Human Ecology MS students give virtual symposium on capstone projects

A graduation tassel with a pendant of the W crest is pictured with a University of Wisconsin-Madison diploma cover on May 1, 2014. The picture was created to promote UW-Madison's upcoming commencement ceremony.

Image: A UW tassel, pendant, and diploma. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

Every year, students completing their graduate studies in SoHE’s applied master’s degree in human ecology present capstone projects that represent their wide-ranging professional skills and demonstrate the power of a human ecological approach to understanding and advancing well-being in society. While they typically come together in a symposium to share their work, this year they did so virtually. Below, our community can explore their various topics and approaches.

Nicholas Harnish

“Military Youth Deployment Coping Curriculum”

In the last few years, the Wisconsin National Guard has seen an uptick in the mobilization of troop assets. With that has come a greater stress on the deploying units, their families and especially the kids. I have been able to research and create a thorough, educational, repeatable, positive youth development asset in the form of a Social Emotional Learning curriculum for the Wisconsin National Guard Child and Youth Program to utilize for the foreseeable future. This curriculum will build resilience skills, coping skills, and life skills in the 1300+ military connected youth that are currently experiencing a deployment.

Molly Maher

“Making Moments Matter: A Relational Savoring Program”

Patients diagnosed with cancer can often get stuck in an illness mindset. Patients and families may forget to set aside time to savor and cherish their time together as a family. However, taking “cancer free moments” or time to be present with your loved ones can be helpful for the entire family. As a result, I created a relational savoring program to help patients and families cherish their time together. This program was piloted at Gilda’s Club Madison.

Ellen Antoniewicz

“A Walk Through Women’s History”

This summer is the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote nationally, which provides a great opportunity to highlight the influence that Wisconsin women have had on our community and state. A Walk Through Women’s History is a tour focusing on the accomplishments and efforts of Wisconsin women from the founding of Madison to the modern day. This tour will be a part of the walking tour program at the Wisconsin Historical Museum. It will begin at the museum and make a loop around the capitol square area. The stories included in this tour were chosen to represent some of the achievements and struggles that women have faced, focusing on how their success has helped to shape our state.

Jessica Fischer

“Utilizing a Transformative Lens for Social Sector Consultant Work”

Traditional approaches to crime have a focus on the punishment of offenders, whereas restorative justice focuses on healing and restoring relationships between offenders, their victims, and the broader community. A Madison-based restorative justice coalition has been established to inform and refine these local restorative justice efforts. For my project, I worked with Co-Create (a part of UW’s Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies) to conduct a needs assessment evaluating current restorative justice activities in the Madison area. Through this process, we implemented a transformative approach by utilizing participatory and multi-stakeholder methods, aligning our methods with the restorative justice ideals, and adjusting and remaining flexible to our client’s needs. The ultimate aim of this needs assessment is to evaluate current restorative justice efforts to help inform the future of this work in the Madison community.

Paser Yang

“An Exploration of Hmong American Women Perspectives on Mindfulness” 

Mindfulness has the potential to deepen our awareness and attention to improving our mental wellbeing. I’m interested in bringing the mindfulness movement into non-profit development and community organizations. Part of this is learning how mindfulness could be practiced in different community settings. In my project, I’m exploring the paradigm of mindfulness through the lens of Hmong American Women. From this engagement, we learn about different ways Hmong American women cope with stress that could be adapted into mindfulness and we also learn about their perspectives on mindfulness.

Amy Lavender

“Evaluation of Demeter Foundation Inc.’s Creating a Healthier Lifestyle”

The reentry process after incarceration can be incredibly difficult and can set people up for success or recidivism in the future. Creating a Healthier Lifestyle is a series of workshops for currently or recently incarcerated women to address a variety of needs (including physical and mental wellbeing, financial management, and occupations). I conducted a focus group with former participants and met with program staff in order to provide feedback on how the workshops are doing at meeting their stated goals around supporting women’s wellness and preventing recidivism.

Kyle Cushman

“Our Union Connection” [not available to link]

Moving people to action is best done through face-to-face settings, but sometimes that isn’t possible — like during a pandemic — and the work to make change still has to happen. I began my work with the American Federation of Teachers in Wisconsin having conversations with professors and adjuncts at a variety of UW campuses, but when COVID came, it forced us to pause and come up with a new way to not only continue organizing, but to create something new that can help build a more proactive culture in the long-term. I worked with AFT-W staff to create a communications tree, called Our Union Connection, which is a structure that builds upon already existing friendships to create a sense of community through union membership. We rolled it out to tech colleges as a way to help facilitate their yearly recertification campaign to continue collective, union representation. I worked with identified social leaders in two locals — one up north and another in Madison — where we were able to divide the work up rather equitably and personally invited nonactivists to do some of the work of making sure that people voted. In the first day of recertification, the college up north had over a third of employees vote for recertification thanks to the work that members did in reaching out and checking in with their colleagues. This was only the first step in a very long fight to rebuild the union movement in a state that is incredibly hostile to labor because we are all we have.

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