Erin Weimann

An Engineer Breaking the Mold

Sometimes you have to first take a well-worn path before embarking on the road less traveled.

For Erin Weimann, that path was a career in education. “My original interest was in teaching math.” So she began with a semester in Cardinal Stritch (in Milwaukee) and another semester in Lakeland. And came to a realization. “Then I realized I really didn’t want to teach math. So I decided to take some time and see what I really want to do.”

Erin Weimann
Erin Weimann

That “time” stretched to eight years. But she was neither wandering or lost. Weimann was hired at an international manufacturer of automotive components, with a factory in Sheboygan. What started out as “just a job” evolved into “maybe a career” in mechanical engineering. “I got promoted really quick to an assistant supervisor and moved up the ladder to an engineering specialist role.”

And it was a role that not a lot of women aspired. Even as she progressed in the company, Weimann had to constantly prove her worth to her peers. “The guy who was training me, I passed him up pretty quick. He ended up being told he could learn a lot from me.”

Weimann started working more with maintenance and engineering. And discovered she not only had a talent but a passion for engineering. But this was a career that demanded credentials to progress—specifically a bachelor’s degree. “There was one engineer I was working with and he had earned his degree as an adult. So I decided this is what I want to do.”

At that time, in 2018,  the mechanical engineering program at the UW-Green Bay, Sheboygan Campus, was a collaborative degree with Platteville. She had meetings with an advisor and developed a plan of action based on what classes were offered when and where. Not easy, but doable.

But it was the merger of UW-Green Bay and the Sheboygan Campus that really made the program more viable.

“I could just stay in Sheboygan and that was extremely exciting for me. The fact that it’s all local and I don’t have to drive down to Platteville is awesome.”

Plus no need to prove herself all over again. “My advisors and professors have been super supportive. They’ve worked with me if I wasn’t able to attend a class I was able to work on my own.”

While designing is one of the main attractions to pursuing a mechanical engineer degree. Weimann’s approach has always been more hands-on. “More like let’s design it, build it and test it. Let’s do everything.”

Add to that Weimann’s “everything” also includes as raising a young daughter and working full time as a Supplier Engineer at Vollrath—a commercial food-service equipment fabricator with a 150-year history in Sheboygan—all while earning her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

“My hope is, because I go very part-time, to graduate by 2024.” Her plan continues— now designed, built and tested.

Vintage photo of an environmental awareness demonstration political activist ralley circa 1970.

Echos of Eco U—More on the newly formed Office of Sustainability

Portrait photograph of John Arendt
John Arendt

UW-Green Bay has created its first Office of Sustainability and has named John Arendt as director. Last year, working with then Provost and now current Chancellor Alexander, the campus Sustainability Committee identified the need for a dedicated office. Its mission? To address the campus’s sustainability needs and to serve as a conduit between the campus and UW System sustainability representatives.

Arendt sees many similarities between today’s climate and the ‘turbulent 60’s’. “In many respects, the conditions we are operating under seem eerily similar to the planetary crisis going on when the University was founded.” He also envisions the office taking an activist role for the University and the region. “Including a need for new thinking, teachers looking for novel ways to instruct and looking to a younger generation to provide leadership out of the current paradigm.”

One of those current needs will be reporting the campus sustainability efforts to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) report, which is due in spring 2021. Surveys consistently show that sustainability practices remain extremely important for students when considering which college to attend.

The STARS report communicates the university’s sustainability rating to prospective college students in publications such as Princeton Review and Sierra Club’s Cool Schools report. The Office of Sustainability will be housed in the Environmental Management and Business Institute (EMBI), where Arendt will also continue to serve as director. The EMBI office is located in ES 105 and Arendt can be reached via email or on the contact page of the campus sustainability webpage.



Cartoon contest: What did the sandhill crane say to the turkey?

Cartoon Caption Results Are In!

The results are in and the collective Phoenix flock has spoken! (Or Squawked?) Much thanks to all who submitted and voted. The captions submitted ranged from the academic— “I gotta confess: I still don’t understand interdisciplinarity.” to questions of avian anatomy— “What is a giblet anyway?” But only one caption can rule the roost, and that is:

“This staying inside is for the birds.”
Submitted by Pamela Olson—Informational and Humor Specialist

Closely followed by

“Of course I miss the students. Noisy… a little messy…
but when you see them out and about on campus, you just feel closer to nature.”
Submitted by Christopher Sampson— Director of Humorous Communications, emeritus


“No, Thanksgiving has not been canceled yet.”
Submitted by Alise Coen—Human and Bird’s Rights Advocate

It is the purest of coincidences that all three finalists are present or former UW-Green Bay staff or faculty. All results were arrived through a robust qualitative analysis to avoid any bias: namely—is this funny? Plus, since the votes were surprisingly close, so all three will be receiving an original drawing emblazoned with their captions. Congratulations! (Please allow four weeks for delivery.) Thanks again for playing!

Cartoon contest: What did the sandhill crane say to the turkey?

It’s cartoon caption contest voting time!

