UW-Green Bay student receives multiple awards at Fox River Ad Club 2020 Addy event

UW-Green Bay student Dane Schumacher (Design Arts and Art) received a Silver Student Addy Award, a Gold Student Addy Award and the Best of Show Addy Award in the annual contest sponsored by the Fox River Ad Club. His Student Silver and Student Best of Show Addy Awards were for his “Rubberneck Converse Collection” multiple-piece campaign designs (below), a fall 2019 Design 431, Graphic Design Studio III project.

Dane Schumacher
Dane Schumacher 

His Gold Student Addy Award was for his “Children’s Defense Fund” (above) multiple-piece campaign design, a fall 2019 Design 431, Graphic Design Studio III project. The event was February 21, 2020 at the 2020 American Advertising Federation Fox River Ad Club Addy Awards Event, hosted by St. Norbert College. Photo submitted.

 

Rubberneck Converse Collection
Rubberneck Converse Collection

UW-Green Bay Prof. Kevin Fermanich named 2020 NEW Watershed Champion

UW-Green Bay Prof. Kevin Fermanich (Water Science, Geoscience and Environmental Science) has been named the 2020 NEW Watershed Champion. He formally received this recognition on Tuesday, March 10, 2020 from NEW Water and the Green Bay Water Utility during the 2020 World Water Day event.

Prof. Fermanich is a lead co-principal investigator on a collaborative project studying the links between edge-of-field water quality, soil health and field management at sites in Great Lakes priority watersheds. Additionally, he is a soil and water resources specialist with Wisconsin Extension.

Fermanich was recognized at the seventh annual World Water Day event hosted by NEW Water, the brand of the Green Bay Metropolitan Sewerage District, and the Green Bay Water Utility at the Jack Day Environmental Education Center. World Water Day (www.worldwaterday.org) is a commemorative event launched by the United Nations in 1993 to bring awareness to global water issues. The two water entities honor World Water Day to call attention to local water issues, including aging infrastructure and impairments, and to celebrate the efforts of a local champion in caring for the watersheds of Wisconsin.

The theme of this year’s World Water Day is “Water and Climate Change.” Globally, this means an increasing demand for water as populations increase, which can drain natural resources and cause environmental damage.

“The Green Bay Water Utility is adapting to address the water effects of climate change to continue to protect health and safety to our customers,” said Nancy Quirk, general manager of the Green Bay Water Utility.

The World Water Day held in Green Bay also serves to celebrate local efforts to strive toward solutions. Learn more about past Champions here.

Fermanich has worked at UW-Green Bay since 1998. Along with many partners, Fermanich and his students study water quality, watershed management, soil health, Green Bay restoration, and agricultural management issues. He is a lead co-principal investigator on a collaborative project studying the links between edge-of-field water quality, soil health, and field management at sites in Great Lakes priority watersheds. Additionally, Fermanich is a soil and water resources specialist with Wisconsin Extension.

“Our era faces a number of water challenges, not only globally, but here in Wisconsin as well.  Dr. Fermanich exemplifies the spirit of working together to find solutions to the many vexing water challenges we’re facing today,” said Tom Sigmund, Executive Director of NEW Water.

Learn more about Green Bay Water Utility: www.gbwater.org
Learn more about NEW Water: www.newwater.us

This post is written in cooperation with NEW Water. Photo submitted by Tricia Garrison, NEW Water. In the photo, from left to right, Tom Sigmund, executive director, NEW Water; Prof. Kevin Fermanich and Nancy Quirk, general manager, Green Bay Water Utility

Weidner Philharmonic looks to build on successful inaugural season

The inaugural 2019-2020 Weidner Philharmonic season was one that “exceeded expectations.”

Showcasing two incredible shows, “The New World Symphony for a New Symphony” on Sep. 28, 2019 and “Casablanca – An American Classic with Live Orchestrations” on Feb. 22, 2020, the Weidner Philharmonic orchestra featured the talents of UW-Green Bay music faculty, and the accomplished orchestral musicians who live and work in the region playing in the outstanding acoustics of the Weidner Center’s Cofrin Family Hall.

