Featured Participants

We get some pretty interesting people joining us at Collab Labs as our featured participants. Here’s who we’ve had so far:


Collab Lab 19: Building Community Partners

Dr. Dan Bergen  – Executive Director, Marquette Office of Community Engagement

Dr. Bergen is the founding, and executive director of the Office of Community Engagement at Marquette University where he is responsible for the promotion and support of community engagement in research, community-based teaching, and service.  He is the co-chair of the Housing Working Team for the Near West Side Partners, a member of the Regional Community Engagement Steering Committee, and one of the goal stewards for Marquette University’s “Social Responsibility through Community Engagement” strategic initiative.


Fr. Bill Johnson, SJ – Vice President of Strategic Growth, Cristo Rey Jesuit Milwaukee

Fr. Bill Johnson, Vice President of Strategic Growth, is native to Milwaukee. He was a co-founder of Nativity Jesuit Middle School, was on the founding leadership team of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School Twin Cities, Before returning to Milwaukee, Fr. Bill spent three years in the Dominican Republic as the pastoral director of Creighton University’s Institute of Latin American Concern. At Cristo Rey Jesuit Milwaukee, Fr. Bill helps to recruit students and staff members, raise funds, locate corporate partners, and is responsible for Cristo Rey’s Mission and Identity.


Thomas Kiely –  Director of Institute for Catholic Leadership, Marquette University

Thomas Kiely directs the Institute for Catholic Leadership at Marquette University. The ICL helps to develop the mission effectiveness, leadership practices, and innovative structures of Catholic schools and teachers as well as future Catholic School leaders. In this capacity he interacts with community partners on local and national levels so Catholic schools can engage their communities in ways promoting social justice and community solidarity.


Katie Sparks – Director of Development, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee

Katie Sparks focuses on building partnerships with corporations and other philanthropists.  Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee is the largest youth-serving agency in the city They provide safety and support during critical hours of the day as well as meals, strong role models, organized athletics and access to the arts.  The organization’s vision is to build the community’s social and economic fabric by  providing impactful programs that strengthen academic performance, build character, encourage healthy lifestyles, and meet the basic needs of Milwaukee’s youth.



Collab Lab 15: Healthcare Connections

Christopher J Simenz, PhD, NSCA CSCS*D- Clinical Professor,
Department of Physical Therapy- Programs in Exercise Science, Marquette University

Dr. Simenz currently works in a collaborative research team using community engaged research (CEnR) to study wellness, health systems navigation, obesity reduction/prevention, food security, systems change and physical activity focused primarily on under-served populations in Milwaukee’s central city. Currently, he is an administrative team member in the Healthy Wisconsin Partnership Programs Response to Intervention (RtI) grant, programming physical activity interventions for students with obesity and related comorbidities in central city schools. Additionally, he is researching the effects of fall prevention programming on wellness variables and balance in central-city Hmong and SE Asian seniors. Previously, Dr. Simenz served on the administrative team of the Milwaukee Childhood Obesity Prevention Project (MCOPP) (www.uncom-milw.org/mcopp ), engaged in addressing policy change in the areas of nutrition, physical activity, land use, and education to reduce the incidence of obesity and related comorbidities in the Milwaukee area.


Jennifer Tarcin – Menomonee Falls High School Healthcare Academy Coordinator; Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin Community Memorial Hospital Healthcare Career Academy Faculty Liaison

Jennifer and her team created the Healthcare Academy in 2011 to bring the industry to life for students at Menomonee Falls High School. They created a small learning community bringing together students from a variety of backgrounds to foster relationships based upon their common career interest in healthcare. Well-crafted essential questions provide the framework for curricular integration while community partnerships enhance and personalize student learning.

In just a few short years, the program has grown from 30 students to over 150 students and has earned national certification from the National Career Academy Coalition.


Jonathan Wertz — Director of Clinical Risk Management, Medical College of Wisconsin

Jon’s work involves helping Medical College physicians, nurses and advanced practice providers provide care to their patients in a safe and effective way. He helps providers work through the different types of challenges that can arise as they do their work. Before joining the Medical College, Jon worked as a litigation attorney at the law firm of Michael Best & Friedrich. Prior to attending law school, he worked as a registered nurse in the Emergency Department and Intensive Care Unit at Aurora-Sinai Medical Center in downtown Milwaukee.

