UW-Green Bay’s culture of caring carried Frances Nazario in her journey to become an educator

The journey to a bachelor’s degree was long but fulfilling for Frances Nazario, who will graduate from UW-Green Bay on Saturday, May 15, 2021. Born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, but raised in Wisconsin, Nazario says she “feels blessed and fortunate to be bicultural. I am proud to be Puerto Rican and proud to be a Wisconsinite.”

It has also given her keen insight to the education system and those who struggle because of language or cultural barriers. For Nazario, an education major, that means rising up so that those she teaches will do the same.

“I love teaching,” she says. “My experience at current placement (Edison Middle School) in Green Bay, Wis. reaffirms it daily. The students I serve are wonderful, my host teachers have been so supportive, patient, and wonderful educators on this last semester.”

Frances Nazario
May ’21 graduate Frances Nazario

Nazario believes education is extremely important, and “truly it is the most powerful weapon that can be used to change the world (Nelson Mandela). It is also extremely important that students see themselves reflected in the educators that serve them,” she said.

“There is a large disparity in Latino, African American, Native American, and other cultural entities serving as educators. The more representation students see in their classrooms, the more we will inspire them to become future educators. I also believe that in that process there needs to be an approach in dismantling racism and inequalities in the education system. Bridging gaps and opening more doors of opportunities for all students that come from different socio economic, ethnic, racial, learning abilities and linguistic backgrounds.”

She also hopes to lead a classroom in which her students can feel safe and welcome.

“In me they will find someone that will always advocate for them, lead them, guide them, and teach them beyond content but the skills they will need to be successful leaders in the places they will end up.”

In a yard sign given to her by UW-Green Bay to express those to whom she is most appreciative, Nazario’s included her husband, “an amazing man who has held down three jobs so I could focus on school and family” and two beautiful children, Micah 4.5 and Levi 3, who inspired her to “complete the journey. “They have been such a big piece to my not giving up.”

“I also must give credit to my personal relationship with God. He has been my strength and my guide through it all.”

Her journey into higher education won’t quite be complete when the diploma is in her hand May 15, 2020. She is already looking into master’s program and has identified one (or two) at UW-Milwaukee that has continuing to look forward…

“I am interested in getting my major in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on Urban Social Studies and Culture and Communities. I suppose that would be a double major since they are separate.”

In a moment of reflection, she credits her experience at UW-Green Bay for fueling her passion.

“I have been extremely blessed to have had educators that embody those things I aspire to be. As a mom I never wanted to use that as an excuse to not do work, or not participate. I was five months pregnant with my second baby (Levi) when I met Mary Sue Lavin. I was in the Phuture Phoenix class at UW-Green Bay, and her kindness and empathy were everything I needed to not give up during a semester where my homeland Puerto Rico was horrifically affected by hurricane Maria.

“The following semester I took a break to focus on my newborn, and once again that summer (2018) I was shown empathy and compassion when my advisor (Christin DePouw) came to my house because I had my hands full with an infant and a toddler. To help me plan the rest of my time at UWGB and creating a timeline that I still have to this day. If Fall 2018 I attended an event where speakers of the book Somos Latinas came to campus, I especially wanted to attend because the former principal of my elementary school (La Escuela Fratney in Milwaukee) Rita Tenorio had taken part in creating the stories that fill those pages. As well as my former teacher Berta Zamudio who has passed away summer of 2018. I attended with Levi who was just a few months old and them sharing their stories of resilience and perseverance as working moms, single moms and being Latinas in general. Mai (Lo Lee) from MESA held my tiny baby so I could stand up and speak as well as get to know others in the room. Moms with babies and toddlers get little to no adult interaction and being on campus, attending events like that one always gave me that. I will never forget that gesture.

Her time at UW-Green Bay, she says, has been “inspiring and transformative.”

“I am so thankful for every kind person I have encountered, every accommodating faculty and staff member that was more than supportive when I had to bring my babies on campus to finish projects, meet one on one for instructional support or just lend a listening ear when all I needed was to be heard. Lastly to the P.E.O. Reciprocity Scholarship and the Rita E. Nelson Endowed Scholarship for Education Students. Without you I would not have been able to complete my last year. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone.”

