Bethany Brent is motivated by her passion to make a difference in the lives of people.
“I come from humble beginnings,” said Brent, senior multicultural education adviser at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s School of Education. “While education is important to me, obtaining a Ph.D. had been a foreign idea to me. But, at various points, there were everyday people who entered into my life, planted the seed and dared me to dream beyond my circumstance.”
Brent wants to be one of those people, people who help shape the journey for those, like herself, who work hard and, also like herself, strive to make sense of the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
“So, I stand on the shoulder of giants,” she said. “It is now my responsibility to ‘reach back as I climb,’ and make a difference in the lives of other people, especially those who also come from humble beginnings. I am motivated by what seems impossible. It is in this space where I lead.”
Brent’s job affords her the opportunities to make just such programs possible. For the two years she’s been at UW-La Crosse, Brent said she’s been able to work within the community, especially with its people of color, listening to their needs and their desires to better both themselves and their community.
“By listening to their stories, I saw the need to create a program that would take a holistic approach and support community members, the local school districts, and UW-La Crosse,” she said.
It’s called Grow Our Own Teacher Diversity, and Brent said she’s been privileged to establish relationships with those from all walks of life, many whom have desired to become teachers but have lacked the financial and social support to do so. She also works closely with students, including those of color, inside and outside the School of Education, Professional and Continuing Education.
“Many of the students are eager to be catalyst for change and seize what ought to be,” she said.
Jodi Vandenberg-Daves, a professor at UW-La Crosse, nominated Brent for Rising Stars Under 40, and she said her commitment to bringing a sense of support and strength to the quality of public education, as well as her passion, dedication, generosity, humor and great sense of adventure should be recognized.
“Even as a relatively new resident of La Crosse, Dr. Brent knows the greater La Crosse area intimately,” Vandenberg-Daves said. “Her Grow Our Own Teacher Diversity program, developed with Antoiwana Williams, director of the UW-La Crosse Office of Multicultural Student Services, is building relationships and commitments that are necessary in solving the student achievement gap and the paucity of diversity within the education workforce.”
Brent is also a member of the La Crosse Area Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee, which helps prepare the annual celebration to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Specifically, Brent said, the committee helps select the guest speaker, create and market the annual program to the greater La Crosse area, and most recently, has partnered with local school districts and homeschool parents to design a special program for students in La Crosse, Onalaska and Holmen. Brent also serves on the board for the Pump House Regional Arts Center, which allows her to help inspire and promote local artists, especially those in the visual and performing arts.
Brent, whose list of accomplishments is immense, said it’s key to learn to encourage yourself, as well as not being afraid to lift someone else. She also said being told “no” isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“Sometimes every path isn’t meant for you to take,” Brent said, “although you may not be able to see it at the time.”