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Leadership Fellows

The Leadership Fellows cohort was designed and implemented in 2009 by Beth Hellwig, Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, to give staff members in Student and/or Academic Affairs the opportunity to:

  • Become part of a leadership cohort on campus
  • Help take the lead coordinating a campus wide project
  • Work with a mentor for the year
  • Participate in a leadership retreat
  • Learn about resources on campus
  • Build skills in a number of critical areas
  • Meet monthly for professional Development

Statement of Purpose
: The purpose of the Student Affairs Leadership Fellows Cohort is to make UWEC a stronger institution by providing opportunities for selected individuals to take part in a structured program of professional development. The program will include skill and leadership development, the opportunity to take part in a mentoring relationship, and the completion of an individual project that benefits the university as well as a select service-related group project.


Rachel Woodward

(English, Communication & Journalism)

I have been a Sr. Lecturer in both the English and the Communication & Journalism departments for the last nine years. Prior to returning home to Eau Claire I taught English and ran the forensics program at the United States Air Force Academy for 12 years. I have a degree in Literary Studies from UW-Milwaukee and did my undergraduate at UW-Eau Claire where I majored in English with a minor in Creative Writing. Since I began teaching and coaching, my goal has been institutional service at its highest level. UWEC continues to educate me and has created the opportunity for me to become involved in multiple EDI efforts. As coordinator of this year's Leadership Fellows I hope to foster a productive environment in which each member can thrive and find their strengths. I am grateful for the ability to work with my colleagues and mentor, Beth Hellwig.
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John Bachmeier (Alumni Relations)

I've been Alumni Director at UW-Eau Claire since January 2001. I'm an Eau Claire native and still very proud to call this community home. I graduated from UW-Eau Claire in 1981. I taught middle school physical education for three years, and worked for Northern States Power Company for 17 years before coming to UW-Eau Claire. I had the privilege to play Blugold baseball when it was a varsity sport. I met my wife Joan here and we were married in1986. Joan was and still is a terrific athlete. She and her father Trig Pedersen are both in the Blugold Hall of Fame. She has taught and coached in the Eau Claire school district for many years. Joan and I have three children. Abby received a degree from River Falls and is now in her last year of chiropractor school in St. Paul. Our middle daughter Gretchen went to UW-Eau Claire, played four years of tennis here and was very involved in school. Our son Marcus is a senior at UW-Stout. I enjoy most sports and spend time fishing the Chippewa River and Lake Holcombe.
Beale, Dennis Professional Picture

Dennis Beale (Graduate Student/Athletics)

I grew up in Chicago, IL area with both my sister and mother. I completed my undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire majoring in sociology establishing a topical minor in public outreach. I am currently earning a Master's Degree in Higher Education/Professional Development here at UWEC. I am passionate about informing minorities about higher education and the benefit of accomplishing a post-secondary degree. Because of this passion, I am also zealous about coordinating events/programs to help student-athletes with their transition to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. For my individual project I am coordinating all athletic study table awareness program, to help inform freshman, transfer, and second year student-athletes about the academic resources available on UWEC campus. I'm grateful for this opportunity so I can learn more leadership skills as being an active mentor for all students and particularly students from different ethnic backgrounds.


Maria Carvalho (International Student Advisor)

I have served as an International Student Adviser since 2011. I mainly advise international students and scholars on F and J visas. I graduated from UW-Eau Claire in 2007 with a Bachelor of Social Work; also majored in Latin American Studies and minored in Spanish. I am currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Intercultural Relations through the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California and the Intercultural Communication Institute in Portland, Oregon. I enjoy gaining different perspectives and learning from people with different experiences. I have spent significant time in Kenya (where I was born and lived until I was nine years old), as well as Costa Rica and Nicaragua (where I studied abroad and later completed two internships). I studied two years of Latin during my undergraduate studies, and am  now pursuing Swahili. In my free time, I spend time with my family, travel, and bake. My individual project includes an intercultural training component.
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Charissa Jakusz (Residence Hall Director)

