If you’re interested in a small, edifying and entertaining demonstration of the interdisciplinary approach for which UW-Green Bay is known, you might want to stop by the University Theatre in Theatre Hall between 12:45 and 1:30 p.m. Friday (Feb. 20). English students of Assistant Prof. Rebecca Nesvet will hear and discuss songs by the British Romantic poet Lord Byron and Isaac Nathan, “Australia’s first classical composer.” Excerpts of Byron and Nathan’s Hebrew Melodies (1815) will be performed by UW-Green Bay Music students Nicholas Schommer and Ryan Dummer, voice students of Associate Prof. Courtney Sherman. Open to all.
Angela Bub of Benicia, Calif., a May 2012 UW-Green Bay graduate in English now pursuing a master’s in social work at the University of Southern California, is the author of a guest column on the Feb. 4 opinion page of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. She writes, “Humanities is not a field of education; humanities is a way of life. My interdisciplinary education through a public institution (UW-Green Bay) has shaped my life and the lives of many others.” Bub continues: “There is a professor who taught me throughout my four years at UWGB. She inspired me to look within myself and explore further opportunities. It is an insult to suggest professors should work harder, should do more, or should take pay cuts. I graduated in 2012 and continue to receive guidance, knowledge and good conversation from said professor. It is unjust to cut the budget of the UW System. Think twice about these decisions: They will not only impact those who are in school now, but future generations.”
Halvorsen ’92 acts locally, Bhojwani ’90 works in developing nations.
On a late-summer day, fellow UW-Green Bay graduates and lifelong friends Noel Halvorsen and Haresh Bhojwani agreed to meet on campus.
There was the usual catching up on each other’s families and reminiscing about good times shared as roommates 25 years ago in the old student apartments.
They also talked about their professional careers and challenges. It’s something they do at least a few times a year, using each other as trusted sounding boards. Though Halvorsen and Bhojwani arrived at UW-Green Bay in the late 1980s with vastly different backgrounds, pursued entirely different majors and now often find themselves on different continents, they tend to see things the same way.
“When we met, Haresh had been all over the world, and I had never been anywhere,” recalls Halvorsen, a Sheboygan native who now lives in Green Bay, “but we were almost surprised to find out that we had very similar world views.”
Then and now, they tend to believe that good public policy requires good data, that even relatively small adjustments can bring maximum benefit, and that organized and dedicated people can make change happen.
Halvorsen, a 1992 graduate in Urban and Regional studies, is well-respected locally as longtime executive director of NeighborWorks, a not-for-profit housing and community development agency based in Green Bay. NeighborWorks promotes neighborhood revitalization and home ownership through counseling, education, loan programs and new investment.
Daily, he applies lessons learned at UW-Green Bay and in previous jobs with the city of Green Bay and Brown County. His first five years after graduation he was a planning specialist with the city and then spent three years as land information officer, managing land records and GIS activities, for the county.
Halvorsen says his approach to his work is not all that different from Bhojwani’s, whose involvement in economic development projects takes him from South Asia to Africa to Latin America.
“We learned a lot at UWGB about how to look at the world,” Halvorsen says, mentioning the liberal arts emphasis, the breadth and scope of the problem solving and the ample opportunities for students to lead and create. “Those were the experiences that made a great difference.”
Bhojwani, a ’90 graduate in English, is based in the New York City area as deputy director of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University.
He racks up frequent flyer miles establishing partnerships with governments and international development organizations to help at-risk societies be pre-emptive and proactive. The time to respond to a massive crop failure in Ethiopia, for example, is not afterward when children are starving, but when it’s apparent that crucial early rains aren’t going to materialize. A relatively small financial intervention up front, then, can tide people over and keep a farm family from eating their seed stock or selling their oxen… which would all but guarantee a larger, multi-year failure.
