UWM laid the foundation for young business leaders

September 26, 2019

By Kathy Quirk

Ranell Washington (left) and Devon Norwood were recently honored as emerging community leaders.

Devon Norwood and Ranell Washington met and became friends at UWM’s Lubar School of Business. They were both Lubar Business Scholars, and served with the Delta Sigma Pi professional business fraternity as well as the Black and Gold Committee. They also attended classes together and worked out together at the Klotsche Center, the place where Norwood met her future husband.

So, of course they sat together at graduation when Norwood received her bachelor’s in finance and Washington received his bachelor’s in finance and certificate in real estate. And this year, the two friends celebrated something else together: being honored as emerging community leaders in the Milwaukee Business Journal’s annual “40 Under 40” issue.

The experiences Norwood and Washington shared are prime examples of how UWM is a place to not only build the foundation for your career, but also where you can make friends for life.

Norwood, a senior vice president at Baird, started college in the sciences at another university, but after a few semesters, she decided to pursue a different path. “I started taking some business courses and enjoyed the coursework,” Norwood said. “My dad actually planted the seed in my head. He told me UWM has a really strong business program, and he was familiar with some of the staff and faculty.” So, the summer between her sophomore and junior years, she transferred to UWM, taking three summer classes to put her on track to be accepted into the business program.

“That’s when I met Ranell,” Norwood said. “He was the first person that I actually hung out with, and we took classes together. We were pretty much inseparable.”

“One thing that sticks out for me,” said Washington, partnership development advisor at American Family Insurance, “was that we were both Lubar scholars.” Washington, who had graduated from Washington High School, became interested in UWM through a recruiter, and the financial package UWM offered was a deciding factor.

“I started the program at UW-Milwaukee and loved it, then I made some great friends,” Washington said. “Devon taught me a lot about myself and kind of helped me look at opportunities in a different way than I typically had before.”

Norwood said one of the things that she liked about her UWM experience was the sense of community, something she hadn’t felt at the university she previously attended.

“I remember the first evening class,” she said. “Ranell just came up to me and said, ‘Hi, you’re new around here.’ I immediately had a group of people where we could study together, and had that amazing support system.”

Serving in leadership roles in Delta Sigma Pi was a formative experience for both of them. “Those opportunities influenced the kind of person I am now,” Norwood said. “That was one of my first significant leadership experiences. Learning how to bring my skill set to the table and being able to identify that as a strength I had was important.”

Norwood and Washington were also active in mentoring younger students, particularly students of color. “I took a lot of pride in helping provide that additional information that those students needed to navigate through some of those tough classes,” Norwood said.

Washington liked the diversity of UWM, and working for the campus information technology department helped him meet people from all over campus. “I was able to meet a lot of people with different backgrounds and experiences,” he said.

Both found the career development center a great help in doing resumes and getting ready for job fairs. Norwood had an internship at Kohl’s and several full-time job offers before graduation.

“From start to finish,” Norwood said, “UWM was really supportive of their students and making sure that they succeed.”