From “Madison artist selected for elite contemporary art festival in Europe” — A Madison artist who creates complex and vividly colored paper sculptures has been selected to represent Dane County in a European event that attracts a global audience.

Michael Velliquette, 40, will spend two weeks in July as part of an elite convention of artists known as EUARCA. The gathering takes place during dOCUMENTA, one of the largest contemporary art festivals in the world, held every five years in Dane County’s sister county of Landkreis Kassel, Germany.

Last fall, Kassel invited Dane County to select a working artist to be the sole American in EUARCA. Twenty artists applied, and eight finalists were interviewed by the executive council of the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission, said commission vice chairwoman Jennifer Post Tyler.

The applicants were “an amazing parade of artists,” Post Tyler said.

Velliquette rose to the top for his “clear, defined vision for the kind of work he would do at EUARCA, how he would engage people there and what he would do to bring the work back to Dane County,” she said.

While at EUARCA, Velliquette plans to create a 12-by-5-foot, three-dimensional sculpture titled “The Power Structure,” along the 2012 EUARCA theme of “power and responsibility.” He hopes to build a similar piece upon his return to Madison. “I like the idea of there being these two ‘antennae’ on both sides of the globe that are connected in some way,” he said.

Velliquette, who teaches part-time at UW-Madison and Madison Area Technical College, grew up in Florida, came to Madison “on a whim” in 1997 and stayed to earn an master’s of fine arts degree from UW-Madison. He lived in San Antonio before moving back to Madison in 2007 to join his partner, organic chemistry professor Tehshik Yoon.

The dynamic use of color in his work, displayed at, “tends to give people some visual excitement — and in some cases joy — so I like that aspect of it,” he said.

Along with $1,000 from Dane County for travel expenses, Velliquette will receive a scholarship of 1,000 euros, studio set-up and a two-week stay with a local family provided by his German hosts.


From “Kickstart your culinary dream: The hottest kitchen entrepreneur challenge” — Have you ever dreamed of owning your own food-related business?

If so, Milwaukee Area Technical College and Reliable Water Services, a local provider of commercial water heaters, boilers and water softeners, would like to give you a head start on your planning. On April 2, they will launch the Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge, a regional contest to find the next great food entrepreneur.

Armen Hadjinian, program coordinator for MATC’s new Entrepreneurship Center, says he has seen an increase in the number of individuals who want to break free from the corporate grind and start their own businesses. He attributes what he sees to a number of factors including underemployment, resume building, a shift in attitudes toward self-reliance and independence, and entrepreneurship, innovative thinking and creativity, which lends itself to the competitive corporate climate.

He also sees passion as a key motivator for entrepreneurs, sometimes even more so than the lure of a large income.

“Money may have limited appeal,” he suggests, “Yet entrepreneurship can bring power and control over one’s career and family. It’s sensible to start small, to test, learn and attempt.”

And that’s what a variety of local food entrepreneurs are doing.

Back in 2008, after being downsized from a corporate job, Byron Jackson turned a 30-year love affair with fiery foods into a full-time gourmet hot sauce business. Man’s Best Friend Sauces markets products to a niche market of chile lovers who crave imaginative “purebred” hot sauces, each of which is identified with its own unique dog breed.

According to Jackson, MBF’s growth is as much linked to the dogs on the bottles as the products’ inventive flavor profiles. But, Jackson’s success didn’t come without growing pains.

“Prior to 2008, MBF Sauces was more of a glorified hobby. At that time, expenses didn’t matter to me because I always had a good job to subsidize them. These days I remain a passionate hot sauce artisan, but I’m also very prudent and much more aware of my actual expenses.”

Jackson also has advice for anyone thinking about starting his or her own business.

“Before you get started, ask the question ‘Why do I need to share this with the world?'” Jackson says. “If it takes more than few seconds to answer, you may want to reconsider your idea as a hobby instead of a full-time business.”

Amber Atlee, along with two colleagues from Waukesha County Technical College, answered that question after finding that there was a demand for a service that provided fresh, upscale options for independent seniors and others who wanted heat-and-eat meals delivered to their homes once weekly.

In July of 2011, they started a personal chef and catering company called Culinary Twists, and began offering an ever-changing menu of main dishes and sides made with fresh ingredients.

Like many small businesses, the partners from Culinary Twists needed to meet a number of logistical challenges before launching their business.