Jon has become more and more interested in education as he’s watched his son and two daughters grow up and work in various educational settings. His oldest daughter currently attends a boarding school, his younger daughter is home-schooled and his son attends the neighborhood public school. Jon has been working with Escuela Verde for about a year and a half, setting up opportunities for students to learn about health professions and healthcare in an academic medical center. These opportunities involve introducing students to providers and allowing them to hear what these professionals do and what motivated them to become educated in healthcare. The interactions are most successful when the students can see and understand how the professionals put their knowledge into use to solve real-life challenges. He’s interested in finding ways to spark the interest of young people with diverse backgrounds who might not know what opportunities are available in healthcare or who might not see higher education as an option.


Kristina Kaljo, PhD — Assistant Professor, Medical College of Wisconsin

Kristina Kaljo, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor and Co-Director for the Third-Year Obstetrics and Gynecology Medical Student Clerkship at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW).

Prior to beginning at the MCW, Dr. Kaljo was a member of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) and a middle school classroom teacher. During this period, she established a professional practice deep-rooted in culturally responsive pedagogy, which assures that every learner, regardless of age, class, gender, or background receives the most culturally responsive learning experience.

Currently at MCW, Dr. Kaljo has bridged her expertise of curriculum development and evaluation with educational and community engaged research to the field of medical education. Dr. Kaljo has also created and facilitated a sexual and behavioral wellness curriculum with a local urban high school to address unintended pregnancies and high rates of sexually transmitted infections as they relate to reduced risk-taking behavior and improved health outcomes.

Collab Lab 14: Effective Partnerships for Career Based Learning Experiences

Susan Koehn, Director of the Milwaukee7 Regional Talent Partnership

Susan Koehn is Director of the Milwaukee7 Regional Talent Partnership, which connects employers in Southeast Wisconsin with the right talent supply chain partners to fuel business growth. Susan served as Innovation Fund manager for the Milwaukee7 region’s WIRED Initiative in 2008-09. Through the Department of Labor’s WIRED Initiative, regions integrated economic and workforce development activities to demonstrate that talent can drive economic transformation. From there, Susan moved into a role with the Southeast WI Workforce Development Board, coordinating Workforce Development Board activities in Kenosha, Racine, and Walworth Counties, before returning to Milwaukee7 and the work of regional economic and workforce alignment. Under Susan’s leadership, Milwaukee7 launched the GROW HERE Campaign, an effort to develop and retain young people in Southeast Wisconsin and fuel the critical talent needs of industry. She enjoys working with local partners to connect employers to their future talent pipeline and scale opportunities for career-based learning across the region.

Stacey Duchrow, Business & Education Partnerships Manager — Milwaukee7 Regional Talent Partnership

Stacy most recently served as STEM and District Assessment Coordinator for Union Grove School District in Racine County. There, she launched Union Grove’s first Career Academies – three STEM pathways in Biomedical, IT, and Manufacturing/Engineering including dual credit and work-based learning experiences. Stacey has a Bachelor’s Degree in Microbiology and spent 5 years at Abbott Labs as a Senior Quality Technician before seeking licensure as a teacher and an eventual Master of Educational Leadership Degree from Carthage College. She taught Biology and Physics in Kenosha Unified School District and was selected in 2010 as 1st runner up – Kenosha County Teacher of the Year.


Allan Erickson, Curriculum Specialist – Career and Technical Education — Milwaukee Public Schools

Al Erickson has been the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Curriculum Specialist in the Department of College and Career Readiness at Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) for almost two years. Prior to joining MPS in 2016, he was a civil and environmental engineer for 32 years. After (finally) graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the early 1980’s, Al joined CH2M HILL (a civil and environmental engineering consulting firm) where he worked on infrastructure improvement and environmental cleanup projects for clients across the United States. In his various roles over that portion of his career he enjoyed the opportunity to help society through projects to make water cleaner, transportation safer, and the environment healthier. As an engineer based in Milwaukee, he had the pleasure of working as a team member on a number of local projects including removal of contaminated sediments from Milwaukee’s Rivers, redesign and construction of Milwaukee’s freeway interchanges, and construction of Milwaukee’s deep tunnels and wastewater treatment plant improvements.

