Dr. Jasmine Zapata Named Chief Medical Officer and State Epidemiologist for Community Health

Dr. Jasmine Zapata has been selected at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services as its new Chief Medical Officer and State Epidemiologist for Community Health. She began the influential role on May 9.

Zapata, whose position provides medical and public health consultation and leadership to bureau programs, will also serve as state epidemiologist for maternal and child health. She will be providing expert guidance, with a health equity lens.

She will also be working closely with the State Health Officer and Division of Public Health to assure that health policy and program resource allocation decisions are appropriate, that timely prevention actions are taken, and that policy reflects sound public health principles and priorities.

Zapata is a Milwaukee native and Riverside University High School alumna. She received her Bachelor’s in Biomedical Sciences from Marquette University where she participated in the Educational Opportunity Program, served as a Burke Scholar, competed as a division 1 collegiate athlete, and graduated summa cum laude. She earned both her Doctor of Medicine and Master’s in Public Health from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (UWSMPH) and is now double-board certified in the fields of pediatrics and preventive medicine.

She currently serves as a practicing clinician, Centennial Scholar, and assistant professor at UWSMPH within the Departments of Pediatrics and Population Health Sciences where she is involved in a variety of clinical, research, teaching and leadership roles aimed at increasing diversity in medicine and achieving maternal and child health equity. Her research and advocacy efforts focus on utilizing innovative, community-centered, and system shifting strategies to impact health outcomes for children and families in a radical way. Over the last year, she has also been extensively involved in many statewide and national COVID-19 community outreach, research, and policy advisory activities. Upon joining DHS, Zapata will retain her role at UWSMPH but in a reduced capacity.

 Zapata has extensive public health leadership experience spanning from the local community to national level, and serves on many boards and alliances including the Governor’s Health Equity Council, Boys and Girls Club of Dane County Board of Directors, the Fetal and Infant Mortality Review Board of Public Health Madison/Dane County, and the Dane County Black Maternal Child Health Alliance among other roles. She has received many honors and awards, including induction into the Gold Humanism Honor Society, the Wisconsin Medical Society’s Superhero of Medicine Award, UW Madison’s Outstanding Woman of Color Award, Brava Magazine Woman to Watch Award, Marquette University College of Health Sciences Alumna of the Year Award, and The Business Forum’s Athena International Young Professional Award, just to name a few.

Outside of the hospital, Zapata is an award-winning author, inspirational speaker, wife and mother of three. She is the founder of a national mentorship organization that aims to increase diversity in medicine and also the founder of an international girl’s empowerment movement. For fun and self-care, she loves singing, writing music, playing volleyball, and spending time with her family outdoors. She also has many lived experiences that help her uniquely connect with the communities she serves. Her ultimate mission in life is to use her infectious energy, gifts, and passions to “heal, uplift and inspire.”

Beloit Commission Names Police Department’s First Black Chief

The Gazette

The Beloit Police and Fire Commission unanimously named Andre Sayles as the city’s new police chief—the first Black chief in the police department’s 119-year history.

Sayles, who previously was captain of patrol, is the 19th police chief in the department’s long line of past leaders. The commission’s search for a new chief started in September after the departure of former Police Chief David Zibolski, who left Beloit for a similar job in Fargo, North Dakota.

After a nationwide search, the commission picked two internal finalists: Sayles and Inspector/Interim Chief Thomas Stigler. Both candidates spoke to the community during a well-attended virtual forum April 7. Sayles thanked the commission for the opportunity, saying he would put his “blood, sweat and tears” into the police department.

“This is something that I put a lot of effort towards,” he said. “I believe I have done that with my tenure here at the Beloit Police Department through the ways I have connected with the community, the way I have connected with other city employees and have connected our department to be one wholesome family. I am at a loss for words. It is an awesome accomplishment.”

Sayles said keeping the police department moving forward would be a “difficult task.” The chief said he wanted the department to continue following the latest training and procedural standards as part of a commitment to 21st-century policing and “being stewards of our community.”

“I am ready for it, and there’s nothing that will stand in my way for us becoming one of the greatest police departments in the country,” Sayles said.

Is There a Doctor in the House?
Why Yes, Two!