Frances Nazario’s story, with editing by Sue Bodilly


CEO Randy Charles joins Cofrin School of Business Advisory Board

Green Bay, Wis.—The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Austin E. Cofrin School of Business (CSOB) is proud to welcome Randy Charles ‘87, CEO of Alive and Kickin’ (A & K) Pizza Crust to its Advisory Board.

Charles started A & K Pizza Crust with his father and two other partners in 1989, just two years after graduating from UW-Green Bay with a degree in Business Administration. By 1991, he was named president and in 2011 he took over as CEO. The company now employs a workforce of 500-plus at four locations and sells its products throughout North America.

Randy Charles joins CSOB Advisory Board
Randy Charles

A & K’s success comes in part from the continual development and expansion of its product lines.

“Randy’s entrepreneurial spirit, and his drive to always reinvent, develop, and grow will be an asset to the Cofrin School of Business,” says CSOB Dean Matt Dornbush. “He will be an invaluable strategic leader as we work to expand our program offerings and experiential learning opportunities.”

Charles is eager to advance the strategic priorities of the School and strengthen its ties to the greater business community.

“The Cofrin School of Business plays a vital role in creating future area leaders by fostering critical partnerships between the University, its students, and the business community,” he explains. “I’m excited to join the Cofrin School of Business Advisory Board to help to strengthen these essential relationships.”

The Cofrin School of Business Advisory Board exists to engage people of influence, affluence, and potential in the mission of the organization, to receive guidance on important strategic initiatives, curricular design and programmatic offerings, and to provide a platform for networking and partnership building.

For more information on the Cofrin School of Business Advisory Board, please contact Madeline VanGroll at vangrolm@uwgb.edu.



Katherine Bruni

Fulbright honor takes UW-Green Bay graduate from Wisconsin to the Netherlands

Katherine Bruni has always wanted to make a positive impact on the world. She is well on her way.

While UW-Green Bay was her first stop from her hometown of Baraboo, Wis., the world awaits this passionate Phoenix whose next destination is the Netherlands to study public policy and human development with a focus on risk and vulnerability studies. Bruni will be earning a master’s degree at Maastricht University’s Public Policy and Human Development program—a dual-degree program with the United Nations University—made possible through a prestigious and competitive Fulbright grant.

Specifically, Bruni will be focusing on man-made and naturally occurring risks and disasters and looking at how we can predict, manage, and mitigate their impacts through policy.

Katherine Bruni
Katherine Bruni

“Essentially, I am studying how to help countries become even more resilient and adaptable by increasing the efficiency, equity, and effectiveness of their responses to crises while also managing the adverse socio-economic impacts these disasters can have.”

Associate Prof. Elizabeth Wheat, who has been working with Bruni since her first-year seminar on focusing on environmental justice, describes Bruni as “a truly extraordinary student who has overcome tremendous personal challenges in her life and worked incredibly hard as a Phoenix.”

Bruni says she “squeezed every bit of knowledge and opportunity” that she could during her time at the University.

While she started as an intended education major, that first-year seminar with Prof. Wheat provided a new interest — environmental justice. “The course and the topics covered in it really just lit a fire in me that has continued to grow ever since.”

She quickly switched majors to Environmental Policy and Planning and added Public Administration to her academic profile. But it was a term paper written for Natural Resource Law with Prof. Wheat that provided the confidence to excel in this academic area.

“I wrote my term paper on the natural resource management of Biscayne National Park which is a marine park off the coast of Florida. When I got the paper back at the end of the semester, there was a note from my professor saying that she really enjoyed the paper and she thought that I should submit it to the Midwest Political Science Association’s annual conference and she said she would provide the help to do so. It turned out to be one of the largest political science conferences in the United States.”

While her paper was accepted, it also developed into a comparative policy analysis where she analyzed natural resource management strategies utilized in Biscayne National Park as well as the Galápagos Marine Reserve; a concept that developed through a study abroad trip to Ecuador with Prof. Marcelo Cruz.

Among her long list of accomplishments, a policy analysis for a course with Prof. Helpap on clean water access in Kewaunee County, eventually led to her being invited to speak on the floor of the Wisconsin State Assembly. In her “spare time” she ran the Public and Environmental Affairs Council, served on the University’s sustainability committee, was a Resident Assistant for a year, and served as an economic teaching assistant.

The Fulbright grant, she says, is validating. “Being a Fulbright grant recipient is affirmative reinforcement that I am on the right path and can make a positive impact on this world. It is validating. Particularly because with the competitiveness of the graduate school I applied to as well as the grant itself, having passed all of those checkpoints reenforces the idea that I do have what it takes, and these institutions see that in me. Even if I have not realized my full potential yet—they are willing to help me along in that process.

“This grant allows me to pursue my passions without the restrictions and financial burdens that normally accompany a graduate degree program. Also, by not having to work for a living outside of attending graduate school full-time, I will have the opportunity to pursue internships that will enhance my education in the field, as well as volunteer opportunities where I can engage with the community outside of academia.”

“My experience at UWGB provided not only the competence to pursue a graduate degree but the confidence as well—and that is the key piece of the puzzle. I am extremely grateful for my time at UWGB because of the relationships I formed with professors, administration, and fellow students because that is what really pushed me to be able to apply to graduate school in another country as well as apply for a Fulbright grant.”


Alumna Marissa Michalkiewicz continues to dig sustainability

Marissa Michalkiewicz feels her insides burn as she walks down a littered street. She grimaces as she notices recyclables in a trash can when a recycling receptacle is just steps away. She’s always had a passion for leaving a place better than she found it.

The high-energy UW-Green Bay alumna (2016, Business Administration) has moved quickly from recycling at UW-Green Bay’s Homecoming event—Krash the Kress—to Recycling and Solid Waste Program Coordinator for Outagamie County and Founder of Giveadaam Ventures—an LLC dedicated to energy-efficient and affordable housing.

“I really started caring about the environment when I was a Sophomore at Appleton East High School, so around the age of 16. I decided to take our high school’s only Environmental Science class during that year and the teacher that oversaw the class, Mr. Ryan Marx, was truly the reason I continued pursuing the subject.”

Since the beginning of high school at Appleton East, she was motivated to be involved any way she could, with the purpose of adding to her resume and creating potential change in waste management. At UW-Green Bay, her travel as a member of the Phoenix softball team and attendance at many athletic events as one of the founders of the “Green Bandana Brigade,” a student pep group, never distracted her from fulfilling her mission at Eco U.

Marissa Michalkiewicz
Far right: Marissa Michalkiewicz

As for her Recycling & Solid Waste goals, the Business Administration alumna hopes to find new sparks of inspiration to increase awareness on waste diversion.

Now, her many responsibilities at Outagamie County’s Recycling and Solid Waste, including overseeing the marketing—recording, and editing of educational material and provide public education and outreach to residents and businesses within the County ensuring recycling participation meets departmental objectives.

Her side non-profit, Giveadaam Ventures, took on three new interns, including current UW-Green Bay Business Administration student Maria Arunkumar. She expects them to hit the ground running…

“Our 3 Hype DAAmbassadors joined our venture knowing the goal of their internship was to organically expand the brand awareness of Giveadaam Ventures, LLC. In their 4 month internship period, the challenge presented to them was to double the following on Giveadaam’s digital and social media platforms,” said Michalkiewicz. “Their responsibilities are to develop the social media strategy for the organization by creating social media posts, monitoring analytics, documenting the progress of the company, and highlighting the businesses and organizations participating in Giveadaam’s Community Marketing Partnerships.”

Along with her many roles, Michalkiewicz says volunteering is important to create a community you are proud of. She volunteers countless hours of her time to St. John’s Homeless Shelter, On Broadway, Inc., and UW-Green Bay’s Alumni Association and Homecoming events because she says those organizations work to offer amazing services for the community members.

“Volunteering is a great way to create the type of culture and community you wish to see because it provides organizations with your free resources that allow them to continue spreading their messages and efforts,” said Michalkiewicz.

Marissa and 2020 Giveadaam Groundbreaking

In her side venture, “Giveadaam Ventures,” Michalkiewicz is envisioning a house with nearly zero energy consumption. Her idea for it stemmed back to college days when she had affordable housing at UW-Green Bay, but she saw her college friends in other communities challenged to find quality housing with affordable rent.

She was recently featured in the Green Bay Press-Gazette on her plans and purchase of local property.