In his role with MPS since January 2016, Al currently supports CTE teachers and encourages them to engage students in more career based learning experiences. His perspective on this issue is somewhat different than his colleagues because while with CH2M HILL he hosted a Wisconsin Youth Apprentice, conducted multiple in-school and in-office career based learning experiences for students (presentations and job shadows). He also led two professional development Job Shadow sessions for MPS teachers to help them understand what civil engineers do.


DeAnna Leitzke, Milwaukee School of Engineering

DeAnna is a professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering where she also serves as Chair for Servant-Leadership. In her role as chair, she provides students with opportunities to engage the community by leading service-learning projects throughout the Greater Milwaukee Area and beyond.



Laura Schmidt, Strategic Advisor to the Superintendent – School District of New Berlin

Laura has an MBA (Leadership Studies) from Marquette University. She worked for 15 years for Northwestern Mutual and was responsible for enterprise software, usability testing, and technology research.  She served as the Executive Director of an Education Foundation for 4 years before joining the School District of New Berlin as a consultant.  She represents the Superintendent in local, regional and state efforts designed to support a strong talent pipeline for the benefit of students as well as the state’s economy. She holds a Scaled Agilist certification to inform strategic planning and implementation efforts.

Collab Lab 13: Problem Finding

Brian King
Brain King

Educator/Maker/Skill Acquirer
Former Head of School and Director of Innovation at Milwaukee Jewish Day School

A lawyer, educator and maker, Brian recently spearheaded the educational transformation at Milwaukee Jewish Day School from a traditional school to one focused on student-owned learning, learning through inquiry and making. The transformation included building a new Innovation Hub to complement the school’s approach to teaching and learning.


Cynthia Short

Cynthia ShortCynthia is an experience researcher, strategist and designer. Evolving from her background in User Experience, and her work in and across a variety of industries, in recent years Cindi has worked to push the evolution of Experience Design and its application and practice not only in the business sector, but into unsuspecting processes and areas, including entrepreneurship, social system design education and community development.

Dale Truding

Dale Truding

A designer, a collaborator and an initiator, Dr. Dale Truding is a future-focused leader who has worked in eight different states and designed two schools that have been recognized nationally. She has worked in collaboration with educational scholars throughout the world who support student-owned learning and help to create educational models that support students finding problems, seeking solutions and taking action to improve the quality of life both locally and globally.

Dr. Truding has her doctoral degree in gaming and second language acquisition. She has spent forty-eight years of her career mentoring teachers and school leaders to become lead learners and model the skills, habits and attitudes needed for all students to be prepared for the world of today and tomorrow.


Paula Kaiser
Paula Kaiser

Founder and Director of Coaching at Activate Pathways
Director of Development at Norris Academy
Director of Coaching at Epiphany Learning

Paula has taught in classrooms, led schools through the implementation of personalized learning as an Instructional Coach, and witnessed district-wide change as a Personalized Learning Coordinator. Paula’s first hand experience of the power of student-centric learning allows her to guide schools and districts through successful implementation and mindset change. At Norris Academy, she is responsible for the strategic development of the Academy utilizing design theory to research, prototype, implement and evaluate innovative approaches to learning.


Collab Lab 12: Middle School Math – What should we be trying?

Dr. Kevin McLeod, Associate Professor – Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Dr. McLeod is a research mathematician and an Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). Dr. McLeod has long had an interest in good mathematics teaching. He was a co-PI for the Milwaukee Mathematics Partnership grant, and has worked extensively with MPS teachers for several years, taking an active role in planning the mathematical content for the coursework for MPS Mathematics Teacher Leaders, and assisting with the development and alignment to standards of district-developed classroom assessments.

Shannon Olson – UCC Acosta Middle School

Shannon Olson with UCC Accosta’s student built boat

UCC Acosta Middle School is a technology and skilled-trades focused charter school that offers its students Project Lead the Way Pre-Engineering curriculum, blended learning methods, including project based learning, and a Genius Hours where students are able to follow their passions. This spring, Shannon’s students built and a launched a boat in collaboration with All Hands Boatworks.


Collab Lab 11: Creating a Culture of Innovation

Jane Barr – Regional Vice President, North America Sales, Services & Solutions, Rockwell Automation

Jane provides leadership and strategic direction for the sales force in the North America Eastern region. She is responsible for developing and executing the business strategy positioning Rockwell Automation products and services to best support Rockwell’s customers in achieving their business objectives.

