Johnny Gomez

From Managua to Green Bay, Johnny Gomez is enjoying the journey

At first glance, 22-year-old Johnny Gomez ’19 looked like many other students at UW-Green Bay, but his gait and easy smile suggested a quiet confidence and wisdom often only achieved through a bit of struggle.

His journey to the UW-Green Bay campus mirrors those taken by many students who begin their studies elsewhere. Gomez studied for a year at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) before transferring to UW-Green Bay.

Johnny Gomez
Johnny Gomez

“I always wanted to earn a four-year degree,” said Gomez, “but many of the usual ways were not always open to me. I have lived and worked in Door County (Wis.) since I was 16, but being a native of Nicaragua meant I couldn’t access some of the financial resources available to other students. I knew I had to work while I went to school.”

Students who face similar challenges find two-year schools offer advantages: They can work while they study, commute between home and school and delay or lessen the higher expenses of a four-year school.

“We get many students from two-year schools and technical colleges,” confirmed Kay Voss, student success advisor in the Austin E. Cofrin School of Business. “In 2018-19 about 11 percent of our total enrollment consisted of transfer students. We have advisors on many campuses to help students learn what’s available to them here and at other schools, and what they need to do to attend the school in which they are interested. And once they’re here, we stay engaged to help them succeed in this new learning environment.”

Gomez thrived: he was nominated for both the Chancellor’s Award and the Leadership Award. He graduated in May 2019, completing his Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree with emphasis areas in Marketing and Entrepreneurship. While it marks the end of his formal studies, it is just another step in a steady trek toward his goal.

“My parents showed me how to work hard and take responsibility for myself,” said Gomez. “I am determined to be a business owner, a CEO and a philanthropist. I want to start in commercial real estate, but I will be open to the opportunities that may come to me.”
Gomez’s parents seem to have lit a fire, a fire that fuels his drive to succeed.

“When I was about 16, I asked my parents to let me go to Wisconsin to live with my aunt and grandmother, who had moved here many years earlier. I wanted to earn money for my family,” he said. “They were reluctant, but I pressured them and they agreed. So in 2012, I moved to Door County. I worked at a restaurant as a dishwasher and busboy, and my English was as broken as my wallet. The owners and staff were very good to me, but it’s a busy place in the summer and I was working 60-plus hours a week to send money back to my family.”

During his sophomore year at Sevastopol High School, after the tourist season ended, Gomez found a weekend job as a dishwasher in Green Bay. His aunt would drive him to work after school Friday and bring him back for classes on Monday. The next summer, he landed a year-round job at Mojo Rosas in Egg Harbor, where the owner saw his potential and encouraged him. He worked hard, improved his English and advanced to waiter and shift manager.

Despite working up to 25 hours each week, Gomez was able to maintain his grades and participate in three sports. He also earned his driver’s license and bought some basic transportation. Working with his principal and his school counselor, he enrolled at NWTC.
His studies there opened a world of opportunities for him and fanned his desire for a four-year degree.

Johnny Gomez
Johnny Gomez

“I chose UW-Green Bay because it was convenient and affordable,” said Gomez. “In my time here, I have been able to meet so many wonderful people and learn. I had an internship in the university marketing office, I led our Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization and I have been an RA (resident advisor) in my dorm. I have a great job bartending at Hinterland, which has enabled me to pay for school and continue supporting my family in Nicaragua.”

Gomez has advice for any student wanting to achieve a university education.

“First, I would say everyone has to discover what their potential self is and work hard to achieve it,” he offered. “Second, I would say find role models who support you, encourage you and give you energy. Stay away from negative people.

“I was fortunate to have guidance from my academic advisor, Kay Voss (Cofrin School of Business), and encouragement from my professors, especially Ryan Kauth (Entrepreneurship) and Zhou Wenkai (Marketing),” said Gomez. “They all encouraged me to explore opportunities on campus and in the community, and introduced me to people and experiences I would never have thought possible.

“UW-Green Bay has been perfect for me.”

– Story by freelance writer Jim Streed ’05

Amber Fredrick

Caring for our greatest resource

Impact of MSW School Social Work program felt in schools across Northeast Wisconsin.

It’s been said that our children are our greatest resource. Few believe this more than a school social worker—someone on the front lines, working face-to-face with students and their families on the tough issues that are part of our society today.

Yet, not every school district has a school social worker. This could be because of limited financial resources, or the lack of licensed school social worker availability, especially true in the northern half of the state of Wisconsin.