Kelli Strickland, executive and artistic director at the Weidner Center, anticipates positive growth moving into next season. “The inaugural season of the Weidner Philharmonic surpassed our expectations. For a new orchestra, the players meshed quickly, delivering a very pleasing quality of musicianship. And the audiences were so enthusiastic.” Strickland says to watch for a new season announcement in April that could include

Manitowoc Campus Phi Theta Kappa recognized as Four Star Chapter

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Manitowoc Campus’ Phi Theta Kappa chapter, an international honors society, was elevated to four-star status. The chapter will be recognized at the Spring Regional Convention and at Phi Theta Kappa’s Annual Convention, PTK Catalyst. In order to elevate the chapter from three to four star status, officers wrote an Honors in Action Report about the opioid crisis and how it impacts Manitowoc County. This report was submitted for a Hallmark Award, a requirement to achieve four star status.

“I am incredibly proud of this year’s Phi Theta Kappa officers,” said advisor, Manitowoc Campus Prof. Amy Kabrhel. “They are an eager and ambitious group of students who worked hard to research an important issue in our community. They interviewed local community members and police officers as well as read publications on the local, regional, and national impact of the opioid crisis. Their work is timely, important, and relevant. It has been my joy to serve as their faculty advisor.”

This initiative became the driving force behind the chapter’s elevation to a Four Star Chapter. The officers for Fall 2019 included co-presidents Stevie VanderBloomen and Makenna Pucker, secretary Evelyn Tapia-Campuzano, treasurer Sara Soukup, and public relations director Rosalindae Siegfried. Prof. Amy Kabrhel (Chemistry) is the faculty advisor.

In the photo: Left to right, Prof. Kabrhel, Siegfried, Pucker, VanderBloomen and Tapia-Campuzano. Missing, Sara Soukup.

 

 

CAHSS Oxford England Study Abroad trip

Walking in the Shoes of the Literary Greats

Keshena Hanson ’18 (English and Communication) in the dining hall of Magdalen College, Oxford.
Keshena Hanson ’18 (English and Communication) in the dining hall of Magdalen College, Oxford.
Dining halls in Harry Potter movies were inspired by those in Oxford.

Imagine walking in the shoes of such literary greats as T.S. Eliot, Oscar Wilde, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Lewis Carroll; breathing in the urban and pastoral aura that inspired some of the greatest writing works of all time. For Emily Ransom’s students, there is no need for literary flights of fancy; they’ve lived the dream.

Every summer, Ransom, a UW-Green Bay assistant professor of humanities, leads a travel course to Oxford, England. This four-week, six-credit course explores fantasy literature and poetry of authors local to the region. While doing so, they travel to the places that inspired the works and also emulate these authors’ techniques in a creative poetry writing class. “It’s an English/Humanities course” Ransom explained. “We stay at a medieval college in the heart of the city and take many excursions in Oxford and the surrounding regions.”

A typical week during the course

Class time is in the morning. First up is fantasy literature with readings and discussions of Tolkien, Lewis, Carroll and other fantasy literature authors. The second class is creative writing—studying and imitating the form, content and style of such poetic greats as Eliot and Philip Larkin. The afternoon is tour time, filled with colleges, authors’ homes and museums. Twice a week, they take part in theatrical performances and concerts. Friday trips include castles, Stratford-upon-Avon, Bath or Stonehenge. Weekends are free for students to create their own experience. London is only an hour away with access to Ireland and Europe just a train passage, a shockingly-cheap flight, or a Megabus trip away.

Free to do what they want on the weekends, students need to be accounted for by Sunday night when they reconvene in the campus churchyard for a poetry reading. Each student brings one poem written by an Oxford poet and one of their own.

The experience may not transform a student into a great poet, but it is still transformative. “It’s a fully-immersive experience,” said Ransom. “Our goal is to get the students to feel at home there; for them to feel like they belong in this intellectual hotbed of talent and literary tradition.”

The results? Brilliant!

“It was only a month, but it felt so much longer because we experienced so much,” said Hannah Majewski, an English major graduating in May 2020. “The history, pub culture, architecture, museums, authors’ homes…it was all so stunning. Every morning, I would wake up, sip on a cup of tea, and look out my dorm room window (at St. Edmund Hall —known fondly as Teddy Hall). I would gaze at the medieval well in the middle of the quad. It was so old, probably built in the late 1100s. It was awe-inspiring. To be a part of so much history and intellect, if only for a month, was unforgettable.”

