature Center. Pacifico is the director of the UWM Emile H. Mathis Gallery as well as the leader of MCAP, the Milwaukee Community Archaeology Project. The project aims to explore the long-term impacts of urbanism on the landscape of southeastern Wisconsin. Currently, Pacifico is doing that by excavating the remains of the De Swarte barn to learn more about the immigrants that helped build Milwaukee into the city it is today. He’s doing it with help from a unique quarter: local citizens turned amateur archaeologists, alongside experienced volunteers including undergraduate and graduate students and professional archaeologists. “Archaeologists in general have been interested in this notion of community archaeology,” Pacifico said. “Doing these things David Pacifico examines a fragment of a broken crock found at the excavation of a 19th century homestead. Photo by Sarah Vickery. together creates community in the present. We bring people together to create a network of social relationships among people who might not have otherwise gotten together, and we’re doing so around a project that tells us about the city and the area that we live in.” Though Pacifico is responsible for running the Emile H. Mathis gallery, his background is actually in archaeology. Much of his research and field work focuses on civilizations in Peru, but in 2017, his interests took a more local bent. Pacifico was hiking in the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center one day and began wondering, as archaeologists are wont to do, what lay beneath the surface of the land. “Their name implies a historical connection because Schlitz refers the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company. You can see, walking around, some bits of the farm used to pasture the Schlitz horses that used to deliver the beer,” Pacifico said. “My thought was, what came before that?” So, he turned to UWM’s American Geographical Society Library and the Milwaukee County Historical Society for answers. He found some in maps dating back to the late 19th century. 6

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Old surveyor’s maps overlaid with current satellite imagery helped David Pacifico pinpoint the locations where buildings of 19th century farms used to stand in what is now the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center. Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee County Archaeology Project.

“What’s really cool about them is they show property lines. They show ownership names, and they have dots where the buildings were,” Pacifico said. “That’s a big clue as to what was there beforehand. And when you have names, you can start asking, who are these people? You can find records of them and start chasing the trail a bit.” He overlaid the historical maps with modern satellite imagery and found an approximate location for certain buildings, like the De Swarte barn. Then he approached Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, asking to explore. He and the center’s director of conservation, Marc White, stumbled upon a pit relating to the farm house almost immediately when they began to search, and they found the remains of a barn in March of 2018 during a public lecture and hike at the Audubon Center. Reporter Susan Bence from the WUWM Radio Station, who was on the hike, captured and broadcast the barn discovery. “Nobody at the Nature Center knew of this barn foundation,” Pacifico said. “They just didn’t know to look for it. There’s oftentimes lots of stuff in plain view that’s a clue, the tip of the proverbial iceberg.” Now Pacifico needed help to excavate his discovery. Luckily, Schlitz Audubon had a reliable membership network of people who were eager to get down in the dirt. Almost 100 attended an interest meeting when White asked for volunteers to participate in this archaeological dig. The dig was set for November 2018. A veritable army showed up – everyone from UWM graduate students who work as archaeologists in the university’s Cultural Resource Management program to high school anthropology students to local retirees. “We had a lot of people come and they excavated in the worst conditions I think anyone has ever excavated in. It was the first weekend in November and we had a snowstorm,” Pacifico recalled with a laugh. The mud still hasn’t been entirely scraped from his boots, he added.

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Community archaeology

Jacob De Swarte was a Dutch immigrant who lived on a farm on what is now the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center.

But among the dirt and mud, the diggers struck gold – or at least, they struck iron. The barn had plenty of forgotten nails that told a story. Some nails were pristine and had probably been dropped and lost before they were used; others were bent and hammered with signs that they had been pulled out and re-used, which may mean that the the Schlitz family, who bought the land after the De Swartes left the area, disassembled the barn at some point. Then there were the ceramic fragments. Someone found the rim of a crock made of stoneware that had both a salt glaze and albany slip as surface treatments or decorations. There were bits and pieces of vessels made from durable ironstone, and fragments of finer porcelain – perhaps a cup that had been broken and now re-used in the barn for holding nails, Pacifico speculated. Some finds seemed rather mysterious, but many of Pacifico’s volunteer archaeologists had surprisingly helpful skillsets. “For example, we found a metal rivet that we weren’t sure if it was a button off a coat or a piece of metal horse tackle,” he said. “We also found flat little ‘nails’ that we weren’t sure of. It helped that we had someone who had a former career as an equestrian who … pointed out these actually might be the teeth from a mane comb.” The dig drew an unexpected volunteer: David Sandmire, a direct descendant of the De Swarte family, saw the call for volunteers online and flew in from his home on the east coast to help the crew. Sandmire is interested in genealogy and had charted his family tree with incredible accuracy. “He had things like photographs of the house and the barn with Bart De Swarte, one of the descendants of Jacob De Swarte who lived there,” Pacifico said. Sandmire later presented some of this genealogy work at an MCAP symposium in February. In fact, many of the amateur archaeologists and students who worked the dig attended to present their findings. Though they are not academics and have never written scholarly articles, some chose to write reports that Pacifico is hoping to compile for publication in an archaeology journal. “Any time you can provide the opportunity for people to participate in authentic research, people find it to be a rewarding experience. I think it helps makes the process of research less mysterious,” Pacifico said. “To be able to create a social community, a sense of commonality … around an intellectual pursuit that tells about the history of the place we live is a really rewarding activity.” Pacifico is planning another dig for this October when he and his army of volunteers will excavate two more patches of ground near the barn. Anyone, he says, is welcome to sign up and join. By Sarah Vickery, College of Letters & Science

