The Saldaña family is Green with Phoenix Phever

AN_Feature_Saldana-Family-4-624x416Antonio and Judith Saldaña never lost their flame after graduating from UW-Green Bay and have passed on the spark to their two children Nicholas and Savanah. This family of four proudly represents the Phoenix green.

Both Antonio and Judith grew up in Green Bay, and chose to attend UWGB because it was close to home and it was easy to commute back and forth.

“It had a ‘small town’ feeling to it in that the professors seemed to connect with the students,” says Judith.

After Antonio and Judith got married, they continued to live in Green Bay where they have raised their two children Savanah and Nicholas. Nicholas chose to go to UW-Green Bay to further develop his musical abilities while remaining close to his family. Savanah completed her general studies at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC), and then decided to follow in her parent’s footsteps and transferred to UWGB.

“Both of my parents are alumni and I have grown up seeing them consistently employed and competent. I believe that this is because of the education they received at this university,” Savanah says.

Antonio received his Associate’s degree in Social Work in 1985, but pressed on and graduated in December of 1988 with a Bachelor’s in Spanish Literature and Language. Receiving his college degree was a huge accomplishment for him and his family.

“I was a migrant worker from age four to age eighteen. Although I am a fourth generation American, I was the first Saldaña to graduate from high school. When I received my college degree, it was an even bigger milestone.”

He might have come from a background of inadequate education, but Antonio truly felt like he belonged at UWGB.

“I had the capability to better myself. The professors were very interested in my background and wanted to hear what I had to say.”

Immediately after graduating, Antonio began his teaching career, and is now in his 28th year of teaching Spanish in Brown County. He was also given a free-lance writing opportunity with the Green Bay-Press Gazette where he was able to educate people about discrimination, prejudice, and racism for 13 years. To date, he is still asked to be a guest speaker and lecturer at UWGB.

Judith’s time at UWGB was split into two parts. Her first phase was when she was 18 years old, and she was considering studying Business or Political Science. She completed her second phase with getting her Associate’s of Arts and Sciences.

“When I returned, the classes meant so much more because I was now ready to ‘learn’ not just memorize. My younger classmates now were also teachers as they offered viewpoints and experiences that were completely different than my experiences at their age.”

Judith is currently employed as the Pre-employment and Certification Test Examiner at NWTC.

Savanah, a senior graduating this May, is majoring in Human Biology with an emphasis on Health Sciences and minoring in Chemistry. She is the Historian for Tribeta, Omega Eta Chapter. While attending UWGB, she has come to appreciate the importance of teamwork and peer support.

“My peers and I are mostly all aiming for professional careers. Having a Human Biology major and a Chemistry minor involves regular late nights of studying after long days in lectures and labs. This rigorous sequence of classes has often involved having classes with the same students semester after semester. Eventually, my classmates and I opened up to each other and have become extremely close. By supporting each other, we have not only been able to succeed in terms of our individual grades, but also by building a great sense of camaraderie.”

After graduation, she will be applying to dental schools for Fall 2017 admissions. Her ultimate goal is to become an Oral & Maxillofacial surgeon, to work on patients with extreme facial and dental trauma and deformities.

Nicholas is a Music Performance Major and an Arts Management minor, and was inducted into the Phi Eta Sigma as a freshman.

“I remember entering UWGB as an 18 year old kid with some good foundational music skills and a mild ability to articulate relatively difficult ideas, and now I find myself to be a 21 year old senior who is reaching a graduate level of musical abilities and tackling tough questions of comparative religion. Being at UWGB has made me ask myself what I most value in life and that has led me start living out my Apostolic Faith.”

He will complete the family Phoenix team by graduating in May 2017, and will press onward to graduate school and pursue a double Masters in music performance and composition.

Feature published on June 1, 2016 on the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay website here.