Oxford England study abroad tripWithin Oxford and Cambridge (aptly called the Oxbridge system) lies a network of colleges. Wherever you go, there’s a college nearby. “University is all over the city,” said Ransom. “Oxford looks exactly like it is always imagined in the writings of its authors; the sculptures, rivers, pastorals, architecture. When you’ve spent time reading the stories by these authors, it offers a strange sense of being home.”

Oxbridge system is a small, tight-knit community, Ransom explained. It provides an atmosphere of chance encounters, story sharing and intellectual conversation. “Oxford is fun, bustling and saturated with culture and beauty,” she said. “The colleges throughout the city provide a lot of green spaces, so you also get a pastoral feel that creates a quiet place of refuge.”
For students like Majewski, experiencing such a profound sense of history and place not only inspired creativity, but also changed her life. “I have a deeper appreciation and greater understanding for not only the Oxford authors, their writing and the places that inspired them, but also for the connections that appreciation and understanding continues to create in my own life.”

For Professor Ransom, the student outcomes for the course transcend literary appreciation.

“I love watching the transformation in my students. It touches them on so many levels and creates a lasting impact on their lives. These lessons are souvenirs they will keep for a lifetime. On an educational level, students can make connections from a text they read and help them problem solve. On a social level, it impacts their global consciousness and empathy toward other cultures. On a metaphysical level, it transforms their inner selves.”

From Hannah Majewski’s perspective, she found traveling to another country and time a grounding experience, connecting her to her love of literature, history, imagination and creativity. “When I feel disconnected, thinking back to that experience grounds me. It had such an impact on me that just thinking about it…the beauty, the history, the reverence, the aura…it calms me and inspires me all at the same time.”

—Story by freelance writer Kim Viduski ’92

Emily Zilliox

‘Potential is unlimited’ for Wisconsin Women in Government award winner, Zilliox

“Unlimited potential” is how chair of the UW-Green Bay’s Political Science program, Associate Prof. Aaron Weinschenk describes UW-Green Bay student Emily Zilliox, a fall 2019 recipient of the Wisconsin Women in Government Scholarship award.

Zilliox is a junior majoring in Political Science and Democracy and Justice Studies with an emphasis in Women’s and Gender Studies. She also has a minor in Public Administration. In fall 2019, she received a scholarship from the nonprofit organization Wisconsin Women in Government—not an easy feat. The scholarship is intended for women who plan to pursue careers in public service, public administration or governmental affairs. Those selected for the scholarship must demonstrate their leadership abilities and positive contributions to society. Zilliox said she is proud and honored to be acknowledged and awarded a scholarship.

Emily Zilliox“Going into the public sector can often feel like a thankless job, so getting recognition like this really serves to lift you up,” she said.

Zilliox is chair of the Health and Safety Committee for Student Government, vice president of Theta Eta Alpha and vice president of the Sexuality and Gender Alliance. She is also a student employee, working as a student lead at the David A. Cofrin Library. She is committed to continuous improvement, and this commitment is evident to her faculty advisors.

“If Emily tells you she is going to do something, she will do it,” states Weinschenk in his recommendation letter for her scholarship application. “Emily is exactly the type of student you want to have in your classes—she shares her ideas, works well with others, does what she says she’ll do and maintains a positive attitude.”

It’s her professors that have been influential to her success, Zilliox said. When asked what her favorite part of UW-Green Bay is, Zilliox’s response… “One hundred percent the professors. The faculty of all the areas I am involved in have helped and supported me since I was a freshman, and I really cannot even put into words all that they’ve done or how thankful I am.”

Not only is Zilliox, a LaCrosse, Wis. native, incredibly active on campus, but an internship with the Green Bay Mayor’s Office has expanded her responsibilities and her opportunities. Zilliox is also dedicated to helping the surrounding community through this internship — a position she gained with the help of Associate Prof. Katia Levintova (Global Studies and Political Science). Her main task is to work on figuring out the logistics for a new Public Safety building for the City of Green Bay.