First, they needed to conduct research to determine whether there was a need for their particular niche business and to determine how they would compete with current competitors in the market. Next, they needed to find a commercial kitchen that would allow them to rent space for a limited amount of time each week. Finally, they needed to ensure that they had the appropriate licenses from the state, as well as each county in which they wanted to conduct their business.

“Just because you have a good idea and really like to cook doesn’t mean that you will make a great business owner,” Atlee says. “We’re fortunate to have three partners who each bring something different to the table – one of us is great at sales, one is great at the finances, the other keeps our kitchen running smoothly.”

Do you think you have what it takes? Beginning April 2, aspiring chefs and home cooks throughout Wisconsin are invited to enter The Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge at by submitting a short application and a photo of their recipe or product concept.

All entries must be submitted by midnight on Friday, May 18. Full contest rules and details are available right on the website.

“We know there are passionate cooks who have the beginnings of a food business idea and others who may have taken the first steps but could use some encouragement and advice,” says Hadjinian.

The grand prize winner will receive $2,500 in seed money from Reliable to start their business, a comprehensive entrepreneurial consultation package from MATC and a gift certificate for professional cookware from The Boelter Companies.

Finalists will be selected in mid-June to participate in a final judging event at Cuisine, the student-operated restaurant for MATC’s culinary arts program in late summer.

Judges for the contest will include:

  • Justin Aprahamian, chef de cuisine for Sanford Restaurant and James Beard semi-finalist
  • Lynn Sbonik, co-owner of Beans & Barley Deli, Market & Full Service Café
  • Andrea Marquez-Paquin and Andrew Paquin, owners of La Luna, a local company which provides fresh, authentic Mexican food products sold in select grocers’ freezers
  • George Flees, general manager of Parkside 23, a restaurant in Brookfield featuring American food made with fresh, local ingredients

“We are so excited to help a local entrepreneur who has an innovative food business idea but needs resources to get started,” said Lynne Robinson, president of Reliable Water Services. “It’s very gratifying to know we can help kick-start someone’s culinary dream.”

From “Employers Increasingly “Like” Social Media Skills” — Geoffrey Colon rattles off the areas he specializes in: “community management,” “listening,” “social care.” Just five years ago, you might have guessed that he is a social worker or community organizer.

But Colon serves as vice president of Social@Ogilvy, a social media division of worldwide marketing giant Ogilvy & Mather. As such, he is well-versed in the field’s latest buzz words: “community management” means leading an online community on platforms such as facebook, “listening” is monitoring online mentions and “social care” is providing customer care and support via social media.

As social media becomes more integrated into our daily lives, more professionals like Colon are focusing their careers on this modern communication mode. The demand for social media skills has surged in the past year, according to research firm Wanted Analytics. There were about 13,000 job ads online specifying social media skills during January–an 87 percent increase from one year earlier.

A Must-Have in Marketing

Marketing managers and public relations specialists are the two most common jobs specifying social media skills, according to Wanted Analytics. Marketing managers accounted for 2,600 of the job ads, a 58 percent jump from a year ago. PR managers and specialists represented about 1,500 of the postings, a 57 percent increase.

“In marketing, we’re finding that social media is becoming a ‘must-have’ skill rather than just a ‘nice-to-have’ skill,” say Loan Vo, assistant director of marketing for the University of California (UC), Irvine Extension. Vo uses social media to market the school’s offerings, including a certificate program in social media. The school has several facebook and LinkedIn pages as well as Twitter accounts and a YouTube channel.

As for Colon, he creates and executes the social media strategies for a variety of business divisions within IBM. The work includes handling community management on facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, overseeing blog forums, and using “listening software” to monitor online chatter about the company. He points to the launch of Social@Ogily in February as evidence of the increasing role of social media in marketing. The 500-person division integrates social media efforts throughout marketing, communications, customer relationship management, shopper marketing and more, handling the social media needs of corporate giants like Nestlé, Unilever, UPS and Ford.

Mirna Bard, director of social media at fashion designer Guess?, views PR and social media as a perfect fit. “Social media is all about branding, reputation building and relationship building with the customer.” This spring, she will be teaching a course on “Social Media and Public Relations” for UC Irvine Extension. The class emphasizes how to use social media to build relationships with reporters and bloggers and how to push down negative comments online, so they appear at the bottom of online searches.

