Newswise — MILWAUKEE _ On Friday, Oct. 6, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Alumni Association will honor 27 individuals and organizations at an annual awards evening, to be held at The Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee. The 25 alumni award recipients and two corporate partners were chosen for awards based on their outstanding professional achievements, civic involvement and partnerships with the university, according to Adrienne Bass, associate vice chancellor of alumni relations.

“Each year, the UWM Alumni Association receives a growing number of impressive nominations for our Alumni Awards,” Bass said. “It is a true testament to the quality of a UWM education to have so many influential and devoted alumni, not only throughout the region, but across the country and throughout the world. We are so pleased to honor the demonstrated talent and altruism of this distinguished group of 2017 UWM alumni awardees.”

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A complete list of 2017 UWM Alumni Awards recipients is below.


Marilyn Rantz, PhD Nursing `92
Current residence: Rocheport, Missouri

Marilyn Rantz is Curators’ Professor Emerita at the University of Missouri’s Sinclair School of Nursing. Her pioneering work in nursing home care quality spans 30 years. First as a practicing nurse, then as a leading researcher in the Midwest, she has established herself as a premier international expert in quality measurement of nursing homes and research programs to improve the quality of care of older people. Rantz was instrumental in developing TigerPlace, an independent and innovative aging in place living facility. She has received the American Academy of Nursing (AAN) Nurse Leader in Aging Award, two AAN “Edge Runner” awards and is a fellow of both the American Academy of Nursing and the Gerontological Society of America. She has published extensively: 223 articles, book chapters and proceedings and 17 books. Peers note that Nantz is selfless in the sharing of her knowledge and energy, engages junior faculty and has mentored countless graduate students, in addition to managing her own accomplished career.


Theodore (Todd) Montgomery (Temecula, California)

MS Curriculum and Instruction `75, PhD Urban Education ’84

Deep commitment to country, community and his two-time alma mater mark Todd Montgomery’s diverse and distinguished resume. As a Navy officer, he completed three tours in Vietnam. He’s now a project manager based in California, as well as an urban planner, and a former university and elementary-school educator. His UWM involvement includes service on the Board of Visitors, School of Architecture and Urban Planning Dean’s Club, former president of the UWM Alumni Association and membership on the UWM Foundation Development Committee. Statewide, he’s served as president of groups supporting Lakeshore State Park and the Skylight Opera Theatre and he founded the Friends of Wisconsin State Parks.


Sumit Agarwal, BS Computer Science `93 , MA Economics `94, PhD Economics `99
(Vienna, Virginia)

Sumit Agarwal is currently professor of economics and finance at Georgetown University. He has been featured on numerous media outlets including the BBC, CNBC and Fox and his research is widely cited in leading newspapers and magazines like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Economist and the U.S. Presidents Report to Congress. Agarwal’s research emphases include financial institutions, household, behavioral and international finance, real estate markets and capital markets; his research papers are highly regarded by his peers at top global universities.

Michael Gifford, Executive MBA `03 (Milwaukee)

Michael Gifford is currently president and CEO of The AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin (ARCW) that serves as home to the ARCW Medical Center - Wisconsin’s largest and fastest growing HIV healthcare system. The center strives to provide the healthcare and social services patients need for long-term HIV survival. Gifford has been a great proponent of UWM, including the Executive Education Program at the Lubar School of Business, where he has spoken to several executive MBA classes as part of the Forefront Speaker Series. He has brought his leadership team in for programming with executive programs. Gifford filled in at a moment’s notice for a panelist who was unable to attend the Lubar Alumni Chapter Student Night on April 6, 2017, and was a great addition to an event that was attended by fifty people.

Stephanie Stein, BA English`68 (Milwaukee)

Recognized nationally as a leader on aging issues, Stephanie Stein built the Milwaukee County Department on Aging into an award-winning organization, and was also the main designer of Family Care, a long-term care program that is now emulated from coast to coast. Stein was also instrumental in the creation of Senior Care, has mentored aging professionals throughout the country and has helped to create senior friendly communities. Her accomplishments have become part of our everyday lives.


