By Candice Wagener | Photographed by Valerie Tobias
Like many UW-Madison alumni, Amber Schroeder has a great sense of pride in her alma mater. But Schroeder goes above and beyond in promoting the university through her role as executive director of Badgers United, a non-profit designed to create clear messaging about the university’s impact statewide.
“I truly believe [the university] is why I am where I am today,” says Schroeder. Badgers United can “connect the dots about why UW-Madison is important to [the community]. We’re really trying to use data to tell a different story.”
Schroeder has relished the opportunity to use her background in organizational management to break down misperceptions about UW-Madison’s impact on Wisconsin residents’ day-to-day life in their individual communities. While Madison may directly feel the economic impacts of the campus here, its effects aren’t as noticeable in places farther removed like Green Bay and Rhinelander.
However, according to the organization, for every dollar invested into the university, $24 dollars are generated and circulated across all 72 counties. “Money into the university is money for Wisconsin,” says Schroeder. “We’re trying to help folks understand that…[and] that research dollars the UW attracts [help the state overall].”
Badgers United’s proponents want to communicate, in a politically neutral manner, how policy decisions affect fiscal management. The tuition freeze in effect since 2013 is one example.
The organization recently hosted a panel discussion with state Rep. Dave Murphy, Regent Emeritus Tim Higgins and president and CEO of the UW Foundation Mike Knetter on how the health of UW-Madison impacts Wisconsin’s economy as a whole. Murphy unveiled a bill he will be introducing related to the tuition freeze.
The last piece Badgers United aims to address is accessibility, by engaging community members in the conversation around the investment value of a college degree and increasing awareness of Bucky’s Tuition Promise. The promise guarantees scholarships and grants to cover tuition and segregated fees for eight consecutive semesters for Wisconsin residents whose household adjusted gross income is $58,000 or less.
According to Bill Sepic, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Auto and Truck Dealers Association, who met Schroeder over 15 years ago in her role as a board member at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, nothing will stop Schroeder from achieving her goals.
“I have never seen anything I didn’t believe Amber couldn’t conquer…she has a drive and a will and she wants to make sure that she succeeds.”
Outside of work, Schroeder is busy with two little girls, ages 3 and 4. “They have absolutely made a positive change in my life,” she says. “I’m much more fulfilled.”
She volunteers for the Old Glory Honor Flight, a nonprofit that helps transport U.S. military veterans to their service memorials in Washington, D.C.
“When you go with them, you learn that it’s more than just about their memories. It’s about their need to heal and to tell their stories,” she says.
As Badgers United heads into its second year, the group will continue to tell the university’s story as well, traveling across the state for community conversations and launching a podcast detailing the economic impact of the university.
“What I really love about this organization is how often we are getting the little light bulbs,” says Schroeder. “That’s really rewarding.”