Wanted: Math Majors, Witty Writers and More

Other jobs specifying social media skills, according to Wanted Analytics, include Web developers, sales representatives, market research analysts, recruiters, software engineers, advertising sales agents and executive secretaries or administrative assistants. The demand for sales managers with social media skills increased more than 500 percent–the most of any occupation. Recruiters experienced the second highest growth, up 131 percent.

Industry insiders predict that the demand for analysts will surge, due to recent emphasis on measuring the effectiveness of social media. “At first, social media was all about how do we push our messages out,” says Bard. “But now, it’s time to think about whether we are getting the true value out of our social media efforts. Over the next couple years, companies will be focusing more on how we measure the return on investment.”

Colon agrees, noting “there’s always been math involved in marketing, but with social media there’s more number-crunching than ever. Almost every social media platform has a back-end that generates insights: how many people are in the community, how many are engaging per post, how many are sharing our content, how many are liking the content.”

On the flip side, Colon who has a bachelor’s in journalism and communications, also sees a demand for strong writers. “Social is a world of wit and words. I’ve hired English majors who have excelled being community managers for some of the bigger brands in the world,” says Colon, who previously worked as supervisor of digital communities at digital marketing agency 360i, serving corporate giants like Coca-Cola, Lysol and Kraft.

With the rise of smart phones and tablets, Colon also sees the need for innovative professionals who can optimize social media for mobile platforms. He notes that facebook, YouTube and Twitter have all launched recent changes to adapt to the mobile world. “There is still a lot of work that needs to be done to reshape social media for a mobile format,” says Colon. In particular, he cites a demand for engineers who can create user interfaces for hand-held devices.

Back to School

In response to the need for social media professionals, some schools are bringing facebook, YouTube and Pinterest into the classroom. Enrollment has skyrocketed in the social media certificate program at Madison Area Technical College in Madison, Wisconsin, since it was introduced in fall 2010. “We have gone from offering one section of our “Social Media Campaign” course to five sections,” says Marketing Professor Steve Noll.

About two-thirds of the students are working professionals, many from small and mid-sized companies. “I’m amazed at the amount of people in their 30s and 40s coming in and saying, ‘I have to know this for my job, and I don’t know where to start,'” says Noll. “Today, every business, no matter what size, needs to be doing something with social media.” To keep up with industry demand, this semester the school introduced a second, more advanced campaign course in which students develop the social media campaigns for two local companies.

Course Critics

In online forums, some skeptics have denounced academic programs in social media–saying that the skills can be self-learned, but graduates like Nora Caldwell say that schooling makes a difference. “It’s not about just learning how to put the information online; it’s about understanding the strategy behind social media,” says Caldwell, who recently earned her social media certificate from UC Irvine.

As a fund-development manager for Human Options, a local nonprofit in Orange County, California, that seeks to break the cycle of domestic violence, Caldwell enrolled to learn how to use social media for donor cultivation. “I now know how to think of social media as another marketing tool,” including how to select the appropriate platforms, how to drive traffic to the nonprofit’s Web site and how to make the Web site more engaging. “Social media is how 20-somethings and 30-somethings are communicating,” says Caldwell. “If I’m not talking to that generation now, then five years from now when they are ready to be major donors, they’re going to be talking to someone else.”

From “State of the City: Mayor Jim Schmitt calls for education focus” — Turning a spotlight on education, Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt on Tuesday called for improving student reading scores, graduating more people from college and luring a Medical College of Wisconsin campus expansion here.

In his annual State of the City address, Schmitt said the community must focus on education as a key to both a strong economy and a high quality of life.

“It’s our duty to make sure our youth are college-, career- and community-ready,” he told an audience of about 400 people in the Meyer Theatre in downtown Green Bay.

The crowd applauded loudly as Schmitt announced his commitment to making Green Bay a better-educated place.

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College President Jeff Rafn, who was in attendance, said he was pleased to hear the mayor reinforce what residents normally hear only from educators — that a college education is critical to success in the job market.

Rafn said he hoped the message would reach people with greater impact coming from a political leader who is outside the education field.

“I’m really pleased that he’s willing to step up to the plate and put some energy behind this,” Rafn said.

Schmitt vowed to meet regularly with higher education leaders in the region to explore ways of boosting college enrollment.

