First Fireside Chat held for students


Photo creds: UWO Flickr– Fireside Chat events are a chance for students to have conversations with community members.

Liam Beran, Writer

City of Appleton Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Coordinator and UW Oshkosh alumnus Timber Smith spoke to UW Oshkosh students at the Pollock House last Thursday, marking the first of five “Fireside Chat” events planned by the Center for Civic and Community Engagement.

Fireside Chats are intended to be “an opportunity for students to have meaningful conversations with local community members who are civically and community engaged,” according to a promotional email sent to the student body. Smith spoke to students on topics such as educational and professional opportunities, identity and life at UWO.

Smith, who is also a U.S. Army Reserves veteran, spoke about the experiences that led him to UWO and the course of his education here.. Smith first enrolled at UWO in 1992, but didn’t complete his undergraduate degree in sociology until 2011. 

During that time, Smith worked various jobs, eventually working as a cultural retention and recruitment support specialist in the Appleton Area School District. Smith recalled working with African-American high school students in order to provide resources and skills promoting a successful transition to higher education. 

“At that time in the Appleton school district, for students of color, particularly African-American students, their graduation rate was 50%. And it’s not because of ability,” Smith said. “It was because of acclimation. They didn’t feel like they fit. It’s really hard to be a stellar student when the system itself isn’t necessarily treating you as such.”

Smith eventually transitioned to working for UWO, serving as an admissions counselor, senior equity coordinator and veterans resource coordinator. He recounted how he was able to use these positions to help support students in Milwaukee, his hometown, enroll in higher education.

“That was my gift back to Milwaukee,” Smith said. “That’s how I was able to serve. I went back and provided educational opportunity.”

Currently, as the DEI coordinator for Appleton, Smith serves as a consultant for Appleton residents and the 650+ city employees on issues related to diversity and inclusivity.

“I’m constantly consulting with different organizations, private sector businesses and leadership throughout the community so that we can have a thoughtfulness to whatever it is – events, hiring practices, housing problems,” said Smith.

“I was very pleased with our first event,” said Mike Leuder, interim director of the Center for Civic and Community Engagement. “I heard feedback from students that they were very pleased meeting Timber and hearing his story.” 

The next Fireside Chat will feature Aaron Preston, campus minister for His House Christian Fellowship of Wisconsin, at the Pollock House at 5 p.m. on Oct. 6.