UW–Madison mascot Bucky Badger poses for a photo with an attendee during the 9th Annual Unity Picnic held outside the new Black Business Hub at The Village on Park Street in Madison, Wis., on July 22, 2023.

This month, we feature five different UW entities working together with community to address critical issues affecting the lives of Wisconsin citizens.

Community Engaged Partnerships Serving Wisconsin

Badger Talks Quick Picks

Empowering Progress: Bridging Research and Accessibility in Alzheimer's Healthcare

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Talk description

African Americans in Wisconsin lead in many diseases, including memory loss, through a variety of tragic reasons, that need to be remedied in order to reverse these health inequities. Join us as we explore strides in healthcare research, where participants gain access to convenient and accessible visits at a University community space, breaking away from traditional hospital settings. Discover how this innovative approach fosters better brain healthcare for African Americans in Madison through this important partnership between research participation and community engagement in an accessible location in the most diverse neighborhood in Madison. The partnership between the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the UW South Madison Partnership Office is helping to revolutionize the landscape of healthcare accessibility.

About the speaker

Fabu Phillis Carter is an educator, artist and community activist who has an extensive career designing innovative programs to benefit African American children, families and elders in Madison. She is a Senior Program Manager in Recruitment and Retention for the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at UW Madison where she engages and connects older adults who are under-represented in memory research.

An alumni of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with two masters; Afro-American Literature and another in African Languages and Literature, Dr. Fabu Carter has a PhD from, The African Women Studies Centre, University of Nairobi. Her dissertation is entitled, An Examination of Mary Lou Williams’ Creative Resilience Against Racism and Patriarchy.

Selected as the first African American as Madison Poet Laureate (2008–2012), she is professionally known as Poet Fabu in Madison, Wisconsin, she is a poet, culture columnist, storyteller and teaching artist who writes to encourage, inspire and remind.

Fabu is the author of eight books of poetry; Poems, Dreams and Roses (Madison Arts Commission, 2009), In Our Own Tongues, (University of Nairobi Press, 2011), Journey to Wisconsin: African American Life in Haiku (Parallel Press, 2011), Love Poems (Ironer’s Press, 2016). Journey to Wisconsin… won an Outstanding Achievement in Poetry award from the Wisconsin Library Association. Her next three published books are on Marhey Lou Williams, jazz genius. They are Remember Me: Mary Lou Williams in Poetry, Sacred Mary Lou and Mary Lou Williams Coloring Book (all Ironer’s Press, 2019, 2020 & 2022). In 2023, We Eat to Remember: Soul Food Poetry (Ironer’s Press) focuses on African American gastronomy, and the important connections between culture and food. Poet Fabu latest manuscript of poetry is We Are Wisconsin Too, due in 2024 as a tribute to all the people groups who are Wisconsinites.

The Best of Both Worlds: Building an Authentic and Equitable Community-Academic Partnership for Research with Legal System-Impacted Individuals

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Talk description

What does it look like to build an effective, equitable, and authentic community-university partnership from the ground up? UW-Madison researchers and community partners from the Nehemiah Center will discuss the birth and evolution of their collaboration, and how rejecting “research as usual” has led to innovative projects with the potential to transform the mental health of system-impacted individuals.

About the speakers

Dr. Karen Reece (she/her/they/them)

Vice President of Research and Education, Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development

Dr. Reece is involved in strategic planning and manages a continuous/dynamic evaluation program to ensure forward progress and quality control. She coordinates several academic-community research partnerships. Dr. Reece also serves as Adjunct Assistant Clinical Professor at the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health where she develops curriculum for and co-instructs Intersection of Health Care and Incarceration. Dr. Reece serves as the prisoner advocate for the Minimal Risk IRB.