Jan Haven – Director, Department of Innovation, Milwaukee Public Schools
The Innovation Office directs the research, promotion, development and implementation of innovative educational programs and practices and manages the interface of the innovation function with other central service offices and schools. The office also works to build capacity of district and school staff through strategic partnerships.

Jason Montague – Senior Vice President, Baird
Jason is Senior Vice President for Baird, a privately held, employee-owned financial services firm (currently #4 on Fortune’s 100 Best Places to Work list!). Jason is responsible for multiple functions at Baird, including software development, architecture, and data management. Before joining Baird, he held leadership positions at Wells Fargo; MacDonald, Dettwiler & Associates; and US Bank. Jason is on the board of a number of community groups, and helped found Milwaukee Agile, an industry group dedicated to growth in technology leadership. He has also been a very active proponent of Innovation in many forms, including Systems Thinking and Lean Startup.

Dave Neuman – Global Product Manager, Software Identification Solutions, Brady Corporation
For the past 20 years, Dave has been developing and promoting new technology solutions & services, building world-class software engineering & IT organizations, and coaching the next generation of technical leaders & agile practitioners.

Today, Dave is leading global product engineering teams at Brady Corporation in the development of new cloud products and mobile apps, driving commercialization and growth of software and solutions as a global product manager, and scouting emerging technologies that could help customers better identify and protect people, products, and places.

Tim Poppert – Assistant Director of Digital Innovation – Northwestern Mutual
Tim Poppert is a Wisconsin native and has spent over 15 years at Northwestern Mutual working in Application Development & Support, IT Architecture and Digital Innovation. In 2014, Tim was asked to help create and lead the strategy of digital innovation at Northwestern Mutual, which includes the implementation of the Digital Innovation team. In this role, Tim oversees, creates and maintains the vision for Digital Innovation and how to continuously foster a dynamic culture of innovation. He works to develop and maintain self-empowered teams to drive innovation, from design thinking to ideation to the execution of digital solution prototype’s and MVP’s.

Collab Lab 10: Building Resilience

REDgen – Brooke Talbot,Vice President/Director Schools; Barbara Moser, Board Member; Bill Henkle, Director Schools

REDgen is an advocate for mental health and well being of all youth. REDgen was formed out of a duty of care. They foster active community conversations around what it means to live a balanced life with healthy definitions of success.

REDgen’s Schools Group consists of professionals from schools that serve students and families within metro Milwaukee. School administrators, psychologists, nurses, social workers and teachers from public, private and parochial schools serve within the group. Their meetings create a forum to discuss the needs and strengths of our schools in supporting the emotional development of students. Their mission is to support school staff to promote balance and resiliency in the lives of students and families through training, education, and building relationships within the school community.

Donald Byrne –  4th and 5th grade Social Studies, Science, and Health teacher at Humboldt Park School.

Humboldt Park is an MPS K8 School that is home to a student body with close to 20 different primary languages.  Their participation in a United Nations School of International Learning grant. provided an opportunity for students to gain a better under standing of the backgrounds for many of their peers.

Humboldt Park fourth graders researched the UN member countries of the Caribbean and South America, including various aspects of their assigned country’s people, history, geography, cultures, etc. The students also wrote to their country’s United Nations ambassador seeking information about the country and the UN’s roles there. The students then created a large scale display of their learning. At a recent “World’s Fair” culminating event, students from all the UNSIL schools presented their displays.

Sixth grade students focused on in-depth research on issues the UN is addressing in the member countries. Some examples are; clean water, public health, peacekeeping initiatives, human rights, etc. HPS students used a systems thinking approach to look at their country under the direction of middle school social studies teacher Betsy Markwardt.

Susan Lubar Solvang – Growing Minds

Susan Lubar Solvang is President and Founder of Growing Minds, whose mission is to create safe and trusting relationships in the classroom and within the school community, setting the stage for better learning, using SEL tools, primarily mindful awareness practices. Growing Minds currently is focusing on Professional Development such that educators might learn to increase self-awareness of their emotional patterns, choose their responses intentionally, and learn to quiet the emotional ripples of moment-to- moment classroom life rather than creating more waves.


Collab Lab 9: Makerspaces/FabLabs III – Evaluating Success

Armen Hadjinian – Milwaukee Area Technical College Entrepreneurship Center

Armen established and teaches in the Milwaukee Area Technical College Entrepreneurship Center which is opening a new makerspace on 8th Street & National Ave in Milwaukee. He authored The Entrepreneur’s Launch Guide (Kendall-Hunt 2012) and Entrepreneurship Drills (Kendall-Hunt 2017). He is also an adjunct faculty member in the Alverno ollege MBA program, teaching Innovation and Entrepreneurship. He also was part of the leadership team on one of the first mobile payments apps, Talipayments.


