final Karen_SmolarekKaren Smolarek, Director

422 Bowman Hall

Education: University of Wisconsin-Stout, M.S. Education, University of Wisconsin- River Falls, B.S. Elementary Education

Karen hails from the Menomonie area. She attended high school at Menomonie and Boyceville high schools. After graduating from UW-River Falls, she moved to Green Lake, WI, where she taught middle school language arts in Berlin, WI. In 2008, her family moved back to the Menomonie area when her husband began working at UW-Stout. In 2009, she began working as an advisor for the Talent Search program at both the Menomonie Middle School and Menomonie High School in grades 6-10. In 2012, she took over the Director role. The Director plans, establishes, directs, monitors, coordinates and administers total program operations for the Educational Talent Search Program. The Director also assists advisors with outreach activities as needed. Karen enjoys flower and vegetable gardening, reading, and spending time with friends and family.

"For what it's worth: it's never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you're proud of, and if you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again." --F. Scott Fitzgerald

bourgetc photoCindy Bourget, Advisor

Menomonie High School & 400A Bowman Hall (UW-Stout)
715-232-3399  or 

Education: University of Wisconsin-Stout, M.S. School Counseling, University of Wisconsin-River Falls, B.S. English

Cindy is the TRIO Talent Search advisor for Menomonie grades 11-12. She grew up in Elk mound, where she enjoyed the experiences that come with living on a dairy farm. After graduating from University of Wisconsin-River Falls, she worked as a Service Manager for Wells Fargo before coming back to serve the Dunn County community at UW-Extension with the 4-H and Youth Development Programs. As the TRIO Talent Search advisor, Cindy helps juniors and seniors with college and career exploration, ACT and financial aid preparation, and practice the skills that make them successful as college students and citizens.

When Cindy is not trying to get some quality time in with her favorite podcasts, she can be found having adventures outside with her husband and son.

HeatherHeather Barke, Advisor

WIttenberg-Birnamwood Middle & High Schools

Contact at 715-505-6385 or

Education: University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, B.S. Elementary Education

Originally from the Appleton area, Heather attended high school in Appleton and later, graduated from UW-Oshkosh. After graduating, she moved to Birnamwood where she was a substitute teacher. In 2009, she began working as an advisor for the Talent Search program in the Wittenberg-Birnamwood School District. She works with students in grades 6-12 on areas like study skills, personal development, life skills, high school planning, and career and college exploration. She also helps students prep for the ACT and apply for college, scholarships and financial aid. Heather enjoys spending time with her family and friends, being outdoors, shopping, and watching the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Cubs.

"Be who you are and say what you mean. Because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." –Dr. Seuss

corbettj photoJames Corbett, Advisor

Menomonie Grades 6-10

Contact at 715-232-1250 or

Education: University of Wisconsin-River Falls, B.A. Social Studies Education

James is the new TRIO Talent Search advisor for Menomonie grades 6-10. He grew up in Park Falls, Wisconsin, and graduated from UW-River Falls with a degree in Social Studies Education. After graduating, he worked as an assistant principal and teacher for a private school in Park Falls before moving to Menomonie and accepting this position. In his free time he enjoys running, playing guitar, and spending time outdoors. He has already met a few of the students and families in the Talent Search program and looks forward to getting to know the rest. Talent Search’s goals and values are something he is very passionate about and he is excited to get started!