This photograph shows the barn of Jacob Peter and Adrianna Jennie (Brants) De Swarte in the late 1800s. The figure in the photograph is Jacob’s son, Bart P. De Swarte. Photograph courtesy of the Milwaukee Community Archaeology Project.

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Brief from UWM scholars part of census case before U.S. Supreme Court Adding a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. census would mark the first time in U.S. history that such a question would be included for all people, according to research by a group of historians and social scientists who have submitted a “friend of the court” brief to the U.S. Supreme Court. On April 23, the high court heard arguments in the case Margo Anderson as it reviewed a lower court’s ruling in favor of states suing the U.S. Departments of Justice and Commerce to block addition of the question. The administration claims that adding the question amounts to a “reinstatement” of a citizenship question that has appeared on the census in the past. Not so, say authors of the brief, which include historians Margo Anderson and Rachel Buff from UWM. “A cursory review of old census forms may lead you to believe that a citizenship question has appeared on the form used for the constitutionally required head count in the past,” said Anderson. “But a closer look at those forms reveals big differences between those questions and what Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has mandated.” The Census Bureau is housed within the Department of Commerce. Since 1790, the census has been taken once a decade to get a national population count used in deciding the distribution of congressional representation and national resources. Over the course of history, the questions have changed, particularly to make sure that people understand what’s being asked and can answer easily, said Anderson, who specializes in the history of the U.S. census. The priority in the decennial census to count everyone. That standard, said Anderson, requires making sure that they have in place procedures to advertise the

census, reach hard-tocount populations, such as minorities and immigrants, and make sure people understand how important it is to respond.

Rachel Buff

In the past, the Census Bureau has rejected adding a citizenship question of everyone because it isn’t necessary to do so and the bureau has evidence that such a question would threaten the accuracy and reliability of the census.

An undercount puts many communities at risk for a reduced share of federal funding that is allocated by the census data – resources that are invested in infrastructure like hospitals, schools and roadways. For its argument, the administration is relying on the fact that since 1960, a citizenship question has been asked on the “long form” – which is sent to a relatively small sample of the whole. This long form, now called the American Community Survey, is the instrument the Census Bureau uses to gather more detailed demographic information. The Department of Justice also contends that citizenship was a question included in the whole census from 1890 to 1950. But Anderson said earlier census questions were worded differently, were asked only of the foreign-born, and were designed to measure immigrant assimilation. The academic group collectively wrote the brief at the suggestion of members of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, New York University School of Law. Besides Anderson and Buff, members include sociologist Andrew Beveridge at Queens College of the City University of New York, historian Morgan Kousser at the California Institute of Technology, historian Mae Ngai at Columbia University, and historian Steven Ruggles at the University of Minnesota. The brief and court documents are available at the Supreme Court website. By Laura Otto, University Relations College of Letters & Science • UW–Milwaukee • 9

Alum solves medical mysteries as founder of autopsy company The Affordable Care Act was just starting to be implemented in hospitals nationwide when Jennifer (Bero) Alferi finished her medical training in 2012. Health care institutions, unsure how the new law would affect their finances, weren’t hiring newly-minted pathologists. So, since she couldn’t find a job, Alferi decided to make her own. Today, the company she started, Midwest Anatomic Pathology Services, provides private autopsies in Wisconsin and the Chicago area. MAPS contracts with hospitals to conduct autopsies that the hospital’s pathology department is too busy to perform, and it sometimes works with families who request an autopsy for their loved one. Private autopsies? It’s a thing – but it’s nothing like the CSI television shows.

