Video: UW-Green Bay 2018 Alumni Award recipient, Doug Wirth, shares his Phoenix story

Doug Wirth ’89 (Social Work) entered UW-Green Bay feeling good about who he was, but unsure about who he would become. According to Wirth, a degree from UW-Green Bay prepares you well for the world of work. Wirth is the president and CEO of Amida Care, a Medicaid Special Needs Health Plan in New York City. More on Wirth.

Video: UW-Green Bay 2018 Alumni Award recipient, Josh Kaurich, tells his Phoenix story

Josh Kaurich ’07 (Masters of Environmental Science and Policy) knew he had a lot more to give, but was unsure on how to express that. At UW-Green Bay, he received guidance on how to connect learning to life. Kaurich serves as principal for Verita Energy, LLC and founded and manages Midwest Energy Procurement Solutions, LLC. More on Kaurich.

Video: 2018 Alumni Award recipient, Cordero Barkley, shares his Phoenix Story

It’s been quite a year for Cordero Barkley ’09 and ’16 (Business Administration, Management), who says he came to UW-Green Bay a boy and left the campus a man. Barkley was recently named director of finance and investments for TitletownTech, having previously served Associated Bank as the assistant vice president, trust relationship manager with Associated Private Client & Institutional Services. Also in the last few months, he has been honored by the UW-Green Bay Alumni Association and chosen as a Future 15 Award recipient by the Greater Green Bay Chamber of Commerce. Barkley says the University played a fundamental role in his self-discovery.

Yue Rong Earth Caretaker Award Recipient

Yue Rong accepts EMBI’s Earth Caretaker Award

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Environmental Management and Business Institute (EMBI) awarded the 10th annual Earth Caretaker Award to UW-Green Bay alumnus Yue Rong, ’86 (Master of Environmental Science). The annual event and awards presentation was on Earth Day, April 22, 2019.

Rong (aka, YR), a Ph.D., is the environmental program manager at the California Environmental Protection Agency, Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board. He has also served as the acting assistant executive officer of the Regional Water Quality Control Board, in the groundwater division. Rong is in charge of site assessment and remediation of leaking underground storage tank (UST) sites, and the program of water quality control in oil and gas production fields.

The UST program contains a large number of leaking UST sites to be remediated in Los Angeles area, which was ranked in top 10 in terms of total numbers of the impacted sites. He has 29 years of experience with the Agency in dealing with groundwater contamination problems in the Los Angeles area. His expertise includes organic pollutants fate and transport in the subsurface soil and groundwater, environmental analytical chemistry and quality assurance and quality control, environmental statistics, risk assessment, and soil and groundwater pollution assessment and remediation. The projects he is involved with include collaboration with USEPA at Superfund sites in Los Angeles area, Santa Monica methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) drinking water pollution cleanup, I-710 corridor regional cleanup and water quality control at oil and gas production fields in Los Angeles area.

Click to advance slideshow or view the album on Flickr.

Earth Caretaker Award 2019

– Photos by Dan Moore, Marketing and University Communication

Video: Award-winning educator and Alumni Award recipient, Sheila Kohl, shares her Phoenix story

Sheila Kohl ’96 ’05 (Elementary Education, Applied Leadership for Teaching and Learning) said UW-Green Bay helped her become open to new experiences and opportunities. Through the University, she was able to transform into a person who values multiple perspectives. Kohl is a sixth-grade teacher at West De Pere Middle School, as well as an adjunct instructor and advisor for Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. More on Kohl.

Video: Former director of the Milwaukee Art Museum, Daniel Keegan, shares his Phoenix story

Daniel Keegan ’72 (Art) was ready for the opportunity to explore, experiment and create, and UW-Green Bay provided him with all of those opportunities. He says that the University gave him permission to be himself. The cultural leader, Keegan served as director for the Milwaukee Art Museum from 2008 to his retirement in 2016.

Pictured, left to right, Sam Terry, Kayla Tetschlag, Amanda (Leonhard) Perry, Sue (Klaubauf) Bodilly, Lavessa (Glover) Verhagen, Erin (Templin) Barkley and Nancy (Cieslewicz) Strong.