“The business plan for Giveadaam stems from an environmental business plan Michalkiewicz developed as a University of Wisconsin-Green Bay student studying business and environmental policy. Much of the business, started by Michalkiewicz after she graduated in 2016, is housed in the garage of The Manor and is powered by young professionals who help out in their spare time,” according to the story.

Michalkiewicz visualizes this type of housing for college students and young professionals. This process is very new for Green Bay and Wisconsin. Local officials are lauding her efforts.

Her efforts are of little surprise to those on campus that recognized this rising Phoenix years ago.

Story by Marketing and University Communication student assistant Charlotte Berg. Photos submitted.

Marinette Campus alumna in the spotlight

Published in the Peshtigo Times

NWTC Marinette and UW-Green Bay, Marinette Campus proudly celebrate alumni in Peshtigo making a difference in our region!

Every day, Ashley (Kostreva) Haile, of Peshtigo, helps others through her work as an LPN at Advocate Aurora. Haile works part-time with an ophthalmologist and a plastic surgeon.

The 2002 Menominee High School graduate found her path to nursing success through both NWTC Marinette and UW-Marinette (now UW-Green Bay, Marinette Campus). Haile graduated from UW-Marinette with an Associate of Arts and Sciences in 2004. She transitioned to NWTC Marinette and earned her Practical Nursing Technical Diploma in 2006.

With her family, Haile is a long-time resident of Peshtigo. Growing up in the region, Haile chose to start local for college, “Especially because I didn’t know what I wanted to do.” Plus, staying local for college allowed her to experience leadership opportunities on the court (basketball and volleyball) as well as in and out of the classroom (Student Ambassadors and Student Senate), even in her first year of college. Transferring from UW-Marinette to NWTC Marinette was simple thanks to the communication between the two campuses. “They worked really well together to make sure my classes lined up.”

At both campuses, college success was all about connections for Haile. “Everybody was someone you knew. I felt like they were there for me. You felt important. No matter where you went, you could talk to anybody.” Haile points out that one of her instructors at NWTC was connected to one of her high school classmates and is now a coworker.

Learning local also helped her financial situation. She saved money by living at home and attending colleges with lower tuition, which also meant less student loan debt for the future. “You can get the same education starting local and saving money impacts your life for many years to come.”

Haile’s college experience included some struggles, but she points to those as great growth opportunities. “I stumbled along the way just like anyone would. I learned how to communicate—how to keep those lines of communication open, how to manage every day. Being local really helped me manage everything when it came to getting ready for the real world.”

Haile is proud to say she attended both local campuses of NWTC and UW-Green Bay. She plans to return for further schooling and is happy to hear she has local options once again. NWTC offers an associate degree in nursing and UW-Green Bay, Marinette Campus offers a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Both campuses are again working together to help students like Haile reach future goals.

NWTC Marinette and UW-Green Bay, Marinette Campus cheer on the great work Haile is doing and are proud to call her an alumna of our two campuses.

Malmberg another graduate demonstrating UW-Green Bay and NEW Water ‘Partnership in Action’

Phoenix graduate Hannah Malmberg continues to shine, long after her 2019 graduation from UW-Green Bay.

Her work embodies a great example of a “partnership in action” between the University and community. As the public information technician at NEW Water, the brand of the Green Bay Metropolitan Sewerage District, Malmberg writes for internal and external audiences, creates social media posts and edits videos about wastewater and the environment.

Many in the campus community became familiar with Malmberg when she was selected Student Commencement Speaker in December of 2019. Her bio included a long list of achievements and accomplishments, but only after struggling for a bit, persevering, and finding her way back to UW-Green Bay, graduation and finally to NEW Water, where she started as an intern and now works proudly as its public information technician.

Hannah Malmberg
Hannah Malmberg

Working remotely, Malmberg makes sure her website is ADA compliant and creates content that can educate and inspire. Outside of COVID, she would be giving tours of the facility, plan and attend community events, and give talks at schools about what NEW Water is, and what it does for each of us.

In her Commencement Speech in December of 2019, Malmberg charged her peers with having the courage to start anew. One of her latest projects is a video to challenge public perception regarding “essential workers”… who they are and what they do, including her co-workers and peers at NEW Water. Watch the video.

