Tohoro (Francis) Akakpo, assistant professor of Social Work, is one of three co-authors of a paper featured this month in the international Journal of Sexual Aggression, published by Routledge in the United Kingdom. The article is titled “Comparison of non-sexual crimes committed by juvenile sexual offenders and delinquent youth in residential treatment in the USA.” The research involved data collected five years apart on 600 adolescents, exploring differences and similarities in criminal behavior between incarcerated adolescents who committed both sexual and non-sexual crimes with adolescents who committed only non-sexual crimes. The study indicated an apparent correlation between delinquency/property damage and sexual crimes, and relatively little overlap between theft/drug offenses and sexual crimes. Akakpo’s co-authors were George S. Leibowitz of the University of Vermont and David L. Burton of Smith College. The paper was initially presented at the 26th National Adolescent Perpetration Network Conference in 2011 in San Antonio.
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.”
When Doug Wirth began attending UW-Green Bay as a transfer student, he was struggling.
Struggling with his father’s recent suicide. Struggling with his sexuality. And like so many college students, struggling to find his place in the world.
It was the mid-1980s, and the Fond du Lac native had just transferred to UW-Green Bay. He’d been a business/finance major at UW Oshkosh, but he craved a course of study that better aligned with his emerging sense of self. He found the Social Work program at UW-Green Bay — and with it, Professor Betty Baer.
“Betty took me under her wing at a really tough time in my life, where it could’ve ended up very differently,” said Wirth ‘89. “I was definitely struggling to find my way and make sense of the personal family tragedy I had experienced. The Social Work program gifted me with the opportunity to find myself, to discover a deeper calling, to reconnect with the things that mattered most to my heart and soul.
“Betty’s care and concern helped set me on a course to both heal personally and find a way to give back to the Green Bay community, to life, and now, on a national stage.”
That national stage is New York’s 6,000-member AmidaCare, an innovative health plan that serves individuals living with chronic conditions such as HIV/AIDS, serious mental illness, addictions and homelessness. As its president and CEO, Wirth is continually using his Social Work degree and experience to give back.
And although it’s been years since he called Green Bay home, Wirth is now giving back in a whole new way, providing a matching gift to endow a scholarship in Baer’s name. Wirth wants to ensure that Baer’s mantra of “think globally, act locally” reaches UW-Green Bay students for generations to come.
Baer passed away Sept. 10 at the age of 87. She knew Wirth was starting a scholarship to honor her, and she fondly recalled her relationship with him during a summer interview with UW-Green Bay News. The fondness, it was clear, cut both ways.
“Betty was a dynamic, passionate, courageous woman and a force of nature,” Wirth said, “who would ask the kind of questions that led you to find your internal compass and then get busy in the world. She was, for me, a very awe-inspiring mentor that grounded me in social work’s role as a social change agent (not social control).”
Making a career of care
Wirth developed his foundation in social work at a time when Green Bay was a very different place. He did his student work in what was then a gritty, run-down Broadway district, working with marginalized populations including the homeless and those living with HIV/AIDS. His undergraduate field placement at the United Amerindian Center — the precursor to today’s New Community Shelter — had Wirth running a five-tier homeless shelter program. Upon graduation, he was the vice chair of the Brown County Coalition on the Homeless.
“It was hard work,” Baer said, recalling the time during the UW-Green Bay News interview at her home. “If I could take you back to Broadway downtown, and what it was — it was really quite a crummy neighborhood. And that’s where Doug was willing to practice.”
While still a student, Wirth volunteered with the HIV/AIDS program on Broadway, serving as a pre- and post-HIV counselor and as a buddy who visited people in the hospital — primarily, he said, gay men who were dying of AIDS.
“I think it’s the combination of my own personal survival at a time when so many men were dying… and the desire to find purpose and meaning in my own life that called me into working with people living with HIV,” Wirth said, “and to really honor the teachings that I learned in my own family and Native People… to walk the path of giving and taking care of our neighbors, brothers and sisters.
“UWGB’s Social Work program is grounded in a social justice framework that asks us to become agents of change,” Wirth continued. “And that extends beyond race, culture, gender, sexuality or economic status. I’m nurtured everyday by my UWGB experience and training to help create a world that values all and considers the impact of our decisions on the 7th Generation. We need more caring professionals who are invested in building the capacity of human beings — and not just some people or some of the time.”
Wirth’s passion for helping others would continue when he moved east, first joining the American Psychological Association’s HOPE Program as a senior faculty member, teaching, developing and evaluating programs around HIV, addiction, homelessness, spirituality and homophobia. It would endure when he moved to New York City to become the director of government relations and public policy for a coalition of behavioral health agencies, and it would be furthered when then-Mayor David Dinkins appointed him as a health policy adviser for the city’s Title I Ryan White Planning Council.