Out of this world… Two UW-Green Bay students get a chance to pursue space projects

GREEN BAY –The Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium (WSGC) has recognized two University of Wisconsin-Green Bay students for their outstanding academic work. James Vasquez has been awarded the STEM Bridge Scholarship for the 2016-17 academic year, and Justin Rasmussen is recipient of the Elijah Balloon Payload Fellowship award — June 1 to August 13 at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) in Milwaukee, Wis.

Both students are Green Bay natives and have been interested in aeronautics and space-related topics since they were young. They also will have the opportunity to attend the 2016 Annual Wisconsin Space Conference, held at UW-Superior, in August.

The STEM Bridge Scholarship supports outstanding sophomore undergraduate minority students who are pursuing undergraduate, space-related studies. Recipients are awarded $1,000 for the academic year.

Vasquez, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering technology, has a history working on similar types of projects. He has participated and volunteered at the Barlow Planetarium Summer Space Camp, where he helped build model rockets and researched astronomy topics.

James Vasquez

“I have been enamored with space and everything related to aeronautics and flying. It will always be a dream of mine to float in space,” Vasquez said. “Being part of NASA’s mission in any way would be a dream come true. I hope to contribute my skills and training in manufacturing and design to propel mankind into a new-age of space travel,” he said.

The Elijah High-Altitude Balloon Launch Program is an innovative NASA project that provides opportunities for students to fly their science experiments in a near-space environment. Student teams will design and build science payloads to be launched and retrieved from a high-altitude balloon that will ascend up to 100,000 feet or more before bursting. Team members receive a $4,000 stipend and present their results at the Wisconsin Space conference.

“Ever since I was very young I have been fascinated by the vastness of space,” Rasmussen said. “I remember being in awe while watching the early Mars rovers land. As a species we are rare, privileged, and unique. We have the intelligence and ability to unify and accomplish so much more. The exploration of the universe is the one task that ties us all together for our own survival and growth.”

Rasmussen is a non-traditional student working toward an engineering degree and eventually hopes to study astronautics engineering, aeronautics engineering or engineering physics.

Justin Rasmussen

“Our carbon footprint is becoming increasingly critical, so I would like to work toward solving that,” he said. “We need many more scientists and engineers on this planet.”

For more information regarding the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium, visit

Press release published on May 23, 2016 on the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay website here.

SAS team leading ‘Big Data’ workshops at UWGB in May 2016

GREEN BAY – It will be a big data and analytics couple of days when the Statistical Analysis System (SAS) team from the SAS world headquarters in Cary, N.C., and several major Green Bay corporations, community organizations and federal agencies — including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), come together to discuss analytics, and offer SAS analytics workshops at UW-Green Bay in May.

The event is Thursday, May 5 (7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and Friday, May 6 (7:30 a.m. to noon). SAS (Statistical Analysis System) is a software suite for advanced analytics and business intelligence, and is used at more than 75,000 sites worldwide including 93 of the top 100 Fortune 500 companies.

The event hosts speakers presenting topics pertaining to analytics — Big Brother Analytics (Security v. Privacy), Political Science Analytics (Text Mining of GOP Presidential Debates), Human Resources (HR) analytics, Supply Chain Analytics, Health Analytics, Insurance Analytics, Media analytics (Data driven Investigative journalism), Community Analytics, and Crime Analytics among others. The companies represented include the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Ameriprise Auto & Home Insurance, Achieve Brown County, Bellin Health, Gannett / USA Today Network, Schneider National and SAS.

The public is invited to register for the analytics presentations and privacy and security discussions. Hands-on workshops on data mining and text mining using SAS will be reserved for academics — students, faculty and staff (UWGB or from other colleges and universities). Cost for the SAS Day is $40 for an industry/community member; $20 for individuals with faculty/academic staff status (UWGB or from other colleges and universities) and $5 for students (UWGB or other colleges and universities). The cost covers refreshments and lunch. Workshop attendees will be provided with lunch on both days.