Coach-to-coach and coast-to-coast, Green Bay women’s basketball has generational impact

How do you explain a streak of winning basketball seasons that spans more than four decades? Players? Coaches? Fans? Tradition? In the case of the Green Bay women’s basketball team, the answer is all of the above, plus one. Family.

Green Bay secured its 42nd-consecutive winning season this year, trailing only Tennessee (45) for the longest active streak in the nation. Green Bay’s streak includes 20-straight conference titles and 18 NCAA Tournament appearances. The Phoenix also secured its 20th-consecutive 20-plus win season in 2018-19, a streak that dates back to 1999-00.

Since the program’s inception in 1973-1974, the “Phoenix women’s basketball family” owns a 1,005-349 record — a .750 winning percentage. Through it all, the program has only had three head coaches — Carol Hammerle (25 seasons), Matt Bollant (5) and current Head Coach Kevin Borseth (15).

But maybe more impressive is the legacy left by the players in the program, who go on to spread the Phoenix philosophy to teams locally and nationwide. A quick look at past rosters and present coaches shows more than 35 former Phoenix who have gone on to leave their mark in the high school and college coaching ranks — from All-American guard Pam Roecker, ’83 (Communication) now an athletics dean on the East Coast and a national women’s basketball color commentator, to Kati (Harty) Coleman ’09, who led the Bay Port High School girls program to its first-ever WIAA State Championship in March 2019, to Sara (Boyer) Rohde ’04, ’13 (Elementary Education, Masters in Applied Leadership), head coach for Green Bay Notre Dame Academy High School, who has back-to-back WIAA State Championships (2013, 2014) on her coaching resume. And, let’s not forget Lavesa (Glover) Verhagen ’09 (Communication) who coached her Orono High School (Minnesota) team to a 3A State Championship in 2017.

Pictured, left to right, Sam Terry, Kayla Tetschlag, Amanda (Leonhard) Perry, Sue (Klaubauf) Bodilly, Lavessa (Glover) Verhagen, Erin (Templin) Barkley and Nancy (Cieslewicz) Strong.

Nearly 40 former Phoenix women’s basketball players have gone on to coach basketball at the high school or collegiate level — a number of them returned to campus for a game between the Badgers and the Phoenix in December. Pictured, left to right, Sam Terry, Kayla Tetschlag, Amanda (Leonhard) Perry, Sue (Klaubauf) Bodilly, Lavessa (Glover) Verhagen, Erin (Templin) Barkley and Nancy (Cieslewicz) Strong.

Rohde ranks among Green Bay’s all-time three-point shooters. But she’s also made quite a mark in the high school coaching ranks. The transition to coaching comes naturally. “The biggest thing is that all of us love basketball and competing,” she said. “Unfortunately, you can’t keep playing it for the rest of your life.” So, you do the next-best thing and coach at the high school or collegiate level.” In seven seasons at Green Bay’s Notre Dame Academy, Rohde’s teams are 155-53.

“A lot of what I do I learned at Green Bay. My coaching has evolved in that I do a lot of what we did in college, but I’ve also learned from others and taken little bits and pieces and implemented them into my own strategy.” Intangibles picked up under the tutelage of Coach Borseth have been important to Rohde’s coaching success.

“You have expectations to live up to at UW-Green Bay from every year previous,” she explained. “You get a sense of commitment, work ethic. I have been trying to instill that with our girls. You teach the upperclassmen how to be good leaders and set a good example for the young kids. Let them know the expectations of the program.”

Celeste (Hoewisch) Ratka ’11 (Human Biology), who played for and coached with Bollant, ranks in the Top 10 in a number of categories. In three seasons leading her alma mater — Hortonville High School — Ratka’s teams are 59-21 overall, with trips to State in each of those three seasons.

“I’ve learned that your system is very important, but more importantly, it comes back to your culture,” she said. “What your core principles are and what you believe in as a team. We just did things differently at Green Bay and I think that’s why we were as successful as we were. There’s a tremendous culture at Green Bay that feeds itself,” she said. “Each group of players who come in just takes it to another level. It’s because nobody wants to let down the people before them, their teammates, their coaches or the community.”

