CL58: Supporting Authentic Work

When students engage in authentic work, they aren’t the only one’s crossing into the unknown.

What support do teachers need to find their way?

Season 8/Collab Lab 58

The focus for Collab Lab 57 was Dealing with Uncertainty. Whenever we cross into the unknown, it’s helpful to find a guide or mentor who can point to a path forward. Beyond simply brining in outside programming, what support can we offer teachers as they take on the challenges that might arise?

As always, you’ll be joined by peers and collaborators from K-12 higher education, industry, and the nonprofit community. If you work with or know of a student who would like to join the discussion, please extend the invitation.


5:30 to 6:00 pm Grab something to eat, meet some interesting, passionate people
6:00 to 6:15 pm Welcome and introductions
6:15 to 8:00 pm Let’s talk through some ideas
8:00 to 8:30 pm Wrap up and next steps

Food and non-alcoholic beverages will be provided. There is no charge for participation but space is limited!

Featured Participants

Among others, you’ll have chance to trade ideas with:

Kirsten Sobieski, Partner — Services Manager, GPS Education Partners
Kirsten credits her work-based learning experience as a college intern in the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office as what led her to a career of advocacy for youth, families, and veterans in crisis. Having worked in the government sector for 20 years before pivoting to non-profit leadership, Kirsten values the impact of partnerships, recognizing that no one entity can do it all alone. A veteran of the United States Army Reserve Military Intelligence Corps, Kirsten received technical training that translated into college credit towards her degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Kirsten holds a BA in History and a Certificate in Criminal Justice.

GPS Education Partners works with schools and business to develop and implement work-based learning experiences for students.

Chris Willey — Director of Technology, Islands of Brilliance

Chris  is a trailblazer in teaching and learning, focusing on emerging creative technologies. Drawing inspiration from the metaphor of gardening, Willey has cultivated a deep teaching philosophy that centers around fostering growth, nurturing creativity, and valuing the process. As an Adobe Education Leader/Innovator, Willey collaborates with a distinguished community of creative educators on a global s

cale. With a teaching tenure spanning over a decade at the college level, his expertise spans digital art, digital painting, animation, audio/video production, 3D modeling, and game engines.

He founded the Immersive Media Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, an interdisciplinary research space focusing on emerging creative technologies such as extended reality and generative AI. Willey has written textbooks on art and design, curated art exhibitions at museums, and exhibited internationally.

Islands of Brilliance (IOB) is a learning experience developed specifically for children and young adults on the autism spectrum. IOB utilizes project-based learning that allows students to grow their intrinsic capabilities and practice communication, increasing their likelihood of independence as adults.

Maylan Thomas — Director of Production Design, GMR Marketing

Photo of Maylan Thomas with Superbowl stadium in background

Maylan Thomas is a highly accomplished professional with a background in Scenic & Lighting Design. He obtained his MFA in 2012 and his BA from the University of Iowa in 2007. With a versatile skill set encompassing design, fabrication, technical expertise, and production, Maylan has an extensive portfolio that spans various domains, including live events, touring concerts, experiential marketing, museum fabrication, retail fabrication, mobile tour design, and theatre.

Currently serving as the Director of Production Design at GMR Marketing, Maylan is involved in a variety of exciting projects. Notable among th

em are his contributions to the 2023 & 2024 Super Bowl campus design, where he played a key role in producing the entryways for the campus while managing multiple tactics across multiple spaces. He has produced spaces for clients at both the WNBA and NBA All Star Game.

His design credits also extend to several Fortune 100 brands to include: brand houses, retail buildouts, pop-up installations, and mobile tours, with projects spanning from 2020 to 2023. Including managing multiple retail locations across the East Coast, assets, collateral and inventory.

Prior to his current role, Maylan made significant contributions to a range of projects, including the annual marketing productions for Milwaukee Tool in 2018, 2019, and 2020, multiple AV integrations for Royal Caribbean in 2019 and 2020, and the technical design direction for the WWII Museum’s exhibit “Arsenal of Democracy” in 2017, as well as the technical design direction for both campus and stage setups at the Essence Festival in the same year. His technical design expertise has also played a pivotal role in the success of several world tours from 2013 to 2015, featuring renowned artists such as Katy Perry, Cirque Varekai, the Rolling Stones’ 50th Anniversary tour (stadium and arena), and Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Tour just to name a few.

Before embarking on his academic journey at the University of Iowa, Maylan served his country in the US Army from 1999 to 2007. During his time in the military, he held the roles of a Tank Commander and Resident Scenic Designer and Technical Director for the US Army Soldier Show, showcasing his multifaceted talents and commitment to excellence.

Collab Lab 49: The Role(s) of Mentors

What becomes possible when students can see a bit of themselves in someone else?

