Marquette University's College of Professional Studies was established in 1996 to meet the unique educational needs of adult learners. Today, the college serves adult students through a variety of leadership-focused degree and non-degree programs. We are proud to present profiles of alumni who are making a difference. 



Joan DonnerJoan Donner

Master's in Leadership Studies '08, Future Milwaukee Leadership '09
Independent HR Consultant

Joan is the first graduate of the Master’s in Leadership Studies on-site program at Harley-Davidson Motor Company.  “I chose Marquette University’s College of Professional Studies due to my passion for good leadership, and because I realized that I could immediately apply the knowledge and skills learned from the program to my professional responsibilities,” said Joan.

Joan also participated in the Future Milwaukee Leadership program offered through the college.  “Future Milwaukee provided an opportunity for me to learn about the richness of this community,” she said.  “I have learned from my peers within the group about the ways that they give back to the community and the passion in which they do it. As a result, I am also inspired to live up to my capacity in giving back.”

Jim PoltrockJim Poltrock

Master's in Public Service '01, Graduate Certificate in Dispute Resolution '05
Assistant Division Chief of Emergency Medical Operations, Kenosha Fire Department

After completing his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Marquette, Jim rose through the ranks at the Kenosha Fire Department and is now charged with managing and leading all daily operations and planning for the department's Emergency Medical Service Division. Jim's responsibilities include supervising 80 emergency medical technicians and 65 paramedics.

"My time at Marquette helped me learn to focus on ideas and concepts and how they can be implemented to continually improve an organization."

Jim MilnerJim Milner

Bachelor's in Organization and Leadership and Professional Communication '03
President of Urban Strategies

Jim was about to lose a job he loved - a management position at a large nonprofit organization. He even dreamed of becoming executive director. Then came the bad news. He needed a college degree to keep his job. Fortunately, he was just three months away from graduating from Marquette. He didn't only keep his job, he boosted his marketability and accelerated his career. Now he runs a successful consulting firm. Jim knows firsthand that you can't afford NOT to have a college degree.

"I came to Marquette University's College of Professional Studies with ideas. I graduated with choices."

Mary RyanMary Ryan

Master's in Public Service '11
Managing Director, Wisconsin Voices

The graduate program in Public Service interested Mary because of its focus on ethical leadership. "It gave me a better understanding of myself as well as how I can shape current affairs in the governmental and nonprofit arena," said Mary. "Plus, Marquette's program had an interdisciplinary approach which didn't limit my career opportunities to just nonprofits."

"Marquette's public service program is an ideal graduate program for working professionals. The educational offerings refine your skills and expand your knowledge, but the social justice mindset and desire to give back and shape the community is what really makes Marquette unique."

Ron Smith Ron Smith

Bachelor's in Professional Communication '05 and
Master's in Leadership Studies '09
Assistant Managing Editor/News Operations, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

It wasn't his season. That's how Ron explains why he quit school at age 22. He went on to work for Newsday, the Los Angeles Times and The Oregonian. But when he came back to Milwaukee, he started to think about finishing what he started.

"The College of Professional Studies was a lifesaver - I don't think I would've finished without it," he says. Now he can't get enough of school and is pursuing a Ph.D. "You should always invest in yourself," remarks Ron.    

Tracy JohnsonTracy Johnson

Future Milwaukee Leadership '07 Executive Director, TEMPO Milwaukee

By participating in the Future Milwaukee Leadership program, Tracy received a crash course in the city’s neighborhoods, business challenges and nonprofit organizations.  She rubbed elbows with the city’s CEOs and served meals to needy mothers and their children. The program also led to a job with TEMPO Milwaukee, an organization for women business leaders. 

“Through Future Milwaukee I found valuable connections and experiences that will allow me to make a meaningful difference in our city. Future Milwaukee broadens horizons and literally opens doors.”

Jim Otepka

Jim Otepka

Master's in Public Service '07
Dean of Students, Carmen High School of Science and Technology

After Jim finished a one year stint with a small, grass roots nonprofit during his service with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, he knew he wanted to remain in the nonprofit sector. Going back to school allowed Jim to be more competitive in the job market.

"I was offered a position at an ambitious nonprofit charter school just a month after I completed the master's program. My experience definitely gave me a real sense of confidence navigating through the operational issues we face as a startup nonprofit - be they managerial, legal, financial or capital in nature."

