Category Archives: Rotary Club of Madison Guest Speaker

Holistic Support for Returning Veterans and Their Families

–submitted by Donna Hurd; photo by Pete Christianson

Will Beiersdorf 3 22 2017

From left: Club President Michelle McGrath, Will Beiersdorf, Nasra Wehelie and Susan Schmitz

After recognizing and showing appreciation for all Rotarians and guests who have provided military service to our country, fellow Rotarian Will Beiersdorf provided a brief but comprehensive overview of an organization that provides holistic support and care for those service men and women who have returned home with physical and often, severe invisible wounds of war.

With first-hand knowledge of the stress of deployment, Will was called into active duty after the events of September 11, 2001, leaving his wife and three young children behind.  Since that time, 800,000 service men and women have been deployed multiple times. This was almost unheard of prior to that date.  The toll of numerous deployments affects not only the servicemen and women but also their families.  The services available for many who have served are often inadequate and in all cases, only treat the wounded, leaving their families to seek help from other providers or caregivers.  Two million children and parents sought mental and behavioral healthcare since 2001.  One-third of the men and women returning from war suffer some type of trauma.  Approximately 400,000 have suffered a traumatic brain injury.  Besides the wounds suffered, approximately 22 veterans end their life every day, leaving family members to carry on.

In March 2013, Will was invited to assist with the formation of the Road Home Center for Veterans and their families.  Since that time, the organization has seen 400 – 500 veterans and their families each year.  They remove all barriers to receiving the needed services.  The organization’s mission is, “Help heal the invisible Wounds of War.”  They accomplish this by going beyond the level of care expected and needed.  The continuum of care provided by the Road Home Program incorporates clinical care, counseling, outreach services, and education.  The program employs Outreach Managers who have experienced the trauma of war, either directly or indirectly and can tell the story of why their services and this program are so needed.

Service Above Self, not only exemplifies Rotarians but also the brave men and women who choose to serve to protect the freedoms we all enjoy.  The bottom line of this program’s existence is, “We owe it to them to give back and help.”


Fostering Diversity in the Workplace

–submitted by Kevin Hoffman; photo by Pete Christianson

DSC_0003Karen Lincoln Michel challenged us to think in a different way about workplace perceptions, the importance of fostering diversity in our workplaces (particularly if we are leaders), and to be sensitive to the welcome our workplace culture extends to those with different ethnicity, gender, or cultural background.

Leaders with hiring responsibility need to be aware of affinity bias – the tendency to hire those who look like us or have the same background.  Our perceptions can powerfully influence our decision-making process, often without us realizing it!  By selecting people with similar characteristics we miss out on key insights and perspectives that someone outside of our experience and background can bring.  She challenged leaders to have the courage to step out of their comfort zones to realize the benefits that increased diversity can bring.

True workplace diversity demonstrates benefits in terms of being able to attract top talent, improved customer relations, improved employee satisfaction, better decision-making, and retaining talented employees.  The business environment is a diverse place and hiring and retaining staff to effectively address that environment only makes good business sense.  On a tangible basis, Ms. Lincoln cited a McKinsey study that indicated that firms with greater diversity showed a greater likelihood to financially outperform their peers.

Finally, culture matters.  Workplace and community culture is important to the success of diversity efforts.  Is the culture welcoming?  Do persons of color feel isolated?  Programs and policies are not enough – leaders have to truly engage and drive the initiative and commit to recruiting and supporting diverse candidates.

Ideas for true engagement in workplace diversity programs include having an officer or position in charge of fostering diversity, mission statements that include diversity as part of the organization’s core values, creation of an inclusive and positive atmosphere, widely seeking out candidates, and providing mentoring relationships to support individual success.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

Introducing the Candidates for MMSD School Board Seats 6 and 7

–submitted by Ben Hebebrand; photo by Pete Christianson

Muldrow Toews Vander Meulen 3 8 2017

From Left: Kate Toews, Ali Muldrow and Nicki Vander Meulen

The Rotary Club of Madison hosted a forum for candidates to the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD). Each candidate offered an opening and closing statement.

Ali Muldrow, Seat 6:  In her opening statement, she stressed her long-standing commitment to MMSD, going all the way back to her days as a students, having graduated from east High School in 2004. As an alumna, she has continued her ties to East High School, volunteering her talents in a capacity as a facilitator of an arts club.  Ms. Muldrow’s platform centers on equity and inclusion: “Our district has a history of not serving every student equally,” she said. “We talk a lot about racial disparity, an opportunity gap, and an achievement gap – we talk a lot about exclusionary practices – we should talk more about inclusive efforts and practices.” In her opening statement, she concluded by painting a vision of the district “working differently” toward an ideal of “students falling in love with learning.”  In the closing statement, she elaborated on her idea of inclusionary practices. Recalling her days as a student, when 50 percent of the African-American district population did not graduate from high school, she “watched her peers disappear.” Instead, she urged “to reach for the stars – to aim to be at the forefront of inclusion and make space for students who have been left out.”