The event is presented by the Austin E. Cofrin School of Business’ student association — the Society for Information Systems Management and Business Analytics SISMBA (

Associate Prof. Gaurav Bansal of the Cofrin School of Business, and academic director of UWGB’s newly launched online collaborative Master of Science in Data Science program (, and faculty adviser of SISMBA, is behind the effort as local host. Bansal says the hands-on labs require basically no prior programming experience and will be a great opportunity for our faculty and students in particular, and others, to get a feel for big data and advanced data analytics. The workshop will be of interest to anyone who wants to see first-hand how analytics can be used to enhance envisioning and strategic decision-making — across disciplines and across industries.

SAS, Secura Insurance Companies, National Nicolet Bank, UW-Green Bay College of Professional Studies, Office of Graduate Studies at UWGB, and Office of Research and Grants at UWGB are the primary sponsors.  The two-day schedule and a list of speakers, workshops and registration information are available at

Press release published on March 24, 2016 on the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay website here.

Heather Hagen ’07 propelled by her love of helping people

GREEN BAY—Heather Hagen’s success in the Social Work field was fueled by her success at UW-Green Bay, her love for helping others, and her determination to be a rise above life’s challenges.

Hagen received her Bachelor’s degree from UW-Green Bay in 2007. Growing up in the small town of New London, she chose to attend UW-Green Bay because it felt like home from the start.

“I wanted to remain close to my family, yet far enough away to be independent and face new challenges on my own. UW-Green bay had everything I could ask for.”

Originally focusing on going into the education field, a variety of experiences helped her realize that social work would be a better fit for her skills and passion.

“I enjoyed the one-on-one interactions that social work offered and the wide variety of professions that were available through this field. I knew that helping others reach their goals was something that came naturally to me in my personal life and working in the social work field was the right path for me.”

While attending UW-Green Bay, Hagen wasn’t hesitant about jumping in and getting involved. She volunteered with Habitat for Humanity where she went on two spring break trips. She also served in the position of Volunteer Coordinator for the Social Work Club in which she participated in a variety of community projects. She interned at Door County Departments of Human Services, assisting elderly individuals that helped them remain living independently, and she was an intern with Transitional Living Program at Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin, aiding homeless and at-risk youth learn independent living skills.

Shortly after graduating, she married her husband Wes, and the moved to Portland, Oregon where she worked in the transitional living program, helping young adults with significant mental health concerns learn the skills that are necessary to live independently. A little over a year later, she and her husband joined the Peace Corps and moved to Tanzania. While in Tanzania, she worked as a Health Education Volunteer while her husband worked in the Environmental program.

UW-Green Bay was very successful in preparing Hagen for her professional success. She was given the technical knowledge she needed for her job, and through her internships she was able to obtain a real-world experience. She currently supervises a program that assists adults with developmental disabilities to obtain and maintain community employment.

“Our program walks clients through every step of the process, from assessment to determine if they are ready to work, to resume writing, job search, on the job training and ongoing support.”

She also manages a contract with a local county to provide intensive case management to their Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) participants. She enjoys her job because every day is a different day, and it pushes her to be a better person.

“No two days are the same and I really get to be creative when trying to problem-solve issues that our clients face. I enjoy being part of a team that is always trying new ideas and doesn’t want to be stagnant in our work. I am challenged and encouraged to be a better person every day.”

This feature was not officially published, but was put together on Feb. 23, 2016, based on the interview questions provided for me. I do not take complete credit on this feature.

CSWEA recognized Matthew Nichols for Academic Excellence Award

Central States Water Environment Association (CSWEA) recognized Matthew Nichols on receiving the 2016 Academic Excellence Award recipient for University of Wisconsin – Green Bay.

The CSWEA presents an Academic Excellence Award to a student from each university with a recognized Graduate Program in Environmental Engineering in the state, which is to host the annual meeting. Nominations are made by the faculty of the engineering department.

From the city of Wausau, Nichols was inspired to come to UW-Green Bay because of skiing, the academic programs, and environment-friendly atmosphere. He is the captain of UWGB’s NCAA Division I Nordic Ski Team. Nichols will graduate this upcoming May with a Bachelor’s in Chemistry and Environmental Engineering. He aspires to work in a water and wastewater treatment field after he graduates.

