I grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona, where I completed my undergraduate experiences at Scottsdale Community College and Arizona State University, majoring in journalism at both institutions. Talking with Dr. Xueli Wang about our shared investment in supporting community college (transfer) students’ experiences, and feeling great kinship, served as an initial mechanism toward coming to UW–Madison.
Why did you decide to pursue graduate study?
As an endlessly curious individual who feels great pride in relaying individuals’ stories, I felt compelled to pursue graduate school as a means to grow personally, academically, and professionally, particularly in a field like education that supports lifelong learning. Upon discovering the educational leadership and policy analysis program, I recognized this would be the most fruitful space for me to develop as an emerging higher education scholar.
Tell us about your research.
My dissertation research united two central domains of my academic scholarship: autism in higher education and community college students. As a member of both of these communities, I experienced great pride and a sense of duty in authentically sharing the stories of autistic community college students.
What was your most meaningful experience at UW–Madison?
Such a difficult question. Two main ones come to mind: 1) sharing an annual lunch and ice cream at the Memorial Union with three of the most important people in my life; and 2) receiving the K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award from the Association of American Colleges and Universities, stemming from my research, teaching, and leadership work at UW–Madison.
What class or professor had the greatest impact on you, and why?
There are too many wonderful School of Education faculty to mention. Arguably, though, the masterful teaching, advisement, and mentorship I gleaned from Dr. Xueli Wang has been quite significant.
"As an endlessly curious individual who feels great pride in relaying individuals’ stories, I felt compelled to pursue graduate school as a means to grow personally, academically, and professionally, particularly in a field like education that supports lifelong learning."Brett Nachman
What advice would you give to incoming students?
While understandably intimidating to reach out to individuals I do not know, among the most rewarding experiences I have had as a student entailed contacting people whose work or values resonated with me. I have formed lifelong friends and collaborators through simply sending a message and seeing the possibilities of having a conversation. You never know what opportunities can emerge if you do not make the effort.
How will you celebrate your graduation?
A virtual graduation party featuring friends, relatives, and colleagues, likely sharing heartwarming memories and humor a plenty.
What are your future plans?
I will soon be starting as a postdoctoral researcher for North Carolina State University’s Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research. Concurrently I’ve been selected as an ECMC Foundation Postsecondary Career and Technical Education Research Fellow, for which I’ll be engaging in a new solo research project (related to disabled community college students in career and technical education).
You’re a UW–Madison expert now, so we must ask: Where’s the best place to eat on campus?
I’ve had several meaningful lunches with friends and relatives at the University Club, an inviting space with some tasty meal options for fellow vegetarians and vegans!
What’s one thing every UW student should experience?
Every UW student would benefit from spending time walking the halls and through the exhibit galleries in Nancy Nicholas Hall, home to the School of Human Ecology. The building represents a tranquil and rejuvenating environment for everyone.