Center for Educational Opportunity celebrates 25 years of championing academic excellence

Students, families, alumni, staff and supporters of the Center for Educational Opportunity (CeO) gathered in the Memorial Union on Friday, Dec. 7, to celebrate the center’s 25th anniversary on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus and the accomplishments of its graduating seniors.

CeO is a federally and state-funded center that strives to create equal opportunities in higher education. CeO’s mission is to increase access, retention and graduation rates for UW scholars who are first-generation college students, meet federal income guidelines and students with disabilities. Over the past 25 years, it has served 2,951 scholars and celebrated 1,617 graduates.

CeO Director Claudia Mosley speaks into a microphone at a podium with a banner in the background bearing the logo of the Center for Educational Opportunity.
CeO Director Claudia Mosley emceed the 25th anniversary and graduation event. Photo by Andy Manis

“This is not about fixing people,” said CeO Director Claudia Mosley, who emceed the event. “This is about fixing systems and structures that block access to opportunity.”

“CeO gave me the opportunity to be the man you see in front of you today,” said David O’Connor, American Indian Studies Consultant for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and a CeO alumnus. He joined a chorus of current and former CeO students and staff who lauded the accomplishments of the center and the dedication of its long-serving staff at the Friday event.

Cheryl Gittens and Walter Lane face the camera smiling while holding two award plaques on stage.
Interim Assistant Vice Provost Dr. Cheryl Gittens presents CeO founder Walter Lane with an award honoring his years of service and dedication to diversity and inclusion efforts at UW–Madison. Photo by Andy Manis

Center founder Walter Lane and Associate Director Wilma Callaway were given special recognition for their longstanding work in support of CeO.

Callaway, who has been part of the CeO since its inception, was recognized for her 25 years of service to CeO scholars. Lane wrote the original U.S. Department of Education TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) grant that provided the funding for the program, and — fulfilling a promise he made to Callaway decades ago and despite retiring in 2008 — he has written every grant since.

“(Lane’s) dedication to creating access to UW for outstanding students who otherwise might never be here has changed this campus, and it’s changed thousands of lives over these 25 years,” said Chancellor Rebecca Blank. “CeO started with 175 students. Today, there are 480 from across Wisconsin and around the nation. And we’re working to expand that number with Badger Promise and Bucky’s Tuition Promise — both new programs created in the last two years to improve access to UW for first-generation Wisconsin students and students from lower-income families.”

Five of the Center for Educational Opportunity’s 20 graduating seniors attended and spoke at the event. Photo by Andy Manis

Blank was joined by Patrick J. Sims, deputy vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, in also bidding farewell to the center’s 20 seniors who are graduating this winter.

“Not only are we celebrating CeO’s 25th anniversary, we are celebrating you,” Sims said. “In this class we’ve seen an introduction of what you’re going to bring to this world, as well as what you’re about to build and change. That’s exciting.”

Two women hold a large award plaque while smiling facing camera.
Director Claudia Mosley (right) presents an award to Associate Director Wilma Callaway in recognition of her years of service to the center and UW–Madison’s inclusion efforts. Photo by Andy Manis
Rebecca blank stands next to a table speaking with four people who are sitting and facing her.
Chancellor Rebecca Blank (center, facing camera) talks with people gathered for the event celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Center for Educational Opportunity at UW–Madison. Photo by Andy Manis
Current and former students from the Center for Educational Opportunity pose for a group photo at the event marking the center’s 25th anniversary. Photo by Andy Manis