Professor guides decade of student social action projects in region

By University Communications
December 18, 2015
Professor guides decade of student social action projects in region

Photo: UW-Stout Spotlight Photo

Menomonie, Wis. — For more than a decade, many hundreds of University of Wisconsin-Stout students have gone to schools, jails and other facilities in west-central Wisconsin to raise awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault.

Each semester, year after year, the efforts have stemmed from a class taught by a professor whose mantra always has been simple but empowering, “You change one person and you have the potential to change a generation.”

The class, Abuse and the Family, is taught by Professor Susan Wolfgram, from the human development and family studies department. She will retire from UW-Stout in December but with a sense of satisfaction in having had her students reach out to the community, including six groups of students this fall, about important social problems.

“We know that the well-being of any society depends on each successive generation’s ability to contribute to the common good,” Wolfgram said.

The UW-Stout students Wolfgram works with are part of the Millennial Generation, which sometimes is stereotyped for being apathetic toward civic engagement, but she hasn’t seen that trait in her students.

“This has been anything but my experience working with our students over these years. The problem is they don’t know how to or haven’t been given the opportunity to engage to make a difference,” she said.

“Students in my class know from day one that they are going to be collaborating with community partners. It is my perspective that every student is entitled to the opportunity to be civically engaged in their learning and that we need to drill down to K-12, empowering students early to be proactive global citizens,” Wolfgram said.

Wolfgram will stay involved after leaving UW-Stout. She plans to put more time into programs she has developed at the Eau Claire County Jail and in doing advocacy work for people in jails and prisons.

Fall projects

This fall a total of 31 of Wolfgram’s students presented their message of domestic violence awareness and prevention at six sites. October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

“Students are part of the (national) No More campaign, which encourages breaking the silence around domestic violence and sexual assault,” Wolfgram said.

The students’ message focused on “men leading other boys and men in the effort to create nonviolent communities, bystander intervention and the importance of consent,” she said.

The students — human development and family studies majors unless noted — and sites where they volunteered are:

Menomonie Middle School: Coltan Schoenike, of Omro; Beth Cullen, of Menomonie, project manager; Emily Kruger, of Cameron; Francis Flood, of Eden; and Katie Kassing, of Chippewa Falls.

Boys & Girls Club of Menomonie: Joshua Wells (science education), of Elmwood; Joe Sherwood (health, wellness and fitness), of Barronett; Sterling Lehrke, of Menomonie; Chloe Holland, of Zimmerman, Minn.; Lindsay Engstrom, of Hastings, Minn.; and Erin Hislop, of Winnebago, Minn., project manager.

New Richmond High School: Rebecca Wolf, of Elmwood; Sydne Flatland, of Menomonie; Mido Alabbad, of Saudia Arabia; Taylor Hayes, of Menomonie; and Mesha Peterson, of Fort Myers, Fla., project manager.

Dunn County Jail, male offenders: Ryleigh Allcox, of West Bend, project manager; Rebecca Lee, of St. Paul; Joe Strano, of Farmington, Minn. (criminal justice and rehabilitation); Angie Scott, of Menomonie; and Courtney Hickmann, of Shawano.

Dunn County Jail, male offenders: Joylin Baranick, of Menomonie; Erica Holz, of Merrill; Kendra Mai, of Eleva; Brad Huempfner, of Chippewa Falls; and Bonnie Theis, of Minneapolis, project manager.

Eau Claire County Transitions Center: Abby Brandhagen, of Reedsburg; Joe Strano, of Farmington, Minn. (criminal justice and rehabilitation); Abby Jannett, of Andover, Minn., project manager; Jennifer Neagbour, of Savage, Minn.; Jeanette VonHaden, of Tomah; and Kelsey Kreidermacher, of St. Paul. 

For more information about the UW-Stout human development and family studies Bachelor of Science program, go to