“It has been a really fun experience, and it’s taught me a lot about how local government works,” she reflected.

Her fall 2019 semester wasn’t without some difficulty. After learning she earned the scholarship, she soon learned she would need an emergency surgery, which was a setback for her. Once again, it was her perseverance and the willingness of the faculty that helped her get back on her feet.

“I had a medical issue this semester, and all the professors have gone above and beyond to help me catch up and even checked in to make sure I was okay,” she explained, “which is something that really meant a lot to me.”

Through everything Zilliox has experienced, from both successes and challenges in her college career, she credits her father for motivating her and influencing her to continue working hard and having an impact on what she does. While political role models include Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Zilliox credits her father with being her greatest role model.

Emily Zilliox

“My mother passed away when I was four, and he really just became the ultimate parent and taught me so many life lessons, like personal responsibility, having a good work ethic and taking pride in the work you do while staying humble,” Zilliox said. “He really is the hardest working and strongest person I know, and even though we don’t agree on everything politically, I do try to make him proud in everything I do.”

When Zilliox graduates from UW-Green Bay, she hopes to continue to make her father proud by creating a lasting impact in Wisconsin.

“I would love to work as a legislative aide in a State Assembly person’s office in Madison,” she says. “My big dream is to become a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, but we will work our way towards that.”

Based on Zilliox’s accomplishments and passion to succeed, her future is certainly bright!

Story by Marketing and University Communication student assistant Emily Gerlikovski

Georgia Pacific Internship

From GB to GP: UW-Green Bay Students Turn Internship into Gainful Employment

Heading into her internship with Georgia-Pacific, Madelyn Skalecki hoped it wouldn’t be just a ‘go-fer’ coffee and bagels position. She, and intern Elizabeth Johnson got their wish.

 Madelyn Skalecki
Madelyn Skalecki, ’19 Graduate

For 12 months Skalecki was credited with an internship, but worked as a full-time employee, getting to know the company, its supply chain practices, and what each step of the supply-chain process would cost the company. The December 2019 graduate began working at Georgia-Pacific as an employee of the company’s supply chain division immediately following graduation.

For students from UW-Green Bay and managers at Georgia-Pacific, the program is a win-win. Students are able to put what they learn into practice, and managers at the company are able to recruit and retain key talent. It’s the high-impact, problem-solving approach for which the University and the Cofrin School of Business is known.

“I would be doing something in the office, and I’d think to myself ‘I remember learning this in a book,’” Skalecki said. “And then after I was finished with the internship, I’d be sitting in class during a lecture learning about something and think ‘Oh my gosh! I did this!’”

Skalecki said her past internship experiences were more like busy work. But this experience was different.

“The previous intern’s project was to create a timeline of what our team, Supply Chain Outsourcing, did on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “My project was to take the previous intern’s project and develop a time and cost analysis for it, which had not been done prior. This transformed how my team understood the impact of their day-to-day work and educated the other cross-functional teams we worked with on a daily basis. The project also provided a value-added comparative advantage for us as we are now able to test scenarios that can be more cost and time efficient.”

Jason Danforth
Jason Danforth

Skalecki’s manager, Jason Danforth, said the internship program is a way for Georgia- Pacific to create a hiring pool that the company already knows is worth the investment.

“I think the program allows our company to create a pipeline for future talent,” he said. “We look at it as a six-month interview.”

The competitive internship and co-op experiences are utilized throughout the company.

“It is definitely competitive regardless of what college or university a student comes from, but Georgia-Pacific actively recruits from UW-Green Bay and attends all its career fairs. We have different departments that attend those career fairs such as Georgia-Pacific’s transportation team called “KBX Logistics,” along with our sales team “GPXpress®,” which play the biggest roles in recruiting from the University.

Danforth has been with Georgia-Pacific for six years and a manager of the Supply Chain planning and purchasing team for more than two years. Over that time, he’s seen a number of interns go through the program that started before he began working with the company. While the program helps the interns build their professional resume and learn about working in the corporate culture, interns help the company by bringing new insight and a fresh perspective into processes as well as provide system improvements to help streamline the organization.