He also said the city is working hard with local hospitals and others to entice the Medical College of Wisconsin to build a new satellite campus in Green Bay. The Milwaukee-based school is considering several potential sites across the state for expansion.

Schmitt cited the medical school development as another way to make higher education available to all young people in Green Bay.

“We need to create a culture of college here,” he said. “When you see a student, don’t ask if they are going to college, but where they are going to college.”

Also sitting in the audience for the mayor’s address was Kathryn Kuhn, a vice president of the Medical College of Wisconsin and a member of the school’s administrative team that will choose the site for the satellite campus.

Kuhn, a Green Bay native, said she was happy to hear Schmitt emphasize the importance of education. Green Bay is competing aggressively for the planned medical school expansion, she added, citing the mayor’s leadership.

“Green Bay has opened the doors,” she said. “The mayor has just done an outstanding job.”

Schmitt told the crowd at the Meyer Theatre that he expects the medical school to announce its intentions in the coming months.

It would come on the heels of other major real estate development plans highlighted in the State of the City address, including new downtown corporate headquarters for Schreiber Foods and Associated Bank, the new Children’s Museum of Green Bay, the Watermark building and a federal veterans health care clinic.

Schmitt calculated that development under way in the city totals $130 million in new investment, which he said is approaching a record high with eight months left in the year.

“Economic development in 2012 will be our best year yet,” he said.

Citing a need for education improvements at other levels, Schmitt said the city would boost on-the-job training of city workers and would increase opportunities for college students to obtain summer internships in every department at City Hall. He urged private businesses to step up their use of college interns, too.

For elementary schools, Schmitt called on the community to set a goal of 100 percent proficiency in reading test scores for all fourth-graders in the Green Bay School District. The district’s proficiency rate among fourth-graders currently is about 73 percent.

Green Bay schools Superintendent Michelle Langenfeld was unable to attend, but she issued a statement voicing support for the mayor’s effort. She said it was consistent with the school district’s own objectives for boosting student test scores in reading.

“With a shared community vision focused on ensuring success for every student,” Langenfeld said, “we can create policy as well as community and family partnerships needed to achieve this ambitious but attainable goal.”

Schmitt said fourth-grade test scores are pivotal in planning a community’s future needs for college classrooms, dropout rates and even the number of prison beds.

Urging greater support for early childhood-development programs and continued promotion of such resources as public libraries, the mayor said a comprehensive citywide push could succeed in raising Green Bay student reading scores.

“This will take a collaborative effort,” he said. “Government, parents, nonprofits, the private sector — a whole community should be involved.”

From “Trash to Treasure” — Can one person’s trash be another person’s treasure? That’s the annual challenge for architecture students at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

View video from

WITC unveils lab home

March 28, 2012

From “WITC unveils lab home” — Douglas County handed over the keys and the deed to a tax-forfeited home in Superior Tuesday, and it became official. The Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College is a homeowner.

They bought the property to use as a lab home for students in the Building Performance Technician Program. Students are training for careers to improve energy efficiency in buildings and homes.

“In a lot of our education we focus on providing real world, hands-on activities for our students, and this is a real world hands on activity,” WITC Academic Dean Ted May said.

Students said they’re ready to roll up their sleeves, “I can’t wait to get working on it,” student, Matt Underdahl said.

One look inside and It’s clear they have plenty to rehab. They’ll use tools like a “blower door” to help fix things they can’t see.

“On this little monitor right here, it tells us what the leakage rate is for the home. How much heat you’re losing, or how much heat you could be saving in our business,” student Derek Leslie said.

From there It’s on to retro fitting the home to save energy and keep costs down. Students said after this house, they’ll be prepared to take on many more in their future careers.

The school said once this property is finished, they’ll sell it and put the money towards purchasing another home to keep the project going.


From “Engineering goes back to school” — Seventh-grader Deadrick Vance raised his hands above his head, signaling triumph.

“Success!” he said, turning to give his teacher a high-five.

Vance was among the first to construct a Morse code device for his science class at Janesville’s Edison Middle School recently. He had cut the wire, wrapping it around a nail, connected the paper clips and powered the system with a D-cell battery.

As he pressed down on the paperclip that acted as the key, another paper clip was drawn down onto the nail, which had become an electromagnet.

Later, teacher Andy LaChance would string wire between classrooms and let students take turns sending messages.