Emily Schindler -University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Education

Emily is currently a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Education. She studies Curriculum and Instruction, and her specific interests focus on digital tools, interest-driven learning, STEAM, and innovative teacher learning. She is a former K-12 public school Literacy Specialist and English teacher, and her favorite grades to teach were 7th and 8th grade. In her teaching, she explored the uses of project-based learning, multi-modal tools, and student-led curricular models.


Greg Herker – Fab Lab Manager Gateway Technical College
Greg is the architect of a variety of programs through the Gateway Fab Lab that support students, the community, and local industry. Greg currently serves on the Board of the United States Fab Lab Network (USFLN), has consulted on Fab Lab development through the National Science Foundation (NSF), and assisted numerous educational programs from K12 thru post-secondary in their Fab Lab programs. He is also heavily engaged with NC3 in developing training & curriculum for educators to leverage in the Fab Lab.


Jim Guy — Properties Director, Milwaukee Repertory Theater; President, Society of Properties Artisan Managers

Jim has been a props professional since shortly after he joined the resident company of The Cleveland Play House almost 40 years ago, following brief stints elsewhere as a librarian and stage manager. Since then his work has appeared on and Off-Broadway, on tour, in print, on television, in museums and on the stages of theaters, opera and ballet companies across the country.  For seven years he served as director of the MFA program in Properties Design and Management at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Before that he ran his own freelance company, The Prop Guys, designing and producing props for industrial shows, photography, print, film, video, museums and the performing arts.  At the top of the 1998-99 season he was once again seduced by the glamour of regional theater props, and joined Milwaukee Repertory Theater as their Properties Director, where he and his five-person team prop from twelve to fourteen shows in nine months.  In what time is left, he still teaches, consults, serves as President of the professional not for profit prop masters’ association, the Society of Properties Artisan Managers (SPAM), and takes in a little freelance work. For many years he has been presenting seminars and master classes to educational and professional groups across the country on Firearms Use and Safety On Stage and on Props in the Production Process.   He lives in Milwaukee with his longsuffering wife, artist and soft props artisan Margaret Hasek-Guy, their kids and a bunch of cats.


Mark and Linda Keane – co-founders, STUDIO 1032; co-creators, NEXT.cc

Mark is Professor of Architecture at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and Director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Initiative; awarded the national AIAS Young Faculty of the Year in 2011 and honored at the Guggenheim, NYC, for his work with HABS and students at Taliesin East, WI, he teaches drawing as place-based engagement.

Linda is Professor of Architecture and Environmental Design at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she initiated the development of a third accredited architecture program for Chicago, directed the City of Chicago Green Roof Website and works with thesis students in developing their final dissertations to contribute new knowledge to the built environment professions.

NEXT.cc is a STEAM by Design eLearning resource and non-profit that reaches people in fifty states and over 150 countries.


Steve Vande Zande – Bay View High School

Bay View High School is MPS’s School of Creativity and Innovation with a STEAM focus. It holds a wing dedicated to design thinking complete with a makers space for students, shared artist and designer studio, and professional gallery. Bay View High School also offers a NAF academy that supports the building of Formula 1 race cars and a skateboard engineering project.

The majority of Steve’s time is spent in a school setting as a Program Implementer for Milwaukee Public Schools. Having worked as an education programmer for the Milwaukee Art Museum creating teen programs, and an educator of teacher training at Marquette University, Steve finds these experiences with students spanning early-childhood through adulthood as the impetus that continues to build his fascination with capturing moments in human development that are hard to put into words.

Steve received a B.A. in art education from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and an M.S. degree in the area of leadership with an emphasis in the arts from Bank Street College of Education in conjunction with the Parsons New School for Design.  In 2003 he was the recipient of the Outstanding Educator of the Year award from the Wisconsin Art Education Association, and Excellence in Education by Milwaukee Public Schools in 2004. In 2009, Steve was awarded “Outstanding Faculty Lecturer for Educational Policy and Leadership” from the Marquette University College of Education. In 2012 he was named mentor of the year by the Southern Graphics council, In 2014 he was the honored as a Friend of Art from the Milwaukee Arts Board.