Wisconsin, her father is a dentist, her mother a nurse, and her brother is a veterinarian. As a child, Alferi’s brother was in and out of hospitals to treat a congenital heart defect, which led to her interest in medicine. She began her college career at what is now UWM at Washington County and in 2003 completed her Bachelor’s degree at UWM where she majored in anthropology and biology. Alferi attended the Medical College of Wisconsin and completed a pathology residence in Chicago at Evanston Hospital, followed by two years of a surgical pathology fellowship at Stroger Hospital in the same city. At the same time, Alferi worked with a company called Chicago Area Autopsy Service, where she began to learn about the private autopsy industry. “Then there appeared to be this opportunity for me to start this business,” Alferi said. “There was a lack of people in this field. There was an opening for me and I thought, ‘Okay, I can do this. I can work and there’s a need when there’s not really a need anywhere else.’”

“Most of what I do is medical. I try to stay away from the medical examiner’s component where they do a lot of homicide, suicides, and accidents,” Alferi explained.

The business started slowly as Alferi finished up her fellowship. The year MAPS started, the company was hired for just one or two cases. Gradually, as Alferi reached out to funeral homes and hospitals to offer their services, they began to grow.

Instead, she focuses on solving medical mysteries – why did a particular patient suddenly pass away? Why was a seemingly healthy baby stillborn? Did a hospital make a mistake in treatment that led to a patient’s death?

“The business component of it is very challenging and you learn as you go. In medical school … you’re taught how to do the medical part, but you’re not taught how to do the business part,” Alferi said.

“I’ve always be interested understanding what the disease process is, and I think pathology is the heart of that,” Alferi said. “It’s a basic of understanding of how the body should work and what happens when it doesn’t work.” She comes by that curiosity naturally. Alferi is a doctor in a family of medical professionals. Raised in West Bend, 10 • IN FOCUS • May, 2019

Today, MAPS has branches in Chicago and Mayville, Wisconsin. The company is mobile; Alferi performs autopsies on-site at hospitals and funeral homes. In a typical autopsy, she’ll take samples of tissue to examine them under a microscope to search for factors that contributed to a patient’s death. Sometimes she’ll send blood or tissues samples to another lab for a toxicology screen that looks for drugs or body chemistry abnormalities that could have contributed to a cause of death. She’s seen some interesting – and sad – things in her time on the job, like a heart that was enlarged to four times its normal size due to cancer. Alferi gives the grieving families a preliminary report of her findings, and a more comprehensive report after all of the lab work and tests of tissue samples are complete. “That’s why we really do what we do: For families’ closure and understanding of what had happened,” Alferi said. “Every time that I find a definitive cause of death and I’m able to let people know exactly what happened, it’s very rewarding.” By Sarah Vickery, College of Letters & Science

Students launch weather ballon with help from Vaisala Each time we pull up a weather app on our phones or listen to the morning forecast on the radio, we’re getting a forecast influenced by the data gathered by weather balloons. On May 1, students in UWMilwaukee’s atmospheric science program gathered to watch one such balloon make its trip into the atmosphere. The event was a “Radiosonde Roadshow” put on by Vaisala, a private company that sells weatherrelated instruments. These community demonstrations allow students on college campuses across the country to observe and learn about different aspects of meteorological equipment, and especially gear that might be prohibitively expensive to showcase Atmospheric science major Alex Moxon holds tightly to a weather balloon before it launches into the atmosphere. Specialists from the weather otherwise.

equipment manufacturer Vaisala traveled to UWM on May 1 to show students some of the meteorlogical equipment, including weather balloons,

“This is a great opportunity to necessary to create a forecast. (UWM Photo/Elora Hennessey) have students engage with these instruments and data collection. One of the values of this is being able to expose the students to a different part of the field than we can show them,” said Clark Evans, an associate professor and the head of UWM’s atmospheric science program. Before the launch, Vaisala representatives Chris Vagasky and Frank DeFina talked with students about career paths in the meteorology industry. As they gathered in a field near the campus’ science buildings, students watched as Vagasky filled a white rubber balloon with 500 grams of helium, inflating it to around four feet in diameter. Vagasky weighs 145 pounds; it would take just 17 balloons to lift him off the ground, he said. Attached to the end on a long string was a radiosonde, an instrument package that collects and transmits atmospheric data – things like temperature, wind speed, wind direction and humidity. That data helps scientists plan their forecasts. When the balloon launched, it quickly disappeared into the cloudy sky, where the radiosonde began transmitting data. The balloons can reach heights of six to 10 miles into the atmosphere before the change in air pressure causes them to burst and the radiosonde to plummet to the ground. For many students, it was the first time they had seen such a critical piece of meteorological science. Junior Alex Moxon, who is majoring in atmospheric science, was invited to hold the balloon in preparation of its launch. “It’s such a great experience to be here and be able to start collecting the data that I’ll be using, and maybe even collecting someday, on an everyday basis,” he said. “It’s a very rare opportunity to see a weather balloon launch by the people who make them.” Vaisala is based in Helsinki, Finland, and manufactures all sorts of atmospheric monitoring equipment. It’s important to be a good community partner, said DeFina, Vaisala’s sales manager of weather sales. “These are our future meteorologists and the future of forecasting,” he said, surveying the crowd of UWM students. “We believe in a world where observation improves the daily lives of all citizens. When that weather forecast shows up on peoples’ phones, this is where it all starts.” By Sarah Vickery, College of Letters & Science

