Category: Alumni Rising

Highlight star alumni


UWGB Habitat: Building community for two decades

As UW-Green Bay celebrates its 50th Anniversary another UWGB entity is also celebrating a milestone — The UWGB Collegiate Chapter of Habitat for Humanity is in its 20th year, and with it, a special Anniversary Celebration Alumni Build is in the works.

On Saturday, October 17, in conjunction with Greater Green Bay Habitat for Humanity, UWGB Habitat alumni will work on two neighboring houses on Chicago Street in Green Bay.

Twenty-four volunteers are sought for four-hour shifts in the morning or afternoon (8 a.m. to noon and 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) with lunch midday provided by current members of the campus chapter.

The event provides an opportunity to reunite and reminisce, while helping the campus archivist fill in gaps on the history of the organization, and at the same time provide homes for two deserving families in Green Bay.

habitat-roofLooking back… on May 25, 1995, UW-Green Bay was granted campus chapter status by Habitat for Humanity International. In the two decades since, literally hundreds of UW-Green Bay students have contributed to the cause of eliminating homelessness and providing safe, decent affordable housing to deserving families — in Green Bay, throughout the United States, and around the world. For many of those students, their participation in Collegiate Challenge trips was among the most significant and memorable experiences of their college careers.

Over the course of 20 years, UWGB students participated in at least 24 winter, spring or summer break trips throughout the United States and to two foreign countries to build homes for families in need.

Destinations included affiliate hosts in the Northeast (Connecticut) the South (Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Alabama), the South Central U.S. (North and South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri, Virginia). the Eastern U.S. (Pennsylvania, Connecticut) and the West (New Mexico, Arizona). Teams traveled to South Africa and to the Philippines on international trips and many students contributed Saturday hours to local home-building projects with Greater Green Bay Habitat for Humanity or volunteering at the Habitat ReStore.

habitat-framingHabitat builds are far from vacations. Prior to a build, students must first spend a semester conducting fundraisers to raise money to cover trip costs. Then, over winter or spring break, they travel hundreds of miles by bus or van, stay for a week in very modest housing (typically a church basement or volunteer center), share just a couple of showers/bathrooms, and spend the bulk of their “break” time laboring — framing, roofing, putting up siding, insulating, hanging drywall or painting. They return from their college break more exhausted than when they left. But almost to the last one, they say the experience was incomparable, and the satisfaction of working together to provide a deserving family a home is its own reward. So gratifying was the experience that many students participated in three or four Collegiate Challenge trips during their college years.

Organizers would appreciate securing volunteers by October 2.

Many trips through the years have been documented on the UWGB Habitat for Humanity Facebook page.

Join the event on Facebook.

Feature by Mike Stearney, former Dean of Enrollment Services and longtime Habitat for Humanity Student Adviser


Joyous reunion: BlueWhale Coffeehouse returning to UWGB

If ever a joyous reunion can be
Let us share what we’ve gained and lost in between
We’ll find that the years, both kindly and cruel
Have failed to put distance between you and me

-Claudia Schmidt

And a joyous reunion it will be on Friday, October 16, 2015, when the friends of the former BlueWhale Coffeehouse gather at the Shorewood Golf Course Clubhouse for the return of Claudia Schmidt, Mark Dvorak, Skip Jones and Randal Harris. The event is in celebration of both Alumni Days and UW-Green Bay’s 50th anniversary celebration.

While the reunion cannot take place in the original Shorewood Club building that housed the BlueWhale Coffeehouse (it was torn down years ago), the concert will take place nearby in what was formerly the Shorewood Annex, directly across the sidewalk from where the former Shorewood Club stood.

And while there won’t be the knotty pine paneling, large stone fireplace, well-worn couches or frost-covered windows that gave the coffeehouse its unique ambiance, the original BlueWhale sign (painted by Mike Tincher and Teresa Bargielski in the late 1970’s) will grace the stage. It was rescued from a dumpster after the Club was torn down, and has been hanging in a barn in Bowler, Wis. for the last 35 years.

The showcase artist of the evening will be Schmidt, one of the premiere performers from the BlueWhale days, now an international performer known for her lively folk, jazz and blues and playful humor.

