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Advocate, mentor for UW-Eau Claire students of color to receive Regents Diversity Award

| Julie Poquette

Dennis Beale’s commitment to University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students of color is impacting their success in college and beyond. In recognition of his work, Beale, the assistant director of the university’s Blugold Beginnings program, will be recognized Feb. 8 with a UW System Board of Regents 2019 Diversity Award.

This is the third year in a row that a UW-Eau Claire individual or team has received a Regents Diversity Award. Up to three are awarded annually from around the UW System. Previous UW-Eau Claire recipients were its Upward Bound program in 2018 and Blugold Beginnings program in 2017.

Beale will receive the $5,000 award during the regents meeting in Madison. The honor, as described in Beale’s award notification letter, recognizes “institutional change agents who have had a significant impact in promoting equity in educational outcomes for historically underrepresented student populations.”

“Dennis Beale could not be more deserving of this award,” says UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt. “Starting in his role in our athletics department as a coach, recruiter and mentor for student-athletes of color, and then as a coordinator and now assistant director for our Blugold Beginnings program, Dennis has been a champion for the educational success of students from marginalized groups, improving their retention and graduation rates and engaging others on campus along the way to help us become a more welcoming and inclusive university.”

Beale, who grew up in a single-parent household on Chicago’s south side and went on to earn both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UW-Eau Claire, says his life experience makes him a relatable mentor for UW-Eau Claire students from marginalized groups.

“Coming from a similar background to the students that I work with on a daily basis has really helped me develop my passion for diversity,” Beale says. “Through my lived experience, I can relate and therefore guide them to use the resources available to them on campus. Each day I stress the ‘four ships’ (leadership, scholarships, internships and relationships) that students need to become successful during their college journey. Being the recipient of this award affirms my sincere dedication to diversity and its importance in today’s society. For this award I am grateful.”

UW-Eau Claire alumnus Erik Hulman was among the many for whom Beale has made an important difference.

“Dennis singlehandedly changed my life for the better,” Hulman wrote in a letter about Beale following his 2016 UW-Eau Claire graduation. 

Hulman grew up in an unstable single-parent household in Milwaukee and then lived with a supportive coach through high school. Spurred by his success as a high school football player, he decided to attend UW-Eau Claire to continue playing the sport.

Through his involvement in Blugold football, Hulman was introduced to Beale, who then was part of the football coaching staff and a mentor to student-athletes of color, assisting them with the transition to college. Hulman credits Beale with helping him navigate the “culture shock” of living and learning on a predominantly white college campus. Beale also was a source of motivation for Hulman on and off the football field, helped him successfully apply for internships, scholarships and jobs, and guided him through financial problems.

A 2016 UW-Eau Claire sociology graduate, Hulman now works as a care advocate at a treatment facility for youth who’ve experienced trauma and as a youth case manager at a mental and behavioral health center.

“Dennis is really a role model of mine,” Hulman says. “I didn’t have any role models growing up, and he showed me how to maneuver through life.”

Informed by his own experience as a UW-Eau Claire student, Beale has developed a variety of programs to meet the needs of UW-Eau Claire students of color, including a Dress for Success fashion show, Momentum Mondays workshops, resume- and cover-letter-writing sessions, after-hours tutoring, finals study nights, and events at which UW-Eau Claire alumni of color return and talk with current students. He also is the founder of the campus group Black Male Empowerment, which recently took members on a 21-day trip to the United Kingdom, where they conducted faculty-student research while immersing themselves in another culture.

“When I arrived at UW-Eau Claire, I’d heard the name Dennis Beale so many times, that I was truly looking forward to meeting him. His energy and passion is infectious, making it easy to see why the students adore him,” says Dr. Tamara Johnson, UW-Eau Claire vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion and student affairs. “Dennis has dedicated significant time to making a positive and sustainable impact on our campus and I’m excited to see his years of hard work recognized by the UW System.”

For more about Beale’s work at UW-Eau Claire, read a feature story that was published in the spring 2017 issue of the university’s magazine, the BlugoldView.