Until now. In May 2019, 16 Master’s of Social Work (MSW) students graduated from UW-Green Bay with an emphasis in school
social work.

A Passion for Helping

Our greatest resource—healthy, emotionally stable children—grow up to be healthy productive citizens. Cristina Gomez, a current student in UW-Green Bay’s MSW school social work program witnessed this first-hand through her position within the Green Bay Area Public Schools (GBAPS). “As I got to see the work school social workers do every day, I got motivated and wanted to dedicate my time doing something that would help a child in need,” says Gomez, who is currently finishing her field work at Doty Elementary School in Green Bay. “I get to work with school social workers, so I see how their work is full of kindness, care and commitment. I want to be that too.”

Her passion for kids and business-related background give her a unique and needed perspective while working with students who undoubtedly need her care. “I help them regulate their emotions, improve their relationships, help them to be responsible citizens and contributing to society.” She speaks with passion about her position as a social worker, helping students “…make better decisions or to build them up so that they can be the best they can… that impacts our community in the end.”

Going “above and beyond” for those in our schools that need it the most – this is the directive of a school social worker. “If you only had an idea on how the social-emotional programming changes the students’ lives, because that prepares them, and changes their problem solving (ability), makes them more independent, and better at approaching and fixing problems later in life,” says Gomez. “We definitely want that, right?”

A Caring History

The UW-Green Bay Master of Social Work Program originated in fall 2003 as a collaborative effort with UW Oshkosh. In 2015, the collaboration was dissolved, and UW-Green Bay launched its solo program.

In 2016, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) contacted the University, asking if they would consider offering an MSW with an emphasis in school social work. At that time, the only schools in Wisconsin offering this school social work option were located in Madison and Milwaukee.

Gail Trimberger
Gail Trimberger

The University fully supported this expansion of its already successful MSW program. UW-Green Bay prides itself on its regional responsiveness and the addition of this program was no different. “It would have been unjust for us to say no,” says Gail Trimberger, MSSW, LCSW, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of UW-Green Bay’s MSW program. “They (UW-Green Bay administration) were fully behind it, encouraging us to absolutely explore it.”

“Our students can get the MSW degree and go into the field that interests them, such as counseling, hospitals, hospice, homeless shelters, you name it,” Trimberger says. “Social work is becoming more and more prevalent because there is a greater and greater need.”

This new emphasis gives incoming students the option to receive their advanced degree in school social work, meeting the DPI licensure standards required to work in a school setting. “As soon as word got out that we were doing it (the school social work emphasis) we started getting calls from people who had MSW degrees already, asking if they could start,” says Trimberger.

Immediate Impact

For Joe Cook, director of special education at the Reedsville School District, this couldn’t have happened at a better time. “The social worker position is one of the most useful and helpful positions in the district, from working one-on-one with the student, to connecting families to community resources, to wider personal development for the staff,” he continues, “the wide amount of bases that a good social worker can cover, just does a wealth of good for the district.”

The need is great for school social workers. Amber Fredrick (above), already a practicing social worker, took advantage of UW-Green Bay’s new emphasis so that she could start a new career in the schools. She now works for Reedsville School District.
Amber Frederick, Reedsville School District

This belief in the value of school social work led the Reedsville District’s superintendent and board of education to hire  Amber Fredrick ’10 and ’13 (BSW, MSW) an already practicing social worker, and UW-Green Bay MSW graduate, under the provisional licensure. Amber completed her post-MSW program in spring of 2019, balancing time between the school social work internship with the Denmark School District and meeting the needs of the students and families that benefit from her skills at the Reedsville School District. “Amber has really made a big impact,” says Cook. “Having Amber allows us to offer parents so much more assistance in making connections for families that have needs that go beyond the school. It’s helped us bring so much more to families.”

Fredrick’s success and connection within the school district is palpable, and Cook is extremely thankful for her ability to gain this post-graduate degree so close to home. “How it all came together has been a blessing for our district,” says Cook. They’re both grateful for UW-Green Bay’s investment in this invaluable community resource.

–Story by freelance writer Kristin Bouchard ’93

Psychology faculty Jason Cowell and Sawa Senzaki study the pilots' brain activity.