Schmidt, a student at UWGB for a time, played her 12-string guitar and dulcimer to standing-room-only crowds for many years, and went on to a remarkable career traveling the world as a folk singer and spoken word performer. The master of ceremonies for the evening will be folk singer Jones, a UWGB alumnus and BlueWhale regular. He will be joined by Harrison, a remarkable jazz violinist from Madison and Dvorak, a member of the faculty at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago and popular guitar and banjo player who has toured throughout the Midwest and East Coast.

Many alumni have fond memories of Saturday evenings at the BlueWhale — in the 70s and early 80s considered one of the premiere folk music venues in the upper Midwest. Artists from all over the country would come through on tour, playing at Café Extempore in Minneapolis, then at the BlueWhale in Green Bay, and then on to venues in Madison or Chicago.

Some of those acts became folk music icons (Utah Phillips, Bill Staines, Gordon Bok and John McCutcheon all played at the Whale) and many others achieved regional and national acclaim (Greg Brown, Paul Cebar and Jones, among them).

It wasn’t just the music that drew students and community members to the BlueWhale, however. There was something magical about the place in its heyday — the music, the fireplace and the fellowship all flowed together to create a warm and friendly gathering place for a particular crowd of people who shared some common values and interests — the environment, folk music, art and social justice.

As that crowd reunites on Friday October 16, perhaps a few pounds heavier and with a little more gray, maybe a little of that magic can be recreated.

Doors open at 6:15 p.m. for socializing and reminiscing. The public is asked to bring memorabilia from the BlueWhale days (posters, programs, handbills, photos, etc) to share, and perhaps contribute to the UWGB archives. The concert begins at 7:00 p.m. Price of admission is $15 (cash or check only—no credit cards), or free to those purchasing an Alumni Days admissions bracelet (entrance for two for $25) for all Alumni Days activities.


Feature written by Mike Stearney, a former BlueWhale patron and former UWGB Dean of Enrollment Services


Celebrating the 50th, ’70s style

They were UWGB’s first students — watching the campus grow from corn field to conglomerate — and some even helped move in the furniture that can still be found in remote pockets of campus. They are the UW-Green Bay graduates of the Class of 1970, and they returned to campus recently to celebrate the University’s 50th anniversary with the faculty members who inspired them, and to trade stories about the good ol’ days. In a casual environment at the Shorewood Clubhouse, nearly two dozen alumnimade the return trip. They enjoyed a trip down memory lane via a photo and memorabilia display provided by University Archives. They shared many, many stories from UW-Green Bay’s earliest days and the school’s “Eco U” roots.  Among the treasured memories? The time maintenance workers knocked on the classroom door to install the University’s first blackboards… while class was in session. Being welcomed beyond imagination as returning adult students. Being led by a chancellor (Ed Weidner) who wanted to know them personally.  And, of course the relationships… favorite faculty, mentors and friends.

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UWGB Alumni Association Golf Outing raises $15,000 for scholarships

top-story-golfAn early morning rain transitioned into sunny skies just in time for the shotgun start to the 35th annual UW-Green Bay Scholarship Golf Outing, Friday, June 12. One of the Alumni Association’s longest-standing events, the outing set a new record for dollars raised with more than $15,000 generated for student scholarships through fees, sponsorships, raffles and auctions.

The net winner of the outing was a UWGB faculty team of John Katers, John Luczaj, Patrick Forsythe and Chris Houghton. Gross winners were Andrew Branam, Greg Metzler, Seth Kabat and Heather Ryczek.

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Photos courtesy of Kelly Selner ’00

Alumnus finds inspiration to ‘Always Climb Higher’

Alumnus Jeff PagelsNote: An abbreviated version of this story was published in the May 2015 print edition of the Inside UW-Green Bay magazine.

Jeff Pagels’ success as an inspirational author, speaker, Olympic-caliber athlete, natural-resource manager and all-around good guy is fueled by his love for the outdoors and his determination to rise above life’s challenges.

Pagels received his master’s degree from UW-Green Bay in 1986. He chose UW-Green Bay because it was close to home and offered a degree in Environmental Science and Policy. He had been taking one course a semester, but jumped to almost a full load after he broke his back and got out of the hospital.