Lauren (Laurie) Glass (Shorewood, Wisconsin)

For more than 30 years, Lauren Glass served as a faculty member at UWM. Following her retirement in 2005, Professor Emerita Glass has continued to be very involved and engaged with UWM and the College of Nursing. Her career at UWM reflects her total and comprehensive commitment and passion to the college’s success from within, as a valued researcher, teacher and active participant in governance. In retirement, Glass continues to be immensely involved in other UWM activities, including the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and attending many athletic and cultural events, as well as continuing to make significant voluntary contributions of time, dedication and leadership to the College of Nursing Alumni Chapter. As the college’s preeminent nurse historian, she produced a publication for the College of Nursing’s 50th Anniversary, documenting its history. Glass also created a visual timeline that was installed as a permanent feature on the ground floor of Cunningham Hall, home of the college, assuring that new generations of UWM students and alumni will have a keen appreciation of the legacy that they continue.


Spencer Chumbley, BA Economics, Honors College`09 (Washington, D.C.)

Since graduating in 2009, Spencer Chumbley has established himself as an award-winning international journalist and filmmaker, bringing to light social and environmental issues across the globe. His documentary film work and photography are fueled by his academic research in economics, peace-building strategy and the linkages between global conflict and development. His willingness to travel to war-torn countries to capture a story is evidenced in the “VICE News” piece “Return to Yemen.” Clients of his work include “VICE” on HBO, The New York Times, Al Jazeera, Travel Channel, The Economist and others. Chumbley is a frequent guest speaker at film festivals and photojournalism and global issues conferences nationwide.

Eric Jukkala, BS Health Care Administration `08 (Chicago)

As practice administrator for Northwestern Medical Group – Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, Eric Jukkala has advanced the healthcare administration field, caring for the betterment of the patients and staff of the area he leads, and giving back to the communities in which he lives, works and volunteers. He currently serves as president of the UWM Health Sciences Alumni Chapter, where his hard work and dedication over the past six years has led to the chapter’s reemergence and growth. For years, the chapter’s signature event - the College of Health Sciences (CHS) job fair – served as the main job fair for CHS students and alumni. Under Jukkala’s leadership, the fair has become so successful that the chapter now partners with other UWM departments and healthcare schools to produce a broader career fair that touches many more students and employers. Proceeds from the fair benefit the Health Sciences Alumni Chapter scholarship, with the goal of endowing it in perpetuity.

Kevin Kiefer, BBA Finance, Investment Management and Economics `14 (New York)

A member of the portfolio insights team at Cornerstone Macro, a Wall Street investment management firm recognized for its superior macroeconomic and financial market research, Kevin Kiefer performs sophisticated quantitative investments research and has excelled in this highly competitive and complex world. He has earned the remarkable opportunity to work as part of a group headed by Francois Trahan, ranked as the #1 investment strategist for nine of the last ten years by Institutional Investor magazine. Kiefer has also maintained close connections with his former professors at UWM and has contributed financially to the investment management program. Reflecting his desire that future students in the program have the resources they need to succeed, he has designated his gift to offset student travel costs associated with the program’s annual field trips to New York City and London.

Andrew Metz, BBA Marketing `07 (Delafield, Wisconsin)

In just eight short years, Andrew Metz has risen from an entry level lead generation position to vice president of small to mid-sized business sales at Zywave, one of the top workplaces in the state of Wisconsin. His tremendous hard work, desire for continuous learning and improvement, generosity and humility have earned him recognition as a catalyst for growth within the organization. Metz invests in the people around him and inspires and encourages them to attain their own personal bests. His willingness to share the early lessons of his business career and his remarkable public speaking abilities have resulted in regular speaking requests from UWM’s Lubar School of Business, Marquette University’s School of Communication and local high schools. Metz has also developed a strengths-finder program at his church to match parishioners’ talents to the needs of the parish and the community.

