Posted 8:06 a.m. Friday, Dec. 2, 2022

UWL's inaugural Community Engaged Fellows (from left to right): Avery Frankl, Gretta Kraus and Samantha Meister. All three say their fellowship experience has provided many valuable lessons.

Community Engaged Fellowships a win-win for students, nonprofits

As a senior management major, Avery Frankl is getting a solid education at UW-La Crosse.

However, Frankl knows that not everything can be learned in the classroom.

That’s why she jumped at the chance to participate in UWL’s new Community Engaged Fellowship program, which provides students with high-impact learning opportunities at local nonprofit organizations.

“Whereas topics learned in the classroom seem to be an overview, during my fellowship I have been able to get hands-on experience with different processes, forms of communication and more,” says Frankl, who started her internship with WisCorps this summer. “I now have a better understanding of how to apply and implement what I have learned in a more hypothetical setting to real-world situations and scenarios.”

Frankl is one of three UWL students selected as Community Engaged Fellows. Marketing major Samantha Meister is also interning with WisCorps, while psychology and Spanish major Gretta Kraus is interning with the La Crosse Community Foundation.

While the fellowships differ in focus, each student worked at least 30 hours a week throughout the summer, and they will work about 10 hours a week this fall and next spring. They each receive a $12,000 stipend.

As part of her work with WisCorps, Meister is creating an alumni foundation for WisCorps members, helping assemble a grant information website and reviving the WisCorps newsletter.

So far, she says, the experience has taught her many valuable lessons — and not just about marketing.

“This summer has been an absolute dream working alongside all of my fantastic colleagues and supervisors,” Meister says. “They have provided me with great insights not only professionally but also on how to navigate life after college. I'm immensely grateful for every moment that I have been able to work with WisCorps and their staff.”

Ron and Jane Rada, two longtime educators and supporters of UWL, provided initial funding for the Community Engaged Fellowship program.

At the La Crosse Community Foundation, Kraus has been working with the other two fellows to create a local funder directory for La Crosse County. The directory will be housed on the foundation’s website, aiming to increase transparency between funders and fund-seekers while helping nonprofits apply for grants that align with their mission.

Kraus says it has been an illuminating experience.

"I love to learn new things, and this opportunity has taught me so much,” Kraus says. “I did not know that La Crosse had so many generous donors giving back to the city to make it a better place. I also never knew that there were so many nonprofits around the area all giving so much time and energy into benefiting people's lives in so many unique ways. It is so uplifting and heartwarming to know there are so many people in the community who want to see La Crosse be the best it can be for everyone who lives here.”

The Community Engaged Fellowship program is funded by Ron and Jane Rada, two longtime La Crosse educators and supporters of UWL. Recently, UWL alum Mike McGinley and his wife, Kathi, joined the Radas in supporting the program. 

Though the program is still in its infancy, all involved say it has already been a success.

Matthew Brantner, executive director of WisCorps and a UWL alum, says the Community Engaged Fellowship program is a major boost to the organization. He hopes to grow the partnership with UWL and create more opportunities for students.

“We’ve had a great relationship with UWL over the years and have had students help us in various roles,” he says. “Having these fellowships allows us to build our departments and intentionally give those students skills that will help them in the next step of their careers. It’s a forward-thinking idea, and we hope this will be a catalyst for other Community Engaged Fellowship opportunities with other agencies in the community.”

Learn more about Community Engaged Fellowships, including how to apply for 2023.