“I needed something to take my mind off my life-changing injury, and going to school nearly full time was the strong medicine that I needed to move on,” Pagels recalls.

His best memory of campus involves adjustment to his new life. A novice wheelchair user at the time, he struggled early with navigating and making his way around… except when he was at school.

“The UW-Green Bay campus was extremely accessible to me and easy to navigate. In addition, everyone on campus both students and professors were friendly and helpful,” Pagels remembers.

He landed rewarding professional work with the state Department of Natural Resources, administering grant programs and advocating for nature lovers with disabilities.

He worked as a regional outreach team leader. His job involved administering a variety of local grant programs associated with outdoor recreation, clean water, and land use and sewage treatment. Along with his love of the outdoors, his work supported his passion to ensure equal access for recreation users with disabilities.

A quote that Pagels created and uses often, “Mother Nature does not have to comply with ADA.”

At the same time, Pagels’ fierce competitive spirit found an outlet in handcycle racing, skiing, sled hockey, rafting and mountain climbing. His 13 gold medals and three silvers in international competition are highlighted by wins in the world 5K and 10K ski races held in conjunction with the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France. At the time, he was the only American cross country skier in history (able or disabled) to accomplish the 5K and 10K double.

A year later, Pagels and another wheelchair athlete became the first to traverse the Sierra-Nevada Mountain Range on sit skis, conquering a 55-mile route and 10,000-foot elevations.

In 2014, Pagels wrote the book Always Climb Higher about his comeback from severe spinal cord injury. The book highlights his decision to stop competing against others and focus solely on competing with himself.

Since his retirement in 2014, Pagels has volunteered at various hospitals and medical centers providing one-on-one counseling for individuals with disabilities. He has developed a park and recreation accessibility manual and has served as a chief advisor in the preparation of a federal U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service video on accessibility. He also conducts sensitivity sessions for groups involved in providing services to the public and the disabled including the U.S. National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other state and federal agencies across the country.

– Story by Daniele Frechette ’11

CEO claims slice of success in dough business

Alumnus Randy CharlesNote: An abbreviated version of this story was published in the May 2015 print edition of the Inside UW-Green Bay magazine.

The recipe for pizza dough is relatively simple… flour, sugar, yeast, salt, water and a little olive oil.

The recipe for a successful and growing wholesale pizza-crust company is a bit more complicated. Randy Charles, a 1987 UW-Green Bay Business Administration grad, keeps that recipe close to the vest.

Charles is the CEO of Alive and Kickin’ (A & K) Pizza Crust, a company that achieved significant growth since 1989, when Charles started the business with his father and two other partners. Randy became president in 1991 and then took over as CEO in 2011. The company now employs a workforce of 300-plus and has expanded its sales throughout North America.

“Like every business, it is a challenge to stay competitive and viable in the marketplace,” Charles said.

It is the continual development of product lines that keep the company growing and relevant… Charles calls it “customized manufacturing.” Expanding and diversifying, particularly in products such as frozen self-rising, par-baked and deli take-and-bake crusts, have helped Alive and Kickin’ to thrive.

Charles had envisioned his career cutting a different path when he graduated three decades ago. His marketing emphasis and classes with Prof. Robert Obenberger and Don McCartney inspired him to move to Milwaukee for grad school and work in brand management.

But in 1989, his father made Randy an offer he couldn’t refuse… return to Green Bay and help him build the company (then called Port City Bakery) from the bottom up. Now Charles only peripherally deals with marketing of the company, as his days are filled with walking the balancing act of a CEO — maintaining credibility with customers though diversity and quality of product, demonstrating company growth to his shareholders, ensuring a positive corporate culture, and securing the future of the company.

“What I continue to carry with me day-to-day are the courses that challenged me to view problems from multiple perspectives and across disciplines,” Charles said. “Even though I was a business student, I found other areas of study, such as the science requirement, both challenging and rewarding. The one-on-one attention of professors and the small class sizes allowed for great discussion and problem-solving. I believe that continues to be a strength of UW-Green Bay — an incredibly well-rounded education.”

Ironically, the Phoenix alumnus had to literally “rise from the flames” to lead his company through its toughest challenge — a major fire in 2005.

“What happened to us could have been a game-ender,” Charles says.