Green Bay Southwest varsity coach Erin (Templin) Barkley ’09 (Elementary Education) has turned a struggling program into one that advanced to the WIAA regionals for three seasons. She believes success breeds success. “I don’t think other teams quite have it the way we did,” she said. “If you play for Green Bay, you are a member of a really close group. We try to plan once-a-month dinners for a bunch of us to go out and stay in touch. As an alumni group, we are a lot closer than what I’ve witnessed at other college programs. That makes us special in a way.”

It’s been this way for all 45 seasons, as some of the first-ever players in the program still show up for the annual alumni day. All-time assists leader and Phoenix Hall of Famer Pam Roecker (’83) says founding coach Carol Hammerle had a lot to do with setting the stage and continuing the relationships with players years after their eligibility was up.

“Carol’s leadership, combined with the competitive spirit the talented players exhibited were a great recipe for the beginning of this legacy,” she began. “The winning tradition was a topic we took great pride in and still do.”

Now dean of athletics at Regis College in Weston, Mass. and a television women’s basketball color analyst, Roecker has had past coaching stints at Green Bay, University of Massachusetts, Seton Hall University, Wagner College and Loyola University Chicago.

“The confidence and pride each woman that has worn a Phoenix uniform gained through their time over these last decades cannot be underestimated,” she said. “The expectation for excellence and for preparing to win the right way, every day have stayed with all of the former players.

Now in her 11th season as an assistant for the Phoenix, alumna Amanda (Leonhard) Perry ’03 (Business Administration) says the legacy of the Phoenix family is generational.

“A lot of programs talk about family but I think from beginning to end when you’re in our program it is family,” she said. “Whether you’re a local kid from the Green Bay area or you’re from outside four, five, six hours away. The team becomes your family but also this community becomes your family. The community embraces us so much and our season ticket holders love us so much that they end up as families away from home. When everyone leaves this program, they know it and can feel it.”

Former Phoenix women’s basketball players who continue the legacy as coaches (high school/college)*

Name Coaching Title School
Vicki Anklam-Adams Former Assistant Wausau Newman HS
Julie Glime Aubry Former Assistant Lena HS
Julie Steeno Bailey Former Assistant Florida International
Erin Templin Barkley Head Coach Green Bay Southwest HS
Sue Klaubauf-Bodilly Former Assistant Green Bay
Kati Harty Coleman Head Coach Bay Port HS
Mary Conard Former Assistant Preble HS
Lydia Bauer Assistant Coach Wisconsin Lutheran University
Kathi Bennett Assistant Coach Madison Edgewood College
Rhonda Rice Dart Former Assistant Green Bay and Northern Ill.
Sarah Eichler Assistant Coach UW-Parkside
Lori Hansen Frerk Former Head Coach Green Bay East HS
Chandra Johnson Francies Former Assistant Coach Pulaski, Green Bay Southwest HS
Julie Hahm Former Head Coach Greendale HS
Melanie Tilque Hendricks Assistant Bay Port HS
Tiffany Moore Huck Former Head Coach Appleton West HS
Hannah Quilling Iverson Head Coach UW-Stout
Chari Nordgaard Knueppel Former Assistant Coach Green Bay
Carrie Massey Assistant Coach Green Bay
Sarah Meyer Assistant Coach Lena HS
Amanda Leonhard Perry Assistant Coach Green Bay
Celeste Hoewisch Ratka Head Coach Hortonville HS
Pam Roecker Former Head and Asst. Coach UMass, Seton Hall, Wagner College, Loyola-Chicago and Green Bay
Sara Boyer Rohde Head Coach Green Bay Notre Dame HS
Abby Scharlow Former Assistant Florida Gulf Coast
Stephanie Sension Assistant Atkin (Minnesota)
Mary Kulenkamp-Simonsen Former Assistant Green Bay
Nicole Soulis Assistant Ashwaubenon HS
Sue Geiser Steeno Former Assistant Green Bay
Nancy Cieclewicz-Strong Former Assistant Green Bay Preble HS
Dawn LeClaire Taddy Former Assistant Two Rivers High School
Sam Terry Assistant De Pere HS
Kayla Tetschlag Assistant UW-Madison
Lavesa Glover Verhagen Former Head Coach, Assistant Orono HS/Green Bay Southwest HS

*UW-Green Bay acknowledges this is not a complete list. Did you play for the Phoenix and coach in the high school or college ranks? E-mail editor Sue Bodilly, to be added to the list.