Kate Toews, Seat 6:  As the parent of a student enrolled in the MMSD, she affirmed her strong “belief in public education.” Citing her background in industry, specifically her work with the McKinsey & Co. global consultancy, she stressed her expertise in setting a vision and implementing such a vision into reality.  Ms. Toews’ platform centers on a three-prong vision: “We have the ability to be the best district in the country, because we have an engaged community. We can show the rest of the country how to do urban education,” she said, stressing clearly that privatization of schools is not the answer. She classified the School Board’s recent decision to fund a private school with a Caucasian student population as wrong, referring to a recent decision to extend charter school status to a current private school. Secondly, she cited the district for having a “workforce challenge,” implying that employment opportunities are not competitive. Thirdly, she mentioned the achievement gap that has “plagued us for a long time” – solutions can be found in hiring teachers of color and focusing on early childhood education.

Nicki Vander Meulen, Seat 7: Identifying herself as an autistic person, her candidacy is deeply rooted in the notion of “giving a voice to the students who are voiceless.  Ms. Vander Meulen’s platform centers primarily on how students with disabilities and with disadvantages need to be treated differently.  Citing disproportionate suspension and expulsion rates for African-American and handicapped students, she questioned the district’s discipline procedures. “We need a behavior education plan where facts are the same, and where punishments are equal,” she said. Further, she stressed the need for restorative justice solutions as opposed to handing students over to the juvenile court system.  She objected to current seclusion and time-out practices for disabled students as an example of unequal treatment.  Furthermore, she questioned the district’s wisdom in publishing a 70-page long document outlining behavior expectations and requiring students and families to sign those. “Let’s make the rules clear, simple, and precise.”

Did you miss our meeting this week?  Watch the video here.

Dane County Circuit Court Candidates Forum: Jill Karofsky vs. Marilyn Townsend

–submitted by Bill Haight; photo by Pete Christianson


Marilyn Townsend and Jill Karofsky

The two candidates for an open Dane County judge position began with an opening statement, then answered a series of questions presented by moderator Rotarian Andrea Kaminski.

Both candidates indicated a strong desire to address concerns of racial disparity, fairness in the judicial system and support of alternatives to incarceration – help versus punishment.   Both have backgrounds that illustrate their commitment to these concerns. Karofsky is serving as Executive Director of the Office of Crime Victim Services and as Wisconsin’s first Violence against Women Resource Prosecutor. Townsend has represented Unions and men and women on a broad array of issues, typically in cases where a client calls out their employer or a government agency for discrimination on the basis of wage, race, age, gender, or disability.

Attorney Karofsky, though not a judge, emphasizes her previous experience as an assistant district attorney handling “more than 10,000 cases in Dane County Courts, the exact kind of cases the judge will hear.”

Judge Townsend has served the Village of Shorewood Hills as Municipal Court Judge since 2012. In this capacity, she notes, she presides over trials, motion hearings and initial appearances, and decides the guilt or innocence of those who appear before her.

Karofsky contends that while municipal judges play an important role, Townsend’s municipal court experience dealing with mostly ordinance violations is not similar to the complexity of criminal cases, such as homicides, she would find in the circuit court.

When asked by the moderator about their “judicial philosophy” Townsend said she strives to make sure everyone’s voice is heard, “not just the rich and powerful,” Karofsky said her philosophy emphasizes “fairness, respect for everyone and a willingness to try new things [such as alternative courts for specialized cases]”

“Who is your hero?” Moderator Kaminsky asked.

“Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt,” said Townsend, “because they stood up for the little guy.”

“My Mother [former Middleton Mayor Judy Karofsky], replied Karofsky, “because she always fought for fairness for the little guy.”

Did you miss our meeting this week?  Watch the video here.

Hip Hop Architect in the House!

–submitted by Dawn Crim; photo by John Bonsett-Veal


Club President Michelle McGrath and Michael Ford

What can Rotarians learn from the intersection between hip hop and architecture? Michael Ford educated Rotarians on the intersection first starting with history. How hip hop has influenced things over time with things ranging from chairs, boots and photos to artist evolutions. Michael Ford took Rotarians through the creative journeys of Pablo Picasso’s art and Le Corbusier’s architecture illustrating their connection to Hip Hop and the influence Hip Hop had on their work.

Michael Ford shared how Le Corbusier’s five design elements first introduced in Paris were brought to life in urban buildings in New York through Robert Moses’ designed buildings. Unfortunately, Robert Moses only took parts of Le Corbusier’s plan, just using the physical structure, missing the spirit of what the building could do for people. The result, Michael Ford described as an architectural ‘bad remix’ because the buildings in New York City, although similar in physical structure were considered ‘concrete jungles’, not contributing positively to the spirit and lives of the people living there.

According to the talk, it is no coincidence that rap was born in New York City, in the Bronx, because that is where many of these structures were built. One can trace rap songs in the 1970’s back to descriptions of these structures.