Alive and Kickin’ did indeed rise to the challenge, adding a third facility in 2010 located in the Green Bay I-43 Business Park. And in 2012, the pizza-crust maker added two additional production lines to expand its capacity to reach customers across North America, demonstrating that Charles’ business model is a recipe worth repeating.

Shariff first of UW-Green Bay grads to join MCW-Green Bay

shariff-top-storyJulia Shariff is still wrapping her head around the possibility of one day being called, “Dr. Shariff.”

The May 2015 UW-Green Bay Human Biology and Spanish graduate took a major step toward her long-awaited goal with recent acceptance into the inaugural class of the Medical College of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Classes begin this summer.

“To be honest, the idea of med school seemed like something other people did, not someone like me… The reason I decided to declare my major and head down that path was because of the amazing faculty at UWGB. I had always had support from my family to follow my dreams, but having a respected non-family source of support and belief in my abilities was what I needed to take the plunge.”

Being able to stay in Green Bay while in medical school is providing a level of comfort for Shariff (pictured with Bellin’s Bart Miller, above). The Green Bay Southwest High School graduate recognizes the value of “staying home” for her undergraduate degree, and will follow in the footsteps of a number of family members who took the same path.

“The benefits of staying in Green Bay are numerous,” she says. “It will both decrease the cost of living, but ease the transition into medical school. I’ve heard that the first year comes with its own academic adjustments so taking on medical school in Green Bay provides me with comfort and familiarity. I absolutely love the atmosphere of Green Bay — not too big and not too small. There’s plenty to do and opportunities to learn in this area. Having a medical school in Green Bay brings a lot to the area, especially when it comes to establishing community physicians.”

Shariff already has an insider perspective into health care in the region, having shadowed at Bellin Hospital in preparation for a research project, “The Lost Connection: Benefits of being a bilingual professional in the U.S. healthcare system,” which earned her prestigious selection as a “Posters in the Rotunda” showcase presenter in Madison in Spring of 2015.

Her project provided insight into the Green Bay area’s growing population of Spanish-speaking residents.

In true interdisciplinary fashion, Shariff developed the idea in collaboration with Prof. Cristina Ortiz of UW-Green Bay’s Spanish and Humanistic Studies academic programs.

“As Julia’s adviser, I conveyed to her that medical schools are seeking well-rounded students who are knowledgeable and have academic experiences beyond the sciences,” Ortiz says. “Her Spanish skills and academic work in Spanish have been key players in positioning Julia as the desirable candidate she is for medical school.”

Explains Shariff, “My research methods consisted of a lot of field observation, interviews, and of course investigation of previous reports and studies. I interviewed three individuals specifically: a bilingual doctor, a bilingual physician’s assistant and a Spanish interpreter. Through my research I developed a list of pros and cons for various communication methods in the healthcare system, thus determining the overall most efficient and practical method was the employment of a bilingual physician.”

Shariff studied abroad, in Spain, as part of her undergraduate experience. She was also an active tutor for the Organic Chemistry class, while serving as UWGB’s Health Science Club president, and co-president of UWGB’s Colleges Against Cancer organization.

“Green Bay is founded on the tight knit community and surrounding areas, and the promotion of this network is huge in the message MCW-Green Bay wants to send: promoting community based health care and cooperation of health systems in the state,” Shariff said.

“It has been a very long process, and to be accepted at such a respected institution as the Medical College of Wisconsin is both an honor and a privilege!”

UWGB Alumnus Simons returns ‘home’ as new Brown County Library Director

Brian Simons in front of the Cofrin Library.After years apart, one alumnus is returning to his Green Bay area roots.

Brian Simons, a 1998 History graduate, has been appointed the new director of the Brown County Library System.

“The board is extremely impressed with Brian’s experience, knowledge and commitment,” said Board President Kathy Pletcher. “His results-driven leadership style, record of innovation, fiscal management, team building, and community involvement makes him the leader that the Board was seeking to head Brown County Library.”

After graduating from UW-Green Bay, Simons has had a 13-year career in public libraries across the state, including working at libraries in Manitowoc, Delavan, and Verona. During his time as the director of the Verona Public Library, the library was honored with the prestigious Wisconsin Library of the Year award.