Photo by Matt Ludtke

This story by freelance writer Jay Lillge originally appear in the Fall/Winter issue of Inside Magazine.
Updated March 12, 2019 by Sue Bodilly

Jess Danen

UW-Green Bay grad lends organizational expertise to Downtown Green Bay, Inc.

Jessica Danen combines her academic focus with passion for not-for-profit sector

When Jessica Danen ’18, (Public Administration) wanted to do her senior honors project, she found an opportunity to apply her studies in Public Administration and non-profit management to the needs of the organization for which she interned — Downtown Green Bay, Inc.

“I was exposed to just about every function of Downtown Green Bay,” said Danen, “which gave me a sense of how non-profit organizations work in general. It was a great internship because I want to focus my career on non-profit organization management.

“I was especially fortunate to be able to attend the Public Art committee meetings, because I saw the passion and creativity the committee members bring to their work. And they’re all volunteers!”

Danen saw an opportunity in the Public Art committee to combine her senior honors project with the work of the committee. She proposed to work with committee members and Downtown Green Bay leaders to produce a strategic plan for the committee.

“They have all kinds of ideas for public art, but they sometimes aren’t sure how to get them done, to get from A to B,” said Danen. “I hoped a more strategic look would give them an idea of how they could get some traction for their ideas for the long-term. I suggested that we focus on four areas: the proposal process, funding, partnerships and online presence.”

She proposed the idea to her internship supervisor, Pam Parish ’16 (Environmental Policy and Planning and Public Administration), program manager for Downtown Green Bay Inc. & Olde Main Street, Inc. She was immediately supportive.

“The subcommittee truly appreciated the work that Jess put together,” said Parish. “Our subcommittee is made up of volunteers whose focuses vary, ranging from architects to city planners to artists. We felt very lucky that Jess chose to work on a project that would benefit our subcommittee.”

With the enthusiastic support from Parish, Danen discussed the idea with her honors project adviser, Associate Prof. David Helpap (Public and Environmental Affairs).

“Jess’s project was exactly what I look for in an Honors Project,” said Helpap. “In my experience, the best projects are those that apply what students learn in the classroom to their own research idea or to a particular problem or need in the community. Jess’s project fit this mold perfectly. She used the skills she learned in her classes about policy analysis, program evaluation, and arts management to help the community with a particular need.”

“My process was to look at similar committees in other cities like Green Bay,” said Danen. “I looked for cities with programs that excelled in one or more of those areas. The four cities I found had robust programs that seemed to meet these criteria.” Those cities were Philadelphia, Pa.; Arlington, Va.; Hillsboro, Ore. and Waukesha, Wis.

Danen’s approach involved personal interviews, online surveys and online analysis. Where she could, she spoke directly with a representative of each program. She also reviewed each organization’s online publications. The study took about three months to complete.

“Philadelphia’s public art program is one of the oldest in the nation, and also one of the most successful,” Danen states in her report. “It excels at having a strong proposal process and online presence. The public art program in Arlington excels at making information available regarding its proposal process and funding, as well as utilizing multiple partnerships. It also has a strong online presence. Hillsboro has a strong proposal process and online presence. Waukesha has well documented its proposal process, funding sources and online presence.”

With her observations in hand, Danen presented her findings to the subcommittee in January 2018 and responded to questions.

“The committee members were really grateful for the information,” she recalled, “and they asked a lot of questions to understand how they can use the information for our community.  I think the most  significant finding for us was the importance of an online presence. It feeds into every other part of the process: funding, proposals, marketing and partnerships.

“I’m hoping they will continue to use this information in the months to come,” Danen said. “Even though I’ve moved on to a full-time job with a non-profit animal rescue group in Green Bay, I’m still part of the committee and can help adapt it for our community.”

