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Winter Conference Speaker Bios

  • "Welcome and Keynote Speaker"

    Many of us have been inspired by Ruth Johnson Colvin, founder of Literacy Volunteers of America and co-founder of ProLiteracy. Her tutor training materials have guided our day-to-day work and her advocacy has paved the way for our local literacy efforts. From a young age, Ruth realized the importance of overcoming barriers to pursue an education. In 1961, living in Syracuse with her beloved husband Bob, Ruth learned that 11,000 people in Onondaga County were functionally illiterate. Shocked by this statistic, she reached out to a number of local community groups. Eventually, armed with a background in business but no teaching experience, she agreed to lead efforts to develop a local literacy organization. Her commitment to educating herself and connecting with experts in the field, led to enormous growth. A decade later the local literacy effort Ruth spearheaded had expanded into a national organization with more than 1,000 chapters. Visiting more than 60 countries, Ruth has impacted and guided the field of adult literacy on an international level. Among other awards and honorary degrees, Ruth received the President’s Volunteer Action Award in 1987, was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993, and was the only woman to receive the 2006 Presidential Medal of Freedom. We are honored that Ruth is here today, to help to help us kick off our Winter Virtual Conference.

  • "Unconscious Bias: Can We See Our Blind Spots?"

    Reggie Jackson is a nationally heralded independent scholar and much sought-after speaker, researcher, writer, and consultant to the media on race relations. He helps institutions and individuals understand how our country’s racial hierarchy developed historically, its impact on our lives today, and how we can realize America’s promise for all its citizens. Reggie shares seldom-told stories and data about the experiences of African-Americans and other peoples of color past and present.

    Reggie has an amazing capacity to read, research, and absorb American history. He has a talent for synthesizing the material to make it compelling and meaningful for youth and adults from diverse racial/ethnic, socio-economic, and educational backgrounds.

  • "Culturally Responsive Mindfulness"

    Sylvia Eugenia Ruiz is the founder and executive director of Primordial Multicultural Healing Community, an organization whose mission is to connect the Latinx community with its own capacity to create well-being. Sylvia, who simultaneously hold a position at the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, teaches in both English and Spanish mindfulness and contemplative practices, and somatic (body-based) awareness techniques.

    Sylvia grew up in Mexico City and has been a performing artist since the age of six. Since 2005, she has participated in numerous international trainings in the fields of yoga, mindfulness, body ritual movement, performance, theatre and meditation. She is certified by the professional training program with the Mindful Awareness Research Centre at the University of California, Los Angeles. In collaboration with the UW Health Mindfulness Program, Sylvia has developed mindfulness curricula in Spanish, addressing both linguistic and cultural priorities. In 2018, she started her journey with the Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute to become a provider and bring additional resources to release trauma and restores goodness in her community. She is interested in the integration of mindfulness for Latinx communities as well as for immigrants, and in raising social justice.

  • "Naturalization 101"

    Maria del Carmen Rodriguez is currently the Community Relations Officer for USCIS Great Lakes District 34 in Chicago. She joined INS as an asylum officer in 2002, and USCIS as an Adjudicator and Immigration Services Officer II at the Chicago Field Office in 2007. Previously, Maria served as an attorney with the Office of the Cook County Public Guardian in Chicago and as a Public Relations practitioner in the nonprofit arena for 15 years. Maria earned a double BA in History and Communications from Mundelein College in Chicago; a MA in Journalism from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL; a JD from NIU College of Law, and a LLM from DePaul University College of Law. Maria loves to read, write, and travel. She also is a member of a church choir and the Sunday morning breakfast club, otherwise known as Greg’s Golden Girls. Maria and her pals have meet for breakfast every week for the last five years. Now we met via Zoom from home.

  • "Naturalization 101"

    Paul is the Community Relations Officer (CRO) for USCIS District 32. He assumed his role on December 15, 2017. Paul is responsible for developing and maintaining collaborative relationships with community-based organizations, faith-based and advocacy groups, employer and employee associations, ESL/Civics instructors, international, business, legal, and law enforcement entities, and other such stakeholders who have daily interactions with the immigrant community. Paul will also be responsible for implementing outreach initiatives to help stakeholders and immigrants understand USCIS policies and programs.

    Paul joined federal service in 2007 as a Tribal Liaison for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Northwestern Division and Portland District located in Portland, Oregon. Prior to Paul’s appointment to federal service, he served as the Native American Affairs Director for the Michigan Department of Human Service in Lansing, Michigan. He has also served first as a Community Health Representative and then the Tribal Health and Human Services Director, Political Affairs Director, and Education Director for the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi in Athens, Michigan.

    Paul earned a Bachelors of Science degree in Human Development from Warner Pacific College in Portland, Oregon. He also has a Masters of Public Administration degree from the Mark O. Hatfield School of Government located within Portland State University in Portland, Oregon.

  • "Making Numeracy Make Sense"

    She is a life-long learner who enjoys working with students. She has had the pleasure of teaching preschool through adult learners for 25+ years in a variety of educational settings. She graduated from UW-Platteville with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a minor in mathematics. She is enrolled at UW-Superior pursuing a master’s degree in Instruction. She is currently an ABE/GED/HSED Instructor at Lakeshore Technical College.

  • "Wisconsin State and Regional Economic Trends"

    Scott Hodek is the Section Chief of the Office of Economic Advisors, an office within Wisconsin's Department of Workforce Development. The Office assists economic data users to better understand the relationships between labor markets and other economic and demographic trends. Scott has been an economist with DWD since returning to his home state of Wisconsin in Jan '06. Prior to this, he was a regional economist in Oregon, covering the Columbia Gorge region, as well as a marketing analyst in the private sector. Scott earned a bachelor of science degree in Economics from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire in 2002.

  • "Local Job Centers and Workforce Development Boards: Statewide Overview"

    Mari Kay-Nabozny is a workforce development professional who collaborates with non-profit organizations, municipalities, and other entities to grow the regional economy and connect employers to workers and vice-versa. After spending seven years working as the Chief Information Officer for the Wisconsin Workforce Development Association, Mari knows the hard work and creativity necessary to successfully implement local Workforce Board solutions across Wisconsin. Mari has served as the C.E.O. of the Northwest Wisconsin Workforce Investment Board since 2012 and continues to pursue innovation and inspiration in every aspect of the Board's work.

  • "Local Job Centers and Workforce Development Boards: Statewide Overview"

    Bruce Palzkill is an Assistant Administrator for the Division of Employment and Training, at the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. He just began his 29th year with the Department. His career began as a field Manager for Job Service, managing Job Center operations in Southwest WI for 16 years. For the last 13 years, he was worked in the Central office as the Job Service Bureau Director and in his current role. He manages bureaus that oversee Registered and Youth Apprenticeship, the Federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), Job Service, jobseeker and workforce partner customer groups.

  • "Mindfulness for Educators and Caregivers"

    Ann Brand is a certified mindfulness teacher through The Mindfulness Training Institute (MTI) and the International Mindfulness Teachers Association (IMTA). She is also an Associate Lecturer in the College of Education, Hospitality, Health, and Human Sciences at The University of Wisconsin-Stout and Program Specialist for Mindfulness Training for Arts Integration Menomonie (AIM). Ann holds a doctorate in psychology from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill with an emphasis on child development and families.