The Morgridge Center has a new director in Travis Wright and a new home

Travis Wright, an associate professor in the Department of Counseling Psychology at the School of Education and a nationally recognized expert in academic support for children and families experiencing trauma, has been named faculty director of the Morgridge Center for UW-Madison Public Service.

Wright began her new role Feb. 1, replacing Earlise C. Ward, who returned to her full-time position at the School of Nursing after serving as director for three years.


“I am thrilled to join the Morgridge Center team and contribute to their efforts to advance public and community service on campus and in the community at large,” Wright said.

This spring, the Morgridge Center will move from its home in the School of Education to the Division of Teaching and Learning, a move that will provide new opportunities for both the Morgridge Center and its new partners.

“It has been a pleasure to have the center at the School of Education, and I have enjoyed working with management and staff,” says Diana Hess, Dean of the School of Education. “As the Division of Teaching and Learning grows, it makes sense to house the Morgridge Center there because of the collaborations that can more easily occur between different parts of the division. Additionally, the mission of the Division of Teaching and Learning is to serve the entire campus – which has always been the mission of MCPS as well. »

The Division of Teaching and Learning is home to three units that, like the Morgridge Center, work with colleagues on campus to enhance the UW experience for students and advance learning. Established in July 2021, the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Mentoring provides instructional design, professional development, and counseling support to help UW instructors hone their teaching craft. The Office of Undergraduate Advising provides counseling services to students who are still exploring their major, offers career services, and strives to provide training and network among educational advisers working in schools and colleges. WISCIENCE’s work focuses on enriching the experience of early-career STEM students, connecting them to research and community experiences.

“With its incredible work support service, community learning, equity and diversity, the Morgridge Center will find enthusiastic partners in all of these units and greatly enrich the mission of the entire division,” says the vice president of the teaching and learning John Zumbrunnen. “These partners can provide new avenues of access to teaching and advising communities that shape student experiences and reach new student audiences.”

Before coming to UW-Madison in 2012, Wright worked as a school mental health counselor, public school teacher, and early childhood educator in Washington D.C. and Boston public schools. He received his Ph.D. and M.Ed. from Harvard University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

Wright, who is also director of the MS in Counseling program, is the founder/director of the Building BASES (Building Academic, Social, and Emotional Supports) project, a school and community intervention to help homeless children.

Building BASES’ goal is to increase academic and other supports for these Madison children and build the capacity of schools, teachers and families to better meet their needs.

Its centerpiece is a mentorship program that pairs UW undergraduate and graduate students with identified homeless children enrolled in the Madison Metropolitan School District. More than 350 UW students have provided more than 7,000 hours of direct support to more than 300 children since the project began in 2014 through a grant from the UW Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment.

“Service has the power to not only strengthen and support communities, but to build them,” says Wright. “At a time when the world is so deeply polarized, I can think of no more exciting job than creating opportunities for people to serve together.”

The Morgridge Center for Public Service, founded in 1996 with the generous support of alumni John and Tashia Morgridge, connects UW-Madison students, staff, and faculty with local and global communities to build partnerships and solve critical issues through service and learning.

One of Ward’s greatest accomplishments during her tenure as director was bringing the Civic Action Plan to life. At the request of Chancellor Rebecca Blank, the Morgridge Center was tasked with developing and implementing nine recommendations to strengthen civic and community engagement on campus. Ward was instrumental in changing the tenure and promotion process to institutionalize support for fellowship and community-engaged research – a major step forward in the Civic Action Plan.

She reviewed the community engagement curriculum developed by professional staff members to better educate students, staff, and faculty on how to work fairly with community partners and ensure mutually beneficial outcomes. Ward played another key role in expanding the advisory board of the Morgridge Center.

“The opportunity to work with a great team and advance the center’s mission during the pandemic has been great. And it was really empowering to connect with campus leaders and past directors of the Morgridge Center,” Ward said. “It’s an experience that I will always consider a blessing.”

With a grant review pending at the National Institutes of Health, Ward plans to conduct a community-based participatory research project to develop a faith-based depression intervention program for African Americans.

(Read more about her accomplishments as a director here.)

Wright has dedicated his career to national and community service. He looks forward to continuing his commitment to helping others as a faculty director.

“I am extremely excited about the continued promise of the Morgridge Center for Public Service,” says Wright. “My goal is to make sure that we consistently translate the Wisconsin idea into Wisconsin Impact.”

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