His return to Green Bay was motivated both by the family he still has in the Green Bay area, and the potential he sees in the Brown County Library System.

“Their focus on cultural diversity mixed into the other three main focus points, those being early literacy education, economic and business development support, and providing a space for community engagement, sets the foundation for a library that can do some very impressive things for the communities it serves,” he said.

In addition to his work within the library, Simons is active in national organizations, often advocating for library legislation and financial support for public libraries.

Simons looks forward to building relationships in the community and giving people as many opportunities as possible to transform their lives for the better.

“I believe public libraries, much like the entire Wisconsin Idea, can be incredible resources and valued assets to businesses,” he said. “They can provide space for meetings, training, and other activities. Libraries can provide the research support that many small businesses cannot afford. Lastly, libraries can be a focal point that can ignite redevelopment in a city.”

Simons began his position on March 2, 2015, succeeding Lynn Stainbrook, who served as library director from February 2008 to October 2014.
Story by Katelyn Staaben, editorial intern, Marketing and University Communication
Photo by Eric Miller, Marketing and University Communication

Double the love: Fondness for UWGB brings alumni back for more

Marian ShafferThe old saying goes, “If you love something set it free, if it comes back to you it’s yours.” This sums up the love affair between a growing number of UW-Green Bay alumni and their alma mater. What’s with the sappy sentiment? It’s nearly Valentine’s Day!

UW-Green Bay has seen an increasing number of alums who loved their campus so much, they returned for a second degree. The Advancement Office database shows 454 people with dual degrees from UWGB. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, now is the perfect time to share a few tales of love, devotion and hard work in pursuit of their happily ever after.

Marian ShafferMarian Shaffer (above and at left) joined this love-struck group when she returned to UW-Green Bay to work on her M.S. in Environmental Science and Policy — a decision fueled by her love of studying the natural world. Her passion was awakened in her first undergraduate ecology course with Prof. Amy Wolf.

“Dr. Wolf was a fantastic mentor. She made me realize what really excites me and lit a flame within me, providing opportunities that forever changed my life and opened my eyes to the most amazing and rewarding career,” Shaffer said.

Shaffer works as an appointed research graduate assistant in the Natural and Applied Sciences department at UW-Green Bay. She feels fortunate that her appointment is in conjunction with and supported by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, where she has been working as a biological science technician since 2013.

Not only did UW-Green Bay open doors for Shaffer professionally, but romantically too. She says she met the love of her life while working on her master’s degree.

“He is one of the best things to ever come into my life,” she says. “Not only were we lucky enough to study and grow together during our time at UWGB, we were blessed to get jobs at the same conservation agency. Together, we are working to protect and conserve the habitat and animals in our beautiful Great Lakes.

Barbara FeeneyBarbara Feeney is a two-time UW-Green Bay alum who left a piece of her heart on campus as an undergraduate and returned to capture the love she felt the first time around. Feeney earned her B.S. in Human Development and Urban Studies and returned to work on her Master’s in Administrative Science-Policy and Planning. She started at UW-Green Bay when the campus was transitioning from being a two-year college to a four-year college. Feeney was attracted by the unique identity the University was claiming for itself.

“At the time I started my master’s degree, I was living in Sturgeon Bay, and had two young children. So for me UW-Green Bay was the most practical choice,” Feeney said. Feeney ended up adoring the interdisciplinary education she received from UW-Green Bay, each time.

“I had so many great professors and classes,” she says. “Looking back from the vantage point of 40 years, I am grateful for the single classes I took in art history, pottery and poetry. I knew at the time that I was not going to major in those areas and took the classes out of interest, but exposure to those disciplines has enriched my life.”

And now she is thankful.

“I am so grateful for my education,” she says. “It allowed me to have a career that was interesting and challenging. Most days, I woke up looking forward to the day’s work ahead of me. When you think about it that is really kind of amazing.”

Ben MarkowskiBen Markowski also became a member of the beloved two-timers club. Markowski chose the University for his undergraduate and master’s studies because of the beautiful campus and the distinguished Education program.

“I loved the Education program and its faculty. Tim Kaufman, Steve Kimball, and James Coates were professors who really stuck out to me, they showed me the educational light,” Markowski said.