Magdalena Rocha Ocampo, BBA Finance and Investment Management `14 (New York)

Just three years after earning her bachelor’s degree in finance and an investment management certificate, Magdalena Rocha Ocampo has earned one of the country’s best positions for a young professional in her field with a prestigious Wall Street investment firm. She currently serves as a portfolio strategy team member at Cornerstone Macro, a firm known for its superior macroeconomic and financial market research. Ocampo works as part of a group headed by Francois Trahan, ranked as the #1 investment strategist for nine of the last ten years by Institutional Investor magazine. She has also demonstrated a keen desire to “give back” to UWM, making her first charitable gift just months after she secured employment, and additional gifts annually.

Breanne Schatzman, BA Psychology ’11 (Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts)

Breanne Schatzman serves as a rehabilitation specialist at South End Community Health Center in Boston, a community-based program that serves adults with chronic mental illness. She manages a caseload of 13-15 clients, consisting of young adults, adults and older adults. Well versed in the many different aspects of mental health counseling, she develops psychosocial assessments to determine each client’s immediate needs to be met and then creates an individualized action plan with goals to help her clients achieve independence. In addition to her caseload, Schatzman assists in managing a group home of seven clients.

Brandon Tschacher, BBA Marketing `08 (Brookfield, Wisconsin)

Since arriving in Milwaukee, Brandon Tschacher has consistently been involved in creating and growing impactful groups and initiatives. He currently serves as director of marketing for Thrivent Financial®, a Fortune 500 wealth management fund company. Previously, he co-founded MyCombine, a sports and technology firm focused on bringing professional-level sports performance analytics to amateur athletes. He is also the youngest member of the advisory board of directors for the Salvation Army of Milwaukee County, and is one of the founders of their emerging professional group Echelon, named “The Face of Mobilizing the Next Generation” by Milwaukee Magazine in 2015. Tschacher helped to grow the group from its inception to 56 highly functioning members, who raised $50,000 in 2016 and logged more than 1,100 community service hours.

Meghan Walsh, BA International Studies `11 (West Allis, Wisconsin)

Meghan Walsh’s nominator wrote, “Meghan has been a strong voice for change.” This is exemplified in her research into the application of the balanced scorecard framework in nonprofit cultural institutions to improve their alignment and accountability of mission and strategy, promoting growth and sustained success. She applies this approach to her current position as assistant director of alumnae engagement at Alverno College. In addition, her positivity and hard work have made significant contributions to the Milwaukee Art Museum’s MAM After Dark and Scholastic Art Awards programs; as well as creating MAM’s first Trivia Night Program. In addition, she is involved in her local community by serving as the adult advisor to the West Allis Youth Commission; on the Young Leaders Board for Meta House Inc.; and on the Board of Directors for Artists Working in Education Inc. She is also a regular special events volunteer for the Hunger Task Force of Milwaukee.


Nicolle Davies, MLIS Library and Information Science `11 (Charleston, South Carolina)

Nicolle Davies has quickly reached a high level of responsibility in the public library field. In 2016, Library Journal named her “Librarian of the Year” for her accomplishments at the Arapahoe Libraries in Colorado. Her belief that libraries are essential to communities led to Arapahoe Libraries being one of the first in the nation to invest in such new technologies as 3D printers, virtual reality headsets and Google Glasses; and then take these on tech road shows throughout the Denver community. Her recent appointment as the executive director of the Charleston County Public Library system in South Carolina speaks to her leadership abilities. Not only has Charleston entrusted her with leading the county’s libraries, but Davies will lead a major expansion project in the building of five new libraries and the renovation of 13 branches.

Melissa Ebbe, MA Art `05, MFA Art `07 (Milwaukee)

Melissa Ebbe shows a rare, versatile artistic talent, channeled into an innovative proactive career as a prosthetic makeup artist. Constantly adding new techniques, she solves challenging creative questions at the intersection of art, science fiction and popular culture. Launching her successful Feral Works LLC company out of her home, she produces high quality sci-fi, fantasy and horror-themed masks, costumes and art. Ebbe was a top three finalist on SyFy network’s “Face Off” reality TV series for special effects makeup artists and was invited back to participate in the “Face Off: All Stars Competition.” Since her appearances on “Face Off,” she has earned an international audience and has been called “a rare and versatile talent” by renowned conceptual designer Guy Davis, known for his work on “Pacific Rim” and “The Simpsons.”