Two Dane County community leaders received doctorates in May, furthering their abilities to lead society to a more equitable future coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

State Department of Safety and Professional Services Secretary Dawn B. Crim graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. She serves as a member of the Edgewood College Board of Trustees and as Vice President of the Madison Rotary Foundation Board of Trustees. Crim has over 25 years of education experience, coupled with extensive community engagement. Previously, she served as the Associate Dean for External Relations at UW-Madison and President of the Madison Network of Black Professionals. She has been recognized for several awards, most notably the 2017 Penn State University School of Education Leadership and Service Award, as well as in Wisconsin with the 2017 Jefferson Award, 2017 United Way Community Volunteer Award, and 2016 Urban League of Greater Madison Impact Award.

Corinda Rainey-Moore, UnityPoint Health-Meriter Community Engagement Manager, was bestowed a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership: Higher Education from Edgewood College.

Rainey-Moore, a Wisconsin 2020 MLK Heritage Award recipient, most recently served as Community Outreach and Engagement Manager for Kids Forward, where she was responsible for the organization’s short-term and long-term strategic plan both internally and externally. She is deeply embedded in the community and has fostered and developed impactful relationships with community partners, coalitions, and organizations. In addition, Rainey-Moore has over 27 years of experience working in mental health as a manager with oversight of programs serving adults with severe and persistent mental health needs.

Congratulations to both!

Brown STEM Girl: 12-Year-Old Heading to College, Plans to Work for NASA

By bnc.tv

Alena Wicker is reaching for the stars and beyond them. The 12-year-old from Arizona is set to attend college and she wants to work for NASA after graduation. 

Wicker, who is homeschooled, graduated from high school and is on her way to Arizona State University in the summer, according to WDBJ7.  

“I just had a goal that I wanted to get it,” she said. “I always dreamed of being an engineer because, through my life, I liked building.” 

Wicker will pick up a double major in Astronomical & Planetary Science and Chemistry. 

With college graduation on the horizon by the time she turns 16, Wicker wants to build rovers for NASA like the one that landed on Mars recently.

“It doesn’t matter what your age is or what you’re planning to do. Go for it, dream, then accomplish it,” she said.

Wicker started a brand called Brown STEM Girl and she plans to release a podcast.

After hundreds of thousands of ID photos, ‘the Wiscard lady’ retires


You probably know her face — she no doubt knows yours.

If you’ve worked or studied on campus anytime since 2002, Almaz Yimam likely snapped your ID photo.

For the past 19 years, Yimam, who retired April 2, worked the counter at the Wiscard office at Union South. There’s only one Wiscard office on campus, and there’s only one Almaz.

“She just has that type of personality that is so welcoming,” says Jim Wysocky, the Wiscard program manager. “You’ll see her talking and laughing with someone and you assume they’re longtime friends. Then you find out they just met.”

Each year, about 25,000 Wiscards or other campus ID badges are issued, replaced or renewed. For hundreds of thousands of new students and employees, Yimam would have been one of the first to welcome them to campus. (She typically worked the counter with a student employee.)

Her official job title was University Services Associate 2.

“Just call me the Wiscard lady,” she says.

Though each Wiscard interaction is brief — just five or 10 minutes — Yimam sought to make the experience special. She often joked a bit or asked a question about what brought the person to campus.

Her own path to campus had its challenges. She immigrated to the U.S. from Ethiopia in the mid-1990s, a solo parent seeking a better life and more educational opportunities for her sons, ages 12 and 14 at the time.

Her first job in Madison was cleaning hotel rooms. Hired later by UW Hospital, she split her duties, working 32 hours each week as a receptionist and eight hours as a housekeeper. Each evening, she worked an additional four hours cleaning offices around town. As the years went on, she became a U.S. citizen, and both her sons were accepted to UW–Madison.

Her job at the Wiscard office fit her wonderfully, she says.

“My personality is to help people — I really like to make them feel comfortable,” she says.

Now that Yimam has retired, it can be told that sometimes, if a student lacked the money to replace a lost Wiscard, she paid the $25 out of her own pocket.

“Yes, I did do that,” she says. “Jim used to be disappointed with me, but I would see these students in front of me and think of my own kids.”

To thank her, parents sent flowers, chocolates, plants.

Milwaukee Public Museum to Display “Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition

The Milwaukee Courier

Nelson Mandela is one of history’s iconic and beloved figures. His actions sparked change in his home country of South Africa and fanned the flame for social justice movements across the globe. Soon, Milwaukeeans will have a chance to learn more about this beloved leader, hero and man.

The Milwaukee Public Museum and America’s Black Holocaust Museum are partnering together to present the “Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition.” This marks the exhibition’s debut in the United States, and it will be on display at the Milwaukee Public Museum, 800 W. Wells St., starting Friday, April 23 through Sunday, Aug. 1. The exhibition includes unseen film, photos, historical artifacts and personal effects.