From the popularity of his lectures and expertise, Michael Ford is helping to design the Universal Hip Hop Museum in New York City.  He is working with Hip Hop artists from the 70’s and 80’s like Kurtis Blow and the Sugar Hill Gang to design exhibits to tell their our story in the museum. The museum will include public housing, market rate housing, a hotel, children’s museum, retail space and an amphitheater.

Michael Ford has done talks and projects all around the country. He has also created Hip Hip Architecture Camps here in Madison. The camp’s mission is to introduce traditionally marginalized or underrepresented youth to architecture, urban planning and economic development through the lens of hip-hop culture.

He has partnered with the City of Madison Department of Planning, Community & Economic Development, The Madison Public Library and Capital Area Regional Planning Commission to help kids bring their visions and voices into the Imagine Madison Initiative. This initiative will provide input into the City’s 25-Year Comprehensive plan.

From the response to today’s talk, many Rotarians may also bring their ideas to the plan. Some of those ideas may be grounded in hip hop.

Educating the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs at UW-Madison

–submitted by Mary Borland

olszewski_danielEntrepreneurship is one of the most important drivers of economic and job growth in our state and across the globe. It is also a topic that is of growing interest to today’s college students. On February 15, Dan Olszewski, the Director of the Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship at UW-Madison School of Business, spoke with us about how UW-Madison is one of the leaders in teaching and inspiring students interested in entrepreneurship as a potential career.

Today, people under the age of 30 will have held eight different employment positions! The entire economy has become very dynamic and large and small companies in all industries are looking for employees with an entrepreneurial skill set to drive innovation in their companies. Whether a future student starts up their own company or goes to work for another company, entrepreneurship is important to society for job and wealth creation which leads to a more robust economy and innovation for consumers.

Anyone can become an entrepreneur, though the average age to begin is 40 years old.

The ways entrepreneurship is taught at UW-Madison includes classes, student start-ups (experimental things to sell) and via a link to alumni and practitioners.  For students, it is about action and doing.

Other activities enrolled students participate in include:

  1. Wisconsin Entrepreneurship Showcase – where stories can be shared and inspiration given
  2. Distinguished Entrepreneurs Lunch – where question and answers of an entrepreneur happen
  3. Wisconsin Entrepreneurship Bootcamp – five, 12 hour days for a specific subset of students
  4. WSB Business Plan Competition – students pitch ideas; winner moves on to Governor’s contest

Enrollment in these classes is coming from sections of campus and most from outside the business school. Several graduates locally have gone on to obtain over $50M in venture capital. In approximately 10 years, we will really see the fruits of this teaching with people making this world a better place by solving problems with high energy and optimism!

Rotarians can support these UW students by being event sponsors, providing student scholarships and by encouraging students they know to take these entrepreneurial courses.

 If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

What Will Madison Look Like in 2050?

–submitted by Mary Helen Becker; photo by Karl Wellensiek

mayor-paul-soglin-2-8-17Madison’s Mayor Paul Soglin, serving his 20th year as mayor, made his 26th appearance at our club. Here to discuss what Madison might be like in 2050, he gave a few facts about Madison in 1950: a population of 96,000; about 95% white; occupied an area of approximately 33 sq. miles. Today we have a substantially more diverse population and occupy about 80 sq. miles. By 2050 Madison will probably be a city occupying about 103 sq. miles. In 1950, the major employer was Oscar Mayer. Today the largest employers are UW Health, Epic, the UW Hospital, and American Family Insurance. Madison is one of 5 U.S. cities considered a bicycling community which is rare among metropolitan areas not in the south, but that is growing. It is also the 3rd coldest — after the Twin Cities and Anchorage, Alaska. Epic has created an atmosphere hospitable to tech companies and entrepreneurial businesses. As household numbers decline, we need more units; 1,000 new units per year barely keeps us even.

In 1950, there were about 108 days with the lakes frozen enough for ice fishing. Today, there are about 68 such days. Whether man-made or not, climate change is real.  An important environmental issue is water supply. Salt continues to affect the water resources. We need someone to figure out how to take used salt from water softeners and make it available for street use.

A politically sensitive issue is the subject of the book, The Politics of Resentment, in which Madison and Milwaukee are called the M&Ms by some other parts of the state. Between 2001 and 2015, Dane County has seen a 15% growth in number of jobs, while the rest of the state has a 3% increase. We need to find a way that is not offensive to reach out to the rest of the state.

In 1950, high school student studied civics and had access to classes in industrial arts. In 2015, they do not. Madison College is ready to prepare students for society, but the high school students are not ready. Madison is working on BRT — bus rapid transit.  Affordable housing is increasing in the community; 193 homeless veterans have found housing; by the end of this year, there should be no more homeless veterans.

Our community is making progress, but much remains to be done. We will have to wait and see what Madison is like in 2050!

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.