Ayiesha Domino-BrownAyiesha Domino-Brown

Master's in Leadership Studies '09
Performance Review & Evaluation Manager, Wisconsin Department of Children & Families

Ayiesha decided to go back to school to enhance her knowledge, skills, and marketability. "It was an investment in my personal growth and my career," she said.

"My Marquette degree has given me the competence and confidence to tackle nonprofit issues that relate directly to my organization and the sector as a whole. The education I received gave me the tools I need to maximize and utilize my leadership ability in my current role and throughout my career."



Virgilio RodriguezVirgilio Rodriguez

Bachelor's in Organization and Leadership '09
Executive Management Professional

After high school, Virgilio joined the Marine Corps, tried college for a few years and then started a family. When he was in his early 30s he realized that an undergraduate degree would help him hone his business savvy and open the doors to greater success - something he preached to his children and the youth he serves at the United Community Center every day. "I was familiar with Marquette's College of Professional Studies' undergraduate program, and all of its courses were a natural fit with my job," remarked Virgilio.

Rodriguez also built a support network of other professionals in the community through what he said was one of the most beneficial parts of he program - group discussions with others from diverse business backgrounds.

Shirley SciaccaShirley Sciacca

Bachelor's in Psychology '12
Supervisory Administrative Specialist, Federal Bureau of Investigation

At 62 years old, Shirley is working toward her bachelor’s degree and repositioning herself for the next chapter in her career and her personal life.  She enjoys sharing the classroom on a weeknight or Saturday with adult students who bring the wealth of their work experience. 

“My experience of working for a major airline, who went bankrupt, taught me that even if I have a great deal of experience over many years, without a degree I might not have the qualifications to get the job."   


Alex RamirezAlex Ramirez

Master's in Public Service and Graduate Certificate in Law Enforcement Leadership and Management '09
Police Lieutenant, Milwaukee Police Department

"After I saw people around me had started enrolling in graduate studies, I felt I needed to stay competitive with them and the world around me," said Alex. "The graduate certificate gave me the desire to continue my education and earn my master's degree through the College of Professional Studies."

"My educational experience has given me the ability to make a difference in the community, with individuals, and within my career. It created a network with law enforcement professionals to share ideas so that the public is better served."


Carmella ThomasCarmella Thomas

Bachelor's in Criminology and Law '00, Master's in Public Service '03 Probation/Parole Agent, Wisconsin Department of Corrections

After aging out of the child welfare system, Carmella earned her high school diploma through MATC.  She continued her education by enrolling in the College of Professional Studies so she could get a Marquette education on the weekends and evenings while she worked full-time. 

“I knew I needed to go to college to get the skills I needed to survive, because without a degree good jobs are almost impossible to get.” 


Deborah ThundercloudDeborah Thundercloud

Master's in Dispute Resolution '12 General Manager, Oneida Nation

When Deborah heard about Marquette's dispute resolution program, she decided it was worth the 120-mile drive from Green Bay. She knew it would help her manage the Oneida Nation's tribal government, which represents 16,000 people.

"Dispute resolution applies to everything I do. We've had a strong tradition of trying to solve disputes outside the mainstream court culture, but I never would have looked at alternative dispute resolution from so many different angles."

Gillion SimpsonGillion Simpson

Bachelor's in Professional Communication '11
IT Applications Manager, Milwaukee County

Gillion started as a traditional-age student at Marquette University in the 80’s, and then her life journey forced her to put her education on hold. After she attended an information session hosted by the college, Gillion was impressed with the adult undergraduate degree program with an accelerated eight-week session format and flexible scheduling. She decided to enroll in the program and since that time she has been given additional professional responsibilities at work and earned a promotion.

"My education is so valuable to me because having a Marquette degree means that there will be no doors that will remain closed to me.”

Marcia LeeMarcia Lee

Master's in Dispute Resolution '09 Restorative Justice Consultant

After completing volunteer service through a year-long volunteer program through the Capuchin Franciscans, Marcia was accepted to Marquette’s Trinity Fellows Program — a graduate fellowship program dedicated to developing urban nonprofit leaders with a commitment to social and economic justice.  Through this program, Marcia earned a graduate degree from the College of Professional Studies while applying her education through work with a nonprofit organization.

“The master’s in dispute resolution gave me a greater understanding of conflict and tools for its resolution."







Contact College of Professional Studies

Email the college

Marquette University College of Professional Studies
707 Building, Room 403
P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee WI 53201-1881
Phone: (414) 288-3153 or (800) 793-6450, extension 2
FAX: (414) 288-3298