College of Letters & Science • UW–Milwaukee • 11

Portia Cobb (from left), associate professor of film; Debra Gillispie, founder of Mothers Against Gun Violence; Leslie Harris, associate professor of communication; and Erin Sahlstein Parcell, associate professor of communication are joining forces and using community radio to raise the voices of those who’ve been affected by gun violence in Milwaukee. (UWM Photo/Elora Hennessey)

UWM partners to collect stories of gun violence After losing her only son in a shooting in 2003, Debra Gillispie began fighting for responsible gun laws. But it was when she launched a show on Riverwest’s community radio station last May that she discovered the healing effects of telling stories of gun violence for survivors. “It also helps the listeners by giving them the opportunity to see these survivors as human beings – ordinary citizens – and not statistics,” Gillispie said. Voices of those who have experienced gun violence in the U.S. are a critical missing piece in the highly charged political discussions over gun control, said Leslie Harris, an associate professor of communication at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Harris and her UWM colleagues are attempting to break the public debate impasse by teaming up with Gillispie to launch the Gun Violence Project. The aim of this interdisciplinary, university-community collaboration is to share stories of gun violence in the Milwaukee area. The team members hope to recover experiences that are not recorded in official documents – accounts of not only loss and its domino effects, but also of resilience and the impacts of both on neighborhoods. Collected stories will be available to the public on an interactive website containing short, high-quality audio 12 • IN FOCUS • May, 2019

stories, transcripts and a multi-modal map so that viewers can correlate the stories with geographic locations. The researchers plan to have all aspects of the website available by September 2020. “Statistics don’t give us enough information,” Harris said. “The meanings of spaces and the ways that we live in them and move through them are impacted by gun violence. For example, for many area high school students, going to school is frightening because it has become associated with gun violence.” Others involved in the Gun Violence Project include Erin Sahlstein Parcell, associate professor of communication, and Portia Cobb, associate professor of film. Using the raw audio files and the transcripts, the researchers will condense many of the stories to between two to five minutes. Cobb also will produce three, 10-minute stories that feature multiple perspectives or additional richness. Harris and colleagues envision the website will be used for discussion and scholarship. They eventually hope to expand the stories on the website and offer it as a model for other cities. If you would like to contribute a story to the project, contact Harris at By Laura Otto, University Relations

UWM researcher named a 2019 Guggenheim Fellow Georg Essl, a research professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at UWM, has been named among the 2019 Guggenheim Fellows in the category of computer science. Guggenheim Fellowships

are prestigious awards that recognize prior achievement and exceptional promise of scholars, artists and writers in the United States and Canada. Administered by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Fellowships include a grant to support award winners in their endeavors. “It was a surprise,” Essl said of his award. “You never know with these things, and it’s very competitive, so it’s a very nice thing to happen. For me, this represents a chance to focus more on my work and gain a bit of (financial) independence.” Essl’s Guggenheim project focuses on using topology – the way in which constituent parts are interrelated – in the creation of algorithms that produce sound, such as one might hear when they use electric keyboards. “You can still go into a store and buy a keyboard that makes artificial sounds, or even tries to emulate violins and pianos and so forth,” he explained. “I’m working on the algorithms that try to make synthesizer sounds even more crazy.”

He applied for the fellowship so that he could fund his work while traveling with his wife, UWM Associate Professor of history and Jewish studies Lisa Silverman, as she spends her sabbatical as a fellow at the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies in Austria. Essl was among 168 Fellows chosen from a field of nearly 3,000 applicants. Since its establishment, the Foundation has granted more than $360 million in Fellowships to over 18,000 individuals, among whom are scores of Nobel laureates, Fields Medalists, poets laureate, members of the various national academies, and winners of the Pulitzer Prize, Turing Award, National Book Award, and other significant, internationally recognized honors. “It’s exceptionally satisfying to name 168 new Guggenheim Fellows,” said Edward Hirsch, the president of the Foundation, in a prepared statement. “These artists and writers, scholars and scientists, represent the best of the best. Each year since 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has bet everything on the individual, and we’re thrilled to continue to do so with this wonderfully talented and diverse group. It’s an honor to be able to support these individuals to do the work they were meant to do.” Before coming to Milwaukee, Essl worked on the faculty of the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor where he led the Mobile Music and Interaction Lab and directed the Michigan Mobile Phone Ensemble. Essl is a member of the IEEE, the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), the International Computer Music Association (ICMA), the American Mathematical Society (AMS), and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). By Sarah Vickery, College of Letters & Science

