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 ’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.
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 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
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.