Jason Danforth with interns Jason Danforth with inters Elizabeth Johnson and Madelyn Skalecki and Elizabeth Johnson
Once Georgia-Pacific/UW-Green Bay interns, Madelyn Skalecki (right) and Elizabeth Johnson (left) were able to land full-time employment with the company. G-P Manager Jason Danforth (middle) says mentoring is the favorite part of his job.

“The biggest payoff for me personally has been serving as a role model and a coach for these students,” he said. “I get to not only develop their softskills, but also to develop their supply chain knowledge of processes.”

Georgia-Pacific is a worldwide leader in making tissue, pulp, packaging and building products, producing everything from paper towels to bath tissue. Danforth works in the supply chain planning and purchasing department, which supports the buying of finished goods from outside suppliers. When one of its mills is over capacity or does not have the capabilities to make a product, his team secures the finished goods from outside suppliers, then stores the inventory at Georgia-Pacific’s fulfilment warehouses for their customers. His team’s main responsibility is to manage outside supplier production requirements with domestic and international suppliers—from the purchasing of raw materials to be converted into finished good or just straight buying of finished goods.

“The internship in the supply chain of Georgia-Pacific is a six-month program that provides interns with a job offer at the end of the time period if they are successful within the program,” Danforth said.

Elizabeth Johnson
Elizabeth Johnson

Between May and November of 2019, Elizabeth Johnson served as an intern at the Georgia-Pacific plant in Green Bay. Handling day-to-day operations helped her utilize her education in business with a focus on human resources and supply chain management. After graduating in December of 2019, she took a position at the company’s Atlanta headquarters.

From there, she was assigned a mentor, also a former intern, who helped her to get acclimated to the plant and working for the company, as well as to encourage her through the process.

“When I took the internship, I didn’t think it would lead to a position,” Johnson said. “It’s been a really great opportunity. I would encourage anyone to take the chance and do it.”

– Story by freelance writer  Liz Carey

First Nations EdD Cohort

Community of Learners Developing leaders in First Nations Education

Transformative. Intense. Rigorous.

These are the words students use to describe UW-Green Bay’s first-ever doctoral program—the only one of its kind in the state of Wisconsin—the Doctorate Degree in Education (Ed.D.) in First Nations Education. The four-year program enrolled its first cohort of 12 students in the fall of 2018.

This is exactly what UW-Green Bay Associate Professor and Program Director Lisa Poupart, Ph.D. had in mind as she and her colleagues developed the program. Born out of feedback from First Nations communities throughout the state, leaders asked for a very specific, rigorous program that would balance relational, face-to-face learning with concrete, usable outcomes requiring graduates to further promote cultural insurgence and the vitality of future generations.

“There’s a rigor to the program,” says Poupart. “The listening sessions provided this feedback—they want graduates who understand difficult concepts and can talk about them and write grants, etc. We are telling the students that their communities set a high standard, and we are going to hit those marks.”

Building Community

The Ed.D. in First Nations Education program is centered in indigenous knowledge systems and draws upon indigenous teaching and learning methods from elders and oral scholars, as well as faculty expertise. Classes consist of a set of core courses offered primarily in face-to-face settings, reflecting the strong commitment to the oral tradition rooted in First Nations culture. UW-Green Bay was a natural fit to host the first-of-its-kind doctoral program because of its 20-year history of teaching First Nations education at the University, and its tribal Elders in Residence program.

First Nations EdD Cohort
The Ed.D. in First Nations cohort of learners gathers for a meal following a Saturday class.

The inaugural cohort of 12 began its second fall term in 2019. According to Poupart, the cohort model accurately reflects indigenous teaching and learning, and reflects a true community. “We’ve built something within a community, and the group learns with and supports one another. To have these experiences together is really central to their success in the program.”

Bawaajigekwe Andrea DeBungie, a current student in the cohort, describes her 14 months within the program as transformative. DeBungie is a special education teacher in Ashland, Wisconsin and the recipient of the 2020 Special Services Teacher of the Year in Wisconsin. “The program is very different than anything I have ever experienced, as a teacher or anything,” says DeBungie. “The experiences have helped shape and reshape how I function as an educator, mother, human being.”

