At UWM learning opportunities go beyond the classroom

October 1, 2014

2014-10-01 13_38_55-Miltimes 9-25-14 issue.pdf - Adobe ReaderStudents at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee can do a lot of learning beyond their coursework. “Here at UWM there are really a lot of different opportunities for students to get involved. There are leadership positions, undergraduate
research, extracurriculars, or just what you want to do for fun,” says Tyler Raphael, a senior from Racine, double majoring in biochemistry and biological sciences and minoring in mathematics. “I really enjoyed my experiences here.” Arturo Garcia, originally from Minnesota, found himself stepping into leadership roles in the community. “I guess this was the year where I actually decided to do better things for myself and for others. I was one of the cofounders of an organization on campus called Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee.” Raphael participated in the university’s undergraduate research program, taking on the challenge of applying the skills he was learning in his major in research with a faculty member in a different field. Working with faculty members in Freshwater Sciences, he went out on Lake Michigan to track data on lake conditions, looking for clues to a biological mystery – cell death in phytoplankton, a one-celled water organism. “I had never been on a boat on Lake Michigan before and didn’t know how to take water samples,” he says. “I learned a little about differential equations and I went to my first research conference where I could share research with other students.” Garcia took the opportunity to become involved in the broader Milwaukee and Latino communities. “Being in Milwaukee pushed me to get involved with other things, too. I became part of the Latino Student Union on campus as well as the YES group (Youth Empowered in the Struggle).” With YES, he traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby for the DREAM Act. “That was a powerful thing in my life, building relationships with powerful people and people of my age, my color.” He adds: “My cultural background lies deep in lands of Mexico, where my parents’ parents and their parents were born and raised. My family migrated to the U.S. in the late ‘80s to fulfill their dreams. My parents always instilled the idea of education is the gateway to freedom to both my sister and me when we were young and still continue to tell us now that we are adults- and they’re right.” Garcia and Raphael found opportunities in research,
internships and on-campus jobs. Raphael worked with the Student Success Center for four years, assisting other students in finding resources and mentors to help them adapt to campus life and stick with their studies. “I thought it would be a great way to meet people as well as help other people interact and have a really good experience at UWM. We have a lot of good information that incoming students would like to know. I know if I’d checked it out my first year, I would have been able to do a lot more than just hang out at the library. That’s something your mentor can really help you learn.” In addition to his work with YES, Garcia was involved in WiscAMP (the Wisconsin Alliance for Minority Participation) program for students involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. He also worked as a mentor in the Student Success Center, helping new students at UWM. And, after an internship with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Milwaukee, he moved into a full-time job with the agency. “It’s cool to say I’m actually a federal employee now.” His job is in conservation education, working with the forest service to bring programs to underserved areas. “It’s a fun job to have. I’ve always been an outdoorsy kind of guy,” Garcia says. He’s enjoyed the opportunity of introducing youngsters to the outdoors. “Not too many kids in the urban ‘hoods’ get to experience that so
it’s good to take them out of their realm to a different place, especially when they learn something new and it clicks.”