The captions are in—and the rest is up to you! Below you will find the three finalists and an online ballot by which you will be able to cast your vote for the most amusing caption. Then “toon” back and we will announce the winner and the two runner-ups. Thanks again to everyone who submitted a caption and thanks in advance for casting your vote. Voting closes Tuesday, April 28 at Noon. Here are the finalists:

  • “This staying inside is for the birds.”
  • “No, Thanksgiving has not been canceled yet.”
  • “Of course I miss the students. Noisy… a little messy… but when you see them out and about on campus, you just feel closer to nature.”

Cast Your Vote

CDC: Wearing a mask is a must!

During cold and flu seasons, face masks are common sights in heavily populated areas, both home and abroad. Now, during the coronavirus outbreak, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the use of a mask in areas where social distancing is difficult.

Unfortunately, most stores are sold out and “medical grade” masks must be reserved for health-care professionals. In light of these challenges, Facebook and other social media sources are filled with hints and plans for creating your own “DIY” mask.

The primary function of this type of mask is to protect you from someone already carrying the virus who may not have obvious symptoms. So if everyone wears a mask, the risk of transmission and spread significantly decreases.

Here’s some tips to making a “hand-crafted” coronavirus mask more effective:

  • The more layers of fabric, preferably cotton (as in a bed sheet or pillow case) the better.  But not so many layers you can’t breathe through the mask.
  • Add a layer non-woven interfacing, like a reusable grocery tote or lunch bag to help block droplets of virus.
  • Tape a pipe cleaner onto the outside of the mask, making it possible to pinch the mask onto and much easier if you wear glasses.
  • Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams has released a video showing his method for using a square of cloth (or a bandana) and two large rubber bands. See the video.

Resilient Wisconsin Resources Announced

In this unprecedented time of uncertainty, adopting healthy practices for coping with stress and stay connected with friends, family and co-workers is more important than ever. Resilient Wisconsin offers resources and tools to encourage self-care, maintain social connections and reduce stress. When we utilize these tools, we help build a healthier Wisconsin for all. Here are a few practices you can put to good use today and moving forward:

  • Get the three goods: “good-for-you (healthy!) foods, a good night’s sleep, and a good amount of exercise every day.
  • Stay connected to your support system. Reach out to family and friends, colleagues, and community groups in whatever way you can—calls, texts, video chats, and more.
  • Spend time away from focusing on COVID-19. Don’t let the pandemic take over what you read, watch, or talk about. Encourage friends and family to talk about other topics.
  • Reduce anxiety by reducing your risk. You stay safer staying at home. Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds. Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Practice social distancing by staying at least 6 feet apart while running essential errands at the store, pharmacy, or gas station.
  • Check in with yourself. Everyone’s reaction to stress is different. Difficulty concentrating or sleeping, irritability, fatigue, and even stomachaches can be normal.
  • It’s OK to ask for help! If you find you are overwhelmed or having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, reach out for help right away. Text HOPELINE to 741741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Staying Safer-at-Home is important, but we know it is not easy. Resilient Wisconsin offers us a way forward as we all work towards a healthier Wisconsin. For more information, please visit and follow DHS on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Brian Welsch smashes a block with a sledgehammer on a student lying on a bed of nails.

Striking a Blow for Physics

When UW-Green Bay Assistant Prof. Brian Welsch wants to make a point in his Fundamentals of Physics class regarding Isaac Newton’s second law of physics, he makes quite an impact—with a sledgehammer, to be exact.

UW-Green Bay has not had a physics major in more than 20 years, but still offers a physics minor. This particular class generates interest from students in science and engineering, including premed and even future physical therapists.

It’s the type of class where according to Welsch, “you can do a lot of hands-on laboratory-type things.” Which, in this case, entails smashing a cinder block on the chest of Lab Manager Joe Schoenebeck, as he lays sandwiched between a bed of nails and a “chest of death” (also composed of a board of nails).

For those taking notes, the demonstration expresses Newton’s Second Law in terms of change of momentum, impulse and impact. It seems there are examples of the law all around—many with rather painful results. Take the typical falling mountain climber Welsch explains. “The falling climber picks up momentum, but if the change of momentum (as in hitting the rocks) is too short the net result is broken bones.”

The same principle is at work when demonstrating how an airbag absorbs the impact of a collision. But in this demonstration, the “airbag” is more “Flintstonian” in nature; using a cinder block as the airbag, and the sledgehammer representing the speeding object.

And the reason for a bed of nails on bottom, plus a “chest plate of death” (more nails) on top?

“Dramatic effect” explains Welsch. (Actually, the crumbling of block will also dissipate the impact of Schoenebeck’s body against the nails to the point that he won’t become a human pin cushion).

As Schoenebeck settles on to his bed, Welsch continues the lecture, “If I don’t do a good job crushing the airbag, not only will I crush Joe’s sternum, he’ll be impaled by 1,000 nails.”

“2,000” corrects Schoenebeck. (He should know, being the person who nailed them.)

“I just have to not miss,” Welsch assures the classroom. Not breaking the block means the full force of the sledge will be transferred to the “victim.” And if that happens, the concept momentum and impact will still be illustrated, but in a perhaps more painful way.

As for the results of the demonstration? Spoiler alert: the professor nailed it. Plus, as a bonus, a student worker also volunteered to get hammered.

Story by Michael Shaw, video by Sue Pischke

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.