Little Pilots, Big Study

There’s a jet plane in Mary Ann Cofrin Hall—in the psychology lab, to be exact. It’s colorful, about three feet tall and crafted of high-density plastic body foam with a padded seat. The “pilot” is about three years old, wearing a “helmet” of blinking LEDs with lots of protruding wires. He’s busy studying a computer screen and obviously enjoying himself. Nearby, an undergraduate student monitors the pilot’s brain activity. Mom is watching nearby through a two-way mirror.

Child research subject wearing EEG cap.The space that’s being explored is between his ears. Technically what’s being recorded is a neurophysiological reading of brain activity through an electroencephalographic (EEG) “hat.”
The whole experience is completely painless and takes about 45 minutes— about the same as a haircut.

This isn’t just a solo flight. (He’s approximately pilot number 300 and counting). It’s all part of a multi-cultural research project developed by UW-Green Bay psychology and human development professors Sawa Senzaki and Jason Cowell.  The title is impressive: The Role of Parental Socialization in the Neurophysical Development of Moral Evaluation Across Cultures.
And what’s really enabled this project to take off is a $365,500 grant from The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It’s a prestigious grant with an award rate of about seven percent (comparable to being accepted to Yale or MIT).

Psychology faculty Sawa Senzaki fitting subject with EEG cap
Sawa Senzaki fitting subject with EEG cap

“I came here in 2013; my research is about cultural psychology,” Senzaki says. “I’m interested in looking at how parenting is shaped in different cultural ways.” She’s currently an associate professor and has worked to expand psychological research to more diverse cultures. “Only 12 percent of the world’s population (primarily the U.S., Canada and Western Europe) represents 96 percent of all psychological research data.”

As a leading researcher in cultural psychology, Senzaki also focuses on both the changes and similarities that occur in children as they age and how those changes can be impacted by cultural and social influences. “What I am interested in personally is how parenting shapes these different cultural ways childhood development is impacted.”

Psychology faculty Jason Cowell studys child's brain activity
Jason Cowell with participant

Cowell, currently an assistant professor, arrived on campus in 2015 with an interest in developmental neuroscience—a new field that “looked” at the brains of children as they’re starting to learn skills like moral decision making. What brought them together was the classic area of psychological theory, “nature vs. nurture” and the intersection of their mutual interest in child development.

So how does one measure neurophysical development in three-to five-year-olds?

“We show them cartoons,” Cowell explains, displaying the screen our pilot was viewing. We’re looking at how children’s brains react to ‘good’ and ‘bad’ acts in cartoons.”

Cowell also credits UW-Green Bay as being a great fit for nurturing an academic’s professional goals. “Why this is a cool thing is that Sawa and I have done a lot of research in our past, so when we came here, we wanted to continue. The best way to keep research going is to bring in external funding. So, we spent a couple of years applying for several grants and finally received a really good one. This is a unique opportunity for the University.”

Another positive aspect of this particular grant is its focus on undergraduates as paid assistants.

The undergraduate assistants play with the kids and get them used to the lab. “It’s the really cool part because the undergrads do all of this and they really do a good job.”

UW-Green Bay junior psychology major Kate Sorebo took advantage of this rare opportunity. “I was browsing through the Psychology program want ads and came across Prof. Senzaki’s ad for a research assistant. I got in contact with her, had an interview and the rest is history!”

Sorebo appreciates the effort it takes just to put little “pilots” in the plane. “The kids that come in are such intelligent and energetic participants, it’s always a good time.” Plus, this experience is shaping her future plans to go to graduate school and focus on educational psychology with an emphasis on how children with special needs learn and grow as individuals.

And as far as the University goes, Senzaki envisions their research as the launching pad to even greater things. “It’s a three-year grant so we’ll be doing several different variances of this project, including international collaborations in Japan.”

Senzaki also sees the project enhancing regional and national awareness of UW-Green Bay’s research capabilities. “Part of the benefit of the grant is to expose students to opportunities that are on par with some of the most prestigious universities in the country.” With more than 800 psychology and human development majors and minors currently on campus, this is one little pilot program that’s really taking off.

Summer Music Campers

Summer Camps, Take Two

It was a sweet sound to our ears in July, when UW-Green Bay hosted the Summer Music Camps, including piano, band, orchestra, choral and the Rock Academy. High School students were able to customize their experience with a wide range of choices, from music theory to pop strings and fiddling. UW-Green Bay also hosted Art Camp, Robotics and STEM Camp and Video Game Programming in recent weeks.

Click to advance slideshow or view the album on Flickr.

Summer Camps 2019 - Group 2

– Photos by Dan Moore, Office of Marketing and University Communication