Andy Hargarten, BS Nursing `10, DNP Nursing Practice `15 (Milwaukee)

As a Milwaukee Fire Department (MFD) paramedic student, Andy Hargarten’s clinical rotations were at local emergency rooms, where he quickly noticed that nurses were running the ERs. In his effort to even better serve the citizens of Milwaukee, he turned to UWM to obtain his nursing degree, followed by his doctorate. His capstone research project resulted in the successful launch of the educational Community Paramedic Program, which addresses the number of repeat 911 callers and assists them in managing their health conditions. Hargarten is currently a lieutenant and paramedic with the Milwaukee Fire Department and is also an active volunteer in community outreach programs such as the MFD’s Community Wood Fired Mobile Oven, which allows community members to make their own pizza while learning about nutrition.

Sam Leichtling, MPA Public Administration ’09, MUP Urban Planning `09 (Milwaukee)

Sam Leichtling has made a great impact on the Milwaukee community with his involvement in projects that improve the economic prospects of the city’s neighborhoods and quality of life for thousands of people. Leichtling is currently Milwaukee’s long range planning manager in the Department of City Development. He was involved with the creation of the City of Milwaukee’s signature summer youth jobs program that has since provided a “first job” for more than 25,000 Milwaukee youth. The program helps develop the city’s comprehensive response to the foreclosure crisis and deploys tens of millions of dollars of federal funds to create affordable housing units at foreclosed or abandoned properties. Leichtling is also involved in several community causes; he is the founding board member of Milwaukee Excellence and an active supporter of UWM’s School of Architecture and Urban Planning and the Master of Urban Planning Alumni Chapter.

Elena Mihas, MA English `06, PhD Linguistics `10 (Palm Cove, Queensland, Australia)

Currently an anthropological linguistics post-doctoral research associate at The Cairns Institute of James Cook University in Australia, Elena Mihas is a highly regarded documentary linguist. She has been involved in the collaborative language documentation and revitalization projects of several indigenous languages. A particular focus is Ashéninka Perené, a language spoken by about 1,000 people living among scattered settlements in the dense tropical forests along Peru’s Upper Perené River. She recently began preparations for fieldwork on another language spoken by about 13,000 people on Kamchatka Peninsula in Far East Russia. Her goal is to document the language and conceptual world of these speaker communities. Since her graduation, Mihas has returned to visit UWM to give public lectures, including the Linguistics Colloquium series in 2016.

Marcia Silva, MS Engineering `06, PhD Engineering `13 (Milwaukee)

After earning her doctorate in environmental engineering from the College of Engineering & Applied Science in 2013, Silva took on the huge task of creating the water research facility associated with the rise of the Global Water Center in Milwaukee. She currently serves as the center’s research associate and facility manager. She has been instrumental in the success of the research arm for the Global Water Council and has impacted the research reputations of UWM’s School of Freshwater Sciences and College of Engineering & Applied Science. Her passion for teaching is evident, as she adeptly advises undergraduate and graduate students in both schools. Silva expects to receive her MBA from the Lubar School of Business in 2018.


Kevin Evans, MSW Social Work `11 (Milwaukee)

A once homeless Army veteran, Kevin Evans uses his master’s degree in social work, which he earned with assistance through UWM’s Veterans Upward Bound program, to help veterans who are struggling. Personal commitment to his community of fellow veterans drives his mission to help hundreds of vets gain housing and educational opportunities. Now employed as the outreach specialist for veterans at the Center for Veterans Issues, the very agency that helped him nearly two decades ago, Evans states, “I am about changing people’s lives.”

James Phelps, BBA Finance `08 (Milwaukee)

Born and raised in Milwaukee near 2nd and Locust streets, James Phelps has developed his small construction company into a well-respected name with developers in the City of Milwaukee. JCP Construction has offices just two blocks from where Phelps and his two brothers (also partners) were raised, and has been recognized for excellence by the clients and communities it serves. Phelps is president of the Burleigh Community Development Corporation, a board member of the Milwaukee Community Service Corps and is a LEED Accredited Professional. He has also been recognized by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, the African American Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin and Associated General Contractors for being an active and positive presence in Milwaukee.  


