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News Brief: Spring/Summer 2019-20

News Brief: Spring/Summer 2019-20

So many exciting things happen with students, faculty, and staff at USM that we don’t have room to fit it all in the magazine. Below are longer-form versions of the stories from the magazine, including more information and, for more stories, photo galleries and videos.

Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Students make sandwiches for a food pantry on the MLK Jr. Day of Service.

In observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 20, University School of Milwaukee did not hold classes. Instead, USM students, faculty, staff, and their families were invited to participate in a special on-campus service project to honor the civil rights leader and the 25th anniversary of the MLK Day of Service.

In a new format this year, parents and students of all ages met in the Jack Olson ’67 Commons to make sandwiches to benefit the Guest House of Milwaukee. Sandwich ingredients were donated by FLIK Independent School Dining, and guests were invited to bring additional sandwich-making items if they wished.

In addition to enjoying coffee and a light breakfast, attendees heard brief speeches from Andrew Cotton ’21, Kushal Daruwala ’22, CJ Goldberg ’22, Caroline Harkless ’21, and Rosa Rivera ’22, as well as Melissa Feldmeyer from the United Way.

Attendees made, bagged, and labeled approximately 700 sandwiches, which will help to feed those in need. Many thanks to all who participated!

New Athletic Director Named

Tim Williams

University School of Milwaukee has announced that Tim Williams is USM’s new athletic director. He replaces Luke Houdek, who announced his resignation in January.

Williams was most recently the director of upper school athletics at Princeton Day School in New Jersey, where he had worked since 2011. That school, which has approximately 1,000 students in prekindergarten through 12th grade, is particularly like USM in its academic and athletic programming, college matriculation, and campus structure—which includes an on-campus ice arena. Williams has previously served in assistant athletic director and athletic director roles at Collegiate School in Richmond, Virginia and Louisville Collegiate School in Kentucky, and as assistant director for operations at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. In addition, he has served in many different coaching roles, most recently as the varsity boys’ basketball coach at Princeton Day.

Williams earned a B.A. in psychology from the University of North Carolina and an M.S. in exercise and sports science from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He has also taken graduate-level courses in sports management from Virginia Commonwealth University and holds the title of Certified Master Athletic Administrator from the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. He has served as vice president of the New Jersey Independent Schools Athletic Association, president of the Women’s Ice Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic, and vice president of the Mercer County (New Jersey) Tournament Association, among other leadership roles.

USM’s national search attracted strong candidates from across the country, and Williams stood out as an exceptional fit with USM’s athletic leadership and programming needs at this time. USM’s educational-based athletic program is built on the foundational principles of teamwork, commitment, sportsmanship, discipline, and leadership. Our program supports, not competes with, academics, and embraces the “teacher-as-coach” model, providing opportunities for teachers and students to get to know each other beyond the classroom. USM maintains a no-cut policy, which exemplifies the school’s commitment to providing athletic opportunities for all students. At the same time, the program has built and maintained a high standard of excellence, with a consistent record of success in state tournaments and graduates who go on to participate in college athletics.

Over his 30-year education career as an administrator and coach, Williams has invested his life’s work into his passion for providing a positive athletic experience for independent school students, remarking “I am a strong proponent of the positive effects of athletics for young people in making them more confident, helping them to set and pursue goals, showing them how to work within the aspect of the team, and creating a more healthy individual.” Steve Hancock, USM’s newly appointed head of school, who hired Tim at Princeton Day in 2011 and worked with him for four years, observed, “Tim is an excellent communicator, inspiring motivator, visionary leader, and successful coach.”

A native of North Carolina, Tim and his wife, Kristin, have a son, Ben, a high school sophomore, and two daughters—Betsy, a high school senior, and Bailey, a 7th grader. We are excited to welcome Tim and his family into our USM community.

Childhood Development

Dr. Michael Thompson eats lunch with students.

University School of Milwaukee, in partnership with REDgen, welcomed clinical psychologist, school consultant, author, and international speaker Dr. Michael Thompson on Tuesday, Jan. 28 for a series of speaker events.

Thompson spent the bulk of the day meeting with various groups on campus. He began by eating lunch with Upper School students, which was followed by an Upper School assembly related to helping students manage their expectations around college admissions. He then met with 4th through 8th grade students and spoke about friendship development, popularity, and social cruelty in childhood. He concluded the school day with a presentation to faculty members about the nature of boys. Finally, Thompson gave a presentation to parents and educators in the evening, which was free and open to the public, titled “The Impact of the Loss of Play in Childhood.” Students from Port Washington High School, Pius High School, and North Shore Montessori also attended select sessions.