L&S alumni win New Venture Business Plan top prize A total of $16,000 in prize money was awarded to four top teams of UWM students and alumni in the recent 2019 New Venture Business Plan Competition, hosted by the Lubar School of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The 12-year-old annual competition, which is open to students in any discipline, is made possible by support from La Macchia Enterprises, the parent company of Mark Travel and Trisept Solutions. The first prize and an award of $8,000 were presented to Usman La’Aro, a fashion boutique that sells African-inspired clothing and fabrics that are manufactured in Nigeria and tailored and sold in Milwaukee. Usman La’Aro is run by alumni Andrew Roznowski (Africology/Latin American, Caribbean and U.S. Latin@ Studies) and Simbiat La’Aro (Political Science/Economics). They were featured previously in In Focus at College of Letters & Science • UW–Milwaukee • 13 College of Letters & Science • UW–Milwaukee •13

UWM celebrates undergraduate research and “R1” status WM celebrated its status as an “R1” university, a designation given to the country’s top research institutions, in April at an event highlighting one aspect of the university’s research prowess: The UWM Undergraduate Research Symposium. The annual symposium showcases the research collaborations of undergraduate students with faculty and staff through presentations of their findings. UW System President Ray Cross and UWM Chancellor Mark Mone attended this year to help celebrate. “Milwaukee and Wisconsin will progress and grow to a great extent and direction proportionate to your growth and progress,” Cross told the students. “You are inextricably linked to the success of this community and state.” Though the symposium highlighted students’ efforts and findings from their research, both Cross and Mone emphasized that it wouldn’t be possible without the faculty and staff at UWM that stand as mentors for their students.

Jennifer Gutzman, associate professor and mentor from Biological Sciences, is congratulated by her research team after winning the Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year award. (UWM Photo/Elora Hennessey)

“‘Research 1’ really stands for the quality of our faculty, and that translates directly to the high-caliber educational opportunities that change lives at UWM,” said Mone. Research recognized Since 2016, UWM has maintained its elite status as a top research university, outlined by the evaluation of institutions across the country for their research expenditures and awarding of doctoral degrees. UWM is one of only 131 out of 4,324 institutions evaluated to receive this prestigious recognition by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Carnegie reaffirmed UWM’s elite status in December 2018. UWM’s undergraduate research has also received national recognition. The university is one of two universities to receive the Council on Undergraduate Research’s Campus-Wide Award for Undergraduate Research Accomplishments in 2018. This year’s symposium concluded with a campus-wide celebration of UWM’s continued R1 status. “The symposium celebrates the contributions of undergraduates to these important research agendas, and the collaborative spirit of research itself,” said Kyla Esguerra, associate director of the Office of Undergraduate Research. The symposium also showcased the diversity of research at UWM. It’s not just lab coats and test tubes: Research spans a breadth of programs at UWM. 14 • IN FOCUS • May, 2019

Ashley López, a senior majoring in psychology, gave a presentation on her research into the effectiveness of health promotion interventions for transgender people, with a focus on HIV and STD risk reduction, substance use and depression. Prior to starting her research, López, like many others, had misconceptions about the potential and variety of research. “Before conducting research with my mentor, I was not considering research at all because of my previous views and opinions of what it was,” López said. “Working with him I realized I was wrong. Research is a lot of things. There’s so much variety.” Interests fuel research López’s presentation also represented how students across UWM are able to integrate their personal passions and interests into their research. “I didn’t think that the things I care about, such as gender identity, could be considered research,” said López. “I knew from my personal life that I enjoyed helping others work through these things. When I found out I could combine this with my academic work, it was perfect.” Other presentations at the symposium included how music affects memory, time perception in virtual reality, storm chasing and how YouTube can help people with autism spectrum disorders communicate. At the end of the day, awards were given to UWM students and faculty to recognize their research efforts, including Biological Sciences professor Jennifer Gutzman, who was recognized as the 2018 Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year. A full list of winners is available at By Madeline Redell, University Relations

Gladys MitchellWalthour, an associate professor of African and African diaspora studies, was a panelist on the “Organizing Resistance in the United States” panel at the Challenges to Brazilian Democracy” conference sponsored by the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University in April. She spoke about the work of the AfroBrazilian Committee of the United States Network for Democracy in Brazil (USNDB). She is the director of this committee made of scholars and activists who have worked to raise consciousness about AfroBrazilian issues. Mitchell-Walthour was able to meet Jean Wyllys a former Brazilian Congress person who defended the rights of Black and LGBTQ Brazilians. She also met MC Carol, a music artist from Rio de Janeiro who spoke about her experiences living in a favela (slum community) and how music allowed her opportunities unavailable to other young people in her community.