“When you think of essential workers, wastewater workers likely don’t come to mind right away,” she says. “However, they provide an essential service to our community 24-7-365. NEW Water is a water resource utility serving Northeast Wisconsin through pollution prevention, operational innovation, and community outreach. We collect and treat approximately 38 million gallons of wastewater a day before returning it to the environment. We have a wonderful staff who are out there in the field, and on site, who keep our plant running and our sewer system clear even during a pandemic. We wanted to highlight these awesome people and their hard work that unfortunately can go unrecognized,” she said.

Her works often brings her back to her alma mater, out recently to work with CSET Dean John Katers on a video project. The University has a long-standing partnership with NEW Water that dates to the earliest days of the University. Together, the institutions work on education, research, water reclamation, resource recovery, and watershed management. Initiatives include collaborating on watershed improvement efforts, and helping Wisconsin Girl Scouts earn “Wonders of Water” badges.

Like Malmberg, many UW-Green Bay students started their careers in wastewater management and related fields with an internship at NEW Water. Malmberg said her job was the perfect combination of skills she learned via her double major in Political Science and Communication.

“I really enjoy the various ways that we help educate our community about wastewater and the environment via community outreach. We do this via educational campaigns, videos, writing, events and sometimes these all combine into one! It’s been a great way to combine everything I studied in school and I love being able to provide something to my community,” said Malmberg.

Story by Marketing and University Communication student assistant Charlotte Berg.

Photos submitted.

Paper Transport Inc. is named UW-Green Bay’s 2020 Recruitment Partner of the Year for 2020

Paper Transport, Inc. was named UW-Green Bay’s Recruitment Partner of the Year for 2020. The announcement was made by Career Services Director Linda Peacock-Landrum at the annual Professional Etiquette Program, recently. This year’s event was virtual.

“This annual event illustrates the exceptional commitment UW-Green Bay students and graduates receive from our community partners,” said Peacock-Landrum. “During my 24 years as director of Career Services at UW-Green Bay, I have been honored to work with over 150 organizations and their professionals in the Green Bay community and the Northeast Wisconsin region. It should not be a surprise to those in attendance, how this community has embraced collaboration with and support of UW-Green Bay.”

Each year, Career Services recognizes an organization for exceptional commitment and demonstrated comprehensive support of our mission. This year the recognition went to Paper Transport.

Paper Transport, Inc. joins past recipients honored since 2007 that include Imperial Supplies, Wipfli, Dental City, Baker Tilly, Associated Bank, ACUITY, Schneider, Humana, Schreiber Foods, Glen Tilot with Brown County Human Services, the Arthritis Foundation-Northeast District, CliftonLarsonAllen and WEC Energy Group.

“The first UW-Green Bay graduate to my knowledge to be employed at Paper Transport or PTI was in 2014 (Ken Feldkamp),” Peacock said. “This was the foundation of a partnership that grew annually over the next six years with the support, outreach and recruitment efforts of PTI. Their team members have served as Mock Interview Day volunteers, etiquette program attendees, panelists and featured program speakers.  The organization has recruited each semester at our job & internship fairs and has attended countless events like this event today.

“…their program started with one intern, a UW-Green Bay student, and has grown each year, resulting in a total of 10 UW-Green Bay students interning to date, with the 11th student to begin her internship this spring.  Seven of those 10 interns now are full-time employees. Overall, 28 UW-Green Bay alumni are currently employed at PTI.”

Paper Transport, Inc. is focused on regional & dedicated truckload, intermodal, and logistic services throughout the Midwest & South. Headquartered in Green Bay since 1990, PTI started as a contract hauler for Fort Howard Paper Company. Today, PTI has a team of more than 1,000 professional drivers and support professionals throughout the Midwestern, Southeastern and Southern US.

Joining in the virtual recognition were PTI’s Lynsey Muellenbach, Human Resources manager and Ben Schill, vice president. 

In the submitted photo, from left to right:

  • Becky Davies, Vice President of Human Resources
  • Ben Schill, Vice President
  • Cate Whitman, Marketing and Communication Manager
  • Lynsey Muellenbach, Recruiter & Internship Program
  • Nick Skeen, ’08 (Business Administration, Communication) Network Development Manager

UW-Green Bay alumna starts online store to help women

UW-Green Bay alumna Christine (Pfiester) Sandberg ’15 (launched) The Lemonade Boutique, an online women’s clothing with a cause store to help human trafficking victims. The online store prides itself on curating ethically made and fair trade items. Most of the artisans behind the products are overcoming extreme challenges such as human trafficking. In the short five years they’ve operated, they’ve partnered with 30 artisan groups across 20 countries.