This is my second year working at UW-Eau Claire as a Residence Hall Director in Sutherland Hall. I am very grateful for this opportunity to work with other leaders across campus on an impactful group project. For my individual project, I have planned a Winterim International Immersion experience to Guatemala for students to learn about social and environmental justice issues in a different culture. I am very passionate about Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity initiatives and hope to initiate several other ideas that can be projects under this umbrella. I also hope that our group project can make a lasting impact on the campus as well as the greater Eau Claire community.
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aBa Mbirika (Assistant Professor of Mathematics)

I am an Assistant Professor of Mathematics. Prior to UWEC, I was a postdoctoral instructor at Bowdoin College in Maine for 3 years after receiving my PhD at the University of Iowa in 2010. My many "college"-ish years spanned a few states from New York City to San Francisco, and even the highlands of Scotland for 3 years in a wee town called Thurso. I came back to the US to finish college at Sonoma State University in California and received my BA in 2003. In my many experiences at various colleges, I have realized that the key to my success and happiness at these institutions is the connection between faculty and students both inside and especially outside of the classroom. My individual project as a Leadership Fellow at UWEC will be to help institute some programs here that can help bridge this gap between faculty and students outside of the classroom. To this end, I am specifically attempting to emulate two programs which my former job at Bowdoin College has had successfully in place for decades: a very simple plan - faculty and students sharing food together! Students and faculty get to know each other in a different setting and these interactions help create a better sense of community. Plus, despite how busy faculty and students schedules get, everyone can take time to enjoy good conversation and a meal, since we all eat after all!

 Josh Nesja (Blugold Beginnings)

As a child, I never imagined that college would be a possibility for someone like me. It took the help of people who wanted more for me than I wanted for myself to help me get my degree. It was that extra help that made me realize I wanted to help others discover all of the opportunities that are available to them. When I realized that, I decided to go to school for teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. I graduated from UWEC with a degree in Elementary Education and used my education to get a teaching job right out of college. After teaching in my hometown of Chippewa Falls for two years, I heard about a position at UWEC that would have me working with at risk youth to help them realize college was a real possibility for them!
Why Leadership Fellows:
After working at UWEC for a short time, I decided to apply for the Leadership Fellows because I wanted to play a bigger role in making this campus a more welcoming and inclusive place for everyone! UWEC has an endless list of amazing things to offer the students that go here. I want to help make sure that the students are worrying more about what they want to do, and less about how comfortable they feel doing it. This should be a place where everyone can do anything and feel comfortable enough with the people on campus to be able to do it.
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Nicole Rindone (Coordinator for Student Activities)

This is my third year working at UW-Eau Claire as the Coordinator for Student Activities. I am so excited to be working with such a fun and diverse group of individuals who can hopefully make a difference on campus. For my individual project, I am planning to coordinate a gallery/exhibit on the third floor of the Davies Center for student artists and curated projects to be displayed. Curated project ideas include: students, faculty and staff and their [AND].
I hope our group and individual projects can make an impression on the entire campus. It is great to be a part of the change we want to see here and I hope we are able to develop a project that can be meaningful and worthwhile.
Members of the 2014-2015 Leadership Fellows Cohort
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Maria Carvalho, Rachel Woodward, Dennis Beale, Nicole Rindone, Beth Hellwig, aBa Mbirika, Charissa Jakusz, John Bachmeier
Members of the 2013-2014 Leadership Fellows Cohort
Beth Hellwig, Miranda Cross-Schindler, Libby Thurston, Odawa White, Heather Kretz, Daria Hutchinson, Tracy Yengo, Catherine Lee, Christopher Jorgenson
Members of the 2012-2013 Leadership Fellows Cohort
Beth Hellwig, Jodi Simek, Quincy Chapman, Danielle Widmer, Charles Vue, Kate Schmidt, Claire Couillard, Andy Jepsen, Bill Hoepner


Members of the 2010-2011 Leadership Fellows Cohort
Leadership Fellows
Front Row: Kirby Harless, Jen Brockpahler, Beth Hellwig, Maigan Wipfli, Lisa Schuetz
Back Row: Chris Buckley, Kerry Day, Steph Van Pay, Brian Carlisle