Spring 2016

Working Life

Kweku Brewoo BS’14

Kweku Brewoo was drawn to pursue CES and International Studies degrees by his desire to someday work for the United Nations. At CALS he was nurtured by inspiring professors who served as both teachers and mentors, he says, taking the time to talk about his goals and share stories of their own career paths. Upon graduating, Brewoo took part in a study abroad program in China. He then worked as a financial specialist with the UW–Madison College of Letters and Science, hoping to develop skills and understanding of financial components that could one day serve him at the United Nations. He recently accepted a position with the Department of Educational Psychology in the School of Education and plans to earn a master’s degree in public health. Brewoo wants to have a positive influence on people and communities in the same way he was inspired and mentored at CALS. One immediate way he’s making an impact is by playing and coaching soccer at schools in the Madison Metropolitan School District.

Abby Kinchy PhD’07

“I feel so fortunate to be able to teach about the topics I feel passionate about—and to have colleagues who really support me in pursing research that doesn’t always fit neatly into one disciplinary category,” says Abby Kinchy of her work in the interdisciplinary Science and Technology Studies (STS) department at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. As an associate professor, Kinchy directs the graduate program in STS, teaches a variety of undergraduate courses, advises many “fascinating and brilliant students,” and does research on important public issues such as hydraulic fracturing and genetic engineering. Her research examines the unequal distribution of the negative consequences of agricultural and energy systems as well as the varying capacity of communities and social movements to participate in making decisions about technological change. Kinchy also leads the Watershed Knowledge Mapping Project, a National Science Foundation-funded study of water monitoring initiatives in places that are affected by natural gas drilling in Marcellus shale.

Jill Lucht BS’00

Growing up on a dairy farm in northern Wisconsin shaped Jill Lucht’s passion for sustainable agriculture. At CALS, she studied community and environmental sociology and took advantage of opportunities to study and work with people from all around the world, traveling to Trinidad twice through UW programs. After obtaining her master’s degree from the University of Missouri, Lucht took a position there as a policy analyst on agricultural, food and rural policy, developing her ability to communicate between researchers, technical data analysts and the general public. In her current position with the University of Missouri’s Center for Health Policy, Lucht directs a project that utilizes Missouri’s Medicaid claims data to evaluate health care innovations and population health for the state and the academic research community. The data are used for everything from helping children and their families better manage asthma to evaluating the use of telemedicine in rural Missouri. Her career fosters her interest in health and rural-urban linkages, but, as she puts it, “My dairy roots run deep, and I continue to find something to milk wherever I go.” As one example, she is part of the goat-milking team at Goatsbeard Farm, a family farm that produces artisanal cheeses.

Max Pfeffer MS’79

Max Pfeffer is a senior associate dean and an international professor of development sociology with Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He enjoys being surrounded by incredible scholars whose work he has the privilege of helping facilitate. His interest in community and environmental sociology was fueled by a personal experience. His parents were farmers in Germany, and when they immigrated to the United States after World War II, they continued farming in their adopted home amid the fluctuation of agriculture and the broader economy of the post-war period. His studies at CALS eventually allowed him to examine those changes from a scholarly perspective. His CALS experience also gave him the perspective and confidence to go into the world and make meaningful contributions through his work, he says. That work includes teaching environmental sociology and sociological theory as well as researching rural labor markets, international migration, land use and environmental planning. He has been awarded competitive grants from agencies including the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Pfeffer, who earned his Ph.D. in sociology at UW–Madison, has published a wide range of scholarly articles and has written or co-edited four books. In his spare time, he enjoys gardening and hiking with his wife, Pilar Parra PhD’89, who is also a CALS alum.

Tim Slack BS’98

Having grown up in a small town, Tim Slack has always been interested in how often rural places are overlooked in discussions about social and political issues. That interest drew him to community and environmental sociology at CALS. Slack appreciates the opportunity he had at CALS to learn from and work with excellent faculty who are leaders in their field and who challenged him intellectually, an experience that helped him see the important role that the social sciences have to play in the land grant mission, something that remains important to him to this day. Slack is an associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Sociology at Louisiana State University, where he teaches a variety of courses ranging from introductory sociology to a specialized graduate seminar on the sociology of poverty. His research focuses on questions related to social and economic inequality, including the issues of underemployment and poverty. Slack has received research funding from sources including the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of the Interior, and he was recently selected for the LSU Alumni Association Faculty Excellence Award. Slack’s five-year-old twins keep him busy when he is not at work.

Lisa Wilson-Wright PhD’01

As a director at the Massachusetts-based NMR Group, Inc., Lisa Wilson-Wright leads studies that evaluate energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. She has extensive experience in the use of quantitative and qualitative research techniques to help inform energy efficiency, clean energy and environmental policy. Clients of NMR include electric and gas utilities, energy regulators and nonprofits. “I find it extremely fulfilling to see firsthand how clients use the results of our studies to improve programs, thereby saving energy, reducing customers’ bills and limiting greenhouse gas emissions,” she says. Working at NMR, Wilson-Wright finds the skills developed in CALS useful on a daily basis in developing surveys, analyzing data, authoring reports, presenting findings—and, ultimately, in asking difficult questions and delving deeper into the data to find answers. Wilson-Wright also serves on the board of the Farm Direct Coop, a nonprofit member organization that distributes locally grown organic food.

Kimberlee Wright BS’85

Kimberlee Wright was born and raised in central Illinois. Living where Abraham Lincoln first practiced law inspired her to value and strive for social justice, she says. Her love of the natural world was inspired by her grandmother, a master gardener and naturalist. Earning a bachelor’s degree in community and environmental sociology at CALS, followed by a JD from the UW–Madison School of Law, allowed her to combine those two passions—a course she has continued pursuing throughout her career. Wright serves as executive director of Midwest Environmental Advocates, a nonprofit environmental law center that strives to protect and improve the health of water, land and air throughout the state. Previously she served as the director of conservation programs for The Nature Conservancy and as the executive director for Domestic Abuse Intervention Services. She also managed a statewide grant program for land trusts working in partnership with the Wisconsin DNR to protect critical habitat and natural areas. “More than anything, my education at CALS connected me to the families of rural Wisconsin and their love of place,” says Wright, looking back. “It’s such a privilege to be working with people who stand up for the rights of future generations to clean water, air and land. Our conservation ethic in Wisconsin is second to none.”

David Zoerb BS’68

David Zoerb’s path from community and environmental sociology at CALS led to a successful career in marketing. Zoerb’s interest in the intersection of cultural, social and political dynamics was nurtured via practical, hands-on opportunities at CALS, providing a framework to create and implement strategies and programs that were successful for a wide spectrum of social and marketing challenges. Zoerb relishes finding creative approaches to solving marketing problems, and he approached his career with an open mind and an eye for new opportunities. Now enjoying retirement, he volunteers in the MERLIN Network at UW Research Park, working with other volunteers to help new entrepreneurs and startups in their business efforts. He has also served on several local and regional planning and economic development committees and commissions. As a third-generation CALS alumnus whose two daughters are also UW graduates, Zoerb’s UW roots run deep. Over the years, he has been involved in leadership roles for the Wisconsin Alumni Association, Badger Action Network and UW Athletics. When it comes time for his twin granddaughters to consider college, Zoerb hopes they become the family’s fifth generation of UW students.

This article was posted in Economic and Community Development, In the Field, Spring 2016, Working Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .