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Meet Our Alumni

What makes UW-Fond du Lac different? We meet students where they are. We position them for future success.

For many students, because of UW-Fond du Lac they were the first in their family to earn a college degree. For others, they were able to move ahead in their profession by earning a degree while staying at home because of work or family obligations. Students attend for many reasons, but the goal is always the same – a college degree.

Alumni Profiles

Thousands of local residents have attended UW-Fond du Lac since the campus opened its doors in 1968. Many of them are on their way to becoming a business owner, teacher, attorney, scientist, medical professional, community leader or any occupation where a bachelor’s degree is the path to success. View alumni profiles here

 

UW-Fond du Lac Success Stories

Jim Misudek - Manager of Media Relations for the Baltimore Orioles

Out of the Park: Love for the game of baseball scores a career in major league media relations

By Monica M. Walk

Attended UW-Fond du Lac, 2002-2004

Completed B.S. degree in Exercise and Sport Science, Sport Management at UW-La Crosse

Manager of media relations for the Baltimore Orioles

From the time he hit his first T-ball as a preschooler, Jim Misudek loved baseball. Like many Little Leaguers, his goal was to play America’s favorite pastime professionally.

So, he immersed himself in baseball at all opportunities in backyards and on teams, through Roberts Elementary, Theisen (then) Junior High, the last years at Goodrich High and the first graduating class of Fond du Lac High School. From age 14, he worked as a student referee for the Fond du Lac Recreation Department.

When he enrolled at UW-Fond du Lac in 2002 and there wasn’t a team, he did the legwork to get the club sport active again.

By then, Misudek knew his playing skills weren’t professional caliber, but he continued to love the sport. As a high-school student, he had noticed that athletes weren’t the only employees of professional ball teams. He began scouting other routes to work in his dream field.

“I was looking for a way to be involved and for someone to pay me money,” Misudek recalled. “People work for teams—how do I get there? My end game was to work for a team.” 

Planning for the future

Misudek wrote a series of letters to people working in professional sports, asking for advice and direction. Among those responding was then-Brewers General Manager Dean Taylor, whom Misudek has since met and been able to thank for that guidance.

In the years between the good advice and landing the dream job, Misudek had an education to pursue. He located the UW-LaCrosse sports management program, fell in love with the campus, and decided that he ultimately would earn his degree there.

But first, he opted to enroll at UW-Fond du Lac for two years. Convenience and cost factored into that decision. “The biggest part was that I could live at home and have a job and bank money for awhile,” he said, citing work in loss prevention at the local Sears and the ability to continue working in programming at the Fond du Lac rec department, while living with parents Ken and Sue. He also worked in the UW-Fond du Lac Athletic Department, running the scoreboard and music for basketball games.

Misudek notes fiscal responsibility as an important family value, one learned at an early age from his father. Younger brother, Mark, also followed the family value by taking classes at UW-Fond du Lac.

“Tuition was a drop in the bucket then,” Misudek said about his local enrollment. “The guaranteed transfer was very helpful. When I got to UW-La Crosse, I could just hammer into my major. Before I got to UW-La Crosse, I got all the general education requirements done. I remember the micro and macro economics classes kicked my butt—those classes were not a breeze. They challenged me, and I learned a lot. There were smaller classes and personal attention, but it was the same content stuff as at the four-year (schools).

“High school was not tough for me,” he said. “I got As and Bs without having to work much. In college, I needed to learn content AND learn how to study, how to learn. I was prepared for UW-La Crosse. I was up to speed when I got there.”

Reinvigorating a UW-Fond du Lac baseball team was a campus highlight for Misudek. Restarting the club sport meant funding it, and he launched the team with a three-on-three basketball tournament to raise money. Misudek recalls the UW-Fond du Lac team being the smallest school playing in the upper Midwest club circuit, which included Loyola Chicago, Northwestern, UW-Milwaukee, and Marquette universities. He happily recounted a win against Northwestern in a conference tournament—a big deal, since the large university had both varsity and club teams.

Once enrolled at UW-La Crosse, Misudek continued to write his personal career playbook.

He reconnected with people at the Timber Rattlers, where he also had sought advice via letter in high school, and landed his first internship. “The internship was all encompassing,” Misudek said of the summer, non-credit work, “including ticket sales, public relations, events, group tickets. I rotated around and saw the whole business. I saw that the PR side was where I wanted to go: the involvement, the access to information, ‘seeing behind the curtain’ more than other areas appealed to me.”

Pursuing and positioning

When it was time to apply for a required for-credit internship, working for the Brewers was Misudek’s top choice, but he went deep into the field. “I applied any and everywhere to work; I sent 100 or more letters and applications,” he said. “I knew PR was what I wanted, but I spread my wings out of the PR world, and also to basketball and football teams and sports architecture firms.”

Misudek landed an interview for a media relations intern with the Brewers, as well as with the Charlotte Bobcats, and the Houston Astros. When the Astros realized he had paid for his own flight down for the single interview, they filled the rest of the day with internship interviews across the organization.

The following Friday racked up some amazing new-career stats. Charlotte called first and offered Misudek their media internship. Then, Houston called and offered Misudek his pick of departments to work in. Knowing he didn’t want to make a decision without learning where he stood with the Brewers, Misudek emailed the Wisconsin team. Ten minutes later, two members of the Brewers’ management were on the phone, offering Misudek his dream media internship.

The semester with the Brewers evolved into an additional summer of commitment to finish out the ’07 season. “I pulled clips, researched game notes, did press releases, and helped produce the media guide,” said Misudek, who would continue to use these early skills. “I would not go home until they kicked me out every day.” When the season ended, Misidek stayed on with the team for awhile, working in ticket sales and volunteering in PR. A Brewers boss connected Misudek with people at the Cinncinnati Reds, where he landed a paid internship working with Rob Butcher, considered among the best in the sports PR field. After a year, with the Reds, Butcher helped Misudek locate an open position as media relations coordinator with the Atlanta Braves.

“My first full-time job in baseball,” Misudek said. His dream had come true

Five years later, in February 2015, he moved up to manager of media relations for the Baltimore Orioles. “There are only 30 teams and jobs,” he said. “No one leaves the field much, so to move up you almost always have to move to a different team to advance.”

The advancement means more decision-making and more travel, and being on the road generally means working around the clock. “With the long hours and sacrifice I make on the business side, I have a very understanding and supportive wife, Jessica,” he said, noting that his current position has come after much unpaid and minimum wage work, and many moves.

The summer work schedule is intense, and winter provides a more usual 9-5 schedule, along with vacation time. Working the baseball season means no time to play the sport. Misudek’s more recent hobby focuses on film—which he learned to appreciate more deeply during a class at UW-Fond du Lac. And given his eclectic schedule, he often has a first-run theater all to himself on his weekday off. He does cheer for his long-time Wisconsin teams—Packers, Badgers, Bucks. And sometimes, the Brewers: “If it doesn’t interfere with what I do,” he laughed.

When days are tough and he hasn’t slept for three days, Misudek steps back and looks at where he is. “I ask myself, ‘What would 12-year-old me think? Would he think this is pretty cool?’ I’m on a charter flight with the team all around me. Yes, he would think this is cool. I’m not sure I imagined I would go this far.”

Photos courtesy of Jim Misudek

Published 2-11-16

Theresa Cowan - Owner of Mineralogy and Jewelry Designer

UW-FDL illuminated student’s career path

By Evelyn McLean-Cowan

Attended UW-Fond du Lac, Fall 2006-Spring 2007

Completed BFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 2010

Business Owner and Jewelry Designer, Mineralogy; Chicago, Illinois

“She smiled and said with an ecstatic air: “It shines like a little diamond,”
“What does?”
“This moment. It is round, it hangs in empty space like a little diamond; I am eternal.”
–Jean-Paul Sartre, The Age of Reason

There are moments of goal setting and decisions, as students embark on their educational pursuits and begin a journey that will culminate in a career choice. The unknown glimpses into the future can be daunting. However, with contemplation, the moments can be enlightening. The college years are an exciting time of self-discovery.

This Fond du Lac native always knew she would be an artist, but in what capacity remained a mystery as she explored mediums and possibilities. To Theresa Cowan, diamonds would become more than shining moments, but also an integral part of her work.

Dedicated and inspirational art teachers in the Fond du Lac School District taught Cowan techniques that improved her drawing skills and opened opportunities for juried shows and scholarships.

It was at UW-Fond du Lac where her artistic talents were polished under the direction of Art Professor John Scotello. “In addition to a very memorable art history class and learning invaluable painting skills from Professor Scotello, his knowledge and support as I prepared my portfolio for applications to art schools was outstanding,” said Cowan. “He and the staff at UW-Fond du Lac truly cared about my success.”

Thrilled with acceptance, Cowan transferred from UW-Fond du Lac to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), where she started in fashion design and then switched to illustration. A required science course challenged her to explore a medium she hadn’t ever considered: minerals and gems.

To fulfill requirements for the earth science course, Cowan melded science with art, as she began designing and making jewelry.

Her creations were discovered at the SAIC annual fashion show, where a student from the fashion department accessorized her garments with Cowan’s jewelry. In addition to appreciating the fashion design at the show, boutique owners were impressed with the jewelry.

With wholesale orders from storeowners coming in, Cowan launched her business Mineralogy. In addition to having her work in boutiques throughout the country, she set up shop on Etsy, an online platform for artists. She also began selling her limited edition jewelry at shows in Chicago and online via her website.

In April 2011, after discovering her on Etsy, the Today Show contacted Cowan and featured her jewelry in a fashion segment on their national morning broadcast.

After a few years of shared studio space and then a home studio, Mineralogy has progressed to its next level with the opening of a studio/storefront at 1944 W. Montrose Avenue in Chicago, in June of 2015.

“The decision to open a brick and mortar studio was a natural progression and a way to offer a comfortable space for my customers to view my work, shop, and discuss custom wedding and ceremony jewelry,” said Cowan. “It’s important for me that clients are able to be present in the space where their jewelry is being handmade and to meet the artist who hand fabricates every piece of jewelry and sets every diamond.”

In addition to achieving her own artistic ambitions, Cowan is happy to be helping her clients’ dreams come true. “Custom work is wonderful because there are so many emotions and dreams of my clients that go into each piece of jewelry – I’m really encapsulating all of those feelings in a tangible form for them.”

“Sometimes the best decisions you can ever make for yourself are when you are running fast with your heart wide open toward your goal.” Embrace those moments. They are diamonds. Cowan encourages students embarking on their college careers to do what they love, work hard, build relationships, and find good mentors.

Photo Credits: Evelyn McLean-Cowan & Thersa Cowan

Published 7-7-15

Tim Zedler - Special Education Teacher and Owner of Zedland Farm

Dual careers sparked by campus experiences

By Monica M. Walk

Attended UW-Fond du Lac Fall 2004-Spring 2007

Completed Education Degree at UW-Oshkosh, 2012

Special Education Teacher, Lomira Middle School and Farmer, Zedland Farm, Lomira, WI

 

School was a struggle, and Tim Zedler was sure he wasn’t college material. So, he worked in construction after graduation – and hated it.
And then he was laid off.
“I thought that was bad, but it really was the best thing,” Zedler said. He was a newlywed living in Fond du Lac: His wife, Lisa, encouraged him to consider college.
“I am really glad UW-Fond du Lac is there,” he said. “I did not have the highest grades in high school. I had to take the ACT as an adult. I was not a model student, but it gave me the opportunity to attend college after I had matured a bit. I loved it.”
Small class size made it possible to connect with both professors and students. “I really enjoyed that,” Zedler said. “If you asked questions, the professors were always there. The expectations were high, but it was comfortable.”
He describes the student classroom interaction as team-oriented, a comfort to this long-time basketball player. The range of student ages was another positive. “It made it easy to connect,”
Zedler said. “It really helped boost my confidence to talk with people who were in the same position.”

Sundays filled him with dread, anticipating the start of a new work week. He watched young coworkers suffer injuries and surgery.

What next?
As he completed general education classes, Zedler thought hard about where he wanted this college degree to take him. A foundations class in education sparked interest: “I thought, ‘I like this – this is the direction I am going to go in.’”
The boy who hated school would become a teacher.
He moved along that path while still attending UW-Fond du Lac, gaining experience in an after-school and weekend program for children in grades K-12 with emotional and behavioral disabilities, where he taught social skills and life lessons. Between his own education and his work with younger students, he didn’t have a day off.
And, he loved it.
“My work ethic got me through college,” he said. “Sports taught me to work with other people, and to work hard for something you want. And, I grew up on a farm.”
After stints at schools in Beaver Dam and Fond du Lac, Zedler now teaches special education at the Lomira Middle School, just miles from his childhood home.
Why special education? “The kids. When you boil it down, that’s it” said Zedler in his direct and thoughtful way. “It is fun to try to help somebody learn. It is fun to do your best to help somebody out. I used to say I never wanted to be a middle school teacher,” he confessed. “But middle school is fun – because you get the elementary end of it, where they are still sweet and can be innocent and honest. But, they have the ability to reason a bit. You watch them try to do things, and make mistakes, and then be the person they come to… to be there to help out. Watching the transition of 6th to 8th grade – their confidence grows. And, kids have a way of unintentionally keeping you humble.”
He maintains a connection with older students by coaching the boys JV basketball team. While he did not pursue a career in science, classes at UW-Fond du Lac – particularly a weather class with Professor Michael Jurmu – awakened his enthusiasm. “Having a professor so active and engaging sparked my interest, and going forward I still look into science for enjoyment,” Zedler said.
Which proves helpful in his second career: farming.
Deep Roots
Zedler disliked the work of dairy farming as a youth, and wasn’t particularly distressed at 16 when his parents sold the herd. He didn’t understand why they held onto the 100 acres. But, in 2008, when John and Debbie Zedler began to talk about selling the farm that had been in the Zedler family for more than 150 years, Tim Zedler didn’t like the idea. He now understood the connection to the land: “Something that has gone on ‘forever’ needs to continue to take place,” he said. 
During a trip to Door County, Tim and Lisa Zedler noticed a proliferation of pumpkin farms. “We thought, ‘Why not? Why can’t we do that?’ We had the space, and we had both wanted to try to own a business,” Zedler recounted.
Tim, Lisa and baby Hudson moved to the family homestead in 2008, opening their first fall festival with 200 pumpkins, two goats and a tent. Zedler estimates the event has doubled every year since then: Zedland Farm now produces more than 1,500 pumpkins, as well as vegetables, cornstalks, and hay bales for purchase, and they have 11 goats, two sheep, a miniature donkey, a pony, three ducks, and 25 chickens – and another son, Levi.
Families enjoy scenic hayrides, a small playground and obstacle course with haystacks and bales for climbing, and an unusual giant, Medieval-looking hammer that provides impressive produce smashing.
Their pumpkin festival is open on weekends from mid-September through October. Winter brings Christmas trees for sale in the decorated Zed’s Shed. Chickens and eggs are also available.
Overall, farming dovetails nicely with teaching, although fall is the busiest season for both professions. His parents, siblings and their families, and extended relatives all pitch in. “The farm has always been a home base for the family,” he said. Zedler’s scientific bent leads him to research how to best use the land. He is embracing non-GMO farming practices and sustainability. He ensures his own children understand these values, and students on field trips are exposed to the Zedler family’s farming zeal.
“If you’re learning, you’re living,” Zedler said.
Photos courtesy of Monica M. Walk & Zedler Family
Published February 2015
Jeanna Zuelke - Case Manager, Teen Parent Program, Catholic Charities of Green Bay

Social worker credits campus for her path to helping others

By Monica M. Walk

Attended UW-FDL:  Fall 2008-Spring 2010

Completed Social Work degree: UW-Green Bay, 2012

Case Manager, Teen Parent Program: Catholic Charities of Green Bay

Jeanna Zuelke is a role model. The words may not be spelled out in her job title, but they are inherent in her work with teen parents as a case manager at Catholic Charities in Green Bay.