“The ideas and research that Jess provided in her project have been a great guiding tool for the subcommittee,” said Parish. “Moving forward, the subcommittee is focusing on creating a more standard way to submit proposals for art projects. Her section on funding will be immensely helpful in finding ways to continue to fund the projects we would like to see in our community.

“Jess’s project helped influence our subcommittee’s course of action by giving us somewhere to start,” Parish continued. “It can be difficult to plan when there isn’t much to go off. The tools and examples she has provided in her project are going to be used in the upcoming year as the subcommittee works to become more established.”

Danen, a native of De Pere, said her studies at UW-Green Bay helped her determine the best approach for this project.

“I drew a lot on my classes in strategic planning and policy analysis,” she said. “I’m interested in not-for-profit management as a career and it was helpful to apply those classes to this project for Downtown Green Bay. All the writing and classroom presentations I did were really helpful when it came time to prepare the report and present it to the Arts committee.”

She is looking forward to seeing her project influence the future.

“Pam Parish from Downtown Green Bay, Inc. has mentioned that my research will be very helpful in the process (of bringing more art to the downtown) and I’m excited that my project will make a real-life impact,” she said. “Additionally, a public art map is going to be added to the DGBI/OMSI in the near future, which was one of my main suggestions based on my research. I’m super excited to see that come to life.”

As a faculty member and mentor, Helpap said he was happy to help Danen make the appropriate connections.

“The project is a good example of the ways in which the university and its students can work with the Green Bay community to improve the community more broadly,” said Helpap. “Students benefit from the experience and the community receives assistance addressing specific needs or problems.

“Overall, I think the university does a good job connecting with the community in a variety of ways” Helpap continued. “I believe we, as a department, have a culture of encouraging students to engage with the community as much as possible, whether through internships and applied projects or interactions with guest speakers and field trips.

“There can be a perception that the university is somewhat disconnected from the community due to its geographic location,” he continued.” However, when you examine all of the ways in which students connect and interact with community members and organizations on a daily basis, that disconnect largely disappears.”

Danen acknowledged the enthusiasm and support of her advisor was part of her success.

“I have to give a lot of credit to professor Helpap for inspiring me on this project,” said Danen. “He was really interested in the study and was engaged with it all the way through.

“One of the best things about UW Green Bay has been the networking here,” Danen said. “Being able to connect with my professors and my peers has helped me grow and make connections for my career.”

Danen is now employed as the Community Engagement & Education Specialist at Happily Ever After Animal Sanctuary, Inc. Green Bay.

Story by freelance writer Jim Streed ’05


Distinguished alumnus, Doug Wirth receives prestigious award

One of UW-Green Bay’s most recent Distinguished Alumni Award winners, Douglas Wirth ’89 (Social Work) was recognized as one of the most responsible business leaders in New York City.

Wirth, President and CEO of Amida Care, New York’s largest Medicaid Special Needs Health Plan (SNP), was recognized with a Responsible 100 award on December 18 at Sony Hall. The award is given to the most outstanding responsible executives, thought leaders, visionaries and influences who are setting new standards of excellence, dedication and leadership in improving their communities and making transformative change.

“At Amida Care, the focus of my work has been to promote access to high quality, comprehensive, culturally competent health care that give people the chance to live their best lives and contribute to their communities,” said Wirth.

Amida Care helps New Yorkers living with or at higher risk for HIV access the care they need, which prevents new HIV infections and gets us closer tending the HIV/AIDS epidemic in New York. The Responsible 100 honorees embody the Core Principles of Corporate Social Responsibility: Charity, Diversity, Environment & Sustainability, Equity, Ethics, Privacy, Sourcing, Transparency, Volunteerism and Community Engagement.

Skyla Aissen at Aissen Tree Farm

Packed with an entrepreneurial ‘spirit’ Skyla Aissen ’18 graduated from college, debt-free

With roots planted deep in Northeast Wisconsin and visions of “branch” expansion, recent Business Administration graduate and Christmas tree grower Skyla Aissen has her work gloves on and is ready for the future.

Her Grandma Lean imparted this piece of wisdom on Skyla long ago, “24 hours is a lot of time in a day to get things done.