People in Print Erin Sahlstein Parcell (Communication). 2019. Distance, dialectics, and discourses in personal relationships. In Reflections on interpersonal communication research (eds. S.R. Wilson and S.W. Smith). San Diego: Cognella, 337-354.

Right now, UWM is in its largest fundraising campaign ever. More than 20,000 donors have already contributed to help advance student success, research excellence and community engagement at UWM. Please join this historic effort.

Erin Shalstein Parcell (Communication) and B.M. A. Baker (’17, PhD Communication). 2018. Relational dialectics theory: A new approach for military/veteranconnected family research. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 10: 672-685. V. Cronin-Fisher (’18, PhD Communication) and Erin Sahlstein Parcell (Communication). 2019. Making sense of dissatisfaction during the transition to motherhood through relational dialectics theory. Journal of Family Communication. College of Letters & Science • UW–Milwaukee • 15


In the Media and Aroun

David Healy, UWM professor emeritus of history, passed away on April 28. He was 92 years old. Healy joined the UWM faculty in 1966 and retired in 1993. He taught parttime until 1998. Healy specialized in U.S. diplomatic and foreign policy history and authored five books about historical aspects of U.S. foreign relations. He earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD in history at UW-Madison. Healy served as a merchant seaman to the Pacific War Theater in the closing months of World War II. He and his wife, Ann, who also taught in UWM’s History Department, moved to Colorado after Ann’s retirement. Healy is survived by his wife and two children. His obituary can be found at

May 2019




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Upcoming Events

The New Yorker quotes an anecdote of Thomas Malaby’s (Anthropology) about gambling and backgammon in an article discussing ancient board games. Undergraduate student Christopher Pierce (Communication) was featured as Urban Milwaukee’s “Newaukeean of the Week” in late March. Pierce works for Manpower Group in Milwaukee.

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts is in a position to safeguard the Court’s institutional integrity, Sara Benesh (Political Science) told the Christian Science Monitor. Jean Creighton (Planetarium) explained to CBS 58 News the significance of the first image of a black hole that was released by scientists in April. ( She also went on WUWM to talk about celestial motion and how stars move through space. Efforts to preserve native languages of Wisconsin’s indigenous tribes include Meg Noodin’s (English) poetry written in Ojibwe, according to a Milwaukee Magazine article. Taxpayers should provide greater funding for public universities and student loans should be amortized over a graduate’s earning years to help students be able to better afford college, William Holahan (emeritus Economics) argued in the Tampa Bay Times. ( He also explored the nuances of a mixed socialist/capitalist economy in an opinion piece for The Cap Times. ( The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) has made upgrades to its laser power to improve its sensitivity as it once again searches for gravitational waves from space, Jolien Creighton (Physics) told Discover Magazine.

May 7-16

Art History Exhibition: land*scape. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Thursday. Emile H. Mathis Gallery. This exhibition explores landscapes and is curated by the graduate students in Museum Studies II.

May 10

Center for Celtic Studies End of Year Celebration. 7 p.m. Hefter Center. Live music provided by Áthas.

16 • IN FOCUS • May, 2019

Jeffrey Sommers (African and African Diaspora Studies and Global Studies) delivered the keynote address, titled “Futures: Global and Latvian,” at the 12th Annual Scientific Baltic Business Management Conference at the Riga International School of Economics and Business Administration in Riga, Latvia, in February. He also was an invited Soros Open Society Foundations roundtable participant on “Meaning and significance of education reinterpreted in new societal contexts” at the Comparative International Education Society annual meeting in San Francisco in April.

nd the Community How is American democracy and the Census responsible for the country’s technology prowess? Margo Anderson (emeritus History) revealed the answer on the Raw Data podcast. ( She was also quoted in The New York Times (, on FiveThirtyEight (, and in the Deseret News ( on her thoughts about a citizenship question being added to the U.S. Census. “Green books” were travel guides for African Americans in the 1930s-60s telling vacationers which establishments were safe and welcoming as they crossed the U.S. Richard Popp (Journalism, Advertising, and Media Studies) noted in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article that racism and segregation in Wisconsin made the state’s inclusion in the book necessary.