The point of community-engaged learning isn’t simply to connect students and teachers to expertise. It’s an opportunity for students to find inspiration in the path someone else has taken, to build a network of relationships that can support a students as they pursue their dreams.  We’ll kick off our 7th season of Collab Labs with a focus on the roles mentors can play to support the work of both students and teachers. This is your chance to connect with K-12 colleagues from across the area, as well as community partners from higher ed, industry, and non-profits to share ideas and explore opportunities.  We look forward to seeing you there!


5:30 – 6:00 Grab something to eat and drink, say hello
6:00 – 6:15 Introductions
6:15 – 8:00 Let’s talk through some ideas
8:00 – 8:30 Share out and wrap up

Food and beverage will be provided. There is no charge for participation but space is limited!

Featured Participants

Among others, you’ll have a chance to talk with:

Kahina Cargile – Regional Manager, Microsoft TEALS
Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) is a Microsoft Philanthropies program that builds sustainable CS programs in high schools. TEALS focuses on serving students excluded from learning CS because of race, gender, or geography. TEALS helps teachers learn to teach CS by pairing them with industry volunteers and proven curricula, provide high school students with equitable access to computer science (CS) education, and create a pathway to economic opportunity. Kahina comes to TEALS from the “I Have A Dream” Foundation Milwaukee provides individualized social, emotional, and academic support to young people from low-income communities from kindergarten all the way through college, along with guaranteed tuition support.

Nate Deans Jr – Director of Black and Latino Male Achievement, Milwaukee Public Schools
The Department of Black and Latino Male Achievement (BLMA) was established in 2017 and focuses on supports specifically tailored to increase success for Black and Latino males in MPS. The important work of uplifting Black and Latino young men in MPS is grounded in three areas.

  • Improving culture, climate, and communication in MPS schools
  • Writing a positive narrative of our students’ successes and accomplishments
  • Connecting young men to teachers, mentors, and leaders with shared backgrounds who have achieved personal triumphs

Jamar Jones – Owner, Foureva Media
Jamar is a business owner, speaker, and author of the book, “Change Your Circle; Change Your Life.” He is a visionary who believes in leadership and subscribes to the notion that we can all connect in a relatable way. Foureva Media specializes in DEI recruitment strategies and employer branding to help companies improve employee engagement as well as find and retain diverse talent. In August, Foureva Media put on the Lead the Movement Business Conference at the Fiserv Forum. This conference supported the community and created collaborations with businesses and leaders to propel diversity initiatives using the power of entertainment. Jamar’s desire to surround himself with good people who challenge him to excel every day is what excites and empowers him. Jamar is proud to serve others as a beacon for excellence; his philosophies and intentional action have changed the landscape of his life and the lives of others.

Erik Lee – Senior Solutions Design Lead, Harley Davidson Motor Company; FIRST Robotics Mentor, Milwaukee Robotics Academy
Erik is a long term mentor for Riverside High School’s First Robotics team, and continues in that role with the Milwaukee Robotics Academy. The Milwaukee Robotics Academy is committed to supporting high-tech STEM education in under-served populations in the City of Milwaukee. It supports the Riverside High School First Robotics program as well as students and teams from several other Milwaukee schools.

LaNelle Ramey, M.A. – Executive Director, MENTOR Greater Milwaukee
MENTOR Greater Milwaukee (MGM) is an affiliate of MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership. MGM is an advocate for the expansion of quality mentoring in Metro Milwaukee and a resource for mentors and mentoring initiatives county-wide. MGM will work collaboratively across sectors to support existing and emerging organizations that provide mentoring services to youth. LaNelle was one the founding Directors for the Department of Black and Latino Male Achievement for Milwaukee Public Schools. Prior to that, LaNelle spent 14 years working with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee serving in roles as Executive Branch Director, Area Director and Senior Director of Programs.

Dr. Michael Sevier – Chair for Servant-Leadership, MSOE
Michael is the new Pieper Family Foundation Endowed Chair for Servant-Leadership at Milwaukee School of Engineering and an assistant professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department. As the Servant Leadership Chair, he works to promote the characteristics of servant leadership philosophy in the MSOE community through student programming, faculty development, and project-based experiential learning opportunities.

Ben Trager – Interim Director, UWM Center for Community-Based Learning, Leadership, and Research
UWM’s Center for Community-Based Learning, Leadership, and Research (CCBLLR) partners with the community to inspire students, faculty, and staff to engage in activities that foster enduring personal and social change. At the CCBLLR, Ben directs the campus’s service learning portfolio of over 1,500 students each semester in 60+ courses, and supports the implementation of the internship programs, which provide community-based work opportunities for students.

2023-24 Collab Labs

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