Exterior of Nancy Nicholas Hall in the evening, with lamps and windows glowing.
News & Events

A year in pictures: Human Ecology in 2022

A student in a black graduation gown and cap holds her diploma in her left hand. Her right hand is raised in celebration as she smiles into the distance. The School of Human Ecology building and logo is behind her to the right.

In 2022, the School of Human Ecology had multiple historic firsts:

  • The Elizabeth Holloway Schar Deanship was the first endowed deanship at UW–Madison named exclusively in honor of a woman
  • Carolee Dodge Francis became the first Native woman on our campus to chair a department—our very own Civil Society & Community Studies department
  • More than 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students pursued degrees in Human Ecology, an enrollment record for our school

Beyond these trailblazing milestones, the Human Ecology community worked throughout the year to solve quality of life issues through teaching, research, and philanthropy. From early childhood development to consumer decision making, our scholarship continues to make advances to improve daily life. From the New York Times to Wisconsin Public Radio to The UW Now Livestream, faculty shared findings from their research on the human experience.


Chris Thompson leans over a desk writing on a piece of paper. Behind him is a teammate looking at a white board full of post-it notes.
Winter | Photo by Sarah Maughan

Chris Thompson ’03, MS’22 saw the need for more human-centered design in his work as a product engineer, project manager, and product manager. Then one day, nearly 20 years after earning his BS in design, he opened his alumni newsletter and discovered exactly what he was looking for to advance his career: the new Master of Design + Innovation (MDI) program.

Chris returned to the School of Human Ecology to deepen his design thinking skills and enjoyed the entrepreneur-focused business classes. He graduated with his master’s degree in May.


Dawry Ruiz smiles at the camera in front of a white, hanging cloth with leaf patterns on it.
Spring | Photo by Craig Wild / UW–Madison

Community & Nonprofit Leadership senior Dawry Ruiz x’23 was awarded a Truman Scholarship, one of the most prestigious honors for undergraduates in the country. Only 58 students in the country received this honor in 2022. Working toward a career in the nonprofit youth arts field, Dawry is living proof of the powerful combination of creativity, empathy, and action that inspire others to reach new heights of success.


Dean Shim stands behind a podium smiling out at the audience. The group of investiture donors sit in a row in the foreground and are clapping
Spring | Photo by Andy Manis

Dean Soyeon Shim achieved one of the highest honors in academia: an endowed deanship, made possible by a collaborative group of visionary donors. Named in honor of Elizabeth Holloway Schar, it was the first endowed deanship at UW–Madison named exclusively in honor of a woman.

“I see a future where all UW students will graduate with a human-centered approach to problem-solving and strategic thinking. I see endless possibilities. I welcome the challenges the future might bring because I am confident this is the time for Human Ecology to dream big and for our faculty, students, alumni, and friends to take bold steps to move forward toward a shared vision of excellence.”

— Dean Soyeon Shim


Jeff Levy stands on the left, Jerry O'Brien on the right. They both are wearing suits and pointing to the same square on the wall of decorative and pink tiles behind them.
Spring | Photo by Andy Manis

The idea “what might be possible for the future if we come together?” is at the heart of Ember Hall. Jerry O’Brien, Executive Director of the Kohl’s Center for Retailing (right) joins philanthropist Jeff Levy (left) at the Ember Hall dedication to celebrate the impact of the collective of visionary donors to transform the lives of students, today and tomorrow.


Side view of Nick Bimmel posing for a photo wearing a graduation cap and gown and holding a diploma folder, standing next to Bucky Badger.
Spring | Photo by Ray Pfeiffer

Nick Bimmel ’22 majored in Human Development and Family Studies and was one of more than 300 Human Ecology undergraduate and graduate students to graduate in May.


A group photo of all the particpants of the inaugural Equity & Justice Network Summer Institute. They're standing together in two rows near the 100 Women Wall of Honor in the School of Human Ecology's Nancy Nicholas Hall
Summer | Photo by Rosie Yang

We hosted the School of Human Ecology’s inaugural Equity & Justice Summer Institute in June, welcoming a cohort of rising juniors and seniors from Historically Black College and University (HBCU) partner institutions for an immersive introduction to graduate-level education.

“Our aim is to help create academic pathways for traditionally underrepresented students so they can see the benefit and the feasibility of pursuing a graduate education,”

— Professor and Associate Dean Janean Dilworth-Bart, who leads the Equity & Justice Network


Alvin Thomas stands in the center of a street with the Madison Capitol in the background. Huge text reads Black Fatherhood Podcast behind him. Everything is in black and white, except the words, Dr. Alvin Thomas and Podcast are red.
Summer | Podcast graphic by Morgan Dezine

Alvin Thomas, Assistant Professor and Phyllis Northway Faculty Fellow, launched The Black Fatherhood Podcast in June. The conversations bring together scholars and experts to examine the historical context, benefits, and current societal factors influencing Black fatherhood, offering key insights and actions to consider. The series aims to educate, validate, and elevate the importance of Black fatherhood to strengthen individuals, families, and communities.