Dr. Ellen Censky, president and CEO of the Milwaukee Public Museum explained that she first heard about the exhibit in 2019. She filed the information away for the future, but when the pandemic hit and the originally scheduled exhibition canceled, she reached out to Round Room Live to see if the exhibition was still available.

“I thought that this exhibit could be a point for a discussion of change and healing in this community,” Censky said as she reflected on the segregation that continues to exist in Milwaukee.

When people leave the exhibition, they are invited to take part in the My Mandela Pledge challenge. On Nelson Mandela International Day, which takes place on his birthday, July 18, people are encouraged to volunteer for 67 minutes. The day was started by the United Nations and the museums are carrying on the tradition.

Visitors can sign the pledge at the end of this exhibition.

Progress Center for Black Women opens Financial Health Academy enrollment

A Dane County non-profit serving Black women and their families is starting something new: a six-week “Financial Health Academy.”

The Progress Center for Black Women’s Founder Sabrina Madison says she realized her clients during COVID lacked access to rainy day funds. 

“You know how we’re all told we’re supposed to have an emergency fund, that’s really hard to do especially in a pandemic. And so it was really just one or two months of bills or utilities or a car note that we’re getting folks, where their credit was taken hit,” Madison said.

Her plan: enroll 10 Black women and their families to learn how to take their future into their own hands.

“And you must have a young person between 13 and 21 at home because the goal is, what the young person learns he or she passes down what mom or dad whomever learned, they’re passing down, so you just have this, this financial life, you know, health, that’s passed down from generation to generation,” Madison said.

At course completion, the UW Health Group’s $10,000 donation will allow the organization to provide each enrolled family its own $1,000 emergency fund.  

The program, taught by Cardinal Stritch professors and counselors trained in financial trauma, hopes to operate in a six week course capacity or in continuous boot camps throughout the year.

You can learn how you can apply, or fund the effort, at https://www.centerforblackwomen.org/financial-health-academy/.

DeVon Wilson Named Associate Dean
for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
at College of Letters & Science


DeVon Wilson, L&S assistant dean, diversity coordinator and director for the Center for Academic Excellence (CAE), has been named the Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in L&S, a newly-created position and one that L&S dean Eric Wilcots has viewed as a top administrative priority since becoming permanent dean of L&S in 2020. Wilson will work with Wilcots and the L&S senior leadership team to advance the college’s inclusive excellence priorities. In addition to leading strategic diversity and inclusion efforts in the recruitment, retention and success of underrepresented faculty, staff and students, Wilson will also support research and curriculum planning initiatives that advance the college’s goals for diversity, equity and inclusion.

“Under DeVon Wilson’s leadership, the Center for Academic Excellence has transformed the Wisconsin experience for underrepresented students,” says Wilcots. “As our new Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, DeVon will draw on his successes with CAE, as well as his many years of experience advocating for diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education, including at Beloit College where he led academic advancement efforts before joining the L&S team. DeVon is a sought-after expert in the national DEI space, and holds a research position in the Wisconsin Equity & Inclusion Laboratory at UW-Madison, where he has focused on the academic integration of student-athletes and different learning outcomes in undergraduate education.”

Wilcots says Wilson has all the qualities that will help L&S move forward in its efforts to make L&S a welcoming, inclusive place for all: enormous energy, determination, and passion, as well as the ability to build trust, navigate a complex campus and identify opportunities and barriers to success.

“This role presents a fantastic opportunity for the College of Letters & Science to broaden the impact of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts for students, faculty, and staff, “says Wilson. “I am looking forward to working with the entire L&S community to ensure that our goals are met. It will not happen overnight, but my experiences as the founding director of the Center for Academic Excellence (CAE) and as L&S Diversity Coordinator have shown me what is possible when we are committed to creating a welcoming, inclusive environment for all. I am indebted to those who came before me who believed in making the Wisconsin Idea a reality for all communities.”