Wendel Chamberlin, BS Architectural Studies `73, MArch Architecture `76 (Madison)

As a proud alumnus, architect and business leader, Wendel Chamberlin knows the importance of preparing star students to enter the architecture and construction fields. As owner of WC Consulting Inc., he helps to recruit and retain the best and brightest students through his contributions to the School of Architecture and Urban Planning STAR Fund. Since 2007, the STAR Fund has awarded $43,000 in scholarships to recruit and retain the most talented students — those for whom the nation’s best schools compete. These recipients have excelled at UWM and then landed positions at top local firms, including Kahler Slater, HGA and Eppstein Uhen. Chamberlin also serves as an alumni ambassador volunteer for the UWM Alumni Association. In this role, he engages alumni in the Madison area and hosts receptions for local high-school students who have been admitted to UWM.

Scott Conger, BBA Accounting `91 (Wauwatosa, Wisconsin)

In his 20-year career in finance, Scott Conger’s strong analytical skills coupled with an exceptional ability to effectively collaborate with colleagues at every level of an organization have spurred his success. He currently serves as vice president, senior manager at BMO Harris Bank. Conger has applied these same assets to his volunteer roles as current president of the Lubar School of Business Alumni Chapter and as a key leader on the executive committee of the UWM Alumni Association Board of Trustees. Conger believes a strong network of alumni is an essential element of a quality university. With this focus, he has worked to bring the vast network of more than 34,000 Lubar School of Business alumni together to create lifelong connections between alumni and UWM that advance the university and enrich the education of current students.

Women’s Giving Circle

The Women’s Giving Circle (WGC) of UWM’s School of Education was founded in 2006 to bring together women alumni and former and current teachers of all ages. Together, they pool their support for a greater impact, and to keep themselves current about education through their promotion of the school and its educational research. The group helps fund and award grants for a wide variety of activities and research projects to discern or demonstrate improved outcomes in teacher preparation; methodology and pedagogy; and/or improved outcomes in student learning and achievement. They have funded numerous projects, including UWM’s TeachLive lab and the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Certificate Program, to name just a few. The group is chaired by retired educator and active supporter Barbara J. Michaels (Class of `56).


Eppstein Uhen Architects

Eppstein Uhen Architects (EUA) first sponsored the Integrated Practice (IPD)/Building Information Modeling (BIM) Studio at UWM's School of Architecture and Urban Planning (SARUP) during the fall 2007 semester. The program uniquely combines both IPD and BIM into its design studio curriculum, introducing the Revit® BIM software to architecture students. This studio was awarded a National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) Prize for Creative Integration of Practice and Education in the Academy. The studio continues to this day, sponsored and co-taught by Eppstein Uhen. The school's ties to the firm run much deeper than the studio, as firm CEO Greg Uhen is a 1981 UWM alum. Over the years, hundreds of SARUP alums have gone on to work in the firm and some have come back to literally change the shape of campus by helping design UWM's award-winning Riverview Residence Hall and Innovation Accelerator. Eppstein Uhen Architects is a proud supporter of the community, making significant contributions to local schools through its annual Beyond Design Bike Tour.

Ovation Communities

UWM College of Nursing Professor Christine Kovach became the first director of research at Ovation Communities. In 2016, a research chair was established with a three-year commitment of more than $500,000 from the Jewish Home and Care Center Foundation. In addition to supporting the director of research position, the commitment also supports PhD student research. Research studies taking place at Ovation Communities focus on critical issues related to the field of gerontology, including dementia, disability and physical ability of older adults. The Jewish Home and Ovation Communities have also provided excellent learning opportunities for students in art, social work, theater and physical therapy at UWM. This partnership is making a significant impact on UWM, assisting in its advancement, growth and development; and helping UWM maintain its top research status. Ovation Communities’ dedication to research during financially trying times shows the company’s deep commitment to the service of others.

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