Aaron Hicks

Reentry Coordinator, Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development

Aaron is a dedicated community advocate with a passion for helping others. His journey towards community service began during his time of incarceration, where he witnessed the struggles faced by individuals that mirrored his own experiences. Recognizing the opportunity to make a positive impact, Aaron started sharing his personal triumphs and offering guidance to fellow inmates, drawing from his own journey of personal growth and spiritual discovery. During his quest to support others, Aaron pursued extensive training and earned certifications in nationally accredited programs such as Walking the Line and Within My Reach, specializing in relationships. He also completed a life coach training program through the Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership, equipping him with valuable skills to guide and empower individuals. To further broaden his expertise, Aaron obtained certifications as a Crisis Intervention Partner (CIP) through the National Alliance on Mental Health Illness (NAMI), Attic Correctional Services, and the UW-Madison Police Department. He also completed Core Correctional Practices (CCP) training through the University of Cincinnati Corrections Institute. Aaron’s commitment to creating meaningful change extends beyond his training. He actively contributes to multiple organizations, including MOSES and EXPO, where he collaborates with a group of formerly incarcerated individuals working towards the cessation of mass incarceration in Wisconsin. Aaron’s involvement with these organizations is a testament to his dedication to social justice and his belief in the transformative power of community action. Driven by a genuine desire to uplift others and armed with a unique blend of personal experiences, spiritual growth, and professional training, Aaron continually strives to make a difference in the lives of those he has the privilege to serve.

Mike Koenigs (he/him)

Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The goal of our research is to improve mental healthcare and promote well-being for individuals who are currently or formerly incarcerated. We have a longstanding collaboration with the State of Wisconsin Department of Corrections that allows us to work with people currently incarcerated in state prisons. We also collaborate with formerly incarcerated people in our community to establish research priorities related to incarceration and mental health, with an emphasis on identifying opportunities and overcoming barriers.

Dan Grupe (he/him)

Research Assistant Professor, Center for Healthy Minds, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dan conducts community-engaged research on the potential for mindfulness and related contemplative practices to promote greater mental health, wellbeing, and humanization of individuals impacted by the criminal legal system.

Talia Cohen (she/her)

Graduate Research Assistant, Departments of Psychiatry & Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Talia’s research leverages the expertise of individuals with lived experience of incarceration to increase access to mental healthcare and educational offerings for incarcerated people. She accomplishes this goal through developing novel and adapted mental health treatments to better serve the legal system-involved population, conducting program evaluations of educational courses that prioritize incarcerated voices, and building sustainable research partnerships with community members. 

Carmen Alonso, Ph.D

Clinical Psychologist, Just Mindfulness

Carmen Alonso is a licensed clinical psychologist and a mindfulness and Tae Kwon Do instructor. Her nonprofit organization, Just Mindfulness, works to develop and implement mindfulness-based interventions with a social justice orientation. She is a collaborator on research initiatives to bring mindfulness practices to police officers and formerly incarcerated individuals, and is a volunteer with the Wisconsin Prison Mindfulness Initiative and the Prison Ministry Project restorative justice program.

Deb Mejchar


Braiding Esperanza (Hope): An Example of Sustainable Engaged Partnership to Promote Latine Mental Health Equity

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Talk description

Explore the development of “Esperanza, nuestra cultura de salud” (“Hope, our culture of health”), a community-university partnership between Centro Hispano of Dane County and the University of Wisconsin-Madison that seeks to nurture and grow Latine community strengths to mitigate health disparities by increasing access to culturally- and linguistically-appropriate mental health services through a bilingual graduate training certificate. The partnership also focuses on strengthening family-centered community programming that addresses the social determinants of health and promotes health equity. The “braiding” of community and university resources, funding, and program development to create and strengthen a sustainable engaged partnership that centers liberation, anti-racism and decolonizing mental health care for Latines will also be discussed.