Wirth continued in his advisory role under Mayor Rudy Giuliani, leaving the coalition of behavioral health agencies to become the executive director of the People with AIDS Coalition of New York. He merged that group with another HIV/AIDS organization, working himself out of a job to save money on administrative costs and thereby maximizing funds for direct services. As a consultant, Wirth worked with New York State to develop and advance a unique model of care — the Special Needs Plan (or “SNP”) — that advocates a broad, holistic continuum of care for those living with chronic conditions including (but not limited to) HIV. In 2006, he joined AmidaCare (then VidaCare), which is now the largest Medicaid Special Needs Plan in New York City.
“The professional education I received at UWGB, as well as my entry-level field work at the United Amerindian Center, really prepared me to excel in New York, to lead what is now the largest Medicaid health plan in the country focused on advancing wellness and life success for folks challenged by multiple chronic illnesses,” Wirth said. “We serve folks across all the five boroughs of New York City. Our annual operating budget is close to $400 million.
“The model of care outcomes include 94 percent of our members getting regular outpatient care at a medical home; hospitalizations are down by over 70 percent and emergency rooms visits declined by over 60 percent since 2008; and Medicaid cost savings of 35 percent over fee-for-service. In other words, regular/preventative care that produces wellness is great for the client/patient and really good for the taxpayer, too.”
AmidaCare takes a multifaceted and proactive approach to patient care, supporting access and engagement to care and medications as long as they are needed. When patients drop out, AmidaCare teams conduct street-based outreach, finding the individuals in the community and working to reconnect them with housing, care and services before they get sick and end up in the hospital. The program’s holistic nature goes beyond medical care and information to include promotion of healthier ways of living. AmidaCare’s “Live your Life” programs allow people with similar chronic health conditions to come together for yoga, African dance, nutritional cooking programs, “art expression” and more.
“We offer these programs and services to members because we’re investing in them,” Wirth said. “Neighbors matter in our little big city and their lives have meaning and purpose. Our mission is to help people be well so they can get about the business of living — finding that life purpose and ways of contributing to their family, to their neighborhood, to their church, mosque or synagogue, to their community — and ultimately, to the great City of New York.”
Fond memories, lasting impact
Wirth’s work in New York exemplifies what Baer termed a focus on macro practice — social work that emphasizes the good of the community, not just the individual. She said she hoped the students who receive the scholarship in her name would have that drive, as well, working for the betterment of the many, versus the few.
“I would tell them to look at what Doug has done,” Baer said. “He’s an ideal kind of social worker in that he cares deeply about people and he cares about making a difference in this world. He thinks about the larger environment in which people live and he wants to make a difference.”
Baer fondly remembered the years when Wirth was her student, including not just his drive and work ethic but the fun moments, too. She laughingly recalled a time when Wirth brought lunch for her and an administrative assistant — rather than a simple spread, he wheeled in an entire table, set specially for the occasion.
Still, Baer never expected that her former student would honor her in such a way.
“I was overwhelmed — really,” she said. “I was very fond of him as a student and he’s just a great guy. And of course I was thrilled and pleased.”
Baer and Wirth stayed in touch through the years, last meeting in person in New York in 2008. They had hoped to reunite again. Instead, sadly, Wirth traveled back to the Green Bay area for her funeral in September. He hopes her legacy lives on.
“It is a deep prayer of mine that people will come through the UW-Green Bay Social Work program and upon graduation work in the community in ways that contribute to wellness and healing around things like racism, sexism, sexuality, addiction, poverty and classism,” Wirth said. “If whatever I’m able to give to the scholarship in Dr. Baer’s name contributes to new people entering the profession, young people who will keep the profession’s true spirit fire alive, and supporting the Green Bay community that I still deeply love, it will be an honor to have been part of it. Please join me in this effort and honor a pioneer and the legacy of Dr. Baer.”
To contribute to the Dr. Betty Baer Endowed Scholarship, visit The UW-Green Bay Foundation website.
The memorial scholarship for Social Work Prof. Betty Baer is just shy of its goal of $12,500 for endowed status. The scholarship was established prior to Baer’s passing with a matching gift from alumnus Doug Wirth ’89. Wirth’s goal is to ensure that Baer’s mantra of “think globally, act locally” reaches UW-Green Bay students for generations to come. To donate, click here. Read more about Betty Baer.
Oneida tribal leader and UW-Green Bay graduate Cristina (Tina) Danforth delivered the commencement address at her alma mater Saturday (Dec. 13), sharing a First Nations perspective and encouraging members of the class of 2014 to give back to their communities.
“It is said in our culture that each individual is born with a gift from the Creator,” Danforth said. “We believe it is our responsibility to nurture this gift so that we all become a contribution to our family and our community. Whether your gift is in the arts, the sciences, the letters or a combination of many intellectual talents, it is now your responsibility to share and use your talent for the betterment of others.”