At The Lemonade Boutique, “your purchase empowers women to take life’s lemons and make lemonade,” Sandberg says. “When she graduated in 2015, Sandberg says she did not imagine she would be starting an online store, but she always knew she wanted to make a difference in the world.

Video: Commencement speaker Georgie ‘Dolly’ Potts uses her storytelling gift to inspire the 2020 Fall/Winter UW-Green Bay graduating class

Note: Georgie “Dolly” Potts was selected from a number of nominations to be this semester’s Commencement Speaker. As COVID-19 postponed the University’s plans to celebrate with the Fall/ Winter 2020 graduates until Spring 2021, Potts’ speech was recorded and is released today, Fall/Winter Commencement Day, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020. See her biography.

Video Transcript

Bear Story

Ani, Nazwin nadisnaquas Mishodanikwe-Prairie Band, Totem Kikos.

Hello, my name is Dolly Potts, I introduced myself in my language (Potawatomi). I have been named Student Speaker for the 2020 Fall/Winter graduates. This is quite an honor, for those who do know me, know that I am a storyteller. I am sharing with you a story that I believe will carry with you into your future:

Eagle Clan decided one day to host a lodge. Eagle built an enormous lodge. Plenty of space for all the clans to comfortably sit. Eagle placed cedar boughs along the sides of the lodge for the clans to sit. The smell of cedar filled the air. After completing the lodge Eagle went out into the forest to invite all of the animal clans to his lodge.

On the day of the lodge all the animal clans entered the lodge. Coyote was first in as they would be the clan at the door. Coyote would announce all the other clans. Being Coyote they entered the lodge yipping and yapping nodding to Eagle clan. Sniffing the air, they could not help but smell the cooking fires nearby.

Fish Clan was next quiet and serene. Looking sternly at Coyote clan immediately quieting them with calming nature. Fish Clan reverently sat down in their places.

Hoof Clan was next, they danced into the lodge gracefully. Their wide eyes open and ears perked for any noise to alert the others to. They nodded to Eagle Clan with their long necks.

Bear Clan was last to enter. Huffing and puffing with massive breaths all the other clans scooted a little closer to the lodge wall giving Bear Clan all the space they needed. Bear Clan sat down on the soft cedar boughs and stared at Eagle Clan to begin.

Each clan representative gave Eagle clan a report on their responsibility in the forest. Coyote reported all of the sounds mentioning if any were different or unusual. Fish Clan talked about the waters of the forest how much or how little there was. Hoof Clan talked about the sights and sounds of the forest. If they had seen or heard anything to report to all of the clans.

Bear Clan was last. Bear stood and all of the animal clans fell silent. Bear stood to his massive height from his cedar bough seat. In a voice rumbling from deep in his chest. Bear told the animal clan that he was the leader of all the clans. There was no one stronger than Bear and he had no enemies who could defeat Bear.

All the clans looked up at Bear nodding in agreement. Yet Bear added if there is danger in the forest, come to me and I will protect you. For his testimony all the animal clans loved and respected Bear.

What a great feast it was. Coyote munched noisily on his chicken soup at dinnertime. Hoof Clan savored their maple sugar. Bear Clan gulped and chomped on the most delicious berries. Eagle looked at all of the clans satisfied for they had hosted a good lodge. All the animal clans were happy and safe in the forest.

My story is a story of Power, as we go into our future many of you will have Power. Our college education will afford us positions that are supervisory or as directors. It may lead us down other paths too, like more Education or building our families and communities.

As we go into the world, go in as the Bear—strong, respected, and caring. Be proud as testimony to the University of Wisconsin- Green Bay. Meet your future in a good way.

Thank you.

Storyteller Dolly Potts will share her journey and advice (virtually) with her graduating peers

Note: Georgie “Dolly” Potts was selected from a number of nominations to be this semester’s Commencement Speaker. As COVID-19 postponed the University’s plans to celebrate with the Fall/ Winter 2020 graduates until Spring 2021, Potts’ speech was recorded and will be released on what was to be 2020 Fall/Winter Commencement, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020 at news.uwgb.edu.