Bhojwani came to Green Bay from prep school in the United Kingdom. After graduation, he taught English in Spain and worked in a peasant cooperative in El Salvador during that nation’s transition from civil war to peace. He came back to earn a law degree at Marquette and create the first legal services for the indigent in Milwaukee, working with long-term immigration detainees and human rights victims. From 1999 to 2005, he worked with indigenous communities, NGOs, the private sector, and government agencies on economic development programs in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Brazil.
Bhojwani naturally points to UW-Green Bay English faculty including Tom Churchill and E. Michael Thron as early influences, and Halvorsen cites Urban and Regional’s Ray Hutchison, Ron Baba and Marcelo Cruz, but they don’t stop there. They mention Orville Clark in philosophy, Martin Greenberg in international relations, geographer Bill Laatsch, linguist Don Larmouth, academic dean George Rupp… and several others.
Professors were academic mentors and also, often, friends.
“Bill Laatsch was such a knowledgeable and talented professor,” Halvorsen recalls. “Then, one of my first weekends on campus, I see him dressed as a giant mouse (for the annual Cheese Classic). Things like that did so much to make you comfortable here.”
Bjohwani remembers open poetry readings and other activities that offered students a chance to test their ideas among not only faculty and staff but also peers. Students learned from one another.
“I think it was a particular advantage at UWGB that not every student was the same age, 18 or 20, straight out of high school,” he says. “There was so many returning adults… people who had worked in a paper mill for 15 years, perhaps raised children, and then gone back to school to look at something different or to pump up their skills. They added so much to the experience.”
The two men learned from each other, of course, and continue to do so as proud alumni a quarter century later.
“It’s amazing how similar the issues are that we face,” Bhojwani says. “I’ll go to Noel for advice and he’ll do the same. Whether it’s in Wisconsin or on the other side of the world, it’s about making the right choices, or sometimes a small investment at just the right time.”
UW-Green Bay’s integration of higher education and the environment has imprinted a lasting impression on alumnus John Bates ’74 of Communication Action.
Bates used lessons learned at Eco U to forge a successful career as a Wisconsin naturalist, writer, blogger, professor and nature guide in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Bates looks back on his days at UW-Green Bay as a dynamic time to be on campus.
“I attended UW-Green Bay at a time of great energy and excitement. It was a time of converting cornfields into a vision of what an environmental campus should look like,” says Bates.
His writings include several books on nature in the upper Midwest and Great Lakes Region. He uses observations of the seasons, plants, animals, phenology and ecology as inspiration for his work. Bates was initially attracted to UW-Green Bay by the ecologically oriented curriculum and the school’s commitment to the environmental sciences.
“I relished the many field trips – all the hands-on, get your feet wet learning that we were exposed to. Those perhaps were my best memories at UW-Green Bay,” Bates recalls.
He credits the faculty at UW-Green Bay with sparking his interest in environmentalism and steering him toward a rewarding career as a naturalist and author. Bates reminisces about his favorite classes at UW-Green Bay.
“I took every class I could from Dr. Keith White, and sat in on several classes for a second time just to hear it all again. His introductory Vegetation of Wisconsin class launched a lot of young students into the ecology field. I also really enjoyed and benefitted from Dr. Paul Sager’s freshwater invertebrates class, Dr. John Reed’s botany class (co-taught by Gary Fewless), and Dr. Richard Presnell’s many environmental education classes. They were all superb professors and made a lasting impression on me,” Bates says.
He returned to UW-Green Bay and received his Master’s Degree in Environmental Science in 1986. Bates and his wife, artist and fellow UW-Green Bay alum, Mary Burns ’85 of English and Natural History, live on the Manitowish River in Iron County where they own and operate the Manitowish River Press, a publishing company devoted to producing books that celebrate the natural world. Bates is currently working on his eighth book, Old Growth Forests of Wisconsin. The work Bates is most proud of is “A Northwoods Almanac,” a regular column for the local newspaper in Minocqua. This is his 25th year writing it, and he feels it seems to have mattered to a lot of folks.