Danforth, chairwoman of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin and a 1988 Social Work graduate of UW-Green Bay, addressed an audience of 2,000 people at mid-year commencement held at the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts. About 500 students were eligible to participate and receive degrees.
Danforth was elected to her second term as Oneida tribal chairwoman this past July, having previously served as chair from 2002 to 2005, and as tribal treasurer since 2008.
She opened her remarks with the greeting “swakwek” and a sentence spoken in the Oneida language, “Kwalak^ni niyukyats, otahyuni ni waket talohta,” explaining that her Oneida name, Kuwalak^ni, means “influential.” She identified herself as a member of the Wolf Clan, Oneida Nation and the larger Iroquois Confederacy (also known as Haudenosaunee, or “People of the Long House”).
Danforth noted that the Iroquois culture places great emphasis on giving thanks for all people and all life.
“We acknowledge the existence of the people, our Mother the Earth, the waters, the fish, the plants, the food plants, the medicine herbs, the animals, the trees, the birds, the four winds, the seasons, the Thunderers, the sun, the stars, our Grandmother the Moon, the Enlightened Teachers and messengers, and the Creator for all living things.
“In our acknowledgement, we are reminded that again our gifts are also our responsibility. Taking care of Mother Earth for all humankind is a serious task. It is what you are tasked with today as you walk across this stage to the next part of your journey on this Earth.”
She told the UW-Green Bay graduates she chose to share these traditional teachings in her remarks because “they are a reminder that we all are related, we all are connected and we all have a common purpose based on the principals of life.”
She closed with the words “Yawako, tanethoniyotuhake, tani. Thank you, so be our minds.”
Cristina (Tina) Danforth will be the featured speaker at the ceremony that begins at 11:30 a.m. at the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts. About 500 students are eligible to participate and receive degrees. With family and friends along with University faculty and staff in attendance, an audience of nearly 2,000 is expected.
Danforth is a 1988 Social Work graduate of UW-Green Bay. It is expected that, in her remarks, she will congratulate the graduates, share a sample of traditional native teaching about interdependence, and challenge UW-Green Bay’s newest alumni to serve others, the Earth and generations to come.
Danforth was elected to her second term as Oneida tribal chairwoman this past July, having previously served as chair from 2002 to 2005, and as tribal treasurer since 2008.
During her tenure as treasurer, the Oneidas achieved balanced budgets, paid off debt and self-funded both a gaming expansion and construction of a new retail outlet. Danforth led the effort to secure bonds for building a new, state-of-the-art nursing home.
She has extensive work experience in areas related to social services, economic development, business and education, and in working with the federal government on tribal issues. On a national level, she serves as chairwoman of the Native American Bancorporation and second vice president of the Native American Financial Officers Association. She has been a member of the Wisconsin Governor’s Council on Tourism, president of the Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes and vice chair of the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council. She was selected as a lead negotiator of gaming compacts with the state of Wisconsin by the United Tribes of Wisconsin, and as negotiator for the Oneida Compacts and New York Land Claims.
She is a past recipient of the AmVets Leadership Award, Lifetime Achievement Award for Financial Leadership by NAFOA, and the Lifetime Achievement Award by Women Empowering Women in Indian Nations.
In October, Danforth was among leaders of the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council who addressed a special meeting of the UW System Board of Regents to discuss increasing the numbers of American Indian students who attend college and graduate. She shared suggestions including adding American Indian staff on campuses, easing transfer rules so that more credits earned at tribal colleges qualify, and making colleges more comfortable and affordable for American Indian students.
Fox 11’s Making a Difference segment profiled UW-Green Bay’s Campus Kitchens Project in a Wednesday (Nov. 26) story, introducing viewers to the organization that’s reducing food waste while feeding the hungry in our community. Reporter/anchor Michelle Melby tagged along as Campus Kitchens students prepared a recent meal at the NEW Community Shelter, speaking with them about the experience — and how it feels to be making a difference. “I don’t think people know how much food is being wasted,” said student Naomi Moua. “And how much we can reuse some of that and give it to those who are in need.” Melby also spoke with Campus Kitchens faculty adviser Sarah Himmelheber, Social Work, who helped students apply for the necessary grant and launch Campus Kitchens last year. Full story.
The UW-Green Bay Social Work Professional Programs has been awarded a $682,515 federal grant from the Department of Health and Human Services for the 2014-2015 fiscal year. Grant funds are used to support training and provide stipends for social work students in child welfare careers, helping both undergraduate and graduate-level students here. UW Green Bay has been a recipient of the Title IV-E Long Term Child Welfare Training Program grant since 1991. (UW-Green Bay’s participation in the program was founded through the leadership of former chairperson Betty Baer, who passed away earlier this fall.) The NEW Partnership receives a similar grant to provide on-going training for social workers currently working in child welfare.