The group clearly considers itself a family of support for each other. “There is such encouragement and support within the cohort, and that 100% includes the instructors,” says DeBungie. “I would not be able to do this program otherwise. We all agreed and had conversations about this. We are stronger together.”

Transferring Knowledge

Her experiences have already had an impact in her classroom, specifically as it relates to what she calls the four R’s – relationships, respect, reciprocity and responsibility. “(The program) focuses on relationships, and all students benefit from teachers who invest into them. It has helped me become more intentional as an educator,” says DeBungie, “and work to shift the power dynamic in the classroom from one expert to a community of reciprocal learners and reciprocal relationship.”

“That has been the biggest thing for me. It’s so empowering and so liberating for me as an individual and for the students.”

Fellow cohort member, Waqnahwew Ben Grignon, is a traditional arts teacher at Menominee High School in Keshena, Wisconsin and the 2019 Wisconsin Teacher of the Year. A lifelong member of the Menominee Nation, he works to bridge the regular, traditional curriculum with indigenous thinking. His students recently discussed the geometric designs found in traditional beaded belts to help students remember geometric formulas.

The doctoral program challenges all students to think differently, reconnect with their original ancestral teachings and apply it to indigenous education right now. “One weekend we had a small group presentation of a book we were reading,” says Grignon. “This group chose to talk about the book while we were sewing baby moccasins.” Their discussion evolved into radical topics including governance and the state of education in indigenous communities.

“I’m now able to look at a material object (the moccasins) and think back to the discussions we had about the book and what it meant to sit together in community while doing a traditional art,” says Grignon, “and reconnect to the things our ancestors have been doing for thousands of years.”

Exceptional Learning

This type of learning opportunity is at the heart of the program. A weekend class, for instance, focused on generational healing, inviting a plant medicine elder to work with students. The group took plant medicine walks, participated in conversations about healing and cooked traditional, non-addictive pain medicine from student-gathered ingredients. “This was not a western formalized classroom,” says Poupart, “but indigenous formal learning.”

While intense and time-consuming, the program gives a place and space for these highly motivated and extremely committed learners to expand, grow and talk about similar challenges and experiences.

“We are creating a space for them to explore what they are already capable of doing,” says Poupart, “and the energy of that? They are unstoppable.”

–Story by freelance writer Kristin Bouchard ’93

Deceptively simple fruit fly may provide life-saving lessons according to UW-Green Bay researchers

The deceptively simple Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) may have life-saving lessons to share with the significantly more complex Homo sapiens, lessons that could lead to future changes in treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Douglas Brusich Fruit Fly Research-4According to a peer-reviewed research paper published recently in the journal Fly[1],  results from studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay suggest three significant findings with potential implications for humans:

  • First, repetitive, moderate blows to the head at short intervals have potential for serious injury. There appears to be a cumulative effect from a series of moderate blows within a short time frame, which can be as harmful as a single significant blow.
  • Second, the time frame for increased harm caused by repeated injuries can operate at shorter timescales than has been previously appreciated. The research suggests that consideration must be paid to repetitive injuries that occur closely together.
  • Finally, TBI caused an initial impairment of motor coordination, temporary recovery, and then a second, delayed impairment before full recovery was achieved. Single severe injuries caused the same impairment as repetitive moderate blows. Thus, if only using coordination measures, there is a risk for improperly determining an individual has recovered from a TBI event, whether severe or moderate, at an early time-point, when in fact they are still in the process of fully recovering.

By now you’re probably asking, “All of this from a fruit fly?”

“That’s a question I get a lot,” smiles Doug Brusich, assistant professor of Human Biology and leader of the research team. “People wonder why we use fruit flies and how results from those studies can have any relevance to humans.”

Brusich recited the reasons with the ease of someone who has answered this question many times before:

“Fruit fly genes mirror human genes very closely,” said Brusich, “so while findings may not be completely analogous, they usually point us to something that might be worthy of further study in mammals, including humans.

“Their genes are also easier to work with than mammal genes,” he continued. “For example, where mammals might have nine genes that govern sodium channels, fruit flies have one. If you make a change in that sodium channel and observe a result, you have a potential indication of a similar importance in mammals.