“I always wanted to help, to be that person,” Zuelke said as she traced the educational path that led her to a profession in social work.

“I knew I wanted to do some kind of work with people, but I wasn’t sure what,” she said, recalling the reasons she enrolled at UW-Fond du Lac in fall 2008 after graduating from Winnebago Lutheran Academy. “Attending UW-Fond du Lac gave me time to think before claiming a major. It also was high-quality and affordable.”

And, beginning college in Fond du Lac kept the GreenValley 4-H Club close. “I was very active in 4-H,” Zuelke said of growing up in rural Oakfield. “And the Extension office was upstairs on campus! You can be in 4-H only one more year after high school, so I was in it the maximum amount of time.”

Zuelke and her pony, Diamond, earned trophies and ribbons, including 2006 State Fair Grand Champion in a carriage driving class. But, it was the volunteerism and community service components of 4-H that really drew her in as a teen. She participated in a leadership program that planned charity fund-raising events, and served as a 4-H summer camp counselor. She continues to volunteer as an adult leader.

On the UW-Fond du Lac campus, Zuelke’s leadership abilities caught the attention of Student Affairs Coordinator Maggie Gellings, who mentors the campus student government organization. Zuelke served on student government and its finance committee. She also served as a Student Ambassador, providing campus tours and information to prospective students.

Zuelke credits her smooth academic path to the mentoring provided by the Student Affairs staff.  “They did my academic advising….I wouldn’t have had such a successful transfer to UW-GreenBay without them,” Zuelke said.

At the Green Bay campus, Zuelke knew she would pursue a major in social work and anticipated a wait to enter the competitive program. She was stunned to receive a call on her first day of classes, alerting her that another student had forfeited a position in that year’s cohort and she was first on the waiting list.

“Social work was a perfect fit,” Zuelke said of her coursework.

The enjoyment of working in a high school during a junior-year internship at Brown County Healthy Families Program led to a senior internship placement with Catholic Charities Teen Parent Program. When the year-long internship ended, Zuelke was invited to interview for full-time employment.

As a teen parent case manager, Zuelke works with 30 Brown County teen mothers and fathers who are in the program voluntarily, seeking guidance and support. Case management covers a wide range of duties: “Whatever goal the teen parent has, I help with,” Zuelke explained. Goals may include staying in school, finding childcare, earning a driver’s license, creating a resume, practicing interviewing skills, finding a doctor, learning to breastfeed, understanding insurance and obtaining child support.

The program offers prenatal and postnatal support, and Zuelke works with the teens on parenting skills. “Although I’m not a parent yet, I do have a 17 year-old sister going through many of the same high school social situations, and I have had a lot of training and parent-educator work,” she noted.

“Teen years are really hard,” Zuelke said. “I had my own personal struggles. I think if I can help one person and make a difference so they don’t have it quite so hard, I’ve done my job. On top of all that high school stuff, they are parents. Most are still in school. We try to eliminate the barriers so they can stay in school or get their GED. Some of these teens have been through abuse and neglect with their own parents. They are very strong, and I see them overcome the challenges they need to face.”

Despite work that requires both mental and emotional engagement, Zuelke doesn’t lie low on weekends. Instead, she works every other weekend as an advocate at Golden House, a domestic abuse emergency shelter for women and children in Green Bay. She handles intake, answers the crisis hotline, and works with residents. “I couldn’t do it full-time,” she said of the emotional nature of this position.

And during football season, Zuelke makes the most of her Green Bay location and celebrates her Packers fandom by working as a parking lot attendant at home games. “I love that job!” she said with a laugh.

 

Photo courtesy of Jeanna Zuelke

Published February 2014

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