Thompson has written nine books focusing on the emotional lives of boys, friendships and social cruelty in childhood, the impact of summer camp experiences on child development, the tensions that arise in the parent-teacher relationships, and psychological aspects of school leadership. His work with independent schools and public school districts throughout the United States, and with international schools in Europe, Asia and South America, takes him to about 50 schools a year to lead workshops for teachers, administrators, parents, and students.

The USM/REDgen Speaker Series is a partnership between University School of Milwaukee and REDgen, a Milwaukee-based organization which fosters active community conversations around what it means to live a healthy, balanced life with authentic success. This is the third year of the partnership and speaker series events. More information can be found at

Robotics Wins Chairman's Award

USM Robotics logo

Although the University School of Milwaukee Wildcats (team #6823) were not able to compete at the regional FIRST Robotics competition in San Diego due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team still managed to earn prestigious recognition for their work. Out of 59 registered teams, the USM Wildcats earned the top spot—the Chairman’s Award—based on the essay the team submitted, and the work the school has done to expand FIRST programming in Lower School and Middle School, and the team’s work with Operation DREAM in Milwaukee.

This is the first time the Wildcats have earned the Chairman’s Award which, according to FIRST Robotics, “honors the team that, in the judges’ estimation, best represents a model for other teams to emulate, and which embodies the goals and purpose of FIRST. It remains FIRST’s most prestigious award.”

“This is a huge win for USM,” said Nikki Lucyk, director of innovation and educational technology. “Our students were so disappointed when they couldn’t compete in San Diego, but they could still win based on the essay they submitted and worked so hard on. We are fortunate to have great teachers, families, and resources to support the kids in their endeavors.”

Watch a video announcement of the team winning the award. In addition, watch this video that the team created and submitted to the competition, along with their essay.

March to the Memorials

Collage of people participating in the March to the Memorials.

University School of Milwaukee 8th grade students and faculty hosted the ninth annual March to the Memorials, a service-learning event that was open to the entire USM community, on Friday, May 22. The event is usually held in the Middle School car circle; however, this year, due to COVID-19, it was held virtually.

The event kicked off at 3 p.m., when students and families were invited to join one of four Google Meet rooms to hear an overview of March to the Memorials from student monitors, and listen to the national anthem performed virtually by 8th grade students. Everyone was then encouraged to head outside and march for as long as they wanted, while taking photos to monitor their progress. Participants then uploaded their photos and total miles walked to a website, where they were also able to make a donation to Stars and Stripes Honor Flights.

As a community, participants marched more than 800 miles—enough to cover the distance from Milwaukee to Washington, D.C.—and raised more than $4,000 for Stars and Stripes Honor Flights.

Many thanks to Chuck Taft, 8th grade American studies history teacher and Middle School Social Studies department chair, and the many others who helped organize and coordinate the event. We are proud to honor our men and women in uniform—past and present.

USM Hosts Milwaukee Dialogues

Students participate in a Milwaukee Dialogues leadership event.

Members of the Global Youth Leadership Institute (GYLI) visited University School of Milwaukee on Thursday, Feb. 20 as part of GYLI’s Milwaukee Dialogues event. Participating students from Carmen Northwest and Dr. Howard Fuller Collegiate Academy schools in Milwaukee joined USM students, including those who participated in the Student Diversity Leadership Conference this past December.

The Milwaukee Dialogues Series is designed to provide training in cross-cultural communication, conflict resolution, mindfulness, and stress management. It also provides students with leadership training and a chance to learn from one another and meet peers with different backgrounds, beliefs, and experiences. Elaine Griffin, USM’s head of Middle School, serves on GYLI’s board of directors.

Quryshi '20 Named Coca-Cola Scholar

Afiya Quryshi presents her science fair project.

Afiya Quryshi ’20 is part of a select group of 150 high school seniors named 2020 Coca-Cola Scholars, who each receive a $20,000 college scholarship. Less than one-sixth of 1% of applicants were chosen to receive this extremely competitive award.

USM Dominates Stock Market

University School of Milwaukee Middle School teams outperformed their peers during the annual Wisconsin Stock Market Simulation game. Nine of the top 10 spots in the junior high/middle school division of the simulation were held by USM teams. Of the more than 1,200 teams that competed in all three grade-based divisions throughout the state, the top USM team finished in an incredible eighth place overall. “I’ve been doing this for many years and have not seen dominance like this,” said Brian Markwald, 7th grade social studies teacher.