The 35 percent voter turnout in Springfield, Illinois’ spring elections was higher than average, Thomas Holbrook (Political Science) told NPR Illinois. Burlesque offers performers a way to challenge objectification, PhD candidate Krista Grensavitch (Women’s and Gender Studies) told Milwaukee Magazine in an article about a “Star Wars” –themed burlesque show at the Riverside Theater in April.

Eric Lohman (Journalism, Advertising, and Media Studies) wrote an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, and spoke on CNN, in support of a bill that would require informed consent of intersex minors before any elective interventional surgery on their sex characteristics.

Wisconsin Public Radio discussed the lack of economic opportunity in Milwaukee’s 53206 zip code with Marc Levine (emeritus History), who authored a study on the area’s poor conditions. As an American living in Paris, Claire Langan (’18, BA Art History) told Fox 6 News that the sight of the Notre Dame cathedral in flames is a sight she’ll never forget.

Student Lena Jensen (Economics and French) is studying abroad in France and told TMJ4 about France’s reaction to the devastating fire at Notre Dame.

The Scientific American ran an article on deforestoration in North Korea in which Woonsup Choi (Geography) discussed his study on the effects of the “Arduous March,” a time of famine, on forest cover in the country.

TMJ4 News and affiliated stations explored the possibility of releasing a drug to prevent dementia in older women patients by talking to Karyn Frick (Psychology), one of the researchers working on such a medication.

Sustainability activist Winona LaDuke presented the Letters & Science Dean’s Distinguished Lecture in the Humanities in April. WUWM reported on her talk.

The Clinical & Translational Science Institute explored asthma by interviewing Doug Stafford and Alexander “Leggy” Arnold (both Chemistry and Biochemistry) who are in the process of developing an oral medication to treat the condition.

Pamela Harris (’12, PhD Mathematical Sciences) addressed faculty and students at Grand Valley State University in April as she discussed how a love of math and good mentorship helped her on her journey as a child of undocumented immigrants, the Grand Valley Lanthorn reported.

In a Christian Science Monitor article discussing the skewed media coverage of male and female Democratic primary candidates, Kathy Dolan (Political Science) pointed out that many Republican candidates in the 2016 primary failed to garner the media spotlight despite their sex.

Wisconsin Public Radio aired an interview with Chia Youyee Vang’s (History) discussing her new book, Fly Until You Die: An Oral History of Hmong Pilots in the Vietnam War.

Jennifer Jordan (Sociology) gave a salon talk at the Milwaukee Art Museum in April. She discussed Ludwig Knaus’ work “Under the Linden Tree.”

College of Letters & Science • UW–Milwaukee • 17

Alumni Accomplishments Lisa Kotter (’92, BA Political Science; ’94, Masters of Public Administration) was named the new city administrator of Moline, Illinois, where she will be the first female administrator in city history. Kotter was previously the city administrator of Geneseo, Illinois.

Picture This...

Lisa Kotter

Dennis Kois (’95, BA Committee Interdisciplinary Major) took over as the executive director of the Burchfield Penney Art Center in mid-April. The museum, located in Buffalo, New York, is dedicated to New York artists. Alison Sperling (’17, PhD English) was an invited speaker at the opening of the Manifold exhibit at the Contemporary Arts Center in Lithuania. Sperling held a conversation with exhibit creator Emilija Škarnulyte.

Cody Schreck, a graduate student pursuing his master’s degree in public history, works as an accessibility intern at the Milwaukee Public Museum, where he helps formulate and evaluate accessibility initiatives. He’s pictured here with a textured sign about the exhibit behind him. Creating more ways to interact with the exhibits means visually impaired visitors can enjoy the exhibits too. (UWM Photo/Elora Hennessey)

Mark Meimermann (’16, PhD English) presented his research, entitled “Biopolitics and Post-Apocalypse: The Girl with All the Gifts and the Decline of Authority,” at an international conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in Orlando, Florida, in April. He also presented “From Slaves to immigrants: The Dual Logic of Elephantmen” at the International Comic Arts Forum in Davenport, Iowa. Alison Sperling

Emily Zantow (’16, BA Journalism, Advertising, and Media Studies) joined the Bowling Green Daily News in Kentucky as a multimedia journalist. She began her job producing news and video stories for the publication in March.

Dimera Green is a journalism, advertising, and media studies major. She’s also a marketing intern for the Workforce Development Center, which acts as a resource to job-seekers and helps businesses meet workforce needs. Green creates content for Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington Counties. (UWM Photo/ Elora Hennessey)

Emily Zantow

Jerry Bartz (’70, BS; ’73, MS Geosciences), the senior lab coordinator of Brookhavn College’s Geographical Information Systems Lab, was profiled by the student journalists of the Brookhaven Courier for his passion for protecting the environment.

