Among the more than 3,000 May graduates at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee are many who are headed out to make a difference in their communities.
Some of these graduates already have started.
Theodore “TR” Badger, who received his B.S. in Architectural Studies, has researched development in a tiny, historic township near Chicago, and also helped “pre-design” new buildings in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward.
Fernando Orozco, who received his B.S. in Community Education, established a support system for student commuters, and helped research a new bus route that made it easier for South Side students to get to UWM.
Both Badger and Orozco credit UWM’s McNair Program with helping interest them in research. The federal program, named for astronaut Ronald McNair, encourages students from underrepresented backgrounds to enter graduate school.
A bachelor’s degree in architecture allows for limited practice, notes Badger, but becoming a registered, licensed architect requires a master’s degree. “If it weren’t for McNair, I would not have even considered graduate school.”
In addition to presenting his McNair research on a Somali Bantu refugee curriculum project at four conferences, Orozco worked with a faculty member studying health issues affecting Latinos and mental health issues impacting Native Americans.
Both contributed in other ways to the local and national communities.
While at UWM, Orozco established Loyalty Equals Brotherhood to provide a support system for students who commuted from various neighborhoods in Greater Milwaukee.
“We needed a reason to stay on campus, even if that was to study or to play sports,” says Orozco. “We wanted to live that college life even though we commuted.”
When the group found Latino neighborhoods in Milwaukee did not have a direct bus route to UWM, they began to do research as part of a “park-and-ride” transportation proposal.
They collected ZIP codes, conducted questionnaires, compiled data and looked at socioeconomic factors affecting a group of some 600 students, then presented this information to university officials.
In 2006, the Rockwell Park-Ride Lot was established, providing easier access to the university for students living on Milwaukee’s South Side.
“A lot more community outreach is needed,” says Orozco. “People stay in their neighborhoods and have no navigation outside of their neighborhood.”
Many people in his neighborhood, he says, also lacked information about the opportunities available to them through a university education.
Badger’s work at UWM included a number of hands-on field experiences in the community. A favorite, he says, was a design studio in New Orleans that gave the UWM students an opportunity to work with professional architects who are rebuilding the Lower Ninth Ward.
One of Badger’s projects was working on a house for a resident whom he got to know personally.
His goal, he says, was to approach redevelopment in the urban community in a way that could give low-income residents the same design experience that wealthy clients might have.
Both Badger and Orozco are headed for graduate school next.
Orozco, who will go to the University of Michigan, hopes to get his master’s and, eventually, his doctorate in Higher Education Administration. Badger is considering offers from several graduate programs in architecture.