Congratulations to the following students:

  • Elom Adjanor ’25
  • Hayden Baum ’25
  • Gabriel Ciralsky ’25
  • Sama Daham ’25
  • Trevor Dunning ’25
  • Sofia Espinosa ’25
  • Ethan Feldner ’25
  • Fiona Hernandez ’25
  • Liam Isaacson ’25 (not pictured)
  • Shrejal Gundelly ’25
  • Keegan Markgraf ’25 (not pictured)
  • Sullivan Mellowes ’25
  • Milo Meyer ’25
  • Amelia Otjen ’25
  • William Reese ’25
  • Roshni Sharma ’25
  • Halimah Shittu ’25
  • Lewis Silber ’25
  • Beckett Stratton ’25
  • Charles Vielehr ’25
  • Nate Zimmerman ’25

USM has competed in the simulation, in which student teams of one to five players begin with $100,000 in their investment account, since 2000. As a team, they must make at least three trades based on their research in the investment. Beyond learning the value of investing, students learn teamwork and decision-making, and are exposed to potential career opportunities. The event is sponsored by Economics Wisconsin. In 2017, USM students Xavier Barth ’22 and Lexi Lee ’22 won the simulation and a paid trip to New York City, where they toured the New York Stock Exchange and saw a Broadway play, among other activities.

Chisholm Visits USM

John Chisholm, Milwaukee's district attorney, talks with USM students.

John Chisholm, who has served as Milwaukee County’s district attorney since 2007, spoke to students who are pursuing the Social Issues and Service Distinction transcript designation during their community time on Tuesday, Feb. 11.

Chisholm was invited by Upper School Drama Teacher Mark Edwards, and he spoke about challenges facing the criminal justice system, and challenges facing Milwaukee in particular. He also shared his thoughts on how to reform the system and the efforts he has made, as well as answered questions from students.

Tower Project 2020

Students share their Tower Projects virtually with the school community.

After spending the entire academic year researching, interviewing experts, practicing presentations, and writing reports, Tower Project students in all three divisions are excited to share their final presentations with the University School of Milwaukee community. To view them, click here and select the division you’d like to view.

While the format was different this year, we hope you enjoy the presentations and all of the hard work that the students put into them. Many thanks to the following teachers who served as program mentors: Stephen Bloch, Upper School Learning Center teacher and Upper School psychology teacher (Middle School students’ mentor); Kate Gay, Upper School English teacher (Upper School mentor); and Wade Bosworth, Upper School science teacher (Upper School mentor). In addition, many thanks to all of the Lower School mentors and the Lower School Tower Project team, 4th grade teachers Laura Blanchet, Katelyn Peter, Kelley Sovol, and Leandra Zdrojewski.

About Tower Projects

Tower Project is a student-centered, teacher-mentored, and school-supported experiential learning program that encourages students to pursue their own interests and take their learning beyond the boundaries of the classroom.

Students in each division work on developing, researching, and creating a Tower Project on a topic of their choice for an entire academic year. They meet with teachers, members of the USM community, mentors, and local experts who help them define and refine their topic, conduct research, create presentations, and stay on track throughout the duration of the project.

As a result of their work, students gain academic skills such as research, writing (both academic and reflective), critical thinking, analysis and synthesis, and project creation. They also gain confidence and abilities in public speaking, problem solving, time management, relationship building, risk taking and more, all in a supportive and encouraging environment.

Taft Wins National Award

Chuck Taft gives an American History lesson.

Chuck Taft, 8th grade American history teacher, was named the Patricia Behring Junior Division Teacher of the Year as part of the National History Day finals. Taft was one of only two national award winners for this prestigious honor.

National History Day Winners

Of the five USM projects that advanced to the National History Day finals in May, three were honored with recognition at the national level in June. Congratulations to August Neumann ’24, Srikar Mudili ’24, and Ellie Leverett ’21 for their outstanding work.

The Show Must Go On

A poster for the play %22Peter and the Star Catcher.%22

Despite a worldwide pandemic and some technical difficulties, Middle School students delivered a rousing virtual performance of their play, “Peter and the Starcatcher.” Click here to watch a recording of the performance. The play is based on the best-selling novels, and gives a twist on the classic story of how an orphan becomes the legendary Peter Pan.

The cast of 40 students held virtual rehearsals to prepare, and gave their best effort despite the difficult circumstances. Many thanks to Katie Gonring, Middle School drama teacher and director; Kamie Fultz, 6th grade science teacher, Middle School Science Department chair, and assistant director; and Joshua Miller, theatre technical director and videographer. In addition, thanks to the lead parent volunteers Renee Mondano, Amy Norman, and Will Piper ’96.

Omoloja '22 Earns Third Place

Dara Omoloja earns third place at Poetry Out Loud.

Congratulations to Dara Omoloja ’22, who earned third place at the Poetry Out Loud state competition on March 7 in Madison, Wisconsin.