Suffice to say that Skyla is one to take wisdom from her elders to heart. The 21-year old graduated from UW-Green Bay with honors in December 2018. Remarkably, she earned her Business Administration degree (Marketing and Management emphases) in 3 ½ years, despite having a near-full-time job, running two businesses and managing property that she purchased herself.

And she made it through debt free. See the feature by WBAY-TV.

Four generations of business acumen

Aissen is now among the fourth generation of Christmas tree growers in her family, following in the footsteps of her great-grandfather, founder of Hess & Sons Tree Farm in Wisconsin Rapids; her grandfather, who ran a wholesale business in Rapids; and her parents, Tammy Hess and Jeff Aissen, who moved to Northeast Wisconsin to start a retail lot for 11 years, before moving and opening the Aissen Tree Farm in Kewaunee County, in 2000.

If you think of a tree-farm as a seasonal operation, think again. With the Christmas season now in the rear-view mirror, the Aissens turn their attention to post-holiday inventory and taking their 2,000 sq. ft. gift shop, with more than 7,000 ornaments and other gifts, completely apart.

In January, Skyla travels with family members to Atlanta to attend a wholesale mart and shop for next year. Upon return, they work on planning, preparation and cutting firewood that heats the house and two shops. In spring they plant 5,000 trees by hand, followed by fertilizing, removing previous stumps, fixing ruts, weed control, mowing on 55 patches. In summer they shear 50,000 trees and collect pine cones for wreaths. It’s not uncommon for them to walk more than 15 miles a day, working on the farm.

“It’s a 24/7, 365-days-a-year job, and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” said the new UW-Green Bay alumna and entrepreneur.

A nine-year-old entrepreneur

Skyla was only nine years old when she started a side business on the farm, creating “kissing balls” — supersized mistletoe — that have become increasingly popular as household Christmas-decorating staples. That first year, she sold 45 balls. Now, 12 years later, she is up to 375. This side business paid for her entire college, “fully and completely.”

Her second business within the business, now shared with her fiancé’ Nathan Vanderbloemen, is tree coloring. “We found it is cheaper and less messy for customers if we do it.” Growing exponentially, her first 50 trees were a sellout, and 75 colored trees in 2018 sold out as well.

Although Aissen’s sharp business acumen is homegrown, she was determined to be completely prepared for her future by earning a bachelor’s degree through UW-Green Bay’s Cofrin School of Business. She crossed the Weidner stage in December with diploma in hand and no regrets.

“I wanted to obtain my bachelor’s degree to enhance our marketing and management skills on the farm,” she said. “I knew it was important for me to obtain a degree because owning a tree farm is a high risk. Knowing these risks, I realized that I needed a backup plan in case of a natural disaster or health complications as life can be very unpredictable and it is always good to be prepared.”

Business degree gave her a balanced perspective

Through the Business Administration program, she said the most valuable attribute she learned was the ability to “think through and solve problems.” “It has also taught me better time-management skills and how to manage money. From paying for school to paying for all overhead costs, employees, insurance, mortgage payments, taxes, monthly fees and maintenance costs on the new property, I have learned how to properly keep records and manage all of my finances successfully.”

The ace student (3.9 GPA) and Luxemburg-Casco High School 2015 graduate is pleased to be a poster child for graduating from college debt free.

“If you work hard, you can graduate early with no debt, it just takes dedication and time management skills,” she advises. “It is also important not to spend so much time on social media or on mobile devices.  Even though it may seem stressful, it is important to push through, and you will eventually reap the rewards.”

The proud alumnus will now turn her complete attention to her business prospects — the family-owned farm with 50,000 trees and the 7.5-acre property right across the road, purchased entirely by Skyla on her own.

“The property is a fixer-upper with a house, barn, garage and shed on 7.5 acres, she said. “However, I already have more than 2,500 hundred trees planted on the property, with hopes to plant thousands more.”

And then there is the grand vision and a safe bet for Skyla’s next dream…

“I would like to expand the farm and turn my barn into a wedding venue and the house into a bed and breakfast, as well.”

With history as a past measure of success, one would be wise not to bet against this rising Phoenix.