Nia Diaby bends down next to 3 children looking at a grate outdoors in the grass.
Summer | Photo by Rosie Yang

Internships are the cornerstone of the student experience. Nia Diaby x’23 is majoring in Human Development and Family Studies and is one of nearly 600 Human Ecology students who ‘practiced their profession’ with an internship in their respective field in 2022. By interning and working at the Child Development Lab, Nia deepened her educational experience in early childhood development.


Kallie Heisdorf (left) and Melissa Laatsch (right) look through samples on a tabletop together.
Summer | Photo by Sarah Maughan

Interior Architecture alumna Melissa Laatsch ’17 (right) is now a senior designer at ERDMAN, the same firm she interned with as a student. Melissa mentored Kallie Heisdorf x’23 (left), giving Kallie professional experience creating spaces that support people’s health and wellbeing. Systems thinking and solving problems to make life better are pillars of the Interior Architecture program.


Four people are around a table looking at and discussing a yellow quilt.
Summer | Photo by Andy Manis

Chancellor Jennifer L. Mnookin wasted no time visiting Nancy Nicholas Hall in her first weeks on campus, with a stop in the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection. Of the four objects pulled for her visit, the chancellor immediately gravitated towards this cigar quilt. Made of the small silk ribbons that once wrapped cigars for sale, this object explores notions of masculinity, sociability, consumption, and appropriate interior decoration.


Collage of square portraits of Belkis J. Cerrato Caceres, Ben Fisher, Katie Fitzpatrick, Erin Hamilton and Zoua M. Vang

The School of Human Ecology welcomed five outstanding scholars joining our faculty in 2022: Belkis J. Cerrato Caceres, Ben Fisher, Katie Fitzpatrick, Erin Hamilton, and Zoua M. Vang. They are already taking our teaching and research in the areas of school criminalization, health equity, and sustainable design to the next level.


Paige Skenandore, Dr. Carolee Dodge Francis and Josie Lee stand together in front of a blue tie dyed backdrop.
Fall | Photo by Dakota Mace

A member of the Oneida Nation, Carolee Dodge Francis, Ecology of Human Well-Being Professor (center), was the first person in her immediate family to complete a college degree. Now she’s added another first to her remarkable career — becoming the first Native woman to chair a department at UW–Madison. Dodge Francis leads our Civil Society & Community Studies department.

She is pictured here with Paige Skenandore ’22, Oneida Nation of Wisconsin (left) and Josie Lee, Ho-Chunk Nation (right). Together, the three organized the Indigenous EcoWell Beading Exhibition in October to showcase the beaded creations of Indigenous artists from across Wisconsin.


Photo of Lavar Charleston, Carolina Sarmiento holding a glass awad, Jay Rothman, and Jennifer Mnookin
Fall | @uwchancellor

Assistant Professor Carolina S. Sarmiento (second from left) received the Outstanding Women of Color in Education Award, an honor given annually to faculty, staff, students or community members to recognize their achievements in advancing equity and inclusion for people of color within the UW System as well as communities across the state.

She is pictured here with LaVar J. Charleston, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Vice Provost, and Chief Diversity Officer (far left); Jay O. Rothman, UW System President (second from right); and Jennifer L. Mnookin, Chancellor of UW–Madison (far right).


Two photos side by side. Photo on the left is Anthony Genac outside a sports stadium wearing a jersey and baseball hat holding up his hands in the shape of a W. Photo on the right is Olivia Johnson dressed in a black graduation cap and gown, leaning against a large white column at the Madison Capital building.

Winter 2022 Commencement was extra special for two students in the School of Human Ecology, each with a remarkable story of determination and compassion who overcome significant obstacles to improve both themselves and the community.

Anthony Genac ’22 (left) received his degree in Personal Finance, just two short years after undergoing a heart transplant. He even managed to complete his degree a semester early, an extraordinary achievement in the best of circumstances.

Olivia Johnson ’22 (right) was the flag bearer for the School of Human Ecology at the commencement ceremony, which is an honor that is reserved for an impressive graduate. Olivia volunteered with single and teen moms at The Elizabeth House, was part of the university’s COVID-19 testing team, and interned at the School of Human Ecology’s Child Development Lab. Olivia majored in Human Development & Family Studies and plans to become a physician assistant, with hopes of researching efforts to close the Black infant mortality gap.