Wilson, a first-generation student himself, earned an undergraduate degree in psychology from Beloit College and worked there in Admissions and Student Affairs, becoming Assistant Dean of Students after earning his master’s degree in education from Northern Illinois University. He came to UW-Madison in 2006 as an assistant dean and was quickly named L&S diversity coordinator by then-dean Gary Sandefur. In 2013, Wilson was tapped to re-energize the Academic Advancement Program in L&S, and began building the high-touch, supportive, academic support and leadership development center now known as the Center for Academic Excellence. Along the way, he channeled the spirit and determination of its first director, Dr. James Baugh (PhD ’73), as well as the ideals of trailblazing politician and educator Ruth Doyle (late mother of former Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle), who pushed to create the program (known at its inception as the Five-Year Program) more than 55 years ago. In his role as CAE director, Wilson created a community where students feel seen and valued for their strengths.

Wilson has also advanced diversity, equity and inclusion on a national level, including serving as an executive coach for chief diversity officers at selected public and private universities through the Center for Strategic Diversity Leadership and Social Innovation in Atlanta.

Victor Glover: NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew Dragon pilot

Victor J. Glover, Jr. is a NASA astronaut and Naval Aviator. In his first spaceflight mission, he served as the pilot on the  Crew-1 flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, which launched on Nov. 15, 2020. Crew-1 was the first operational commercial crewed mission to the International Space Station and the second such flight overall after SpaceX’s Demo-2 test mission, which launched in May 2020.  

On Crew-1, Glover became the 15th Black astronaut in space and the first Black astronaut to stay for an extended period on the ISS, where he is expected to spend nearly six months in orbit as part of Expedition 64.

Glover was born in Pomona, California, according to his NASA biography. In 1994, he graduated from Ontario High School in Ontario, California, continuing his education by pursuing an engineering degree at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo,from which he graduated in 1999. 

Earning his “wings of gold” as a commissioned officer in the Navy in 2001, Glover piloted aircraft in the U.S., Italy, Japan and the Middle East. According to NASA, Glover completed 3,000 flight hours in more than 40 different aircraft, as well as over 400 landings on aircraft carriers. He also participated in 24 combat missions.

Between 2007 and 2010, he earned three master’s degrees from three different institutions: a Master of Science in Flight Test Engineering from Air University at Edwards Air Force Base in California; a Master of Science in Systems Engineering at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California; and a Master of Military Operational Art and Science at Air University in Montgomery, Alabama.

In 2012, Glover was selected for the Legislative Fellowship, a year-long full-time assignment to the office of a member of the U.S. House of Representatives or the Senate. During his time as a Legislative Fellow, Glover was chosen to become a NASA astronaut.

Glover was selected in 2013 as one of eight members of the 21st NASA astronaut class, from an overall pool of more than 6,100 applicants. He completed Astronaut Candidate Training in 2015.

On Nov. 15, 2020, Glover left Earth as pilot and second-in-command of Crew-1, SpaceX’s first contracted, fully operational astronaut mission to the ISS. Upon his arrival at the space station on Nov. 17, 2020, he became the first Black astronaut to stay for an extended mission in orbit. 

Glover is currently serving as Flight Engineer on the International Space Station for Expedition 64.

Marquette University Hires First Director of Black Student Initiatives

By Marquette University

Marquette University has announced the hiring of Samira M. Payne as the first director of Black student initiatives in the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, reporting to Dr. William Welburn, vice president for inclusive excellence.

The director of Black student initiatives position was the product of negotiations between university leadership and the Black Student Council last summer. Its role was developed in collaboration with the President’s Commission on Racial Equity. The director of Black student initiatives is responsible for tracking progress of initiatives and programs aimed at increasing recruitment and retention of Black students and improving the campus climate.

“In hiring a director of Black student initiatives, we are addressing a need that came directly from engagement with our student body, which makes the possible impact this role can play on campus so exciting,” Welburn said.

Payne is a 2010 Marquette graduate and returns to Milwaukee after serving as program director for student-athlete transition programs at the University of Notre Dame.

“I am elated to return to a place that created the foundation of my professional life and to contribute to students in this way,” Payne said. “When I arrived at Marquette as a student, I was firmly rooted in my identity as a Black girl from the south side of Chicago. I felt out of place on an elite college campus, unsure of how to navigate the structures of a university, and of how to achieve the outcomes expected of a Marquette University graduate. 

“Overcoming these barriers and finding success at Marquette and throughout my academic journey was largely shaped by the development of relationships, engagement with campus life and resources, and integration of campus and community to bring greater purpose to my work. My hope is to reduce barriers to students’ authentic engagement in their Marquette experience and to cultivate an environment where Black students can thrive,” she added.

Payne graduated from Marquette in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in social welfare and justice. She subsequently earned master’s degrees in instructional leadership-policy studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago and nonprofit administration from Notre Dame.