Thirteen Badgers recognized among Wisconsin’s Most Influential Black Leaders for 2022

Collage with headshot photos of thirteen Black men and women along with the UW–Madison crest.

Thirteen UW–Madison community members were recognized in Madison365’s annual list of “Wisconsin’s Most Influential Black Leaders” for 2022.

A nonprofit online news publication, Madison365 has published annual power lists recognizing Wisconsin leaders from different racial and ethnic groups since 2015. The purpose of the lists is to “highlight the beauty of the diversity across our state” and elevate role models for Wisconsin’s young people, according to Henry Sanders, Jr., co-founder, publisher, and chief executive officer of Madison365.

Congratulations to the following current and former UW–Madison students and employees who received this well-deserved recognition. You can read the complete list on the Madison365 website: Wisconsin’s 52 Most Influential Black Leaders 2022.

Alnisa Allgood is the founder and executive director of Nonprofit Tech, a company that helps nonprofits use technology to work more efficiently, and Collaboration for Good, a Madison-based company focused on building the capacity of for-profit or not-for-profit community service organizations. Collaboration for Good plans the annual Madison Nonprofit Day Conference and the Social Good Summit and partners with Forward Fest, Madison’s premier tech and entrepreneurship festival. In the 1990s, Allgood attended a meeting for the 10 Percent Society, a gay student organization at UW–Madison, and learned about a years-long struggle to start an LGBT center on campus. Allgood combined her passion for problem-solving and helping others to found the university’s LGBT center in 1992, now known as the Gender and Sexuality Campus Center.

Adey Assefa is the economic inclusion manager at the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, where she works to help the region and its businesses reimagine its workforce systems for a better, more inclusive, and more equitable future. Before taking on that role in 2020, Assefa worked at UW–Madison for 12 years, including as founder of the RISE program in the Office of Human Resources, director of the African American Student Academic Services office, assistant director of the Center for Academic Excellence, and leader of the Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives and First Wave Hip Hop and Urban Arts Scholarship Program. She earned her bachelor’s degree in social welfare in 2004 and her master’s degree in counseling in 2007 from UW–Madison and grew up in the Eagle Heights neighborhood.

Kyree Brooks is the associate principal of Central Heights Middle School in Sun Prairie. He earned his bachelor’s degree from UW-Whitewater, and his master’s in rehabilitation psychology and special education from UW–Madison. He will begin his doctoral studies at UW–Madison in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis this fall. Previously, he served as a dean of students at Cardinal Heights Upper Middle School. Before his work in Sun Prairie, Brooks served as coordinator of student engagement and positive behavior in the Madison Metropolitan School District and worked as a special education teacher in previous years. He is also a DJ, performing as DJ Ree Maniac.

Brian A. Burt, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis department and director of the Wisconsin Equity and Inclusion Laboratory (Wei LAB) at UW–Madison, where he studies the experience of graduate students and the institutional policies and practices that influence students’ pathways. His current research falls into two strands: understanding team-based research experiences and exploring the experiences of underrepresented graduate students of color in engineering. Through his work, Dr. Burt looks to provide new ways to understand science participation and the experiences that might attract students to or turn them away from science pathways. Dr. Burt received the National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship and the National Science Foundation’s Early CAREER Award.

Kayla Conklin is the talent management officer at Park Bank, where she is passionate about seeking out talent and helping people find their purpose has been prevalent throughout her career. Conklin works to create a bank that more accurately represents the greater Madison area. Conklin sits on the boards of Badger Prairie Needs Network, RISE Wisconsin, Urban Triage, and the Urban League of Greater Madison Young Professionals nonprofits. Conklin earned her bachelor’s degree in legal studies from UW–Madison in 2018 and her master’s in communication from UW–Whitewater in 2022.

Angela Fitzgerald Ward is the host of “Wisconsin Life” and the limited series “Why Race Matters” on PBS Wisconsin. In addition to her work hosting the television series, Ward is the associate dean for the School of Academic Advancement at Madison College. Previously she worked as director of family, youth & community engagement for the Madison Metropolitan School District. She is pursuing her Ph.D. in human ecology at UW–Madison, where she is studying the intersection between education, organizing, and research as it relates to improving outcomes for historically marginalized groups. She has held research and evaluation positions within state and local agencies and nonprofits and has worked with school systems to coordinate the delivery of resources and engage students and families. She applies her research and evaluation perspective to her community work by finding inclusive processes to evaluate impact and effectiveness.