Vance had completed one small task in a curriculum that has been infused with a new kind of thinking: That kids can learn science and math with real-world technical skills while in middle and high school.

The curriculum is called Project Lead the Way. It has swept across the country in recent years.

Project Lead the Way seeks to address the concerns of industries that complain they can’t find enough workers with the right skills, as well as the dearth of American college graduates in science, engineering and math, said Ken Maguire, director of the nonprofit organization’s upper Midwest region.

Maguire said Project Lead the Way is growing fast, with a 20 percent increase in the region just in the past year.

But Project Lead the Way doesn’t want schools to jump in without committing themselves to quality.

“If they’re wanting it because a neighboring school has it, if they’re wanting it because voters say they want it, that is the biggest impediment,” Maguire said.

Startup costs might be $25,000 for a high school that has the computers to run the software, Maguire said.

Schools start with one course and add courses until they make a path that leads to classes in engineering in high school, giving them a base for college studies or even college credit.

Project Lead the Way is a part of middle and/or high school curriculums in many school districts in Rock and Walworth counties.

Clinton High School is the most developed program in Rock County, said Janesville’s Steve Huth, director of a countywide consortium that promotes Project Lead the Way.

During a recent visit to Clinton High School, students in one class were using a computer-assisted design program to create a simple, three-dimensional model of a railroad engine. Next door, students in a digital electronics class were using Boolean algebra to design circuits that would spell out a message, similar to the electronics used on a sports scoreboard.

Students who complete the Clinton program get advanced standing at Blackhawk Technical College, while others get credit in four-year programs, such as the Milwaukee School of Engineering, said teacher Tim Thieding.

Thieding said he started the year with 10 digital electronics students. He now has six.

“It’s a tough course,” he said.

Thieding also teaches a computer-integrated manufacturing course that takes students from invention to computer modeling to building a manufacturing process, with milling and robotics thrown in.

“Right now, manufacturing is something we need to build back up in the United States, so we need to get our students not only familiar with it but proficient,” Thieding said.

Clinton also offers certifications in architecture and civil engineering. It plans to introduce bio-medical engineering next year, and there’s talk of extending the program into the elementary grades.

“We’re kind of excited, as small as we are, to offer all those,” Thieding said.

Most Project Lead the Way teachers are certified in science or tech ed. They must go through a reportedly tough summer training program for each course they teach.

Thieding’s tech-ed colleague, Derek Tietz, also teaches Project Lead the Way courses. The pair also offer more traditional tech courses in woodworking, metals and construction.

“Project Lead the Way gives them a chance to see it before they have to really pay for it in college, so they see if they want to do this as a career,” Tietz said.

Two Clinton students have internships at Scot Forge in Clinton, and Scot Forge engineers volunteer with the program. Others are planning to pursue engineering at MSOE or UW-Platteville. Clinton also gets help from Gilbank Construction and Paperchine.

In some states, local industries donate to establish a particular kind of engineering course in local schools, but Maguire wasn’t aware of any relationships like that in Rock County.

Even one Project Lead the Way course might make a difference. It did for 2011 Janesville Parker High School grad Markus Murdy.

Murdy said the principles of engineering course was all he could work into his schedule. He said it helped him combine his interest in aviation with his desire to figure out how things worked.

“It was like, ‘Whoa, there’s a whole field dedicated to this kind of thing,'” Murdy said. “Coming out of that. I had a much better idea of what I wanted to do.”

Murdy is majoring in aerospace engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

At Edison Middle School, LaChance surveyed his students with a smile.

“Look at these guys right now,” he said, referring to a group hovering over one of their devices as the lunch bell sounded. “They’re still working on it. Usually these guys are the first ones in line for lunch.

“I like it. We need more hands-on stuff.”


Project Lead the Way has been introduced in several area schools, according to the Project Lead the Way online locator.

Rock County

— Beloit Memorial High School and middle schools

— Beloit Turner High School and middle school

— Evansville J.C. McKenna Middle School

— Janesville Parker and Craig high schools and all three middle schools.

— Orfordville Parkview, middle school level

Walworth County

— Delavan-Darien High School and Phoenix Middle School

— Elkhorn Area High School

— Lake Geneva Badger High School

— Whitewater High School and middle school

Green County

— Brodhead High School and middle school

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