“Fruit flies also breed quickly, from larvae to adults in 10 days, and have 80-day life cycles,” said Brusich, “so we can develop hundreds of flies for study in a relatively short time. And we can use flies at varying stages of  their lives to see if age has any impact on the results.

“We also have to consider the financial and ethical aspects of our research,” he added. “Fruit flies are very inexpensive to maintain in the lab, especially compared to the cost of other potential subject animals like mice. And the ethical questions that arise when inflicting brain damage on flies are much less complex.

“It’s also important that the ways we produce injuries on flies in the lab is as similar to the ways humans experience TBIs,” Brusich concluded, “The results from fruit fly research come from impact and rotational forces that closely resemble forces humans might experience.”

Douglas Brusich Fruit Fly Research-3

Expanding the research to new levels

Brusich and his team at UW-Green Bay—former undergraduate student Lauren Putnam (2018), and current undergraduates Nathaniel Disher, Brooke Kalata and Ashley Willes—knew the literature contained well documented fruit fly studies of TBI based on single, high-impact strikes. They wondered, though, whether the methods in those studies could be used to study milder injuries, which are more common but less understood.

“There were two reasons we pursued this path,” explained Brusich. “First, mild head trauma is quite common and affects human health. Roughly 70-90% of the greater than 1.5 million annual TBI events resulting in hospital visits in the United States are classified as mild, however, just as many mild injuries are estimated to go unreported. Additionally, we have evidence that mild head injuries which fail to even meet classic criteria for a concussion result in changes in brain health.

“Second,” he continued, “mild injuries have so far been poorly studied or modeled by mammalian or fly models of TBI. This is in part because mild injuries don’t always generate noticeable outcomes. As a result, we have little information about mild TBI.

“Expanding our studies to reduced levels of severity opens the possibility of investigating similarities and/or differences in predisposition and consequences in response to severe versus mild TBI,” he concluded.

Douglas Brusich Fruit Fly Research-2

Is it dead or just sleeping?

Anyone who has swatted a house fly has seen the immediate effect of a (lucky) strike. The fly is temporarily stunned and may sit motionless for a short time before recovering and flying off to annoy you again.

It turns out the temporary disorientation we casually observe is one of the behaviors researchers look for after striking flies in the lab. They also have other behavioral clues to watch for and record.

But those clues are subtle and you can’t have a lab full of researchers swatting willy-nilly at a room full of flies that are smaller than a house fly’s wing. For one thing, the lab is only the size of a galley kitchen. For another, how would you observe and record any of the fruit flies’ behavior in such an environment? How do you set up a study that provides predictable levels of “swat” energy and enables recording of the results?

Brusich and his team arrived at a MacGyver-like solution by adapting a compression spring-powered device developed by researchers at UW-Madison specifically for fruit fly research. The original device produced a strike (a “swat”) by attaching a vial of 20 to 60 flies to the end of the 10-inch-long coil spring, affixing the spring horizontally to a padded surface, pulling the spring upward to a 90-degree deflection from the table, then releasing the spring to return to its horizontal position, stunning the flies in the vial.

This method has become known as the High-Impact Trauma (HIT) method and has been widely adopted in fly research.

For his team’s purpose, Brusich modified the device so it could reliably and accurately produce single or multiple strikes at 60-, 70-, 80- and 90-degree deflections. This enabled the team to examine the results of repetitive HIT events to about 34,000 fruit flies across varying levels of severity, from mild to severe.

The team also combined low-tech and high-tech solutions to study the fruit flies’ ability to walk (geotaxis) after TBI events. They used a plywood frame and elastic bands to hold several vials upright, then dropped the frame three times from a set height, forcing the flies to the bottom of the vial.

They then used a Logitech webcam to watch as the flies reacted: some scrambled to the top, some remained confused and some stayed at the bottom. Using screen shots and statistical modeling software, the flies’ actions were catalogued, timed and plotted.

The results of the study confirmed other researchers’ findings for severe TBI effects (strikes at 90-degree deflections) and produced the three novel results described above (arising from repetitive strikes at varying intervals that produce less severe, but cumulative, TBI effects).

“We were happy that our study produced results so consistent with what others had found,” said Brusich. “And we think the findings that resulted from expanding the methodology to less severe levels of TBI have potential implications for further study in fruit flies and mammals. Future findings could change the way we assess and treat TBI.”