Collab Lab 8: The Arts Across Disciplines

Dr. Nancy Stanford Blair – Professor Emerita of Leadership Studies at Cardinal Stritch University – artsHUBmke

Laura Yale – Program Development Specialist & Instructional Coach – [email protected]

artsHUBmke​ is an innovative collaboration between Cardinal Stritch University, Arts @ Large and Milwaukee Public Schools. artsHUBmke builds the skills of pre-service student teachers, new and veteran classroom teachers, arts specialists, community artist educators, and university faculty to design and implement arts integrated teaching strategies that engage students in dynamic learning experiences.

Kid Curators PD 2016 from Linda D’Acquisto on Vimeo.

Nancy Blair currently consults in the areas of leadership formation, effectiveness and sustainability, organizational development and culture building, and the creation of learning organizations. She has taught at the Master’s and Doctoral level and consults locally, nationally and internationally with schools, non-profits and business. Nancy has co-authored several books on leadership: Connecting Leadership to the Brain, Leading with The Brain in Mind, and Mindful Leadership published by Corwin Press.

Nancy’s research interests lie in the area of leadership formation, sustainability and coherent leadership behavior that aligns core values, high impact performance and capacity building in others. Her latest book, summarizing her research findings, is Leading Coherently: Reflections from Leaders Around the World published by Sage. Nancy currently is focusing her leadership study and teaching in the area of servant leadership, transformational change and social justice. Over the last few years she has continued to interview a diverse array of servant leaders from the United States, Africa, India and Europe to discover lessons they have to teach about their transformation to extraordinary leaders who serve. Her fifth book, in progress is titled Your Life is Your Message.


Elise Georgeson – Marketing & Development Manager – Artists Working in Education

Reanna Ottoson – Program Director – Truck Studio

AWE’s mission is to provide youth in the Milwaukee area with arts enrichment programs to enhance human potential, advance learning and cultivate community. Their programs include:

A.W.E.’s Artist-in-Residence (AIR) program provides opportunities to engage youth in making decisions about land use, public space, and neighborhood revitalization through the creation of public art within their neighborhoods. Thriving neighborhoods are those where people have a sense of agency to make real change. Together, we create inclusive & collaborative public art projects that align youth driven planning with broader community goals. Projects may create neighborhood infrastructure, contribute to neighborhood beautification, or tell a story about a pertinent community issue through public art.

The Truck Studio provides meaningful, drop-in art-based enrichment activities free of charge to youth ages 4 –14, with a focus on working with youth who aren’t engaged in structured programming. The Truck Studio activates parks and playgrounds during the summer months and partners with Milwaukee Public Library during the school year. We help young people become more inquisitive, creative, flexible, imaginative and confident; while fostering a sense of community among children, artists and neighborhoods. Truck Studio program consists of a fleet of four brightly painted vans and a dedicated team of artists and interns with experience in youth development, arts education and fine art.


Erica Breitbarth – Reagan International Baccalaureate School
Erica Breitbarth is an active music educator, choral conductor and vocalist in the Milwaukee area. She holds degrees in music education from the Wheaton Conservatory of Music (BMEd) and Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music (MMEd). Currently, Erica serves as choir director, musical theater director and chair of the music department at Reagan International Baccalaureate (IB) School in the Milwaukee Public Schools. Erica and her colleagues built the music program at Reagan High School from 50 students to over 400, garnering local, state and national recognition for excellence in music education instruction to urban youth.

Erica is an active soprano soloist throughout the greater Milwaukee area, performing such works as Handel’s Messiah, Faure’s Requiem, Lotti’s Dixit Dominus and Haydn’s Creation, Missa in Angustiis and Missa in tempore belli. Additionally, she was selected as finalist in the Wisconsin Civic Music Association Competition and the Illinois and Chicago Chapter NATS auditions and was the winner of the Wheaton Conservatory Vocal Concerto Competition. A strong advocate for music education, Erica worked with BuildaBridge International in Philadelphia to develop a comprehensive teaching model for artists working with at-risk students in the United States and around the world. Erica is an active church musician and council member at Eastbrook Church in Milwaukee and serves on the board of directors for the Bel Canto Chorus. She received two Tommy Awards for Outstanding Musical Theater Direction and was named the Civic Music Association’s Choral Music Educator of the Year in 2013.