Markowski has a soft place in his heart for UW-Green Bay. He admits that during his time on campus, he learned to be himself, an important lesson that has served him well. His studies at UW-Green Bay gave him valuable work experience in the classroom. When he started teaching as a bilingual kindergarten teacher at Danz Elementary in Green Bay, he was well prepared.

“I am definitely living my happily ever after thanks to UWGB,” Markowski said.

So the old adage rings true, “Do what you love and never work a day in your life,” especially for these lucky in love UW-Green Bay alums!

— Story by Daniele Frechette.

Alumni rising: Kozloski provides homes to unwanted exotics

alumna rescues exotic animalsFor Jamie Kozloski, there is no such thing as a quiet day at the office.

Kozloski, a 2011 UW-Green Bay Biology graduate, is the founder and director of Kingdom Animalia Exotic Animal Rescue (KAEAR), a non-profit organization in De Pere, Wis. dedicated to “rescuing exotic animals through educational outreach,” according to their website.

“At KAEAR we are an educational-based nonprofit organization that rescues, rehabilitates, and gives refuge to unwanted, abandoned, released [or] found exotic animals,” said Kozloski, “We take in reptiles, amphibians, birds, small animals, and invertebrates.”

Jamie Kozloski realized her passion for animals early in life.

Jamie Kosloski“I fell in love with reptiles when I was 11 and at 15 I had a dream to create a sanctuary for old or unwanted animals,” Kozloski said.

After graduating from UW-Green Bay in 2011, Kozloski accomplished that dream, starting KAEAR just a year later. Since 2006, Kozloski has taken in over 900 animals and educated thousands on their care and conservation.

“Much research and hands-on work led me to work at a pet store and work animal control for Green Bay Police Department.”

While getting her Biology degree, she interned at the NEW Zoo and served as the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary’s exotic animal resource, she said. “In 2012 I decided to take the hobby I was growing and make it into my career. I incorporated and filed for non-profit status.”

She was granted 501c3 non-profit status in the summer of 2014 and leased a building to use as headquarters shortly after.

Along with caring for animals, Kozloski uses them to educate the community. KAEAR has been partnered with the East Central Regional Planning Commission and UW Sea Grant since 2013 to promote the “Habitattitude” campaign.

“We educate on non-pet release into the environment and give alternatives to releasing these pets potentially creating invasive species,” said Kozloski, “Since then we’ve spoken at two WBAY pet expo events and had two pet amnesty days where people could surrender their unwanted exotic and aquarium pets to us to give a more appealing option over release. We will be holding both events again this year.”

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Alumna Jamie Kosloski, founder and director of Kingdom Animalia Exotic Animal Rescue, January 2015Alumna Jamie Kosloski, founder and director of Kingdom Animalia Exotic Animal Rescue, January 2015Alumna Jamie Kosloski, founder and director of Kingdom Animalia Exotic Animal Rescue, January 2015Alumna Jamie Kosloski, founder and director of Kingdom Animalia Exotic Animal Rescue, January 2015Alumna Jamie Kosloski, founder and director of Kingdom Animalia Exotic Animal Rescue, January 2015Alumna Jamie Kosloski, founder and director of Kingdom Animalia Exotic Animal Rescue, January 2015

In addition to spreading the Habitattitude message, Kozloski presents programs on animals for local organizations using her animal ambassadors.

“Last summer I have also been starting to give native bat programs at Buboltz Nature Preserve with a complimentary night walk to observe the bats echolocating with a bat detector,” she said, “I plan to continue those as well as start up the areas only regular rabies awareness program.”

Kozloski says her Biology degree from UW-Green Bay legitimized her passion.

“I have also been given opportunities to do special projects and research papers that fueled my interest for certain topics like exotics and bats,” she said.

Looking to the future, Kozloski wants KAEAR to be known statewide as a rescue specializing in education. She hopes to raise funds in order to buy a building and grow an internship program. The organization currently exists with the help of program fees, adoptions, donations and fundraisers. Go to to learn more.

“It’s been such a process and we are covering an important and much needed niche in this area for exotics, a group of animals that have little to no resources here for help,” Kozloski said.

– Story by Katelyn Staaben, editorial intern, Marketing and University Communications