Georgie “Dolly” Potts is a firmly grounded person. That includes in this present moment of celebration at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, as well as her past and her future.

As a member of Prairie Band Potawatomi from Kansas and a graduate receiving a bachelor’s of arts in First Nations Studies, Pott’s achievements transcend academics. In her nomination, Mai J. Lo Lee noted, “Dolly is an exemplary UW-Green Bay student because of her love for learning, compassion to listen and her ability to connect life to learning.”

When asked about her “special” ability to connect life with learning, she says simply, “I’m good at telling a story.” Even more remarkable is not just her talent in telling, but retelling stories. “These stories come from my ancestors. We pass them down to our children, to our grandchildren.”

And her journey to today is a story few others could tell.

In just two years, after transferring from College of Menominee Nation, Pott’s stature among students, faculty and the First Nations community on campus has grown through her words of encouragement, empathetic listening and a unique life perspective influenced by Potawatomi traditions.

“We believe in the seven generations. I am in the middle. I learn and listen to my ancestors from the past three generations and I look to the future three generations,” Potts explains. “These stories come from my ancestors. We pass them down to our children, to our grandchildren.” She recognizes this is a concept that doesn’t always fit neatly in a Western worldview. But she adds, “If you talk of the seven generations to a native, they know exactly what you’re talking about.”

These “native” traditions she describes simply as “choosing the way of the earth.” And it’s not just all talk. Potts travels throughout the region to participate in teachings from tribal Elders (a title of respect that also applies to her), from her community and others. She uses these learning experiences, to directly impact the students and colleagues on campus and in the community through teaching, demonstrations and celebrations.

Every question she is asked comes not with just an answer, but also a story—including her name Dolly. “My oldest sister named me Dolly. When I was born, there were 10 years between us, so I was her dolly. Georgie’s after my father.” Addressing her as Koya (Grandma) Dolly is also acceptable—especially considering she has three sons, one daughter, 13 grandchildren and number 14 on the way.

Potts describes herself simply: “I’m a traditional native. I grew up with my ways.” Her “growing up” included life on a Kansas reservation and attendance at a Catholic boarding school in South Dakota. Her love of Wisconsin began in her teenage years, traveling to the Green Bay-area to take part in tribal pow wows. Potts remembers “We would all get together to sing and dance.” The purpose of dancing? “For joy.”

Beyond her naturally fun-loving nature, Potts’ achievements within the University and community have been impactful and transformative. First as an intern in the Education Center for First Nations Studies, where she worked with the local indigenous community. During that time, she arranged for several Elders and knowledge-keepers to present to campus on various topics. Her nomination as Commencement Speaker noted, “As an undergraduate student and tribal Elder, Dolly’s skills and abilities surpass those of many professionals already working in a higher education setting.”

Potts’ activism and community outreach has extended state-wide to Madison, where she shared her research on Act 31—a requirement that all public school districts provide instruction on the history, culture and tribal sovereignty of Wisconsin’s 11 federally-recognized American Indian nations and tribal communities. In true “Koya Dolly” fashion, she met with Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Carolyn Stanford-Taylor and established a “grandma-to-grandma” connection.

But most of all Potts enjoys being herself. “I love who I am. I’m very proud of being native.” Essential to her identity is a tribal oral tradition she explains as “telling stories about our ancestors, or the world around you that helps explain human nature.”

The unique quality of “Koya Dolly’s” power to connect with others is that it comes from her giving nature. She shares that power freely in the form of her stories. Lisa Poupart, director of the First Nations undergraduate and doctoral programs, describes her as a role model for all students and community members. “She embodies the commitment to lifelong learning and service to others,” Poupart said. “We will all benefit from her wisdom and shared words at commencement.”

As for her Commencement Speech, she’s got a story to share and offers this hint: “It’s about a bear and about power. Because many of the students that are graduating will go into positions of power.”

And as for plans beyond graduation?

“I’ll use my education as a pillar to support the foundation of my people.” And for Potts, that foundation stands on a love of learning about the past, present and future.

Her story continues.