Milestone: Schools of Freshwater Sciences, Public Health celebrate first grads

By Laura L. Hunt and Kathy Quirk

Before Danielle Slotke took an internship at Badger Meter, the company had only accepted engineering students. Slotke, a master’s student in the UWM School of Freshwater Sciences, arranged the internship herself.

Andrew Cawrse (from left), Danielle Slotke, Zac Driscoll, Ciara Rahn, Jeff Houghton, Sarah Bartlett, Margaret Cope and Brice Grunert comprise the first class of the School of Freshwater. Not pictured are Ben Turschak and Emily Tyner.

Lilliann Paine was attracted to a dual focus on social justice and the environment at the Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health. She is now working for the Milwaukee Health Department on a multidisciplinary effort to address infant mortality.

Both show the resourcefulness typical of the first full graduating classes of UWM’s two newest graduate-level schools. Established in 2009, they are the first new schools at UWM in 37 years.

“We feel like Lewis and Clark on their first crossing of the Mississippi River,” says Drew Kartos, who just completed his master’s degree in community and behavioral health from the Zilber School.

“These two premier graduates are helping us fulfill our brand promise to create graduates who are ready to join or re-join the workforce, and become public health leaders,” says Magda Peck, founding dean of the Zilber School. “They are exactly the kind of adventurous, pioneering people we want to attract.”

“Our 10 graduates are extraordinarily well prepared to take on the considerable challenges and opportunities surrounding freshwater issues as they relate to our environment, society and economy,” adds School of Freshwater Sciences Dean David Garman. “They will excel because they enrolled here with the goal of making a difference.”

Already having an impact
“I wanted to be able to have a broader impact on society,” says Slotke, a Brown Deer native who earned her bachelor’s degree in meteorology at Valparaiso University. “Now, I’m ultimately looking for any career focused on the technology used for environmental compliance or the water-energy nexus.”

While Slotke earned a professional track master’s, Brice Grunert is completing his thesis-track program at SFS, and is set to begin his Ph.D. at Michigan Tech. His work at the School of Freshwater Sciences examines hypoxia (a lack of oxygen) in Green Bay. It brought him in contact with engineering students, officials at the sewerage district and members of private industry.

“In Val Klump’s lab, we studied the physical limnology of Green Bay to determine what causes the lake water to move around and mix its sediment,” Grunert says. “And what effect warming temperatures have on that.”

Grunert joined fellow students Emily Tyner, Ben Turschak, Zac Driscoll and Jeff Houghton in a project to restore a 6.5 -acre marsh in one of the city’s most heavily industrialized areas, then draft plans for an environmental education park there. In a practicum course the students devised a rehabilitation plan that cinched two grants, funding the city is now using to begin the project.

The story is the same for graduates of the Zilber School.

Drew Kartos and Lilliann Paine are the ››first graduates of the Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health.

Kartos is planning to work with young people on violence prevention. His final capstone project looked at the impact of using hip-hop in public health as an intervention for mitigating youth violence.

A native of Fond du Lac who earned his bachelor’s degree at UW-Oshkosh, Kartos chose the Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health because he felt it offered a new, innovative approach. “It’s such an asset for us as a community in working on problems.”

Paine chose her career in response to the health disparities she saw growing up in Milwaukee. In her new job, she works as part of a multidisciplinary team compiling and reviewing information on stillbirths and infant deaths. The team makes recommendations to promote healthy pregnancies and improved outcomes for babies born in some of the city’s poorest zip codes.