The award will be presented during the banquet at the 89th Annual Meeting, which will be held at the Monona Terrace in Madison, WI. The banquet will be held during the evening on Thursday, May 19, 2016. The award includes a paid one-year student membership in CSWEA, complimentary conference registration, lunch and dinner on May 19th, one night’s lodging, $50.00 for expenses, plus a $250 cash award.

This feature was not officially published, but was written on March 15, 2016.
Check out his success as a skier qualifying for NCAA Nationals or his Bio

Students and Community Service: Making an Impact

GREEN BAY – University of Wisconsin-Green Bay has a highly motivated and active student community. In the school year of 2012-13 there was a record breaking of 17,035 total hours volunteered. The following academic year 14,000 hours was dedicated to community service.

From workshops and lectures, social activities, and service projects, the Office of Student Life provides many and varied opportunities for students to become involved. In the 2014-15 academic year there were approximately 124 student organizations that were supported. The service-centered student organizations include Circle K International, Habitat for Humanity, Green Bay Phoenix Optimist Club, Healthy Helping Hand, Oxfam America, Phoenix Philanthropy Club and the Red Cross. Other student groups that conduct service projects and fund-raisers are Greek organizations and Residence Life. Among the agencies serviced were:

  • Big Brothers/Big Sisters
  • The Children’s Museum
  • Freedom House
  • Girl Scouts
  • Golden House
  • Highway Cleanup
  • Paul’s Pantry
  • National Railroad Museum
  • Wildlife Sanctuary

In fall of 2015 the Community Fair brought dozens of agencies including Bay Area Human Society, Sexual Assault Center and Freedom House together, along with 350 students who participated. Also in fall 2015, UWGB hosted its third Color Run, bringing 5,000 visitors and raising over $18,000 for various organizations which helps pay for service activities. More than 800 students and community members volunteered in the Arthritis Foundation’s Jingle Bell Run/Walk in December 2015. For Make a Difference Day, over 300 students, faculty and staff volunteered 1,000 hours of service at several sites including Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, Baird Creek, St. Vincent de Paul and the Green Bay Botanical Garden. The group also partook in Volunteer Center’s “Neighborhood Volunteer Connection” which delivered 5,000 letters throughout Green Bay to recruit volunteers to assist seniors and people with disabilities.

Along with campus organizations, there are other various activities happening such as UWGB Nites. This late-night program is held in the Union and happens one weekend night per month. Often times a service project such as making cards for veterans or designing T-shirts for Domestic Violence Awareness will take place. The total attendance for UWGB Nites in 2014-15 was about 2,025.

Campus Kitchen is an organization that’s reducing food waste while feeding the hungry in the community. This organization made big accomplishments over the 2014-15 school year. About 222 students dedicated over 500 volunteer hours to recover 1,544 pounds of food. This recovered food created and distributed 916 meals to members of the community.

Since September, Campus Cupboard, a student organization that helps provide food and other essentials to students and community members in need, has provided services to 75 students—filling a total of 84 brown paper bags.

This press release was not officially published, but was written on March 1, 2016.
Check out the Campus Cupboard feature.

Human Development students hop into YMCA partnership

When the YMCA Youth Development Heidi Marquardt (also a UW-Green Bay Human Development alumna) spoke in Prof. Joel Muraco’s (Human Development) Middle Childhood and Adolescence course, she couldn’t have guessed that she would walk away with eight UWGB students who would sign on for volunteer opportunities at the YMCA.

Rachel Cammack (left), Human Development major, Hannah Lilly (right), Human Development minor.

Out of the eight, three signed on for the “Girl’s Night Outprogram and another student started working at a “21st Century Community Learning Center (21C)” at-risk after school site.

“The student-community connection is pivotal for all students today,” said Muraco. “Increasingly, it is not enough to just have a degree. Students also need real world experience in their field. The best way to get this experience is through volunteer and intern opportunities. Connecting our students with the community ultimately benefits all.”