Andrea Pasqualucci, a school social worker at Valley View Elementary School in Ashwaubenon, was selected this fall as Wisconsin’s Special Services Teacher of the Year for working behind the scenes to improve student learning.
A 1990 graduate of UW-Green Bay’s bachelor’s degree program in Social Work, she credits her early educational training as having a big impact on her career.
“The time I spent there was so valuable,” Pasqualucci says of her campus experience. “The professors, the small classes and learning environment, the leadership opportunities… the fact that I kept up with faculty (mentors) like Betty Baer, Ann Kok and Rolfe White over the years really speaks to the interest they take in their students and alumni, personally and professionally.”
Pasqualucci has special memories of those UW-Green Bay professors:
• Betty Baer — “She was tough and encouraging at the same time. But you totally knew when she was on your side. Just a tremendously accomplished social worker and educator.”
• Anne Kok — “Anne was just fun to be around. She was inspiring in a special kind of way… positive and optimistic and fully confident that we could make a difference in people’s lives.”
• Rolfe White — “He retired quite a few years ago, but has always maintained his commitment to helping those in need. He’s on the executive board of the Brown County Homeless and Housing Coalition and is a true positive force in our community.”
As a UW-Green Bay student in the late 1980s, Pasqualucci completed her required field placement at Family Services in Green Bay, working with juvenile-age clients. It was during those days, she says, and in her master’s degree work in human services at UW-Madison (she earned her degree there in 1993), that she more fully formed her core principles as a social worker.
Those principles are basic, but things Pasqualucci says she always strives to employ: build personal relationships with people; value and respect everyone, regardless of their status or influence; know the value of hard work; and be rigorous in applying best practices and the highest level of professionalism.
In the years following college, Pasqualucci lived in Chicago and Seattle before eventually moving back to Wisconsin with her husband, Hans Bachmeier, also a UW-Green Bay grad (1991), who today is a vice president with Miller Electric in Appleton. She began her career as a social worker in the Crystal Lake School District in Crystal Lake, Ill., and worked for the North Chicago School District. She joined the staff of the Ashwaubenon School District in 2008.
Pasqulucci’s current certification as a school social worker comes via the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. The certification requires continuing education, something she has accomplished by returning to UW-Green Bay for selected master’s degree courses in Education.
She learned of her selection as Wisconsin’s Special Services Teacher of the Year for the 2014-15 at a surprise all-school assembly at Valley View in September. State Superintendent Tony Evers made the announcement.
As part of the Teacher of the Year honors, Pasqualucci receives $3,000 from the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation. The state DPI and Kohl Foundation partner to make the awards, which are given in four categories: elementary, middle/junior high, high school, and special services. Evers additionally recognized Pasqualucci during his State of Education address Sept. 25 in Madison.
Her nominators described her as “a tireless advocate for students” and someone with a “passion for working with people in need.” They praised Pasqualucci for developing a number of programs and partnerships to help students in the Ashwaubenon School District who are homeless or from low-income families.
“We have a segment of the population, who because of what’s going on at home, struggle to realize their gifts even though they have great potential,” she comments. “Many families I encounter are consumed with meeting the basic needs of their children and have little energy or financial resources left to expose their children to the multiple stimulating experiences other children encounter every day. Over time, these differences accumulate and the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ grows.”
Pasqualucci was instrumental in developing and managing student-led food drives; an e-mail based donation system that matches donors with families needing clothing or household items; and in-service sessions for school staff on equity and anti-bullying issues. She also reaches out to parents to build trust so they are more involved in their children’s education.
Work by Pasqualucci and others like her, nationwide, is supported in part by 1987 federal legislation, the McKinney-Vento Act, which awards grants to programs aimed at boosting academic achievement among certain at-risk children.
At any given time, Pasqualucci says, she’s working with about 50 students and their families to provide guidance and link then to resources that can range from from size 4T pants, to beds, dressers, and household items, laundromat vouchers and school supply backpacks.
In the community, she is part of the Brown County Homeless and Housing Coalition and chaired the county’s National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week activities. She is a member of her church’s Social Concerns Commission, bringing her first-hand knowledge of social issues to help the commission affect change and meet the needs of parishioners and community members.
Former UW-Green Bay Prof. of Social Work Betty L. Baer died Sept. 10 after a lengthy illness. The obituary stated that, “In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to a scholarship recently established in Betty’s name by a former student. To contribute to the Dr. Betty Baer Endowed Scholarship, visit www.uwgb.edu/foundation or send contributions in her name to the UW-Green Bay Foundation, 2420 Nicolet Drive, CL 805, Green Bay, WI 54311.