And by the way, she was also a finalist for a Grammy this year (Music Educator).


Kristen Fledderjohn – Program Manager, ArtWorks for Milwaukee
As a self proclaimed social scientist, Kristen’s curiosity has taken her through a myriad of life experiences and brings those intersections, cross roads, and parallels into each new endeavor. ArtWorks for Milwaukee hires teenagers for art-based, paid internships to develop career skills. Each program focuses on building 21st Century skills through different arts and mediums. ArtWorks has expanded its capacity over the years delving into schools and creating an alumni program.


Lisa Loomis – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School
Lisa is an early Childhood School support teacher with 14 years at Milwaukee Public Schools. She has her Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from National Louis University. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. School offers families an African-American Immersion program that focuses on the history and culture of African-Americans, drawing upon the strengths of our pupils. It is one of four schools within MPS particpating in the Turnaround Arts program.


Collab Lab 7: Systems Thinking/Driving Engagement

Sheri Marlin – Chief Learning Officer, Waters Foundation
Sheri Marlin writes, speaks and collaborates with others to apply systems thinking in real-world contexts. She has taught preschool through graduate school and has worked as a building principal and district curriculum specialist. Sheri finds tremendous satisfaction in facilitating teams of people as they develop shared vision and achieve desired results. By providing resources and sparking curiosity, Sheri keeps learning at the center of everything she does. She believes that when people understand and apply the tools and habits of systems thinking, they are more likely to engage in meaningful, life-long learning and innovation. Sheri is co-author of the Habit-forming Guide to Becoming a Systems Thinker.

Beth Fetterley Heller – Senior Director of Education and Strategic Planning, Urban Ecology Center

Beth has dedicated the past 17 of her 24 years in education to the growth of urban environmental education programs in Milwaukee. She directs education and activities of the Urban Ecology Center’s 3 branches and 2 state-of-the-art green buildings that provide more that 150,000 learning opportunities for people of all ages each year.  Programs include the Neighborhood Environmental Education Project for 63 urban schools, a job training program for high school students, and an inter-generational research program where adults and children participate undergraduate and graduate field research projects led by over 20 colleges, universities and institutions.  Beth has her undergraduate degree in biology and education, an MBA from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and is a fellow of the Academy for Systems Change.

Betsy Markwardt – Middle School Teacher, Humboldt Park K-8 School

After 20 years as an accountant, Betsy Markwardt shifted gears. For the past 17 years she has been a middle school teacher, and loving it, with Milwaukee Public Schools. Betsy has a Masters in Curriculum design and finds that Systems Thinking has made learning and teaching more of an inquiry of the subject at hand. She is gratified to see middle school students truly grappling over an issue as Systems Thinking guides her students to look deeper.

Ellen Grasley – 1st Grade Teacher, Humboldt Park K-8 School

Ellen Grasley is an early childhood educator with 30+ years at Milwaukee Public Schools.  She has her Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from UW Milwaukee and has used Systems Thinking tools with her students for the past several years.

Marissa Jablonski – Associate Researcher & Lecturer for UWM’s Masters of Sustainable Peacebuilding; Mentor & Advisor Engineers Without Borders
Dr. Marissa Jablonski is a development engineer and educator who works with communities wrestling with complex concerns. She strives to help people gain access to education to meet their needs. Marissa collaborates and cooperates with transdisciplinary groups worldwide and excels in communicating across boundaries.

Marissa is a mentor to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) student chapter of Engineers Without Borders, advising on the design and implementation of water distribution projects in Guatemala. She also serves as International Coordinator of a Guatemalan-led and run NGO that builds infrastructure to meet indigenous communities’ needs.

Marissa is a faculty member of the Master’s of Sustainable Peacebuilding program at UWM, where she develops and institutes courses focused on community engagement in international development. Marissa is an advocate for minorities and women in STEM fields, and served as program coordinator for UWM’s NSF FORTE program from 2009-2015. During that time, she designed an internationally recognized project that continues to engage with informal dye industries in rural India to affordably clean their wastewater. This work earned her a PhD in Civil/Environmental Engineering from UWM in 2015. Marissa is rooted in the urban Milwaukee community and serves as a natural sciences instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College.