18 • IN FOCUS • May, 2019

Daniel Orlowski, a student in museum studies, interns at the Milwaukee Art Museum with Catherine Sawinski (right), a UWM alum and assistant curator of European art. Orlowski’s work with Sawinski includes researching European art pieces within the collection and revising citations for the “Bouguereau & America” exhibit’s accompanying book. (UWM Photo/Elora Hennessey)

Laurels, Accolades, and Grants Valerie Laken’s (English) short story, “Runoff,” is included a newly-released anthology called Milwaukee Noir. Laken’s story about a teenage foster home survivor using sewer pipes to rob east-side homes received praise in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. John Koethe’s (emeritus English) new book of poetry, “Walking Backwards,” was positively reviewed in The New York Times. Patrick Brady (Physics) has been elected Spokesperson for the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) Scientific Collaboration, known as the LSC. The LSC is an international collaboration with 1,300 members from more than 118 institutions across 20 countries. The spokesperson, Patrick Brady who is elected by the LSC Council to a two-year term, leads the Collaboration and represents the LSC to the world. An astrophysics group led by David Kaplan and Joe Swiggum (both Physics) and including students Bob Aloisi (lead), Aristeo Cruz, Luke Daniels, Natalie Meyers, Ryan Roekle, and August Schuett, recently published “The Green Bank North Celestial Cap Pulsar Survey. IV: Four New Timing Solutions,” in the Astrophysical Journal. The publication marks the first time at UWM that research completed in a first-year, course-based research project has resulted in a publication in a major peer-reviewed journal. Liam Callanan (English) won the Council of Wisconsin Writers’ 2018 Edna Ferber Fiction Book Award for his novel, Paris by the Book. The award “is given to the best fiction book published by a Wisconsin-based author in the contest year.” ( Callanan was also longlisted for the 2019 Simpson Literary Prize, a $50,000 award “to encourage and support forthcoming work.” The honor “recognizes annually a writer who has earned a distinguished reputation and the approbation and gratitude of readers.” Jane Hampden Daley (Journalism, Advertising, and Media Studies) won a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award for her Wisconsin Public Radio profile ( of former Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Crocker Stephenson. The Murrow awards are among the most prestigious Jane Hampden Daley in broadcast journalism. Stories that Hampden Daley produced for WPR in 2018 also won Milwaukee Press Club Awards for writing and feature reporting. (

The work of several students in the Department of Journalism, Advertising, and Media Studies received first-place honors in the Society of Professional Journalists regional Mark of Excellence Awards. UWM won in nine SPJ categories including best news site for Media Milwaukee. Five Media Milwaukee projects and stories have won National SPJ Mark of Excellence Awards ( Students’ coverage of the impact of Somali immigration in Barron, Wisconsin, was named the best online feature reporting in the country. Four more UWM entries were named national finalists. The SPJ awards are among the most prestigious in professional and collegiate journalism. UWM students have won national SPJ awards twice before. Read about this year’s winners and their stories at

Winners include: •

Online Feature Reporting National Winner: Talis Shelbourne, Elizabeth Sloan, Madison Sepanik, Darien Yeager, Tess Klein, Aubryana Bowen, Hailey McLaughlin, Brittani Cook, Michael Jung, “Welcome to Barron”

General News Reporting National Finalist: Talis Shelbourne, Jennifer Rick, Nyesha Stone, Henry Morgan, Miela Fetaw, “Sexual Harassment on Campus”

Feature Writing National Finalist: Royce Podeszwa and Derek Grant, “The Village That Flipped Back”

Radio Feature National Finalist: Alexis Amenson, “Choosing Abortion”

General News Photography National Finalist: “Faces of the Gun Divide”

Student journalists also brought home five awards from the Midwest Broadcast Journalists Association, and will make another strong showing at the Milwaukee Press Club awards dinner in May. View a complete list of winners at Bonnie Klein-Tasman (Psychology) has been selected as a Fellow of the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology (APA Division 53).  Fellow status requires evidence of “unusual and outstanding contributions and performance” and “impact of work at the national level.” Bonnie Klein-Tasman

College of Letters & Science • UW–Milwaukee • 19

Sustainability activist and two-time vice presidential candidate (with Ralph Nader) Winona LaDuke visited the UWM campus last Thursday to present the L&S Dean’s Distinguished Lecture in the Humanities. LaDuke, pictured here in the red dress, spoke about grassroots environmental efforts on the White Earth reservation in Minnesota to establish the next energy economy.

Profile for University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

In Focus Vol. 9, No. 5