Girl’s Night Out is an eight-week program designed to specifically offer advice for fifth-grade girls as they get closer to attending middle school.

“These kinds of programs are important because the kids are in the transition phase into middle and high-school,” said Skyler Toyne, a UWGB student volunteer for Girl’s Night Out. “As they transition, it helps provide a role model for them to identify with, and that college isn’t as hard or unattainable like it’s often perceived. They need some sort of support system as they go through this transition phase.”

Story by Marketing and Communication intern Angel Kingsley. Photo by University photographer Dan Moore.

Feature published on May 9, 2016 on the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay website here.

Students board the Train Jam express for real-life gaming experience

They were sore-eyed, fatigued and disheveled, but a 52-hour train ride from Chicago to the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco this spring was still the ride of a lifetime for UW-Green Bay students Tom Rismeyer and Jacob Labeots. They were accompanied by UWGB lecturer Ben Geisler (Computer Science) as well as 200 game designers, programmers and artists from across the country.
Left to Right: Ben Geisler, Tom Rismeyer, and Jacob Labeots.

“We’re thrilled to continue sending student ambassadors to Train Jam each year. This is the second year we’ve done so, and results from both years are very positive,” Geisler said.

The participants met in Chicago and split into groups. The groups were then given the theme “Maximum Overdrive” and tasked with creating a game that incorporated the theme in the time it took to travel to the conference.

Rismeyer and Labeots joined forces with professional Ryan Smith of Human Head Games in Madison to create their game, “Tickets Please.” Focusing on keeping it simple, they had a working version of the game after 45 hours and a completed game close to the time limit.

“Our game was based around the idea that the player was in charge of a train station,” said Labeots. “The player’s job is to place passengers onto their respective trains based off of the information on their tickets. If the train reaches the maximum amount of passengers it can hold before it leaves, the player gets an extra bonus.”

“It involved a lot of new concepts including user interface programming, artificial intelligence work, and animating in-game models,” said Rismeyer.

Labeots and Rismeyer said that working with the professionals was an incredible opportunity.

“The first big developer that I met was actually a technical lead from one of my favorite game companies, and I was almost shocked at how approachable he was. He seemed like just another game developer among the crowd,” Rismeyer said. “While there was a difference in the quality of work between a professional developer and somebody like me, I found it to be very motivating.”

“It was great getting to work with people already in the field. Their knowledge was invaluable,” said Labeots.

Rismeyer learned about this opportunity in the fall semester when there was an e-mail sent to all of the Computer Science students regarding two slots that were open for students from UWGB to take part in the Train Jam and Conference.

“I decided to apply because I have always loved the challenge of game programming, and saw this as the best opportunity to gain practical experience while meeting new people and making important connections in the industry,” he said.

Looking to the future, Labeots, a fourth-year Computer Science major, looks forward to taking this experience and applying it to his future. “Game development is a main goal for employment coming out of college. This was a great opportunity to get to network with people already in the field and get a sense of what it is like to work in the game industry.”

Rismeyer, a junior majoring in Computer Science and minoring in Mathematics with an emphasis in Statistics, aspires to become a data analyst post-graduation.

“While I do enjoy programming games, I do not want to bank completely on game development for my future,” he said. “I hope to be a data analyst of some sort after college. It has become obvious to me that this is an emerging field both within game development and the general information technology field, and data analytics and statistical analysis are things that I thoroughly enjoy.”

Geisler said the Train Jam opportunity is an incredible portfolio-building experience for his students.

“Both of the students that took advantage of this opportunity last year are working in the game development field,” said Geisler. “That’s a great track record and we hope to continue this especially as we launch the Game Studies major in fall 2016. Interested students in game development and design should keep their eyes on the Information Sciences section of the UWGB course catalogue, which will officially roll out Game Studies as an emphasis this year.”

Story by Marketing and University Communication Intern Angel Kingsley; photos submitted.

Published on May 6, 2016, on the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay website here.