Collab Lab 6: Makerspaces/FabLabs II

Ben Dembroski – Manager Emerging Technology, MIAD
Ben Dembroski is a visual artist and technologist based in Milwaukee, Wi. He received his BFA in Sculpture from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in 2001. In 2002, he moved to Scotland to complete his MFA from the Glasgow School of Art (2004). He stayed there for nearly a decade working as an internationally exhibiting artist and software developer. He returned to Milwaukee in 2011 with a wife and two children in tow. In 2014, he returned to MIAD as the Sculpture Lab Technician. In 2015 he spearheaded the formation of MIAD’s openlab – a new space that explores how emerging technologies can be used in Art and Design.

Ben is comfortable working in a variety of sculptural methods, computer programming, physical computing, and lens-based image making. He’s primarily interested in how digital information works as material, and how it interfaces with the physical world. He tends to make robotic installations that address the topics of labor, intellectual property, and how society is affected by our use of digital technologies.

If you let him touch your computer, he may try to break it.

David Kaplan – Associate Professor of Physics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

David’s research is concerned with multi-wavelength observations of white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes, with strong representations of undergraduate and high school students. He is working to develop “tactile astronomy” modules that help students – especially those who are blind/visually impaired – improve astronomy comprehension and explore concepts in time-domain astrophysics. You may have met him at Maker Faire 2016 with his 3D prints of data.

Bill Pariso – Makerspace Program Developer, Betty Brinn Children’s Museum


Collab Lab 5: Community Partners

Tom Hermann & Stacey Duchrow – Union Grove High School
Tom Herman is the principal of Union Grove Union High School and Stacey Duchrow is the Career and Academies Coordinator. Both have created deep relationships with business partners after being charged by the school board to create academies and pathways for students in IT, Healthcare, and Engineering/Manufacturing. Through this process and listening to the needs of the business community, the school culture was changed to shift the focus on increasing student college and career readiness while helping to fill in the skills gap in their community. They have created unique experiences utilizing their 100 business partners such as the Bronco Business and Career Expo, teacher externships, and business partners breakfasts.

Sylvia N. Wilson – MKEGrind
Sylvia N. Wilson, PhD is the CEO and Co-founder of MKEGrind, a youth-focused career development company. She is an adjunct lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, in the School of Education; regularly teaching courses in leadership, organizational change, non-profit management, adult education theory & practice, and youth-service work. Being rooted in both the community and academia, Sylvia believes that it is her duty to build and to be a bridge between the two; assisting in the creation of critically sound and contextually effective programming practices. Her research includes inquiry of life transformative processes; from which she developed a model for urban African American males who desire to transform out of a life of street violence.

Collab Lab 4: Making Room for Innovation

JJ Heesch – Pewaukee High School
JJ is the Director of Pewaukee’s Insight program — a cross disciplinary program that gives students hands-on, real world experiences immersed in a professional setting. The program started as an experiment within JJ’s Business Management class and now offers three separate strands which students may focus: Global Business, Innovation, and Pathways to Teaching. They are also planning to launch two additional strands next school year: Healthcare and Journalism.

Mike Kornacki – User Experience Director at Johnson Controls

Mike is a user experience leader who has successfully built User Experience (UX)/design teams from the ground up in three separate companies. He defined the UX discipline for Johnson Controls, building a culture that nurtures creativity and a user-centered approach in engineering-centric company–no small feat. In 2010, Mike co-founded mkeUX to get the user experience conversation going in Milwaukee. They now have 450+ members and have hosted presentations from local and national UX professionals.

Jump to minute 19:00 to hear Mike’s advice on how to make room for innovation:

Collab Lab 3: Makerspaces/FabLabs

Adam Pautsch – GE Healthcare
Adam was the founder of, and currently manages, the GE Healthcare Makerspace, a lab for conceptual development and prototyping which tests new technologies and ideas to add value and innovation to products. He received a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from UW-Madison, with a minor in Medical Physics.

Tuan Tran – Design Fugitives
Tuan has a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Wisconsin -Milwaukee. He brings a high level of design experience and project management expertise to DF. In addition to design activities, Tuan is the in-house expert on Digital Fabrication, Parametric Modeling and manages New Product Development.

Erik Wolbach – South Milwaukee High School
South Milwaukee High School is researching a new Fabrication Lab as an extension of their existing shop facilities. They have new partners in architecture, aquaponics, and urban agriculture. Students have created a scale model of their existing space and are researching a building expansion to house a new green energy fab lab is ongoing.