Willie R. Glenn Sr. is the first Black teen librarian at the Madison Public Library, where he previously served as youth services librarian assistant. He began his journey in Madison as a student support service coordinator for UW–Madison’s Precollege Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence (PEOPLE) and later as the assistant director at Meadowood Neighborhood Center. He has served in several capacities in youth and adult education, including as a lead instructor with UW–Madison’s Odyssey program, an out-of-school youth coordinator for Madison Metropolitan School District, and a program coordinator for the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee. One of his proudest moments was helping spawn Madison’s “Parks Alive” from his “It Takes A Village Community Resource Fair,” which brings people together over the summer months.

Kirbie Mack is a longtime leader in Madison’s Black community, and no single job title can capture all she’s contributed over the decades. Professionally, she served for 36 years in both state and local governments. She was appointed by Gov. Jim Doyle and served for two terms as the Division of Enterprise Services administrator. Before that, she served as the city of Madison’s affirmative action director, overseeing contract compliance, affirmative action, and disability rights. She held various other state and city positions before retiring in 2011. Mack was the co-host and producer of “Focus on Equality” CityCable 12 – Access to City Government for six years. Mack earned her M.P.A. in policy affairs and public administration at UW–Madison in 1995 and her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Northeastern University in Chicago. Mack was appointed by the Wisconsin State Legislature to the Legislative Council’s Special Commission on Employment of Vietnam and Other Veterans. She has served on the state’s Affirmative Action Commission, the Madison/Dane County Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Awards Committee, Madison’s strategic management team, and the city’s guidance team on organization strength effectiveness and financial position, as well as on the boards of many community organizations.

Ashley Morse is the first Black woman to serve as a judge on the Rock County Circuit Court. Judge Morse worked for the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office beginning in 2010 and has been based in Janesville since 2014, representing indigent clients as an assistant state public defender in various criminal and civil proceedings in several counties across the state. She has served on the Rock County Trauma Task Force and the Rock County Youth Justice Racial Disparities Committee and has coached the Turner High School Mock Trial Team. She earned her bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2006 and her Doctor of Law from the UW–Madison Law School in 2009. She has worked extensively with the National Juvenile Defender Center (now The Gault Center), including her selection as an Ambassador for Racial Justice.

Kurt Rose is the director of human resources operations for Madison Metropolitan School District. Before taking on that role in June 2022, he worked for four years at UW–Madison’s School of Education, most recently as interim human resources director. He was also a facilitator of the Our Wisconsin diversity and inclusion program at UW–Madison for three years. He is president of the Urban League of Greater Madison Young Professionals, which has dramatically increased its membership over the last few years. Rose also serves on the board of directors of Madison Ballet.

Marcus Sedberry is deputy athletic director for the Wisconsin Badgers at UW–Madison, where he oversees internal operations for the athletic department. He joined Wisconsin Athletics in 2022 after spending almost five years at Baylor University as a senior associate athletics director. At UW, Sedberry focuses on leading internal operations and is responsible for delivering on the Wisconsin Athletics mission and values relating to creating an environment that provides opportunities for student-athletes to grow continually and elevate their lives. This includes oversight of all the areas that are part of Forward 360, as well as facilities, event and guest services, and sports administration for several programs.

Linda Vakunta, Ph.D., is deputy mayor for Madison, where she assists with housing and human services issues. She previously served as program director at the Chicago-based Heartland Alliance International, where she led, developed, and designed training programs for government, community, and non-governmental organizations to combat trafficking in persons. In recent years, she has worked as a researcher with Sustaining Natural Circle’s CDC-funded grant on understanding the impacts of opioid use among African American women in Madison. As founding executive director of Project 1808, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit, she led the development and growth during a decade-long tenure from 2009-19. She was instrumental in the growth, success, and global-local recognition of the group as an important player in transforming lives, enabling youth and adults, and building capacity in Sierra Leone through School-Community-University Partnership Models. A three-time UW–Madison graduate, where Dr. Vakunta earned her undergraduate degree in psychology, her M.A. in rehabilitation psychology, and her Ph.D. in environment and resources from the Nelson Institute, which propelled her to win the Nelson Institute’s Rising Star Alumni Award after graduation.

Danyelle Wright, Ph.D., is in her third year at Cottage Grove School as Building Principal with prior administrative experience with the Madison Metropolitan School District. She earned her Ph.D. in Education Leadership Policy Analysis from UW–Madison in 2022. Dr. Wright has been in the field of education for over 12 years as an educational assistant, teacher, teacher leader, dean, assistant principal, and principal. She also has experience in higher education and was an adjunct professor at Edgewood College in Madison. Dr. Wright is dedicated to the field of education and desires to not only be a leader within the field of education but desires to empower other women and women of color to get into education and leadership roles.