About the speakers

Evelyn Cruz provides leadership for Esperanza: Nuestra Cultura de Salud, a Wisconsin Partnership Program-funded community and academic partnership between Centro Hispano and UW School of Education psychology programs, to promote equity for Latine mental health and wellbeing. Esperanza’s work is grounded on healing ethno and racial trauma (HEART) and radical healing models. Evelyn worked at the Wisconsin State Health Department as the Minority Health Officer, and as Maternal and Child Health Equity Consultant. Evelyn has over 20 years of program development and implementation of local and statewide initiatives to improve working conditions and health and wellbeing of racial and ethnic minoritized populations in Wisconsin.

Dr. Alyssa M. Ramírez Stege is a counseling psychologist from Cholula, Puebla, México where she received her licenciatura (bachelor’s degree) in psychology at the Universidad de las Américas Puebla. Alyssa completed her graduate training at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is back as a clinical assistant professor and Director of the Esperanza Bilingual Psychological Services Certificate which is part of the larger Esperanza partnership with Centro Hispano of Dane County. Alyssa’s work focuses on understanding and developing culturally-affirming Latine-centered psychotherapeutic training and practices through liberationist, anti-racist and decolonization frameworks that seek to integrate ancestral ways of knowing to strengthen Latine communities.

For more information about Esperanza, visit: https://esperanza.wisc.edu/

Badger Talks Podcast

Bridging Research and Community to Strengthen Both

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Podcast description

Often times research brings to mind visions of private laboratories, anonymous surveys and academics studying away in their ivory towers. And while some research does look like that, there is a great deal of research and work done at UW-Madison that focuses on engaging community in the research process and ensuring that research at the university is more responsive to the needs of our communities. This is after all, the mission of the land grant university and the Wisconsin Idea at work. This Badger Talk will feature UW staff, Kat Phelps, with the Wisconsin Network for Research Support and Cory Sprinkel, with the Morgridge Center for Public Service, discussing how UW is building capacity for more community—engaged research and supporting researchers in actualizing the WI Idea.

About the speakers

Kat Phelps, PhD, serves as the Team Lead and Research Equity & Engagement Consultant for WINRS. Kat’s background includes teaching university courses on developmental psychology and grant writing; collaborating with academic and community partners to create innovative art programs for youth in underserved neighborhoods; and working with nonprofit human service organizations to develop a regional information and volunteer center. Together with dynamic co-conspirators ages 8 to 85, she envisioned and implemented national projects on asset-based youth development and elder abuse prevention. She is passionate about community engagement and deeply values the role that WINRS plays in connecting researchers with the wisdom and expertise that exists outside of academic settings. “I love the opportunity to build relationships with people in our community, learn about groundbreaking research projects at UW-Madison and across the nation, and facilitate gatherings to allow the richness of community voices to transform the depth and responsiveness of research.”

Cory Sprinkel grew up in Wisconsin and attended UW–Madison for undergrad, obtaining a degree in English literature. He earned his master’s in higher education and student affairs from the University of Connecticut. He is passionate about social justice and the relationship between universities and the communities they are situated within. In his work as the community-engaged scholarship specialist he provides professional development and support for community-engaged scholars, seeking to increase connections between community members and UW.

The Ho Chunk Traveling Museum with Kylie West and Gavin Luter

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Podcast description

Buzz speaks with Village of Waunakee Executive Assistant Kylie West and UniverCity Managing Director Gavin Luter about how cities, towns, and villages form alliances with UW-Madison to accomplish their goals; in this case, working with the Ho Chunk Nation to create a traveling museum about the Ho Chunk people.

About the speakers

Gavin Luter received his Ph.D. in educational administration from the University of Buffalo in 2015. He holds a Master’s of Science degree in the higher education administration from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and a Bachelor’s of Arts degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in public and non-profit management. Luter also serves as the Managing Director of the UniverCity Alliance, which connects education, service and research activities across UW-Madison with cities, furthering the practice of sustainability. Previously, Luter served as the Executive Director of Wisconsin Campus Compact.

Kylie West is the Executive Assistant for the Village of Waunakee. She is involved in many special projects with the Village, and is a staff member on the Village’s creative economy committee, Create Waunakee.