Omoloja advanced to the state competition after competing at regionals on Feb. 21. Three other USM students also competed at regionals, which was held at Milwaukee’s Riverside University High School: Lauren Glusman ’21, Lexi Lee ’22, and Margaret Rankin ’21.

About Poetry Out Loud
Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering free educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools across the country. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life. Poetry Out Loud is a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Foundation, and the state and jurisdictional arts agencies.

Award-winning Songwriter

Fiona Hernandez

Fiona Hernandez ’25 earned first place in the vocal solo category of the WSMA 2020 Student Composition Project for her piece, “Sail the World,” which she wrote in a Middle School song-writing class taught by Miriam Altman, Middle School music teacher. In addition to writing the lyrics and composing the music, Hernandez ’25 digitally created all of the sounds in the piece, including the instrumentals. Click here to listen to a recording of the song, performed by Lyle Mondano ’24.

To enter the project, hosted by the Wisconsin School Music Association (WSMA), students submit original compositions and recordings to the WSMA in the fall. The works are then evaluated by professional Wisconsin composers and students receive written critiques from the evaluators.

Hall of Fame Inductee

Mark Edwards

Mark Edwards, Upper School drama teacher, was inducted into the Whitefish Bay High School Fine Arts Hall of Fame in December 2019. Edwards, who is a 1992 graduate of Whitefish Bay High School, was recognized for his continuing professional achievements in the fine arts.

Edwards discovered his love of writing and performing as a student at UW-Madison, where he participated in local theatre outlets, specifically Broom St. Theatre. In 1999 he moved to San Francisco and founded Traveling Art Circus, which became his theatre and art exhibition company. Through Traveling Art Circus, Edwards wrote, directed and performed in a myriad full length, one act, and sketch performances. He has written roughly 17 full-length plays and musicals, combined with roughly 100 sketch and one-act pieces. While creating many works for the stage, he has worked with numerous actors from all over the country and the world. Traveling Art Circus sold out many venues and was named the best performance troupe in the Bay Area by “San Francisco Magazine.”

After moving back to Milwaukee, he began teaching middle school in St. Francis, Wisconsin. He joined University School of Milwaukee’s Middle School in 2015, and became the Upper School drama teacher in 2018. At USM, he has created a scaffolded curriculum highlighting the power of voice and character creation, directed five Broadway musicals and several plays, and written a full-length play performed by USM students.

“In essence, theatre arts have been at the center of everything that is my core for the past quarter century and will remain that for the next quarter century and beyond,” said Edwards. “The exception to that absolute ‘core’ would be my family—my wife, son, and daughter—with whom I live in Whitefish Bay.”

Celebrating Global Play Day

What do building blanket forts, playing Twister, and creating elaborate domino chain reactions have in common? They all support childhood development and social skills, but are disguised in play. University School of Milwaukee’s students in all divisions participated in Global School Play Day on Wednesday, Feb. 5. In Preschool and Lower School, the entire day was devoted to open-ended, student-directed play.

USM joined more than 3,700 schools worldwide—and only a handful in Wisconsin—to participate in the event, in which children worked together in unstructured, child-directed play. They were encouraged to use anything they liked, as long as it did not require batteries or electricity. “Building a fort out of blankets requires a whole host of tools, like spatial awareness, large motor skills, communication, geometry, team work, and negotiating,” said Michael Tauscher, head of Preschool and Lower School. “Teachers were able to observe their students as they played and really assess their learning. How well can they construct, discuss with their peers, take the lead, or follow direction? It’s a day when kids can use their mind in a different way while having fun with each other and their teachers.”

As an independent school, USM was able to participate in the event for the full school day. “I think the magic here at University School is that we’re able to adjust our schedule to devote the whole day to play,” said Tauscher. “School administration, teachers, and parents support it and know the value of it.”

Spring 2020 Cum Laude Inductees

Ten University School of Milwaukee seniors were welcomed into the Cum Laude Society, an organization that honors superior scholastic achievement and includes the top 1% of all secondary schools in the country. The top 10% of USM’s senior class is inducted into the society each fall, and another 10% joins in the spring.

Congratulations to the following seniors who were honored during a special assembly in February:

  • Athena Borca
  • Jessica Cain
  • Grace Charmoli
  • Emma Keuler
  • Quinn Kingwill
  • Ritika Pandey
  • Qiufeng Rui
  • Lilian Steinbach
  • Danavi Wollin
  • XinYu Yan

About the Cum Laude Society:
The Cum Laude Society was founded in 1906. Approximately two dozen of the 382 chapters are located in public schools, with the majority in independent schools. Membership is predominantly in the United States, but chapters are located across the globe.

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