From TBI to epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease

Brusich is already taking information from his TBI research into others areas of exploration.

“I initially got into studying epilepsy from experiments I conducted as part of my graduate thesis,” said Brusich. “I started using TBI in part to model post-traumatic epilepsy, which my lab is now studying. More broadly, TBI findings are relevant to aging and neurodegeneration, such as from dementias like Alzheimer’s, and so the more we learn from this model the better. TBI is also a trending topic in research, so the additional perks are that it is garnering more funding and becoming an attractive and enjoyable area of research for prospective students.

“I have long wanted my role to be a split research-teaching one at a primarily undergraduate school like UW-Green Bay,” he continued, “and the simple, low-cost set up of my lab is appropriate for undergraduate involvement. The supportive environment created by my dean and by the school in general has enabled us to carve out this niche for ourselves versus the research functions at some of the larger schools.”

Aspiring researchers welcome

Brusich hopes other students who share his passion for fundamental research will consider joining him.

“I always mention my research interests in the courses I teach and ask students to chat with me if they think they might be interested in research,” said Brusich.

“I compile a list of these students and others who have heard about the opportunity, then invite students from the list to interviews held once or twice a year. Students are always welcome to contact me (email is best) if they are interested in research.”


[1] Lauren J Putnam, Ashley M Willes, Brooke E Kalata, Nathaniel D Disher & Douglas J Brusich (2019): Expansion of a fly TBI model to four levels of injury severity reveals synergistic effects of repetitive injury for moderate injury conditions, Fly, DOI: 10.1080/19336934.2019.1664363.

Story by freelance writer Jim Streed ’05, photos by Dan Moore, UW-Green Bay photographer and videographer

Prof. Weinschenk’s Political Science Research Lab completes journal article

During the Fall 2019 semester, Associate Professor Aaron Weinschenk (Political Science) offered—for the first time ever at UW-Green Bay—a research lab in political science. (This year, there were 14 undergraduate students enrolled in the lab). The goal of the lab was to have students experience the research process from start to finish and help them develop and practice research skills, which Weinschenk says are increasingly important to employers.

This semester, the lab studied the nationalization of state supreme court elections. Previous research has shown that the correlation between voting patterns in presidential elections and sub-presidential contests (congress, gubernatorial, state legislative) has increased dramatically over the last several decades, but there have not been any studies on whether this is happening in the context of state supreme court elections.

Under Weinschenk’s supervision, students in the lab assembled an original dataset containing nearly 15,000 county-level state supreme court elections results (from 2000-2018). According to Weinschenk, this is an amazing feat because, unlike other types of elections, there is not a preexisting database of state supreme court election results. The students had to gather all of the election results themselves from government sources, which took several months to complete.

After assembling the dataset and conducting statistical analyses, Weinschenk and the students collaborated to write a journal article, which has now been completed and is available here for those who might be interested. The article will be submitted to a peer-reviewed political science journal focusing on elections very soon! All of the lab members will be listed as co-authors on the paper.

Weinschenk says it is important to develop and institutionalize high-impact experiences like this for undergraduate students. He notes that “research has shown that high-impact experiences help make students feel like they are in a supportive campus environment. In addition, participation in high-impact experiences can lead to boosts in GPA and increase the probability of retaining students.”

When asked about their experience doing undergraduate research, students in the lab reported that it was an incredibly valuable experience.

“The lab gave us the opportunity to conduct research on a different level than any other class and be able to submit it for publication,” Tara Sellen, one of this year’s lab members, said. “It was amazing to be a part of a hardworking group and to produce such a substantial product that can contribute to the literature.” She said students in the lab did something “we never thought we could accomplish.”

Amanda Loehrke, another one of the lab members, shared her experience.”Being a part of the Political Science Research Lab has been very rewarding,” Loehrke said. “Working with a group of peers to produce a research paper was challenging, educational, and very enjoyable. The experience has given me and my peers first-hand experience with the research process from collecting data to running statistical analyses to writing the final article. I am very thankful to have been part of the first research lab for the department and am looking forward to seeing if our paper gets published!”