“I post their sightings, discuss what’s going on currently in the natural world — the flowerings, nestings, migrations, and try to truly celebrate the beauty of this place we call the Northwoods. Hopefully I’ve helped some people fall more deeply in love with, and understand more thoroughly, their home,” Bates says.
Rebecca Meacham and Chuck Rybak, associate professors of English and Humanistic Studies and a.k.a. UW-Green Bay’s creative writing program, are teaching concurrent — and competing — workshops in novel writing this fall. This is the first offering of English 305: Novel Writing Workshop, at UW-Green Bay. Each workshop student will produce a complete 50,000 word novel draft by Nov. 30. Follow the stories of #writestuff (Team Meacham) and #pulitzerposse (Team Rybak) on Twitter @uwgbnovelists, where students vow that #wewillwriteallthewords !
Rebecca Meacham, associate professor of English and Humanistic Studies, published multiple flash fiction and nonfiction pieces this spring and summer. Her piece about the 1871 Peshtigo fire, “Mrs. Williamson Winds the Watch,” was published in Indiana Review‘s summer 2014 issue as a finalist for the magazine’s “Half-K” prize, while other flash fiction pieces appeared in The Collagist and Monkeybicycle. Another story, “Exercises for Printing and Writing,” was published in Digital Americana as a finalist for that publication’s “501-Word Fiction” prize. Meacham’s flash non-fiction appeared in Carve magazine and in Superstition Review, which also features a vodcast (http://superstitionreview.asu.edu/blog/2014/09/02/sr-podvod-series-writer-rebecca-meacham/) of Meacham reading the piece at iTunes U. Meacham was also interviewed at the blogs for The Collagist, Monkeybicycle, and New Delta Review upon the publication of her 2013-14 award-winning flash fiction chapbook, Morbid Curiosities. In June, her story “Beached” was long listed for Wigleaf journal‘s Top 200 Very Short Fictions of 2014.
Associate Prof. Bryan Vescio, Humanistic Studies (English), has published a new book titled “Reconstruction in Literary Studies: An Informalist Approach.” In it, Vescio explores a revitalized future for the Humanities, examining the academic study of literature as an institution with a distinctive and positive social function. He argues that literary study within the university creates an environment that allows scholars and students to develop and discuss their individuality, maintaining the productive diversity that is critical to a democratic culture. “Satisfied neither with the profession’s restrictive past,” the book description reads, “nor with its increasingly stagnant present, this book points the way toward a revitalized future for the study of literature.” Palgrave Macmillan is the book’s publisher.
Chuck Rybak, associate professor of English and Humanistic Studies, received word recently that his latest book of poems, </war> , has received a 2013 Outstanding Achievement Award from the Wisconsin Library Association. Each year, the WLA’s Literary Awards Committee reviews approximately 250 books by Wisconsin authors published during the previous calendar year and selects several to be recognized as outstanding books. The books are judged on their literary merit as well as the quality of the writing, editing, printing and publishing. (Note: It’s now a clean sweep for the family, as Rybak’s spouse and the other half of the creative writing faculty team, Associate Prof. Rebecca Meacham, won similar recognition from WLA in 2005 for her short story collection, Let’s Do.)
Chuck Rybak, associate professor of English and Humanistic Studies, has three pieces — a poem, a flash fiction piece, and a short story — that were just published:
• “Letters Home” is a long anagram using the names of Wisconsin casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, published in Scintilla Magazine‘s war issue, http://magazine.scintillapress.com/letters-home.html
• The flash fiction piece called “Arrivals” (or a prose poem, maybe a “piction”?) in the Wisconsin Literary Magazine Brawler, at http://www.brawlermag.com/#!arrivals-by-chuck-rybak/c17s0
• A full-on short story, called “Radar Gun,” in the “awesome” journal Midwestern Gothic, with PDF copies or hard copies of the issue available at http://midwestgothic.com/2011/01/issue-14-summer-2014/